Tag Archive: Naples

Eusapia Palladino.

Science is asked to conceive complicated apparatus to measure the fluid emitted by Eusapia Palladino:  notably a manometric dispositive with a Marey cylinder, which inscribes on paper the lightest pressure exercised on a little, wooden plank.  To make all fraud impossible, not only is the apparatus placed out of Eusapia’s reach, but the plank is also entirely covered in soot.  So any direct contact would leave a very visible trace…  It could be asked, why so many precautions when simple, direct observation would have been enough?

“It is customary to say that one must resign oneself to being tricked by all mediums and that surprising them in the act must not make us doubt their sincerity at other moments… “

The words which introduce this report are surprising and rather like a warning:  our scholars appear to be saying that, as astounding as the phenomena which we have seen may be, none of us would dare to draw a scientific law from it.

“Although we are all ready to allow our throats to be cut to affirm their reality, none of us would dare assure that this reality will ever be proven one day… “

As prudent as their conclusions are, they are still significant, and will have considerable impact throughout the whole world.  After fifty tightly-written pages in which they expose the draconian psycho-physiological conditions of control and observation that they had put in place around the medium, they come to the description of the phenomena.

At the fourth seance of 1905, the report indicates

“a table weighing seven kilogrammes and carrying a weight of ten kilogrammes is twice completely raised for several seconds.  It is again raised at the sixth seance of the same year while the table’s legs were wrapped”.

This chapter of the report concludes:

“We defy a person of average strength to try to reproduce this phenomenon!”

The scholars actually do try;  Yurievitch and Courtier, both of above-average strength, try to succeed in this exercise by putting themselves in all imaginable positions.  The raising of the table is absolutely impossible when they respect the conditions which had been imposed on Eusapia.

The report in fact underlines that, when the table had started to float “for a fairly long number of seconds”, Eusapia’s feet and knees were being very firmly held  by Messieurs d’Arsonval and Baillet, and that at this moment, absolutely no contact had been exercised on any part whatsoever of the table.  Several other raisings are noted, some of which are up to one metre from the floor…  Even better.  On an order from Eusapia, a side-table starts to advance towards her.  Pulled by an invisible string?  Our scholars think so, and scramble to verify it…  Of course, they find nothing, and to punish them, the medium makes the side-table move away from her, also.

Pierre Curie saw a side-table rise to the level of his shoulders and turn over in the air.

On 6 April 1906, during a particularly impressive seance, the side-table rises as high as Pierre Curie’s shoulders, turns over in the air, and comes to rest, top against top, on the experimental table, in front of Eusapia.

A collective hallucination, perhaps?  Not at all, for all of the little table’s movements are registered on the Marey cylinder…

During these very many seances, diverse prodigies occur – mysterious imprints, apparitions and the unexplained touching of the witnesses, divisions of Eusapia into two, the movement of veils and cords placed above or in front of her, etc.  But the scholars are unable to agree on the quality of the controls which had been exercised, and prefer not to place them among the number of those which they qualify as true and authentic, deplacements and upraisings, intense molecular vibrations (raps, sound vibrations) which she manages to produce at a distance, from diverse objects, and spectacular emissions of sparks which occur around her.

The roll of thunder which this report produces throughout the scholarly world and in public opinion leads the medium to receive a series of other invitations from French metapsychists, and on 10 February 1908, in the presence notably of Monsieur Rene Warcollier, President of the Institut metapsychique, and the engineer Archat, the imprint of a face suddenly appears on a block of putty placed opposite Eusapia.

The English, always more sceptical than others, regret having scorned the Eusapia phenomenon.  A commission composed of the best observers of physical phenomena, Fielding, Baggaly and Carrington, go to Naples and control, according to their report,

“four hundred-and-seventy paranormal phenomena, many of which occurred in full light, while the medium’s hands and her whole body were fully visible”.

On 10 November 1909, Eusapia debarks at New York, preceded by a considerable reputation.  Her arrival in the country of spiritists and blossoming publicity produces enormous enthusiasm, despite the fifty dollars charged at the entrance to the room.  Is it all this noise, or the enormous efforts that Eusapia has to make during these parades, that wear her out, probably prematurely?  Others incriminate menopause and her now world-wide celebrity, which modify her psychism…  Whatever the reason, Eusapia will very rapidly lose her gifts.  She, whose main fear is to fall back into her former milieu, notices with consternation that the prodigies, which she had been accomplishing before with relative facility, are no longer occurring.  She will then start to cheat, openly and with pitful clumsiness.  From 1910, Fielding easily unmasks these poor ruses.

Ill, more and more decried, she hangs on for another few years, without accepting to put away her more and more tattered robe of guardian of the spirits.  So she, more than any other medium much less gifted than herself, will thus contribute to discrediting psychical research.  In the face of her lamentable failures, the few friends who remain to her can only sigh:

“Ah!  If only you could have seen her in the old days… “


To be continued.



Giacomo Casanova

Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice on 2 April 1725, Easter Day.  He is the son of an untalented actor, but will pass himself off as the bastard son of one of the Most Serene Republic’s highest patricians, Sebastien Grimani.

His mother, Zanetta, has more talent than his father.  Her son later says of her that she was a

“perfect beauty at the age of sixteen”.

She shines on stages all over Europe and, if we can believe Giacomo, she brings a bastard back from London, son of the future George III.

Francois, Casanova’s brother, is a painter of famous battles, but is covered in debt.  His prodigality is such that only Giacomo will surpass it.  Although, it is true that Jean, born in 1730, comes in a close second, and is also a very good painter.  His needs oblige him to paint a few fakes, but he ends up as a real Director of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Dresden, having escaped ten years of penal servitude on the galleys.  There is a sister who dances remarkably, and another brother, a subdeacon, who swindles better than he preaches, to complete the family photo of this tribe of strolling players.

The least gifted of them all seems, at first glance, to be Giacomo.  Until the age of eight-and-a-half, he passes for “clearly retarded”, as he says, himself.  His jaw hangs down a bit, probably because his nose bleeds all the time.  To cure him, an old witch locks him in a coffer, deafens him with incantations, caresses him all over, using mysterious balms, and promises him the apparition of a fairy for the following night, as the price of his silence.  He is, however, cured of his nose-bleeds.

His love life starts very early.  In those days, love follows an obligatory pathway via mature-age people –  mothers, confidantes, protectors – who are the only ones who can give access to the distant chambers where young beauties sit embroidering.

Mr de Malipiero is one of these.  He no longer has any teeth, but his appetite for young virgins is still intact.  This shocks no-one in the libertine XVIIIth Century.  Casanova, who is now fifteen and has quite a good talent for preaching, quickly becomes his confidant.  The palace is well-frequented, and soon the young Lucia partly abandons herself, while Angela resists, soon to be followed by two sisters, Nanette and Marton, who prove for the first time to our young seminarist that pleasure is greater in a threesome.

Theresa, who is presented to Mr de Malipiero by her mother, is a virgin.  As is the custom, he has to pay a few sequins for the pleasure of embracing her.

Malipiero, who pays immediately, goes into furious rages each time that the young lady refuses herself to him, encouraged by her mother, even though she has been paid.  Casanova gives advice to the old man, and some caresses to Theresa.  He writes that, one day:

“we had the idea of verifying the fundamental differences in our conformations”.

At the most interesting part of the exercise, while they are seated next to each other at a little table, blows from Malipiero’s cane start to rain down heavily, and Casanova, thrown out, loses his protector.

This is the beginning of a flight that will last as long as his life, and the beginning of adventures rich in mystery.  Necessity then gives this little low-born Venitian a mind so lively that, soon, he will find himself propulsed into the company of ministers and financiers, princes and kings.  Into the beds of marquises and duchesses as well, without neglecting scullery-maids and prostitutes.

His intelligence does not explain everything.  He also has a physique, and luck, which are so extraordinary that they are almost like fairy spells.  For example, after going to Rome, then Naples, on foot, he comes across a dupe who gives him his first fortune in payment for a fairly worthless secret:  how to increase mercury by adding lead and bismuth.

Protected by Cardinal Acquaviva, appreciated by the Pope, he compromises himself – for the last time through inexperience – by serving the interests of a young mistress disguised as an abbot.  Acquaviva has to get rid of him.  When he is asked his destination, so as to facilitate his trip, he answers the first thing that comes into his head:  Constantinople.

He then becomes a soldier, and experiences at Corfua one of the only great, unconsummated love affairs of his life.  Madame F., whom he doesn’t name out of discretion, inspires him with waves of sincere love.  His passion lasts, and is so strong that it gives him nausea.  When Madame F. asks him to wait longer, the waves crash down one night into froth, and land him on the couch of the impure Mellula.

He curses his weakness, but it is too late.  The seductress has innoculated him with a disease which keeps him in bed for two months, with no solid foods, drinking herbal teas.  Worse, the next day, he only has to look at Madame F. to read his betrayal in her eyes.

He returns sadly to Venice, has himself demobilised, and for the first time, tries his hand at cards.  But luck is against him, and he is obliged to find employment in an orchestra, playing the violin.

For consolation, he teases his compatriots, having the bells tolled at two o’clock in the morning, untying all the gondolas on the Grand Canal.  One Carnaval night, he even kidnaps a lady – with the help of eight companions – for they had to debark the husband and one of his friends on an island, and row back to a safe hiding-place.  Silencing her scrupules and fears, like a true Venitian, the lady consents to allow herself to be deliciously outraged by the band.  Fury of the husband.  The Grand Inquisitor intervenes, and the little band has to disperse.

To be continued.

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