An Apparition from the Dark Cabinet
AT ONE of the séances given by Eusapia
Paladino last year at the house of the Argentine painter, M. A. Berisso,
under my direction and in the presence of the celebrated Italian journalist,
Luigi Barzini, of the Corriere della Sera, we witnessed, among many
others, an apparition from the cabinet which perplexed us greatly; I have given
an account of it in my voluminous work on the mediumship of Eusapia, which has
just appeared. I quote a few sentences from it:
 Enrico Morselli, Psicologia e
Spiritismo, Impressioni e note critiche sui fenomeni medianici di Eusapia
Paladino (Piccola Biblioteca di Scienze Moderne, Nos. 141-42). Turin,
Fratelli Bocca. 1908, two large volumes with 18 plates and about 50 smaller
Eusapia was stretched in the dark cabinet on a camp
bed, and I had not bound her, wishing to leave the greatest possible spontaneity
to the phenomena; the sitters were arranged in a semi-circle, waiting
attentively. Suddenly, between the two black curtains which closed in the
cabinet in front, there appeared something white, or semi-obscure, having, as I
thought, every appearance of a face, though only the middle portion and one eye
could be seen. M. Benzini thus described the apparition:
"In the opening of the curtains, the light of the
lamp (red, five candles) struck full upon a female face surrounded by white
drapery, which covered the forehead and was turned over the mouth after the
manner of the Bedouins. It looked at us with a sinister glance, turned slowly to
one side, and appeared. This head appeared to be very large, probably on account
of the drapery, which prevented us from seeing the outlines. Its gaze was fixed,
and its eyelids never moved; the brows were slightly contracted; its colour was
 Lulgi Barzini, Nel Mondo dei Misteri con
Eusapia Paladino. Milan, Baldini, 1907, p. 132.
I may observe that at other times we saw the same apparition while Eusapia was
firmly bound to the bed; that the medium was only clad in a chemise and drawers,
without any fabric which could serve to form the drapery around the head of the
apparition; and that at a séance at M. Avellino's, in 1902, described by my
colleague, Signor Venzano, in The Annals of Psychical Science for 1907,
No. 33, an apparition, but more complete, regarded by the spectators as the
reproduction of the phantom of
Katie King, presented itself, being in many respects similar to the
incomplete apparition seen at M. Berisso's.
 See J. Venzano, "A Contribution to the
Study of Materialisations", Annals of Psychical Science, August and
September, 1907; also in "Luce e Ombra". Milan, 1907. Cf. my work, Vol. II., pp.
But what are we to think of this phenomenon? Were we witnesses of the initial
formation of a "spectre," of a "teleplasmic phantom"? The question would require
an answer which, as in the case of many other manifestations through Eusapia's
mediumship, cannot be decisively given. In my work above quoted the difficult
and obscure question of "materialisation" is lengthily treated. The present
article has a more practical aim, that of touching upon one of the most disputed
sides of spirit phenomena, that of the fraudulent substitution of illusory facts
for real ones, and I shall discuss the charlatanry of mediumship with special
2. Truth and Fraud in Eusapia's Phenomena
The suspicion that Eusapia was looking at us through
the opening of the cabinet, as though playing at hide-and-seek with us, made me
think of the question of conjuring in spirit phenomena. Unfortunately, this is
not a matter that can be solved at a stroke, like cutting the Gordian knot. It
is not I, but advanced spiritists and psychists, who say that with professional
mediums one is never sure of anything, and that it is when we least think that
we are the most cleverly deceived.
Without seeking further, Camille
Flammarion, who knows the subject well, and has made a sufficient number of
experiments, confessed that out of thirteen classes of phenomena observed by him
at Montfort-l'Amaury in 1877, only four appeared to him certain: the
levitation of the table, the movements of another small table, without contact,
the rappings, as though with a mallet, and the movements of the curtain; two
almost certain: an opaque shadowy profile by the side of the red lamp, and
the sensation of a beard touching his hand; one often fraudulent: the touchings;
six doubtful: the tearing of a paper note-book, the throwing of a pencil,
the lifting of the light table on to the large table, the sounds emitted by a
small musical-box, the carrying of a guitar over his head, and the impressions
of a hand and face on plaster.
 See Camille Flammarion, Le Forces
Naturelles Inconnues, Paris, 1907, p. 109.
But afterwards, on experimenting in his own dwelling, M. Flammarion was able to
increase the incontestable portion of Paladino's phenomena and to diminish the
suspected or incriminated portions.
 Flammarion, op. cit. p. 181.
I consider, however, that among the phenomena "difficult to admit with
certainty" should be counted the apports rather than the touchings, or
the carrying of objects over the heads of the sitters, or the actions of the
invisibles, because, I have never seen these latter produced under good
experimental conditions (even D. D. Home
did not believe in them!), while I am sure as to the others, for they were
effectuated under conditions which preclude fraud.
As for "materialisation," it will be noticed that it scarcely figures in the
above enumeration by the illustrious astronomer and psychist; it seems as though
he purposely glided over the subject, which is, in truth, extremely complex. It
is, perhaps, on account of his very lukewarm attitude in favour of spiritism
(which he contests absolutely, in Eusapia's phenomena) that the spiritists now
call him a scarcely "amusing" writer, while formerly, believing him to be a
spiritist, they proclaimed him as a "savant of great genius."
The position of Mme. Paladino in contemporary spiritism is very curious. On the
one hand, there are the absolute hyper-sceptics, who consider her a clever
falsifier, and believe that she has deceived all the men of science who have
accepted and counter-proved her powerful physical mediumship. On the other hand,
there are the enthusiasts, who blindly accept all the phenomena produced in her
presence, and attribute to her all kinds of mediumship, in addition to the
physico-mechanical form, so that they proclaim her a seer, intuitive, an evoker,
a psychographer, etc. Mr. Hereward
Carrington, who, however, only gives a very incomplete biography of her,
writes concerning her as follows:
 In a publication by an anonymous author
which appeared at Genoa under the title, Eusapia Paladino a Genova, 1907.
One-half the world is convinced that Eusapia is a
fraud, and the other half is convinced that the phenomena witnessed in her
presence are genuine. What the ultimate verdict will be it is hard to foresee;
but it is certain that the case, as it stands, is not convincing to the
scientific world, and fresh evidence must be forthcoming if the case is ever to
be decided in her favour. If Eusapia possesses genuine mediumistic gifts, it
ought only to be a matter of time and sufficiently careful experimenting in
order to establish that fact.
 Hereward Carrington, The Physical Phenomena
of Spiritualism - Fraudulent and Genuine. Boston, Turner,1907, pp. (See his
articles "The Methods of
Fraudulent Materialisation Mediums - Part 1" and "The
Methods of Fraudulent Materialisation Mediums - Part 2")
I hope and believe that my voluminous work on Paladino's spiritism will give a
satisfactory answer to the distinguished American psychist, who is so severe on
physical mediumship, and only accepts as valid, in general, the bygone
categories of the historical phenomena of spiritism. He is guided by the
preconceived idea that in the earlier times, from the
Fox Sisters to Home, the physical
phenomena were more authentic, because then the mediums did not copy one
another, and mediumship was confined to the spontaneous revelation of new
bio-psychical forces, without the intervention of mimicry.
The careful researches of the Milan Committee of
Oliver Lodge, and
Frederic Myers, of
Joseph Maxwell, De Gramont, and
Eugene De Rochas, do not seem to have
inspired great confidence in Mr. Carrington for Paladino's mediumship. He is
hardly moved by the very favourable reports of Maxwell, but he ignores the
experiments of M. de Fontenay, my own with Porro at the Minerva Club, five years
ago, those of the Psychical Society of Milan, those of
Cesare Lombroso, Luciani, and
Philippe Bottazzi, and those of
Flammarion, Brisson, Richet, Dariex, and Le Bon.
 See the complete bibliography, on Eusapia
Paladino given in Vol. I. of my Psicologia e Spiritismo, p. 136 et seq.,
and the Supplement to Vol. II.
Now it is hazardous to express judgments on a
powerful but variable medium like Eusapia on such slight documentary evidence;
but Mr. Carrington, like all the English and American psychists, is still under
the impression received from the check at Cambridge, caused by an excess of
rigidity in the interpretation of the movements of the medium's hands and feet.
We have the obsession of trickery by the substitution of one hand for the other,
according to the formal accusation made by E. Torelli-Viollier against Paladino
in 1892, at the time of the celebrated experiments in Milan, at the house of M.
E. Finzi. And in reality, in America also, where the conjuring ability of
mediums has reached the highest degree, the trick of the freeing of one hand
from the chain of controllers is practised every day by charlatan mediums, who
are very numerous there. I append two very significant illustrations which Mr.
Carrington has inserted in his book (Figs. 1 and 2), which show very plainly the
method of deception used by mediums for evading the surveillance of the
controllers to right and left; with the freed hand they are able to produce
touchings, raps, noises, slight movements of objects, apports, etc. Very similar
illustrations are to be seen in the works of Rochas, Crocq, Stefanoni, and
several authors who have treated of the almost inexhaustible subject of fraud in
 See De Rochas, Extériorisation de la
Motricité; Crocq, l'Hypnotisme Scientifique; Stefanoni, Magnétisme
et Spiritisme, etc.
But it is also easy to understand that the "jeu des mains" described by
Totelli-Viollier (and which is sometimes attempted or executed by Paladino) can
only serve to deceive within the very limited circle of action of the medium -
that is to say, quite close to her person. This fraud is absolutely impossible
for actions at a distance, for the great phenomena of materialisation inside,
and more especially outside, the cabinet. I have been able to see and prove that
at least nine-tenths of Eusapia's phenomena cannot be explained by this trick.
3. Doubts on Physical Mediumship in General
Many of the most competent psychists are at present
in a probably extreme phase of doubt and suspicion with regard to the
physical and mechanical phenomena of mediumship. For instance, Professor
James Hyslop, a highly esteemed
student of psychism, accepts in his very restricted spiritism only the mental
phenomena - that is, incarnations and spirit communications; he absolutely
rejects physical mediumship such as is witnessed with Paladino, considering it a
negligible argument for his thesis of spirituality and the survival of the soul.
Professor Hyslop calls these "higher" or mental phenomena of mediumship the
"residues of science," and as for physical phenomena, he scarcely accepts those
of Stainton Moses!
 Hyslop, Enigmas of Psychical Research,
Boston, Turner, 1906.
But what would he have said if he had been present
at the Spiritualist Congress which was held at Paris scarcely eight years ago
(1900), and had heard related the extraordinary adventure of that plaster mask,
on which there suddenly grew hair, eyebrows and a beard. The New York
philosopher would certainly have taken fright, as I did, and declared that it
was all too little to say, as Sir Oliver Lodge asserted before the London
Society for Psychical Research, concerning the physical phenomena of mediumship,
that "he had never seen any under satisfactory conditions of experiment."
 Comptes rendus du Congrès
Spiritualiste et Spirite de Paris (1900). Paris, 1902.
Everyone knows, however little interested in the
history of modern spiritism, that not one of the best mediums has been able to
escape the accusation of resorting to conjuring tricks. I will only mention
Henry Slade, chiefly because, on the
phenomena which he produced, Johann
Zöllner (whom some psychists - Hyslop, for instance - accuse of naive
blindness in experiment and of ignorance of psychology) partly based his
Transcendental Physics. Unfortunately, if we read his accounts
carefully, we cannot avoid the suspicion that the eminent astro-physicist was
imposed upon. Certain phenomena of Slade's - for instance, that of the pretended
"penetration of matter," consisting in the passage of a ring over the leg of a
table - have too evident an appearance of conjuring. It is enough to look for a
moment at the illustration of the phenomenon which I reproduce (Figs. 3 and 4).
The suspicions of the hypercritics are, consequently, justified. This is the
first thing that we should ask regarding physical mediumship, and so place
ourselves beyond the reach of deception.
 Zöllner, Wissenschaftliche
Abhandlungen, Vol. II.: Die Transcendentale Physik, Leipzig, 1878.
Also an English translation.
4. Professional Mediums and Americanism
From the time when the news spread that I was
occupying myself with Eusapia, and that my opinion was favourable, although I
made reservations as to the admixture of a few mystifications with her authentic
phenomena, I began to receive from abroad, and principally from England and
America, a number of pamphlets and works on the frauds of mediums. Perhaps they
were intended to warn me to keep on my guard and not express an opinion too
hastily in favour of a category of facts which, even in the native land of
modern spiritism, are considered as being in great part false.
Indeed, these eloquent publications would cause apprehension to their reader,
even if he were armed with the characteristic good faith of spiritists. It is
shown or explained in them that the vastly greater part of modern spiritism is
made up of unblushing charlatanry. This may do for Mr. Abbott, who is a patient
exposer of tricks, and appears to be himself a clever amateur conjurer and
illusionist; but what are we to say of psychists such as
Frank Podmore, Hyslop, Mrs.
Eleanor Sidgwick, and
Carrington, who take no account of, the immense difference which exists between
a private séance with Eusapia and any public one given as a show
by the American vampires, who simulate, by bare-faced stratagems, a mediumistic
power which they do not possess, in order to get the money of the simple-minded?
 Abbott. David P, Behind the Scenes
with the Mediums. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Co. London: Kegan Vaul,
I admit that we have to be on our guard with professionals, for long practice in
producing the phenomena has given them skill in deceptive artifices; but
Eusapia's modus operandi has no analogy with that of the fake mediums of
America. The latter work at home, or in hired halls, or in theatres, or at the
open air gatherings (revivals and camp meetings) which are held in summer,
partly for amusement, partly from religious fanaticism, in the woods and by the
rivers of the United States and Canada. From the exposures made by Davenport,
Hubbel, Ridgely, Evans, Robinson, and the authors quoted, Abbott and Carrington,
it is easy to understand the discredit into which the physical phenomena of
mediumship have fallen in the minds of serious savants.
In America splendid imitations are given, by trickery, of the classic dancing of
tables, raps, writing between two slates, the untying of knots, the liberation
of the medium from bags and nets, the "spontaneous" playing of musical
instruments, spirit photographs, impressions and moulds in paraffin wax, apports,
clairvoyance and reading of sealed letters, and the whole series of
"materialisation phenomena." It is not from any disrespect toward the American
continent, from which the present spiritist movement came to us through the Fox
sisters, but simply as a practical statement that I use the term Americanism
to denote the fraudulent mediumship carried out as a system of speculation.
I should add that thought-reading is also much discredited, since the most
popular American diviners, such as Stuart Cumberland, J. Randall Brown and
Washington Irving Bishop have confessed the secret of the success, or had it
found out - a secret, in a word, similar to that of the Zancigs, who were so
much in vogue in London recently. And I must confess that, with the exception of
Mrs. Leonora Piper and, to a less degree,
Mrs. May Pepper, even the mental phenomena of incarnations, spirit messages, and
communications given in trance, have decreased in value on account of the
innumerable frauds which have been discovered in such forms of spiritism as
incarnations, oratory, psychography, psychometry and evocation.
But I wish to keep to physical phenomena such as are given by Eusapia; there is
a whole library to be mentioned, intended to prove that from the Fox sisters to
our own day we can only retain very little of all that is related in the
libro d'oro of experimental American spiritism.
 See the Bibliografia dello Spiritismo
which I have compiled and published as an introduction to my Psicologia e
Spiritismo, Vols. I. and II.
We may admit that the asserted apostasy of the Fox sisters is to be attributed
to bigotry, but we have the anonymous and highly significant Confessions of a
Medium and Revelations of a Spirit Medium, and the exposure by Lunt,
of Boston, in Mysteries of the Séance. And besides these exposures by
initiates we have the old but vigorous blows of Truesdell at the fundamental
facts of spiritism; of Fin at the follies of science; and the later ones of
Shekleton Henry on the too obtrusive Realm of Mystery. And as a final
shot there are the formal accusations launched for the public benefit in an
anonymous book, the title of which alone - The Great Psychological Crime
- reveals in itself a terrible expressiveness.
 The titles of the works referred to are:
Truesdell, Bottom Facts of Spiritualism; Fin, Seven Follies of Science;
T. Shekleton Henry, Spookland: A Record of Research in the Much talked-of
Realm of Mystery, all quoted and used by Carrington, op. cit.
Let not this cry of alarm be thought exaggerated: North America is infested by a
multitude of "very powerful" and very false mediums, whose fantastic doings
consist in imitating to perfection the classic manifestations of spirit
phenomena, and in inventing every day more or less paradoxical phenomena.
 I refer the reader to what is said by
Abbott and Carrington in their well-documented works. But one may profitably
read Podmore, Modern Spiritualism, a History and a Criticism, London,
Besides New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, several places of less
importance are well-known centres and schools of this fraudulent mediumship,
ordinarily associated with practices of divination, magic, chiromancy,
necromancy, etc. For instance, at Salem, Massachusetts (the home of the two
celebrated Forsters and of Mrs. Piper), Denver (Colorado), Omaha (Nebraska), Los
Angeles (California) are continually the theatre of pretended spirit
performances, and a little lower down the coast San Diego boasts of its
magnificent temple-monastery of Theosophists. There is also a series of mediums
of less importance, but still more deceptive, who operate at the camp-meetings,
the most frequented of which is held at the delicious Lily Dale, near Lake Erie.
The "exceptional faculties" of these real artists of their kind are usually the
result of conjuring, not always very clever, more often clumsy and easy to
detect by those who take the trouble to examine them somewhat critically. This
is not the case with the great mass of believers, who flock to them, fascinated
by mysterious titles like this: "The Oracle-Mystery of the great Pendulum," or
"Intelligence and Matter"(!) They repose blind faith in one, Dr. Schlossinger,
who announces that he is accomplishing "the special mission on earth of proving
absolutely to mankind the immortality of the soul"(!), and at the same time he
sells consultations, mesmeric, magnetic, hypnotic, psychographic, and
5. Spiritism on the Basis of Conjuring
The biographies of several of these characteristic
American workers is highly significant. I quote a typical example. Dr. M. Lee
was, in his young days, an invincible pugilist or boxer, but after his
"conversion"(?) he became a minister and propagandist preacher; at present he is
a medium in great demand.
We often find that the medium was formerly employed as assistant, or servant -
it matters little which - to some celebrated theatrical illusionist. We learn,
for instance, that William Eglinton had
been associated with Mme. Blavatsky, according to Solowoff and the SPR of
London, when, in her mediumistic enterprises of "the Veiled Isis," she deceived
the good Colonel Olcott, her successor in theosophy; for this reason alone Mrs.
Sidgwick, an authority among psychists, regarded him also as a clever
juggler. Again, the conjurer Kellar accompanied the Brothers
Davenport in their travels, and
certainly helped them in the construction of the famous cabinet!
 See Proceedings of the SPR, Vol.
II., 1886, p. 332.
All this gives rise to the suspicion that all these spectacular phenomena, with
apparition and psychomancy, are based on tricks, optical illusions, deceptions,
and may consist in colossal frauds carried on without risk. The auditoriums have
trap-doors in the floors and openings in the ceiling by which the phantoms come
up and down (Abbott). The cabinet (the "cavern," as M. Winckler calls it) is a
storehouse of objects of all sorts which serve for the fitting out of spectres
differing in age, sex, quality, and colour (whites, negroes, redskins). A
Chicago detective, R. Wooldridge, relates how he went into a room where paid
séances were held (26 sitters at a dollar each!), and observed there a spirit in
flesh and bones, perhaps one of the numerous "Indians" who appear at séances,
and then, after having made himself known as a representative of the police, he
took out a wagon-load (sic) of masks, wigs, moustaches, tin trumpets for
imitating voices, dresses of every kind, costumes of different periods; in fact,
all the baggage for a quick-change artiste like Fregoli!
It should be remarked on this subject that these materialising mediums do not
usually allow themselves to be bound or watched. Moreover, when bound and
rebound, they have great skill in untying the tightest and most complicated
knots, habitues as they are of the Davenport school; once free, they dress up
hastily, mask themselves, and come before the astonished and credulous public.
The conductor, or impresario, watches that none of the sitters comes too near;
during this time the "phantom" speaks, if the medium has the power of altering
his voice; if not, he is silent, and gesticulates, or contents himself with
kissing some "dear friend" or relative.
 This technique of séances is described
also by Florence Marryat, the
celebrated English novelist, in her book on Spiritism, There is no Death.
For the "evocation" of relatives, these mediums are often secretly banded
together: they impart to each other confidential information about the clients
who have consulted them, and as to those who are presumed to be desirous of
doing so. At Omaha these rogues have a "Blue-book," in which they inscribe the
names of those who are known to be spiritists or on the way to become such, with
their descriptions and numerous details, as to the deceased members of their
families, etc., so that when they go to a séance, these grave and confiding
persons, to their profound astonishment, hear themselves called by their names
and what they supposed to be their most intimate secrets revealed! In the same
way the professional divining mediums, who answer the questions of sitters by
means of a double slate, use a written conventional language. (Yost's
Spiritualistic Slate and Dictionary.)
The friendly circulation of the Bluebook and other writings reveals a curious
characteristic of American professional mediumship, the mutual support given to
each other by the physical "materialising" mediums and the intellectual mediums
for "incarnation." Mr. Abbott tells how he was present at a séance given by a
"doctor of occult science, astrologer, chiromancer, and spirit medium," of high
repute in Nebraska for his direct writing on slates after the manner of Slade,
who, one evening, in answer to a sealed letter which Abbott had presented to
him, caused the following phrases to appear on the slate:
Mrs. Piper is a genuine medium. She possesses powers
of a very unusual nature. Her tests given to Hyslop and others are genuine. Do
not be a sceptic. You are making a mistake, dear friend.
This apology for Mrs. Piper, coming from a
charlatan, gives rise to some suspicion; one feels a sort of understanding
between them, which does no honour to the celebrated and only true demonstrator
- according to Hyslop - of the "immortality of the soul."
But the relatives and friends of the sitters are not the only "spirits" who
communicate messages; the aplomb and temerity of the professionals know no
bounds. One of them, an Omaha medium, makes a speciality of ancient Egypt, for
through him appear Queens Cleopatra and Oriana(?). Another characteristic
Buddhist medium, the "Reverend Swami Mazzininanda" (in which the name of our
great Italian agitator makes its appearance!), has the audacity to evoke the
spirit of Krishna by mock rituals! Another, very popular in America, is Dr.
Schlossinger, already mentioned, an operator who claims to be guided by a spirit
with the biblical name of "Levi," and who, like Hélène Smith in her very latest
phase, dares to boast of his vision of "Jesus Christ." This would seem like a
sacrilege to the fervent adherents of Christo-Catholic spiritism; and I have
never understood how they can reconcile their religious faith and their
No doubt, skill and effrontery are necessary for every performance; but
darkness, the dramatic side which is never wanting in spiritism, suggestion,
credulity, and the fear of having spent their dollars uselessly of foolishly,
work miracles with the crowd, and in this way we have an unfailing, almost
irresistible explanation of the psychology of illusion.
 See American Journal of Psychology,
Vol. Xl., 1900.
Where illusion reaches its height, however, is in
the photographing of the discarnate. The pitiful history of this branch of
physical mediumship is well known: Buquet, Mummler, Hudson Parker, who
fabricated "spirit portraits" in the recesses of their laboratories, deceiving
their clients, have been exposed by psychism, and are no longer believed in
except in the lowest ranks of spiritism. In America the deception continues, and
it is useless to call the attention of "believers" to the very visible evidence
of fraud, as proved by the fake photograph, which I reproduce from Mr.
Carrington's book (Fig. 5); faith removes mountains. Is it not sufficient, for
instance, to notice the anomalies of perspective in the left-hand of the spirit,
which issues from the ear of the sitter, the horrible mutilation of the face,
the disproportion in size between the living husband and the deceased wife?
Professor Hodgson, who was a very keen and almost fierce critic of all physical
phenomena, who never left Eusapia alone with his suspicions and his hostility,
and who led the Cambridge Committee to its unjust absolute denial - Hodgson, I
say, continued in America the cleansing work commenced in Australia, and carried
on more vigorously in Europe. He succeeded in getting himself photographed, as
shown in the annexed illustration (Fig. 6), with a very clever reproduction of a
portrait of an occult "entity," a child's face, placed between his waistcoat and
his watch-chain. We have here a surprising optical effect, artificially
obtained, which serves admirably to throw light on the charlatanry practised by
certain photographic mediums who call up spirits of relatives.
In Mr. Carrington's work there are reproductions of
other spirit photographs obtained by quite evident fraud. Many years ago, at
Turin, I had the opportunity of examining some photographs of this kind, which
aroused the enthusiasm of Colonel Daviso, a well-known spiritist and convinced
propagandist; the tricks I found in them were apparently not different from
those here referred to, and represented by the photograph of Dr. Hodgson. I have
also seen Captain E. Volpi's much-praised specimens, and I do not venture to
pass judgment upon them. How can one have the courage, after those which
American mediumship has shown itself capable of producing? In my work on
Spiritism I have given the reason for which, up to a certain point, I can admit
the authenticity of psychic images, but without the intervention of the
6. Illusion and Spiritism
The psychology of illusion has not only been
marvellously well described by savants of note like Hammond, Jastrow, and Norman
Triplett, but it has been illuminated also in an incomparable manner by the
"professors" of conjuring. This art is also rightly designated by the name of
In Europe, also, we have had, and have, clever illusionists who have denounced,
and, to a large extent, believed that they reproduced the miracles of spiritism;
for example, Bellacchini, Maskelyne, Willmann, Levey, Frizzo, Hermann, Grasso,
Rainaly: but we are still a hundred miles from America, where there are
actually faculties, pseudo-universities, for the formation of "sorcerers," and
for the cultivation of "white or modern magic."
 Rainaly's book deserves to be better
known: Propos d'un Escamoteur, Paris, 1894, with its expressive
sub-title, Magnétisme et Spiritisme.
Our mediums are usually more modest, because they are more genuine, and their
phenomena are much less easily imitated, being simpler and more authentic. We do
not even dream of witnessing the paradoxical apports of the American
séances, as when at Stockton, in California, frogs and fresh fish were "brought
by the spirits." We are inclined to compare them with the cage-birds and
Babylonian coins of the Australian Bailey, who left, as can be well understood,
so much anxiety in the minds of the Milanese psychists.
 On the medium Bailey and the suspicions
aroused by his phenomena, see Luce e Ombra Milan, 1906-7, and The
Annals of Psychical Science, 1906-7.
In the same way, we do not understand how mediumship could be successfully
imitated by Annie Eva Fay, who, besides producing admirable impressions in wax,
increases in weight every night, resisting the efforts of several
spectators to raise her from the ground. It is the old game of address of Miss
Abbott, exposed by Sir Oliver Lodge; yet it is, perhaps, the same procedure
which is used unconsciously by a little Swedish medium, aged twelve, and
weighing scarcely seventy pounds, when she becomes very heavy, and cannot be
moved if she places one finger on a person in the circle. I am not far from
being of opinion that these feats, perhaps subconscious and not fraudulent, may
be compared with the elongation of the body (?) of Home, asserted by Lord
Lindsay, now Earl of Crawford, and the increase in the stature of Eglinton,
another medium, who was very celebrated a few years ago, and as to whose
genuineness many doubts arose then, and are now revived.
 See the Report of the Dialectical
Society of London.
 The magnificent biography of Eglinton written by Farmer ('Twixt Two
Worlds, London, 1886) is not at all complete or convincing!
In Europe frauds have been chiefly practised in the lucrative branch of spirit
photography, of which I have already spoken; we have no private cabinets for the
evocation of spirits, although chiromancers, magnetic healers, etc., are not
wanting. Therefore the anti-spiritistic literature, although abundant enough, is
theoretical rather than practical; the first experimental and methodical essay
on anti-spiritism is furnished by my book on Paladino.
In North America, on the contrary, the struggle against the false spiritism
which is practised there is conducted on positive methods - the real facts are
opposed to the fraudulent imitations.
Among the conjurers who have exposed the tricks of American mediums, or who
reproduce them perfectly, the best known are Kellar, Robert Houdin, Weller, Ed.
Benedict, E. Ridgely Evans, G. Rasgorshete, and E. Hardin (Pearsons). The
Anglo-American library of original and translated works, intended to teach the
feats of spiritism, is very considerable. I find among my notes the following
works: Baldwin, Secrets of Mahatma-land Explained; Burlinghame, J. H.,
Tricks in Magic; Ennemoser, History of Magic (translated from the
German); Ridgley, Evans, The Spirit World Unmasked; Hoffmann, Professor
(?), Later Magic; Hopkins, Magic Stage Mansions; Twentieth
Century Magic; Houdin, Robert, Secrets of Stage Conjuring (he
explains by a trick the levitation of mediums!);. Kellar, Magic and its
Professors; Up and Down and Round About the World; Lilley, Modern
Mystics and Modern Magic; Shaw, New Ideals on Magic; Magical.
Instructor; Willmann, The Old and the New Magic (translated from the
There are also special periodicals; one of them has an Oriental title, The
Mahatma, in which we may read, for example, articles on how to produce raps
(Vol. XCIX.); and another, The Sphinx, edited by Dr. A. Wilson, of Kansas
City, which teaches the method of exposing mediums. Finally, there are also
shops for spiritistic secrets, very rich in magic-spiritistic resources of all
kinds; I may name Yost & Co., in Philadelphia, and George Williams & Co., of
Chicago (7145 Champlain Avenue).
There has, therefore, sprung up a frantic emulation between the pseudo-mediums
who invent tricks and the conjurers who imitate them. We find traces of it also
in the official publications of the American Society for Psychical Research.
 See the Proceedings of the American
SPR, March, 1907.
In truth, some of the mediumistic phenomena described by Zöllner, and
accomplished in Europe by Slade and Sambor - for instance, the passage of a ring
through the leg of a table, the passing of a chair on to the tied or closed arms
of the mediums, etc. - have rather the appearance of feats of skill than
spiritual manifestations. The highly respectable medium, Miller Wilcox, repeated
them in a shed during a revival at Lily Dale. M. Petrovo-Solovoff, an eminent
Russian psychist, has thrown strong doubt upon them in regard to the mediumship
It has been said in Europe that several celebrated conjurers, among them
Bellacchini and Houdin, declared that they could not explain mediumistic
phenomena by artifices; but this is only partially true, or as regards the real
phenomena, which are certainly beyond the reach of the art of illusionism, and
not for the "American" ones. It results from this, that Bellacchini only
declared himself ignorant of the procedure used by mediums, and not that the
phenomena could not be reproduced; and Houdin, perhaps better informed by his
brother sorcerers, would think very differently to-day. The fact remains that
Mr. Abbott has succeeded in imitating a large number of extraordinary phenomena
peculiar to the transatlantic mediums, including a process of direct (?)
slate-writing between two sealed slates, which everybody thought could not
possibly be imitated.
But it is especially the "materialisation" of phantoms which, counterfeited by
hundreds, are now almost entirely out of favour with all serious psychists, both
in America and in Europe.
The celebrated journalist, W. T. Stead, who is, or has been, a very fanatical
spiritualist, wrote in 1892 that real materialisations appeared to him to be
impossible; he had never seen any! He remarked upon the strangeness of the fact
that "whereas in the early days they were so frequent, they should be so rare at
the present time." He also declared that he believed that there did not exist,
in the whole United Kingdom, "more than two genuine materialising mediums, one
of whom was Mrs. Mellon."
Mr. Carrington is even less generous; according to him all the great
materialising mediums (I say all) are suspected, "because sooner or later
they have been caught tricking." He quotes all the most remarkable names of the
aristocracy of mediumship: Home, Charles
Williams, Miss Cook, Eglinton,
Dr. Franci Monck, Miss Fowler, Miss Wood,
Miss Fairlamb, Mrs. Anderson, Eddy (of Cheffenden, Vermont, highly esteemed for
Many of these names are mentioned every time that tricking mediums are spoken
of. I have quoted them myself in several places in my work. Now, it is
necessary to say that Miss Fairlamb is the same person as Mrs. Mellon, the
medium whose genuineness Mr. Stead swore by! Yet even she, Mrs. Fairlamb Mellon,
was caught in Australia coming out of the cabinet, with a mask on her face and
white drapery round her shoulders, to play the "spirit."
 See my Psicologia e Spiritismo,
Vol. I., pp. 96-97, and Vol. II., passim.
Miss Cook also, who materialised the form of Katie King in Sir
William Crookes' study, is the same
person as Mrs. Corner, who a few years later was caught in the act by Charles
von Buch and other German spiritists, at a private séance which she gave at
 The story of this adventure may be read
in the "spiritualist" journals of the time.
7. Excess of Distrust for Physical Mediumship
After this, was the English Society for Psychical
Research right in refusing to examine mediums for physical effects? No, it was
wrong, just as the Paris Academy was wrong when, seventy years ago, it decided
to accept no more communications on animal magnetism.
There are false magnetisers and genuine magnetisers, just as there are those who
are really magnetised and those who only pretend to be. This is not to say that
there does not exist a very large group of phenomena, well worthy of study, such
as that which Mesmer called by a pseudo-physical name. In the same way there is
a great deal of fraud and trickery in militant spiritism both in America and in
Europe; but we must not infer that all the physical phenomena of mediumship are
false. And just as from the old mesmerism, when freed from its doctrinal errors,
so many assured facts of supernormal psychology have been derived, the same will
be the case with mediumship; it only needs to be freed from the follies and
falsities of traditional and psychoendemic spiritualism. Mr. Carrington, whom I
still quote for precaution, for he is not only a firm believer in immortality,
but also a psychist of authority, assumes an attitude of extreme distrust when
It is not only probable, but certain, that the vast
majority of modern occult phenomena are fraudulent. I am disposed to believe
that fully 98 percent of the phenomena, both mental and physical, are
 Carrington, op. cit. p. 336.
Now I am only a positive psychologist with a bad inclination to "materialism,"
in the eyes of believers in official and semi-official spiritism (including the
lukewarm ones who accept it at present as a "working hypothesis"), and yet I am
disposed to be much more indulgent and benevolent. I think that in the
mediumistic manifestations of Eusapia Paladino, and other great mediums, the
proportion of false and genuine is completely different from that reported
above; I cannot state it in figures, but without any doubt the greatest
proportion of the phenomena is real, and only a very small portion of them
The fact remains that at a séance with Mme. Paladino there can be no suspicion
of the use of mechanical devices, a wardrobe of articles of clothing, an
arrangement of trapdoors, or a hidden stock of implements, as with the fake
mediums. If Eusapia has cheated (and the fault is real in a very small
proportion of her séances, not in all of them), her trick of liberating a hand
or a foot may enable her to perform little deceptions within the very limited
circle of action of her arm or leg. But no pseudo-medium, whether American or
Belgian, Australian, or Russian, could play his conjuring tricks on the
spectators in place of Eusapian phenomena, if he were obliged to strip and
reclothe himself in their presence; if he were taken to "work" in a place which
was new to him, with strange persons, among objects which he had never seen, and
furniture not manufactured for the purpose, like Eldred's stuffed chair. A group
of experimenters like Lombroso, Schiapparelli, Lodge, Richet, Flammarion,
Julien Ochorowicz, Luciani,
Bottazzi, is quite another thing from an assembly composed of persons hastily
collected, who pay for their places, are anxious for emotions, suggestionable
No critic or sceptic, were it Dr. Hodgson returned to earth, could ever convince
me that, in a long series of séances with Eusapia, and especially in the last
ones of 1906-07, I had only seen, in all, two genuine phenomena in every
hundred! This is my opinion, and I live in this confidence towards myself and my
fellow investigators, notwithstanding all that Carrington writes about Eusapia
Paladino; he devotes the first three hundred pages of his volume to destroying
almost the whole of physical phenomena, and then stops short in the last hundred
pages to plead (in a lukewarm manner, it is true, but still to plead) the cause
of supernormal psychology through the few phenomena which he qualifies as
It will be interesting to give a brief enumeration of these. Carrington divides
them under four heads:
(1) The raps. He regards as authentic those observed by Crookes with
Home; those heard by Jacolliot in the East, produced by fakirs(!); those of the
medium Karin, described by Hjalmar Wijk; and those of which M. Maxwell
speaks; now these latter are mainly the "raps" at séances given by Eusapia
 See Annals of Psychical Science,
(2) Telekinesis. Mr. Carrington again quotes the unfailing experiments of
Crookes, and the feats which Jacolliot relates as having been performed by
fakirs (?), the case of the haunted house, known as the Amherst Mystery, several
examples related in an old work by Mrs. Crowe and scattered through the writings
of Andrew Lang, and, lastly, the telergetic phenomena attested by Myers
in 1894-5 and by Maxwell in 1903; now these last are due in great part to
(3) The manifestations of the mediumship of D. D. Home, among which he
declares to be authentic the playing of the accordion without contact, the
levitation, the lengthening of Home's body(?), and his incombustibility(!). Now
I have been present when sounds have been emitted by musical instruments which
were certainly not touched by Eusapia, and I am surprised that Maxwell, from
whom the American author might have gained information, does not speak of them;
but the trumpet or mandolin of Mme. Paladino are substantially equivalent to
Home's accordion which so astonished Sir W. Crookes.
(4) The state of trance of Mrs. Leonora Piper, with her not less
unfailing "incarnations." Here, however, the rigid psychist will pardon me for
saying that we are outside of physical mediumship.
No matter; the Neapolitan medium may think herself fortunate in coming out of
the universal hurricane which destroys all the forms of mediumship equal to her
own. We see, then, in Carrington's work, Eusapia received, along with D. D. Home
and Leonora Piper - that is to say, with the two triumphant mediums - into the
ark of safety of the most austere psychism.
8. The Genuineness of Mme. Paladino's Phenomena
Talking everything into account, I remain calmly
confident in the same conclusions to which I had come at the commencement of my
researches on Eusapia's phenomena, while as yet I knew nothing of the austerity
of which the Anglo-Saxon neo-spiritualists are capable, who are the most serious
and most estimable in the world. However the negativists may talk and prate, and
compare the stupid and simple phenomena produced by her "John King" with
conjuring tricks, it is none the less clear and plain that the largest and most
important part of the mediumistic productions of Eusapia do not belong to the
circle of conjuring as I have drawn it above, and that it is even absolutely
removed from that. It is only necessary to re-read the descriptions of her
séances, to consider the circumstances of place, time, company, light, etc.,
under which the phenomena were produced, and to examine their psychophysical
origin, in order to see at once that there is no need to set before our eyes, as
affirmative observers, the bugbear of "Americanism."
It seems to me that the mental and subjective phenomena of the Piper style are
much more uncertain and easily falsifiable than the purely physical and
objective phenomena of Paladino. Professor Hyslop himself, after having
constituted himself the partisan and herald-at-arms of the Salem medium,
confesses that with her the precautions to be taken are infinite, certainly much
more complicated and strict than with Eusapia. Mental mediumship can be
simulated to an extraordinary degree. This, at least, is the impression which
has been left on my mind by several excellent mediums for incarnation and by
psychographers whom I have observed during the last few years; their
personifications, their automatic writings seemed to me, after all, much more
easily simulated than those phenomena which depart from the physical laws of
gravitation and distance, from the physiological laws of muscular effort, etc.;
certainly no conjurer would be capable of reproducing them under the same
conditions in which, voluntarily or by coercion, a medium like Eusapia is
In any case we see that conjuring imitations of spirit phenomena are not exempt
from criticism. Those who have examined them find, for, instance, that the
conjurer Dewey could scarcely give even a mediocre imitation of writing between
two slates and of raps at a distance (Ochorowicz, Maxwell); therefore, he would
have succeeded even less well in imitating the materialisation of forms behind
curtains, if he were seated, like Eusapia, with his back to the cabinet, in a
room in which he had never set foot before.
By different procedures, but with equal want of skill, the conjurer N. Maskelyne
imagined that he had discovered Eusapia's "trick" of levitation of the table;
but when he leaned upon the table in order to prevent it rising, he only showed
his incompetence as an experimenter in typtocynesis. Long afterwards came
the childish performances of Dr. X., at a sitting at my house, and of which I
have spoken particularly in my work. He also tried to hold with his thumb the
chair carried on to the table by "John," thinking that he would thus reveal our
simplicity and his own shrewd intelligence. He also supposed, in his ignorance
of metapsychics, that he could imitate the "spirit lights," but he did not
succeed in deceiving us with his lucifer-match(!).
 With regard to Maskelyne, see the
articles in the Daily Chronicle, October, 1895.
 See my Psicologia e Spiritismo, Vol. II.
Some of Eusapia's phenomena, and not the most complicated, appeared to me
incapable of being imitated, such as levitations of the table in full light or
in the middle of the room, the cold wind from the cabinet, the wandering lights,
the carrying of objects about in half-light, the tangible materialisations
behind the curtain, and those visible under absolute control; no art of an
American, Malabar, or Lapp juggler could reproduce them before a small group of
intelligent and competent experimenters, cool-headed, sane-minded, and
unprejudiced, as the author of this article flatters himself that he was during
the thirty séances with Eusapia at which he has been present.
Genoa April, 1908.
The above article was published in "The Annals of Psychical Science",
August-September 1908, Vol. VII, Numbers 44 & 45.