Baron von Schrenck Notzing

German pioneer of psychical research, a physician of Munich who specialised in psychiatry which eventually led him into psychical research. Founded the 'Gesellshaft fur Metapsychische Forschung' and began his study of telekinesis and teleplastics which rendered him famous. Up to the time of his death there was no important medium in Europe with whom he did not conduct personal experiments. For many years he studied the phenomena of materialisation of Eva. C. (Marthe Beraud) at Mme. Bisson's house in Paris and at Munich.

Expert Opinion on the Fraudulent use of Certain Materials in Producing Teleplasmic Images

- Baron von Schrenck Notzing -

          ALTHOUGH THE proper movements of the formations and their shapes tell against the rumination hypothesis, Colonel Peter has made experiments on the use of delicate fabrics for deceptive purposes.

His opinion is as follows:

"No. 1. 'Crumpled and folded papers.' - I drew some heads with chalk and charcoal on the finest tissue papers, fixed them and folded them up in small pellets or rolls, which could easily be concealed in the mouth. I then went into a dark room, in order to fix the paper head to a black curtain. At once I came up against a great difficulty. It was not at all easy to unfold the moist pellet in the dark. The paper tore in several places, although I used every care. Then I did not know which was the right side for exposure. When I had succeeded, after patient labour, in sticking up the head, I was faced with new difficulties. The paper always collapsed and folded up again. Finally, I had to use four or five pins. At last the 'phenomenon' stuck. Then I turned on the light and found that I had pinned the head upside down! It is quite unthinkable that all this delicate and difficult work should be done in a short time in the dark by any person. The assertion that the medium does it when her hands are free for a moment, or even with her mouth, is absurd. The images show their mode of production; the thousands of small folds or rents do not allow of the production of a single smooth surface, as shown in nearly all the pictures in Dr von Schrenck's book. The first comparison shows that the phenomena cannot be produced in this way.

"No. 2. 'Gold-beaters' skin.' - I doubt if any one who considers this a suitable material for the fraud in question has ever seen gold-beaters' skin, for when I had acquired a piece the size of a human head, I saw at once that, on account of its yellowish-grey colour and its transparency, it was quite unsuitable. A drawing in charcoal or the like is hardly visible when the skin is put on a dark curtain. I had to put it on top of a white tissue paper. In spite of the double layer the head could be folded into a very small compass. The unfolding and attachment of the picture in the dark room was attended by the same difficulties as before.

"The flash-light photograph (Fig. 181) immediately betrays the origin of the 'phenomenon.' One sees at once that there is no plastic development. The thin white foundation is recognisable throughout. Shadows are lacking, or are wrongly distributed. The crumpling and folding into a small compass distorted the face, especially the eyes, nose and mouth. It is evident that the phenomena described cannot be reproduced with gold-beaters' skin.

"No. 3. 'Pieces of Chiffon,' even strongly compressed, occupy more space. The drawing of a life-sized human head on this material could not be concealed in the mouth. If one has got hold of the packet in the dark, the difficulty is here not the unfolding, but the sticking up. It requires several pins.

"The picture (Fig. 182) shows the work of the loom, especially at the margins, and the folds distort the features. The conclusion is that the fraud cannot be carried out with chiffon.

"For the methods Nos. 1 to 3, it must be assumed that the medium herself can draw, which is known not to be the case; or that she has an able assistant who provides the images for the phenomena. If the critic says that 'artists have given the private opinion that the images are at no higher artistic level than typical heads on cigar boxes, or in fashion journals,' we can only reply that their judgment must be subordinated to that of an authority like Professor von Keller.

"No. 4. 'Images are taken from the illustrated journal Le Miroir and gone over with charcoal, chalk, etc., in such a way that the origin is no longer recognisable.'

"A simple practical experiment shows that this assertion cannot be substantiated. The picture in the flash-light shows a lack of contrast. The folds of the paper are easily recognised.

"General Conclusion. - The pictures and fragments obtained by Dr von Schrenck in the sittings with Eva C. cannot be produced with paper or by masks of the materials suggested."

Besides the rumination hypothesis, our opponents have advanced a number of unverifiable assertions, consisting largely of gossip and slander, against the medium and her protectress. These assertions are composed of alleged facts which on close examination turn out to be quite unfounded, unjustified assumptions or allegations due to the negative, subjective predisposition of the critic.

It is fairly well known that every publication about mediumistic phenomena is followed, after a brief interval, by a sensational report of an exposure. In view of the extreme readiness of many people to credit newspaper reports, it is not surprising that they are accepted in preference to observations which conflict with popular opinion and scientific orthodoxy. Such a typical development took place after the appearance of Richet's report, and also after the first publication of my work. A serious critic should take as the basis of his arguments, not the sensational reports of a newspaper, or second- or third-hand accounts, but only the authentic originals with their appended documents. In some cases a single encounter with the subject of our investigations is claimed as a qualification superior to years of study and experimental work. This is really to submit knowledge to the arbitrament of ignorance. The expert is to acknowledge the layman as his judge! In spite of the general experience that the mediumistic phenomena "depend upon distinct physical and very delicate psychic conditions, that the experimental investigation requires much patience, knowledge and care, the lay mind retains the characteristic point of view that the phenomena must occur without a fulfilment of their natural conditions, on pain of denying them recognition." It is unfortunate that learned men, who see the phenomena for the first time, commit the error of supposing that their entry into the arena marks the beginning of the proper investigation of mediumistic phenomena. They disregard the copious literature and the many strictly scientific reports of their colleagues, such as the numerous unrefuted results obtained by eminent investigators with the medium Eusapia Paladino (the Italian savants, Morselli, Porro, Fo, Botazzi, and Luciani, as well as the report of the French Commission, edited by Professor Courtier). Nor do they take into consideration the many years of observation devoted by the author to the same medium. They demand that a judgment should be based upon the few positive sittings which they have themselves attended. Even if the author's results with the two mediums (which do not necessitate the spiritistic hypothesis) could be reduced to faulty observation and deception, such a considerable remnant of facts vouched for by other observers would remain, that, as Ostwald says, we should have to try to assimilate them.


The above article was taken from Baron von Schrenck Notzing's "Phenomena of Materialisation" (1920, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. Ltd, London).

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