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.

The Rumination Hypothesis

- Baron von Schrenck Notzing -


          WHEN DU Moncel, on 11th March 1878, first exhibited to the French Academy of Sciences the phonograph, a savant, named Bouillaud, took him by the throat and called him a swindler and a ventriloquist. This happened in the presence of Camille Flammarion. According to some savants, the medium Eva C. produced some of the materialisation phenomena described in Part 1. fraudulently with the muscles of the stomach and oesophagus.

But since the rumination hypothesis would only apply to a few of the phenomena, the medium would have to be a snake-charmer and first-rate conjuror as well, and would be wiser to exhibit her art on the stage instead of leading a simple and retired life.

Even should the medium possess all these talents, they would not suffice to explain the facts observed by the author.

Yet the criticism advanced in the daily and scientific press prefers to deny these facts and to regard the author as the victim of a deception extending over four years.

The objections put forward in the press and in pamphlets could not be answered as they came, since it was often necessary to deal with some of them, such as those concerning the use of illustrations from Le Miroir, by means of new experiments, and to obtain expert opinions.

The world war which broke out in 1914 interrupted the investigations and discussions for several years. Yet even during the war a few stray accounts of further tests appeared, till, in 1918, Dr Gustave Geley published his comprehensive and favourable observations.

The material published after the issue of the first German edition, with some chapters from the author's Kampf um die Materialisations Phaenomene (Controversy concerning Materialisation Phenomena), is comprised in the present Part II, and forms an important supplement to the original volume.

In addition, some analogous experiences with other mediums are briefly cited, so that the reader now not only gets a survey of the ten years' work with Eva C., but is shown that such phenomena are not so rare as one might expect, and that they show great similarities in their occurrence and development.

The illustrations in this Part II, in so far as they are not repeated from Part I, are made by Messrs Hambock at Munich. For the reproductions from Le Miroir the original pages have been used.

Finally, the author takes much pleasure in thanking Colonel Peter and Prof. Urban for their co-operation in this work.

The Rumination Hypothesis

The special gift of Eva C. lies, as already mentioned, in the region of teleplastics or materialisation. The only possible objection which can be made is that the materialisation products are, in some way, fraudulently smuggled into the sťance room. The business of the control is, therefore, the comparatively simple one of preventing the medium from bringing in objects for exhibition, or having them passed to her by an accomplice. The result of the control has been consistently negative, and therefore favourable to the medium.

This must be specially emphasised since the Munich observers, who doubted the genuineness of the phenomena, had to admit that "nobody can find any material which might be used in these materialisations, either before, or after the sitting."

Being thus driven into a corner, the need for an explanation takes refuge in the rumination hypothesis, which asserts that the stomach, or the gullet, may be used as hiding-places for the images and objects produced, and assumes that the medium is an expert in the rumination process.

One of the supporters of this theory, now advanced for the first time in the history of mediumistic phenomena, describes the process as follows:

"It is quite simply (!) done like this: Pictures are drawn, painted, or photographically reproduced on chiffon gauze, after the dressing has been removed in hot water. These pictures are then cut out along their contours. The same can be done with gold-beaters' skin, which has the advantage of being unaffected by moisture (saliva and gastric juices). It is also very thin, and therefore occupies a small space when folded. It is soft, noiseless, and shows no traces of folding, crumpling, or rolling. Such things are swallowed before the experiment. Among other things there are rubber gloves, such as are used for operations, objects cut out in the shape of hands, formless shreds of animal mesentery, as well as catgut, and the like, which can be inflated. All these can be swallowed into the same human stomach.

"The investigator, of course, cannot find these things by inspection, nor even by means of X-rays. They can only be discovered by the stomach-pump. The medium, either tied up or held by the hands during the sitting, brings up these things noiselessly behind the curtain and unfolds them with the hands, or her mouth, on her knees, which are drawn up for this purpose under her chin. The medium then suspends these things with her hands or her mouth at the curtain by means of small hooks attached to the preparations (twisted pins). These hooks are turned inwards before swallowing, so as to produce no injury. The suspensions of these hooks can be traced by pin-holes actually found in the curtain. The removal of the materialisations is also affected by the hands or the mouth. When the flash-light is turned on the medium regularly simulates a strong nervous shock, makes convulsive defensive movements, frees her hands from control, and closes the curtain as if for defence. Then, behind the closed curtain, the medium swallows the objects, after hastily crumpling them up into a small compass. Agility is not witchcraft, but a matter of practice."

The final stage in this fraudulent manipulation is imagined by the critic to be as follows:

"The materialisations are then vomited at home, or if they keep lying in the stomach, because they have perhaps unfolded themselves, they are removed, in a natural way, by means of mashed potatoes or stewed plums."

The process here described therefore presupposes: Painted or drawn images on gold-beaters' skin, chiffon gauze, paper, or some textile fabric, to which twisted pins or small hooks are attached, and for the other experiments the smuggling of shreds of mesentery, or the guts of cats or lambs, the repeated closing of the curtain, and rising from the chair for the purpose of fastening these things to the curtain, which is supposed to be done exclusively with the mouth, and finally "mashed potatoes and stewed plums!"

The presence of prepared images is contradicted by the technical opinion given by the Manager of the Hambock Institute of Graphic Art. The structures resemble animal and vegetable forms, and show no marks indicating manual work or manufactured fabrics. For this and other reasons stated in the report, we cannot be dealing with prepared images.

The production by rumination cannot be assumed in the case of a whole extensive group of phenomena, in which odd forms and fragments of members and faces are generated before the eyes of the observers, without the participation of the medium's mouth or respiratory organs, while her body is motionless (knees immobile, hands under visible control, or held by the observers, and head visible in a red light of about one hundred candle-power). In these conditions the materialisations have been observed to execute automatic movements (changes of shape and of place). Nor can the instantaneous appearance and disappearance of the structures be explained in this way. The development of a forearm and hand out of a white patch in front of the medium's feet (Fig. 26), the pressing of fingers provided with nails into the back of the author's hand, three times in succession, while the medium's hands were held and her body was visible and motionless (Fig. 22), the luminosity of the material in the dark (Fig. 141), are all examples which tell against this theory. More than half the observations are excluded from discussion in connection with the rumination hypothesis by the fact that they had no connection with the mouth.

It has, indeed, been proved, partly by photography, in another large class of experiments, that the substance often emerges from the mouth and disappears in the same way, and that, therefore, the organs of respiration and digestion may be concerned in the production of the transitory material, but one cannot see how solid and plastic objects, the size of human faces, could be swallowed and brought up again, out of the stomach, without attracting attention. The help of the knees and hands is eliminated by the new control introduced in November 1912 (hands held, or visible, during the whole sitting), and also by a large number of previous experiments.

That flat substances can be withdrawn from their envelopes, spread out, smoothed, set up, folded up again, and compressed into a given small volume, and all in one or two seconds, is an assertion which, in itself, requires proof.

In the sitting of 9th May 1913 the medium Eva C. was completely sewn into a tricot garment in one piece, which only left her hands free. Her head was enveloped in a veil, sewn on to the neck of the garment all round, and her hands remained visible in the light during the whole sitting, and took no part. The materialisation phenomenon, as shown by the photograph, Fig. 150, developed outside this cage, which enclosed her whole body, and could not, therefore, have been produced by rumination, unless we assume that the substance penetrated the veil. Such a penetration could be photographically proved under the same rigid conditions in the case of two different mediums. The process by which the material penetrated through the meshes of the veil has no connection with the act of rumination, and in this, as well as in previous occurrences, other hypotheses must be brought forward for an explanation.

Finally, rumination presupposes an abnormal functioning of the stomach and gullet, as well as the dilatation of the walls of the stomach. In the two mediums with whom the author experimented (girls of twenty-six and nineteen respectively) such pathological peculiarities are not found, nor could they have been hidden from observation for four years. There are no indications pointing in that direction.

It has also been objected that the medium can always prepare herself behind the closed curtain, so that there is always a possibility of making materialisations appear without any apparent participation by the mouth.

This objection also does not apply. Hands and feet remained visible even when the curtain was closed. In a number of sittings the materialisation process even commenced during hypnotisation, and the author had hardly time to open the cameras. In the sitting of 17th May 1910, which also began with an open curtain, the author sat by the medium in the cabinet and observed the evolution out of Eva's mouth of a flocculent substance, which in no way corresponded to the supposed scheme of rumination. The production of complete head images often took place so quickly after hypnosis (e.g., 1st June 1912) that the fraudulent technique required for rumination was rendered impossible owing to the shortness of the time available.

On 1st June 1910 the phenomena were observed with an open curtain. At the sitting of 28th October 1910 the curtain was open from the beginning. Further records of curtains being open will be found in the reports of 3rd November and 28th December 1910, 7th June and 16th August 1911, and 11th September 1912.

Although the above arguments, which could easily be multiplied, dispose of the hypothesis of the rumination of swallowed objects, that hypothesis was further investigated in a sitting on 26th November 1913 in Paris. The initial and final examination of the medium (mouth, nose, and, hair, as well as a gynaecological examination), of the sťance costume and the cabinet, conducted by the Paris physician, Dr Bourbon, and the author, were negative. M. Bourdet and Mine. Bisson were also present. Eva C. dined at seven o'clock. The, sitting commenced at 8.45 p.m. in a feeble white light. Hands and knees were visibly inactive during the whole sitting. The medium did not leave her chair in the cabinet for a moment. The curtains were open while the phenomenon took place.

Between 9 p.m. and 9.10 p.m. without the help of the hands or knees, a flowing white substance emerged from the medium's mouth, which was inclined towards the left. It was about 20 inches long and 8 inches broad. It lay on the breast of the dress, spread out, and formed a white head-like disk, with a face profile turned to the right, and of life size. Even after the flash-light was ignited the curtain remained wide open. At the same moment the author illuminated the structure with an electric torch, and found that it formed a folded strip, which receded slowly into the medium's mouth, and remained visible until the sitting closed at 9.20 p.m.

While in the state of hypnosis, the medium rose from her chair and took an emetic tendered to her by the author (1 gramme ipecacuanha and 1/2 gramme tartar emetic), was completely undressed while standing half in and half out of the cabinet, and examined in detail by the author and Dr Bourbon, who took charge of the sťance costume, and also examined it carefully. The final examination of the cabinet and chair gave no result. Dressed in a dressing-gown, Eva C. was then laid on a couch in the room, and was not left unobserved for a moment.

After two further doses of the same strength, vomiting set in at 9.30 p.m., which brought up the contents of the stomach. The quantity was about a pint, and was taken charge of by the author, who did not give it out of his hands until he handed it over to the Masselin Laboratory in Paris for analysis. The vomit was brown in colour, and besides the wafers taken with the powders there was no trace of any white substance such as observed by us. The detailed report of the Laboratory in question, dated 29th November 1913, closes with the words:

"The final result of the examination shows that the vomit consisted exclusively of food products and the emetics, and contained fragments of meat, fruit, and vegetables, probably mushrooms, which were found in pieces of considerable size. The rest of the contents consisted of food in an advanced state of digestion. There was not the slightest trace of a body whose appearance or histological structure gave the impression of a foreign body, or of a substance not used for nutrition, and, in particular, there was no trace of paper or chiffon."

Although this experiment is a sufficient refutation of the rumination hypothesis, Eva C. announced her readiness to submit on another occasion to the process of stomach rinsing. A record was made of the sitting, and was signed by all those present. The above procedure may be taken as a definite proof of the inadequacy of the rumination hypothesis to explain the phenomena observed to develop from Eva's mouth. So long as images like those published in this book have not been brought up by rumination, correctly exposed, and disposed of in the same way, without the use of the hands or knees, and so long as a technique assumed by the critics is not proved to be possible by evidential experiments, this attempted explanation must be considered as an hypothesis itself requiring proof.


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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