Marthe Beraud (Eva C)

Marthe Béraud (Eva C)

          FAMOUS FRENCH materialisation medium, known also as Marthe Béraud from the period of Professor Charles Richet's experiments at the Villa Carmen in Algiers. She is the daughter of an officer and was the fiancée of General Noel's son, Maurice, who died in the Congo before the marriage could take place. Her remarkable psychic powers were discovered by the General and his wife.

They were greatly interested in psychical research and in the presence of invited mediums witnessed at the Villa Carmen the materialisation of a helmeted phantom, Bien Boa, a Brahman Hindo who was said to have died some three hundred years ago and who styled himself as the spiritual guide of the Noel family. A "sister" of the phantom, Bergoglia, who also manifested, made a hint at a later stage that the name was an assumed one and that Bien Boa figured in Mme. Noel's life in an earlier incarnation. Mme. Noel indeed claimed full share of Bien Boa's appearances and said that either by the table or by writing Bien Boa always declared that the true medium at the early séances was not Vincentia Garcia, but she herself.

When the powers of Marthe Béraud were discovered a period of two years of experimentation commenced and Mme. Noel published many notes on the phenomena in Gabriel Delanne's Revue Scientifique et Morale du Spiritisme. Then they invited Prof. Richet and Delanne to come to Algiers as their guests. They accepted. The séances were held in an isolated building over a stable behind bolted window and door. A curtain was thrown across one corner of the room to improvise a cabinet. As a rule the negress Aischa sat with Marthe Beraud behind the curtain, but Prof. Richet says that in the more effective experiments Aischa was not present. Marthe was not tied and wore a thin dress. By making magnetic passes to awaken her from her trance Professor Richet passed his hand all over her body and made sure that she had nothing hidden on her. The presence of Aischa, of which Mme. Noel made a point, greatly annoyed the medium, for in the tropical heat the odour of the negress was unbearable.

The materialisations produced were very complete. Bien Boa appeared five or six times and offered opportunities for many important observations and experiments. Professor Richet's report, published in the April, 1906, issue of the Annales des Sciences Psychiques created an immense sensation. He was satisfied that he had witnessed genuine phenomena. Marthe Beraud could not have masqueraded in a helmet and sheet in the guise of Bien Boa. Besides, the medium and the phantom were also seen together when no stranger could have entered the room.

"I make a point of this," writes Prof. Richet in his Thirty Years of Psychical Research, "because of the assertions of Areski, an Arab coachman dismissed by General Noel for theft, who said that he 'played the ghost.' A certain starveling practitioner of Algiers, Dr. R., was ill-advised enough to entertain this man and to exhibit him in public at Algiers in a white mantle to play the ghost before spectators. That is the most that had been said against the experiments at the Villa Carmen. The general public blinded by ignoble newspaper tales, imagined that the fraud had been exposed. All that was really proved was that an Arab thief could lie impudently, that he could put on a sheet, could appear thus on a stage and could get a doctor to endorse his lies. It is averred also that Marthe confessed fraud to an Algerian lawyer who took a pseudonym. But even if this anonymous allegation were true, we know the value to be placed on such revelations, which only show the mental instability of mediums."

It should be added to this that according to Dr. Z., Areski entered the séance room with the rest of the company and when their attention was diverted by the examination of the furniture, he slipped behind the cabinet and hid behind the curtain. Prof. Richet's reply to this specific charge was:

"Now, I declare formally and solemnly that during the séances - twenty in number - at which I was present, Areski was not once permitted to enter the séance room."

The confession of Marthe Béraud was alleged to contain a statement about a trap-door. According to Prof. Richet, 1. Marthe Beraud has never written or said that there was a trap-door; 2. there is no trap-door.

Besides the phantom of Bien Boa a beautiful Egyptian girl also materialised and allowed Prof. Richet to cut a lock of her hair.

"As I was about to cut a lock high up-says the Professor - a firm hand behind the curtain lowered mine so that I cut only about six inches from the end. As I was rather slow about doing this, she said in a low voice 'quick, quick' and disappeared."

The second important phase of Marthe Béraud's mediumship developed under the care of her adoptive mother, Mme. Bisson, between 1909-13. Known now as Eva C. her mediumship furnished invaluable data for the better understanding of the problems of materialisation. The joint experiments of Baron Schrenck-Notzing and Mme. Bisson will remain memorable in psychical research. They completed previous observations and elucidated a number of obscure points. The period also afforded an added opportunity for Prof. Richet to check his earlier findings.

During her trances the medium suffered much, writhed like a woman in childbirth and her pulse rose from 90 to 120. The materialisation, under the control of an entity, styled Berthe, was always slow and difficult. Very few forms were well-developed or remained for a long time. All this was in striking contrast with the ease of former years. Perhaps the rigour of the control had to do with this. Eva C. had to put on special dresses, she was subject, both before and after the séance, to meticulous medical examination and often sat quite nude. A battery of eight photographic cameras, two of them stereoscopic, was trained on her and 225 valuable photographs were secured when it was discovered that the séances could be held in comparatively good light, provided the medium was shielded from a sudden flash. At certain times the ectoplasmic mediumship alternated with remarkable phenomena of the intellectual type. She read automatically on an imaginary screen, like that of a cinema, pages of philosophy which greatly exceeded her normal knowledge and power.

Prof. Richet quotes a séance of April 15, 1912, held in the presence of Count de Vesme and P. Bisson, as follows:

"The manifestations began at once. White substance appeared on the neck of the medium: then a head was formed which moved from left to right and placed itself on the medium's head. A photograph was taken. After the flashlight the head reappeared by the side of Eva's head, about sixteen inches from it, connected by a long bunch of white substance. It looked like the head of a man and made movements like bows. Some twenty appearances and reappearances of this head were counted; it appeared, retreated into the cabinet and emerged again. A woman's head then appeared on the right, showed itself near the curtains and went back into the cabinet, returned several times and disappeared."

Richet definitely states:

"Marthe was examined and searched before and after the experiments. I never lost sight of her for a moment and her hands were always held and visible."

To eliminate every possibility of fraud Baron Schrenck-Notzing for several months employed detectives to watch for suspicious circumstances in Eva's life. To answer the charge that the ectoplasm of Eva C. was regurgitated material a strong emetic was administered on November 26, 1913, after the ectoplasmic flow re-entered her mouth. Ten minutes later the experimenters were satisfied that the medium swallowed nothing with which the phenomena could have been produced.

Another important series of experiments took place in 1917-18 in Dr. Gustave Geley's laboratories with Mme. Bisson's collaboration. About 150 representative men, including many scientists, witnessed the phenomena.

"It is needless to say" writes Geley in From the Unconscious to the Conscious "that the usual precautions were rigorously observed during the séances in my laboratory. On coming into the room where the séances were held and to which I alone had previous access, the medium was completely undressed in my presence and dressed in a tight garment, sewn up the back and at the wrists; the hair, and the cavity of the mouth were examined by me and my collaborators before and after the séances. Eva was walked backwards to the wicker chair in the dark cabinet; her hands were always held in full sight outside the curtains and the room was always quite well lit during the whole time. I do not merely say: There was no trickery; I say there was no possibility of trickery. Further, and I cannot repeat it too often, nearly always the materialisations took place under my own eyes, and I have observed their genesis and their whole development."

He adds in a footnote:

"I am, moreover, glad to testify that Eva has always shown, in my presence, absolute experimental honesty. The intelligent and self-sacrificing resignation with which she submitted to all control and the truly painful tests of her mediumship, deserve the real and sincere gratitude of all men of science worthy of that name."

The results of these experiments were the subject of a conference at the College of France, published under the title: "La Physiologie dite Supranormale". (Bulletin de l'Institut Physiologique, Jan-June, 1918).

In 1920 Eva C. and Mme. Bisson spent two months in London. Out of forty séances given to the SPR half were entirely blank, the rest very weak. As a result the regurgitation theory was again put forward as a possible explanation.

Says Professor Richet in Thirty Years of Psychical Research:

"The official reports of the séances lead to very distinct inferences; it seems that though the external conditions were unfavourable to success, some results were very clear and that it is impossible to refer the phenomena to fraud. Nevertheless, our learned colleagues of the SPR came to no conclusion. They admit that the only possible trickery is regurgitation. But what is meant by that? How can masses of mobile substance, organised as hands, faces and drawings be made to emerge from the oesophagus or the stomach? No physiologist would admit such power to contract those organs at will in this manner. How, when the medium's hands are tied and held could papers be unfolded, put away and made to pass, through a veil? The members of the SPR, when they fail to understand, say 'It is difficult to understand how this is produced.' Mr. Dingwall, who is an expert in legerdemain, having seen the ectoplasm emerge as a miniature hand, making signs before disappearing, says 'I attach no importance to this.' We may be permitted to remark that very great importance attaches to Mr. Dingwall's testimony."

In 1922 fifteen sittings with Eva C. took place at the Sorbonne. Thirteen sittings were totally blank and the committee returned a negative report.

Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).



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