Alexis and Adolph Didier
THE BEST known clairvoyants of the age of animal magnetism. In hypnotic state they could read closed books, recover lost objects, play billiards blindfolded or cards face downward and achieved feats of travelling clairvoyance. To Seguier, President of France, Alexis described his room and mentioned that there was a handbell on the table. The President found the description correct, but doubted the bell. On arriving home he found, to his surprise, that during his absence a handbell had indeed been placed on his table. In 1847, at the instance of the Marquise de Mirville, Robert Houdin, the famous conjurer, paid two visits to the Alexis Brothers. He drew a book from his pocket and asked Alexis to read a line eight pages back at a certain height which he marked by sticking in a pin. When Alexis did it he signed a declaration:
"I affirm that the above facts are scrupulously accurate."
Lord Adare attended a sitting in the company of Col. Llewellyn on July 2nd, 1844. According to his notes Alexis took from the sceptical Colonel a morocco case, placed it on his stomach and said:
"The object is a hard substance, not white, enclosed in something more white than itself; it is a bone from a greater body; a human bone; yours. It has been separated and cut so as to leave a flat side."
Alexis opened the case, took out a piece of bone wrapped in silver paper and said:
"The ball struck here; it was an extraordinary ball in effect; you received three separate injuries at the same moment; the bone was broken in three pieces; you were wounded early in the day whilst engaged in charging the enemy."
He also described the dress of the soldiers and was right in all these particulars.
Alexis Didier was always accompanied by his hypnotiser, Marcillet. He never claimed assistance from spirits. His views are outlined in
Le Sommeil Magnetique explique par le somnambule Alexis en etat de
lucidite, 1856. His brother, Adolph, turned professional; he wrote: Animal Magnetism and
Somnambulism, 1856; Mesmerism and its Healing Power, 1875, and
Clairvoyance, 1876. A long series of experiments conducted by Dr. Edwin Lee in 1849 at Brighton and Hastings is recorded in Lee's
Animal Magnetism, 1866. H. G. Atkinson also subjected their gift to careful scrutiny.
"A party of experts," writes E. W. Cox in
What Am I? "was planned to test M. Alexis. We prepared a packet containing a single word of twelve letters and enclosed it in six envelopes of thick brown paper, each of which we carefully
sealed. Handing him this packet he placed it, not before his eyes which were bound with handkerchiefs and wool, but upon his forehead, and in three minutes and a half he wrote the contents correctly, imitating the very handwriting. The word was by arrangement placed in the first envelope by a friend in a distant town, who was not informed of the object and who did not inform us what the word was; and none of us knew until the envelopes were opened and the word found to be that which the Somnambule had written."
Frank Podmore writes in
The Newer Spiritualism:
"Many of these feats are so precisely recorded and so well authenticated that it is difficult to doubt their genuineness. They stand on the same evidential level as many of the similar incidents recorded in the
Proceedings of the SPR."
By careful study of these records Podmore discovered that he was in an abnormal state of consciousness during his performances which is demonstrated by the fact that as a rule he did not speak the answers but preferred to write them. From this he concludes that Alexis was an automatic writer and that his feats of clairvoyance were so far genuine that they involved no conscious deception on his part.
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).