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the historic phenomena — similar cases of the same general
character occurring in the past. If we review these cases,
we shall find many points of interest ; and it will be profit-
able to devote at least a brief space to this side of the con-
troversy, before enumerating the actual facts themselves. In
this way we can get a better look at her phenomena in per-

Eusapia Palladino 7

spective, as it were, and judge them as they will ultimately
be judged — from the standpoint of history.

Modern Spiritualism is, Mr. Podmore contends, "the di-
rect outgrowth of Animal Magnetism." This gave ri«e,
first of all, to the idea of "questioning spirits" through the
mouths of entranced persons, and the mental phenomena are
the product of this idea. These phenomena and these be-
liefs Podmore traced back, through Andrew Jackson Davis
and others in America; through the English Clairvoyants
and the early English Mesmerists; through the German
Somnambules; through the old French Mesmerists, to the
Possession and Witchcraft cases of the Middle Ages. The
physical phenomena, on the other hand, were traced back
through the early physical mediums and poltergeist cases to
the physical phenomena associated with the same mediaeval
Witchcraft. It is a natural outgrowth, and doubtless the
correct one, in the main. Modern spiritualistic phenomena
— originating the present movement in 1848 — really date
back a very long way — through all history, in fact, and ac-
counts of those phenomena occur in the traditions of every
nation. So far as we have any history at all, we find these
phenomena occurring — just such phenomena, apparently, as
we observe to-day, and construed in very much the same way
then as they are construed now! Phenomena, supposedly
remarkable, took place in all times — in all countries; it has
always been merely a question of their interpretation.

Now, when we come to consider this question of evidence
and interpretation, we find this interesting fact. One class
of individuals invariably explained the phenomena in one
way — spirits; the other class endeavored to explain the facts
in a "naturalistic" manner, and attempted to show that fraud,
and disease, and other natural states and conditions were suf-

8 Eusapia Palladino

ficient to explain the facts. The same warfare is existing to-
day ! No certain solution of these problems has even yet been
arrived at — in spite of the centuries of squabbling, and the
division is as great and the dispute as keen now as ever. Fur-
ther, the stronger the arguments that are advanced on one
side, the stronger the arguments on the other — they seem to
balance each other exactly, so that the matter now stands just
where it did at first! Why is this?

I think that an explanation of this fact may perhaps be
found — in a number of cases at least. In the first place,
one side was contending for the reality of the facts (only),
while the other side was fighting the facts-and-the-popular-
construction-of-the-facts as well. They could not seem to
get it into their heads (and they don't now) that the
opinions and explanations of a man need not be accepted,
merely because his facts are. This cannot be too strongly
insisted upon, as it is a large cause of the trouble — past and
present. In the next place, the two sides were not always
arguing about the same facts at all ! Thus, one man may be
attacking "spiritualism" — meaning by that, slate writing,
materialization, and similar phenomena; while another man
may be defending "spiritualism" — while he means by the
term mental and psychological phenomena merely! It is ex-
ceedingly important that the terms used should be very
clearly understood by both sides, in any dispute of this char-
acter; and further, they should be sure that they are arguing
about the same phenomena, viewed from the same standpoint.
If this were done, half the trouble would doubtless disappear
at once.

I have digressed to m.ake these remarks primarily for this
reason. If the history of "the supernatural" be studied care-
fully, it will be found to duplicate, on a large scale, the his-

Eusapia Palladino 9

tory of modern spiritualism. The latter movement con-
denses and epitomizes, as it were, the whole past phenomena
in just this way. Throughout the course of its history,
fraudulent phenomena have been observed (of that there
can be no doubt whatever), and apparently genuine phe-
nomena have been taking place at the same time also. Some
investigators came in contact with the fraudulent phenomena,
and others with the apparently genuine; and they have
both been arguing from their own "experiences." Of course
the result was, that no lasting agreement was arrived at. In
order to arrive at an agreement, it would be necessary, first
of all, to discuss the same phenomena; then agree as to the
means that must be adopted in order to solve the problem ;
finally, agree to attempt to solve it in that manner. Only
in that way can any lasting peace be found.

Now, throughout all the mysticism of the Middle Ages, and
all earlier periods, and throughout modern spiritualism, there
has been an admixture of the fraudulent and the genuine.
The preponderance has been on one side, according to some
minds, and on the other, according to others; but very few
have questioned the central fact that the two have always
existed side by side. Especially is this the case with the physi-
cal phenomena — where much fraud has always been known to
exist. Indeed, so much fraud existed in the past, and so many
and so ingenious are the means of deceiving the investigator,
that some critics are disposed to think that no genuine physi-
cal phenomena at all have ever occurred! Mr. Podmore
and other critics are inclined to take this view — and this,
after a careful search through both the historical evidence
and the newer cases. For them, the physical phenomena have
been "analyzed away" ; they have been resolved into very
natural phenomena! Whether this position can be main-

:io Eusapia Palladino

tained indefinitely or not will have to be decided by the later
and more conclusive evidence.

So we come, as the result of this long preamble, to this
point: Taking the past history of modern spiritualism, we
find many cases of apparently supernormal phenomena
recorded, but most of them so badly recorded that they do
not of themselves carry conviction. They are to be doubted,
therefore. On the contrary, there are a few notable excep-
tions to this rule — e.g., D. D. Home, and William Stainton
Moses — in whose presence many remarkable phenomena are
reported to have occurred, and these cases are strong enough
to withstand criticism, and have at all events never been
satisfactorily explained. We thus have two or three cases
standing out against all past history and human experience.
Are they strong enough or numerous enough to warrant
our belief in their reality? Most men and women of a
scientific turn of mind would probably think that they were
not, and would demand further proof and more facts. That
is only fair. This is one way of looking at the facts.

The other view of the historic evidence is this. Here are
one or two cases that have never been explained, and are
strong enough to found a belief upon. The facts being ac-
cepted upon the strength of these few cases, may we not
justly assert that the other, more numerous, but weaker
cases, evidentially, are genuine also — and may we not con-
ceive that the same laws and forces that certainly governed
the phenomena in the best-attested cases, governed and pro-
duced the phenomena in the less well-attested cases also? It
was simply not proved to be the case, in those instances.
Certainly this would be a rational assumption — if the origi-
nal cases were strong enough, or well enough attested. The
whole past history of the phenomena may be read in the light

Eusapia Palladino ii

of the evidence of the newer facts. If no new facts be
forthcoming, then the older facts will be cast into greater
and greater doubt; if, on the other hand, newer facts are
brought forward, tending to establish the reality of the phe-
nomena, then it is certainly probable that many of the older
and less well-attested phenomena were genuine also — only
the evidence did not prove it.

Now we can see the tremendous importance of the Palla-
dino phenomena. Their disproof would, on the one hand,
cast all the historic phenomena into the gravest doubt ; while
their proof would, on the contrary, tend to credit many of
the older phenomena; and would tend to render it probable
that they were, in reality, genuine also.

Now, in this case — the crux of spiritualism, as before said
— the medium is, fortunately, still living, and can still
be experimented upon, by the skeptical. Experiments are
now being conducted which, it is hoped, will settle this
question once and forever; while much of the evidence that
has been presented in the past is of such a character that it
has already done so, to many minds. That, however, is a
question that cannot be discussed here; as it would be to
anticipate. This will at all events show the great signifi-
cance of the facts, historically, and how much depends upon
their solution and establishment — one way or the other.

We have come, therefore, to the point where we must in-
vestigate the facts, and see whither they lead us: What
their nature; how strong their evidential character, and what
conclusions we must draw from them, if genuine. And this
brings us to another important aspect of the case that must
not be ignored, and which I might perhaps allude to in this

We have seen the relative importance and significance of

il2 Eusapla Palladino

the facts historically ; now let us briefly consider them from
the orthodox scientific standpoint. In what way would they
affect science and scientific thought, as at present held, if
true? Would they, if proved to be genuine, enforce any
recasting and remolding of science or scientific ideas?
Would they run counter to the law of the indestructibility
of matter? of the conservation of energy? of the possibility
of actio ad distans? or other well-grounded scientific dogmas?
These are questions that must be settled, or at least dis-

First, I would point out that it would really make no
difference at all, to the really scientific investigator, if they
ran counter to these beliefs or not. He would not care a
fig whether they did or did not run counter to scientific
beliefs in this respect. He would endeavor to ascertain the
facts, and, these once established, he would then endeavor,
as best he could, to fit them into his scheme of the universe.
Some scientists, it is to be regretted, take the opposite view,
and insist that the possibility of a fact must be proved be-
fore it can be investigated! But we need hardly point out
that this is the reverse of scientific. It is the rankest dog-
matism. Facts should always come before theories, and no
matter what our views of the Universe may be, any new
and strange facts should be investigated, no matter how
they may seem to run counter to accepted science, or alter
the world-scheme, as at present held. The facts must be
investigated, the interpretation of the facts may come later.
Once established, it will be time enough to quarrel over
them and their interpretation. We must insist, therefore,
that, no matter in what way they may upset science, as at
present held, these facts should be investigated and the re-
sults of the investigation impartially recorded.

Eusapia Palladino 13

If these phenomena — such as are recorded in this book —
are ever accepted by orthodox science — as they surely must
be, if the evidence continues to increase in bulk and con-
clusiveness — then it will certainly become necessary to con-
sider the question of interpretation or explanation. Until
fraud is shown incapable of explaining all the facts; until
all purely "natural" explanations are shown to be inadequate
— we must not, of course, seek any other interpretation.
But having once shown that genuine supernormal phenomena
of the kind do exist, it becomes the duty of the scientific man
to try and explain them. It may be contended that we need
not as yet have any explanation at all ; that not enough and
conclusive enough phenomena have been collected to warrant
any hypothesis; and it would be well to refrain from theoriz-
ing or speculating until this additional evidence be forthcom-
ing. I sympathize with this point of view, and was inclined
to defend this attitude myself.^ But there comes a time,
nevertheless, when speculation is legitimate, if tentative.
There is a difference between saying that such and such a
thing is done in a certain way ; and saying that such and such
a thing, if true and genuine, might perhaps have been per-
formed in that manner! In view of the newer evidence, it
would seem that there must come a time when these phe^
nomena will be recognized by science; and then theorizing
will be legitimate enough. At all events, those of us who are
convinced of the reality of the phenomena are entitled to form
conclusions and advance theories; and it is in this light, and
for this reason, that the theories advanced at the end of the
book are published.

We have not yet discussed the changes in scientific views
that must follow these newer researches, if accepted, or the

* See Journal of the American S. P. R., August, 1908, pp. 471-91.

14 Eusapia Palladino

manner in which the phenomena would contravene orthodox
science, if established. It may be well to allude to this now,
briefly, in order that the theories advanced in Chapter V
may assume their proper proportions and aspect. Assuredly
we must know what is to be changed before we can under-
take to change it!

Materialism starts with the assumption that there are
only two things in the universe that are eternal — matter and
force — all the rest is ephemeral and phenomenal. I have
endeavored to show elsewhere ^ that at least one of these
laws can no longer be said to hold good ; and that both of
them, in the light of the newest discoveries in physics, are
certainly questionable. However, letting that pass for the
moment, materialism has made no distinct place in the uni-
verse for that "third thing" of Huxley's — consciousness.
Materialism must take the stand that consciousness is merely
an cpiphenomenon ; that it is a mere by-product of the brain
functioning, and of course ceases at the moment of death — «
just as all the other vital activities cease. Vitality is for
orthodox science a simple resultant of chemical combustion,
limited strictly to the periphery of the body. Spirit and
soul do not exist, in that scheme; the universe is in fact a
very simple thing, and easily understood — according to ma-
terialism, and to those who hold to it as a philosophy.

But there are, unfortunately for it, certain facts that can-
not be explained by any of its laws, or in accordance with its
teachings. If that doctrine were true, all our knowledge
must come to us through the five avenues of sense, and it
would be impossible for us to obtain knowledge in any
other manner. That is what the ordinary psychologist would
say is the case. For him, telepathy, clairvoyance, etc., do

* The Coming Science, pp. 90-1 13.

Eusapia Palladino 15

not exist — except in the credulous minds of the masses. And
it is certain that, if consciousness is nothing more than a
product of brain functioning, any extension of it beyond the
brain is impossible. And yet telepathy is a fact! At all
events, then, materialism must be stretched and extended to
take in and cover this remarkable phenomenon ; and the same
is true of other supernormal phenomena.

Now, when we come to the material world, we find the
same hard and fast rules set for us as existed in the psycho-
logical. In fact, modern science is even rnore certain of what
is possible and what is impossible when it comes to the ma-«^
terial world than it is in the psychological ! There are cer- )
tain "laws of nature," we are told, and these it is impossible
to transgress. They never have been transgressed, and they
will never be! Possibly, if we knew all the laws of nature,,
this would hold true ; but it so happens that we do not know '
one tenth (doubtless) of the "laws of nature," and so are
unable to say, really, what is possible and what is not. We
can say what is usual or uniform, but beyond that we can-
not go. Certainly, if any man asserts that he has seen a
remarkable fact, apparently disproving laws hitherto held
to be inviolable, he must prove his claim by producing the
fact; that is but right and logical. But if the fact is pro-
duced, and thoroughly established, it must be accepted ; and
science and even the "laws of nature" must be recast in order
to take in and include this newer fact. True science is always
ready and willing to do this. So that, if the Palladino phe-
nomena are deemed to be established, science will have to
be remolded sufficiently to include and explain those facts.

Now, when we come to consider these phenomena in de-
tail, we find them broadly divided into two classes: (i)
those physical movements of objects, raps, etc., which seem

i6 Eusapla Palladino

to indicate the presence of some force, but no intelligence;
and (2) those phenomena that seem to indicate that an out-
side intelligence is present — and not only that, but a distinct-
ly human intelligence, having the shape of a human formy
with face, hands, etc., and in fact all the characteristics that
go to make what is, in popular tradition, a "spirit." It is
needless to say that the first of these two types presents far
less difficulty, and will doubtless be accepted by science long
before the second set of phenomena. They should not be,
doubtless, if the testimony were equally strong in both cases,
but there is a certain legitimate prejudice in the minds of
scientific men that must be taken into account and allowed
for. In view of the past, it is quite intelligible; and spirit-
ualists, if they are wise, will not insist too strongly upon
these phenomena at first, but would let time take its own
course, and know that Truth, whatever that is, will ulti-
mately triumph. If true, the phenomena will one day be
recognized and accepted ; and nothing is to be gained, and
perhaps much is to be lost, by unduly hurrying the scientific
world into an acceptance of the facts.

Taking the first group of phenomena, we find that there
should be really very little difficulty in accepting them — if
only an extension of present-day science were granted. The
facts would not run counter to anything that has been
taught, in the majority of cases; they would merely mean
an extension of present theories and knowledge. Perhaps I
can illustrate this. Take, for example, the movement of
an object without contact. We know that this object can
always be made to move by the application of a certain
amount of pressure or force — when no material object is
touching it. A gust of wind will blow over a table or a
chair, for example; light energy will keep clouds suspended

Eusapia Palladino 17

in the atmosphere, etc. Here, although there is a medium
postulated through which these effects are produced, there
is no direct contact between one material object and the
other. The cause and the effect are separated by a gaseous
or an etheric medium, through which these energies act.

iThis being so, why may it not be conceived that there is
some vital energy or some other force unknown to us which
is capable, under certain conditions, of extending beyond the
periphery of the body, causing vibrations in the ether, and
producing these various movements? It seems to me that
there is, or should be, but little difficulty experienced here.
Very much the same is true of the rap and other nonintelli-
gent phenomena. It might easily be conceived, as Dr. Max-
well indeed did conceive, that "an explosive discharge of
neuric force" would account for these raps — they being close-
ly akin to the noise of a spark, in an electrical discharge.
Of course the mentality connected with these raps is a dif-
ferent matter; that requires separate treatment.

Speculations such as these are perhaps out of place in the
first chapter of a book which is to be devoted principally to
the collection and presentation of facts; but it may be as well
to insist at the outset upon the point of view from which
these facts must be regarded. The clearing away of pre-
vious prejudices and preconceptions is the primary object
of this chapter ; to insure, so far as possible, an open and un-
biased mind in reading and weighing the facts and the
evidence to be presented, I have reserved for the last chap-
ters all considerations of a purely theoretical and speculative
character; and shall first of all devote myself to a statement
of the facts, with critical comment. If the realitj'' of the
facts be accepted — if the facts be admitted as such, by the
scientific and thoughtful world — then theories and explana-

i8 Eusapia Palladino

tory hypotheses are very valuable and necessary; but until
the facts themselves are established, all such speculations are
premature. I accordingly propose that we address ourselves
to the facts, throughout the remainder of this book, until
the last chapters be reached; when explanatory hypotheses
will be discussed. With the facts before him, the reader
will be in a better position to judge of the relative prob-
ability of the various theories advanced — or even of their
necessity at all.



Accounts of the early life of Eusapia Palladino, and of
how she first came into her mediumship, vary greatly. Her
own statements are sometimes contradictory, thus: Eusapia
told me, when I was in Naples, that she had been an out-
cast since quite a little child, had been taken up by a family
of friends, and cared for by them — accidentally discovering
her mediumistic powers when about fourteen years of age
by sitting at a table. The table tilted, and finally rose com-
pletely into the air. She asserted that, for a number of years,
she gave seances only infrequently, and to friends; and that
the seances, during the early years of her mediumship, seemed
to relieve her and remove her feeling of depression ; but that,
during her later years, they sapped her energy, and made her
extremely weak and depressed. This would seem to be the
truth, judging from her condition after a seance — but I
have remarked upon this elsewhere.

When we asked Eusapia whether the report was true that
she had married a conjurer, she replied indignantly that it
was not. She stated that her first husband had been "con-
nected with theatricals," and knew the details of stage
mechanism, and its various trick devices. He also knew a
few tricks, and took a delight in exhibiting them to his fel-
low-workers ; but that he was not by any means a professional


20 Eusapia Pallaclino

This account seems to agree somewhat with other state-
ments made by her — though differing in some particulars.
M. Flammarion, e.g., in his Mysterious Psychic Forces,

"Eusapia Palladino was introduced to me. She is a
woman of very ordinary appearance, a brunette, her figure a
little under the medium height. She was forty-three years
old, not at all neurotic, rather stout. She was born on Janu-
ary 21, 1854, ii ^ village of La Pouille ; her mother died
while giving birth to the child ; her father was assassinated
eight years afterwards, in 1862, by brigands in Southern Italy.
Eusapia Palladino is her maiden name. She was married
at Naples to a merchant of modest means named Raphael
Delgaiz, a citizen of Naples. She manages the petty busi-
ness of the shop, is illiterate, does not know how to either
read or write, understands only a little French. I con-
versed with her, and soon perceived that she has no theories
and does not burden herself by trying to explain the phe-
nomena produced by her." (p. 67.)

Probably the completest account of her youth, and the
manner in which she first became interested in the subject, is
that given by Mme. Paola Carrara, the daughter of Professor
Lombroso, who says of her: '

"We are not concerned now with the Eusapia of dark me-
diumistic cabinets, amidst the sobbing and whispering, the
mystery of hands, of dancing tables, of resounding raps; but
the Eusapia of daylight, who, free from the paternal shade of
John, returns to her normal personality as an ordinary and

Online LibraryHereward CarringtonEusapia Palladino and her phenomena → online text (page 2 of 27)