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be explained. By postulating this intermediary, this vital
connection between the material and the spiritual worlds,
can we explain all the facts at these seances, and in no other
way. Normally, of course, this vitality would not be
liberated in this manner; it would remain shut up within
the medium's organism, it would not be "at large," and

Eusapla Palladino 301

hence could not be "pounced upon" and utilized by anj'
forei^^n intelligence in order to produce physical effects of
this kind. But occasionally there are cases, seemingly, where
this externalization takes place spontaneously, and without
the knowledge, and even against the will, of the "medium."
When this occurs, we have the "electric girls" and the
sporadic poltergeist cases — which still remain in spite of
all the attempts to explain them away! By postulating
this vital energj^ (for whose existence I have so frequently
contended, both on the grounds of accepted physiology and
because of these phenomena), we can explain the facts, and,
it seems to me, in no other way can we explain them. When
the phenomena of psjchical research come to be generally
accepted, we shall have to recast many of our conceptions
and beliefs ; and one of the first of these will be our idea
of vitality and the life force. Much hinges on this for
psj'chic research, and, if its advocates could but see it, the
battle might be practically won on this issue alone. How-
ever, that is beside the question for our present purposes.
I have advanced my hypothesis — the most rational, to my
mind, for accounting for these facts; and I leave it to its
fate — together with all the other speculations and hypotheses
that have been advanced from time to time in the past!



Professor Flournoy, in his most interesting and scholarly-
book, From India to the Planet Aiars, makes the following
remarks regarding the study of the supernormal:

"It goes without saying that in treating of the super-
normal we must admit theoretically its possibility, or — which
amounts to about the same thing — fail to believe in the in-
fallibility and perfection of present-day science. If I con-
sider it a priori absolutely impossible for an individual to
know sometime before the arrival of a telegram containing
the news of an accident by which his brother at the An-
tipodes has been killed, or that another can voluntarily move
an object at a distance without having a string attached to
it, and contrary to the laws of mechanics and physiology, it
is clear that I will shrug my shoulders at every mention of
telepathy, and I shall not move a step to be present at a
seance with Eusapia Palladino. What an excellent means
of enlarging one's horizon, and of discovering something
new by being satisfied with one's ready-made science and
preconceived opinion — quite convinced beforehand that the
Universe ends at the wall opposite, that there is nothing to
be obtained beyond that which daily routine has accustomed
us to look upon as the limit of the Real ! This philosophy
of the ostrich, illustrated formerly by those grotesque monu-
ments of erudition — over whom Galileo did not know
whether to laugh or weep — who refused to put their eyes to
the glass for fear of seeing something which had no official
right to existence, and again, that of many brains petrified
by the unseasonable works of scientific vulgarization and the


Eusapla Palladino 303

unintelligent frequenting of universities — these are the two
great intellectual dangers of our time."

Professor Flournoy bases his argument on two general
propositions, which he terms, respectively, the Principle of
Hamlet and the Principle of Laplace. The first is, "All is
possible" ; the second is, "The weight of the evidence should
be proportioned to the strangeness of the facts."

True to these principles — which appear to me to be quite
sound — let us examine the evidence in the case of Eusapia
Palladino. There can be no doubt that, were the facts in
this case not so strange, they would have received acceptance
long before now. Had Eusapia not been known by that
odious term "medium," many of the "scientific" objections
would doubtless have been removed, and still more would
have been removed were it said, merely, that this woman
had the capacity for moving physical objects without contact.
The united and mutually confirming testimony of the many
hundreds of sitters who have shared in the seances of this
medium would have proved beyond all reasonable doubt the
veritable existence of the phenomena, were they less startling
in character. But when we find facts not only unexplained,
but, apparently, running counter to the whole of human
experience; when such facts contradict, apparently, the
known laws of biology, physics, and psychology — what can
the average man think but that there ?nust be a mistake
somewhere, and that, rather than admit the facts, he would
prefer to believe that the investigators have one and all been
deluded, either by some process of hallucination or by the
tricks of a clever medium?

And yet the facts are real! To my mind, at least, they
can no longer be doubted. Certainly I did not think so
until I had obtained my own sittings and seen phenomena

304 ^ Eusapia Palladino

occur under conditions which absolutely precluded fraud as
effectually as they prevented hallucination. Having been
convinced, however, that one does witness extraordinary phe-
nomena at such times, I contend that it becomes our
duty to study such facts in detail ; to ascertain the conditions
under which they are obtained, and endeavor, if possible,
to improve them; in short, to examine into the physiological
and psychological peculiarities of the medium, studying, as
best we may, the conditions under which these phenomena
have been obtained. To these I accordingly turn.

Professor Lombroso, in his paper Eusapia Palladino and
Spiritism, tells us the following interesting facts regarding
the medium and her phenomena:

"She (Eusapia) weighs 132 pounds, and her weight does
not (usually) vary after a seance. The left eye presents the
Claude Bernard-Horner phenomenon, as in the case of epi-
leptics. . . .

"The sensitiveness to pain is sixty on the right and thirty
on the left side, being much more delicate than that of
normal persons, whose general sensitiveness when measured
by the same methods showed 45 mm. and sensitiveness to
pain 20 mm. The sense of weight is unequal with left-
handedness. . . . On one occasion, when she was in a nor-
mal state, in full light, she held her left hand for four min-
utes on a photographic plate, covered with three sheets of
opaque paper. This sufficed to throw her in a state of
trance, and caused her to feel in her hand an electric shudder.
When the plate was developed, at the spot which corre-
sponded with her index finger, there was a blurred line of
the length of her finger. This fact, which is perhaps con-
nected with spiritistic radioactivity, may be compared with
an analogous fact observed by Flammarion, which was that
of a diaphanous luminosity round the outlines of the fingers,
which almost formed a second misshapen outline. 'When

Eusapia Palladino 30^

I have this token,' she said, 'I can obtain wonderful things.'
. . . The hypnotic phenomena which resemble spiritistic phe-
nomena so much that they arc easily confused with them, are
frequent with Eusapia, though she neither perceives metals
nor magnets. Thus, Dr. Arullani, merely by rubbing her
brow with his hand, succeeded in hypnotizing her, and soon
made her fall into a cataleptic state. She has also morbid in-
dications, which almost amount to hysteria; she passes
quickly from joy to sorrow; she has strange fears — for in-
stance, that of soiling her hands; she is very impressionable,
and subject to dreams in spite of her ripe age; she has fre-
quent hallucinations, and also fears her shadow. As a child
she used to think that she saw two ej'es gazing at her behind
the trees and hedges. When she is angry, particularly when
she is offended concerning her reputation as a medium, she is
violent and repulsive, and reviles her enemies. . . . These
tendencies are in strong contrast with her remarkable kindli-
ness, which makes her give what she earns to relieve the suf-
ferings of the poor and of children, inspires her with a gen-
erous pity for the aged and weak to such a degree as to render
her sleepless, and impels her to protect animals, even by ill
treating those who injure them.

"In the trance state, which occurs even in full light, merely
by concentrating her attention on an object, she first turns
pale, the pupils of her eyes turn upward and inward, her
head moving from side to side ; she then becomes ecstatic,
and many of her gestures are similar to those habitual to
hysterical subjects, such as yawns, spasm.odic laughter, fre-
quent mystification, and at the same time vision at a distance ;
her language is then sometimes very elevated, and even
scientific, often in a foreign tongue, with very rapid idealiza-
tion, so that she seizes the ideas of those present, even when
they are not expressed aloud, or translates them into some
mysterious form, as, for instance, when Professor Morselli,
in order to indicate that he suspected fraud, uttered the let-
ters E. T. V.

"At the close of the seance, the most important incidents
are produced. She has veritable convulsions, and cries out as

3o6 Eusapla Palladino

if in distress and falls into profound sleep, and from the
parietal depression a warm fluid evaporates, sensible to the
touch. During the trance she transmits many of her powers
to those present by touching them for a few minutes at a
time, as Home could communicate momentary incombusti-
bility. After the seance she evinces morbid hyperaesthetic
and photophobic sensibility. She has frequent hallucinations,
and becomes delirious, asking to be guarded lest anyone
should hurt her. She has serious digestive disturbances, so
that she is sick if she has eaten before the seance ; and finally
she exhibits actual paralysis of the legs, so that it is necessary
to carry her and to dress her. These disturbances become
much worse if, through the carelessness of some one present,
she is exposed during the seance to sudden illumination, and
this recalls to us the account of the Pythoness of Delphi
whose lives were shortened by their prophesying. . . ."

A large number of seances were held with Eusapia by
Professor Enrico Morselli, Director of the Clinic for Nerv-
ous and Mental Diseases of the University of Genoa. He
has published the results of his investigations in two large
volumes, entitled Psychology and Spiritism. A few passages
I quote herewith — as representative of Professor Mor-
selli's views on Eusapia:

"These phenomena, the acceptance of which I at first con-
sidered to be due to deception or gullibility, to fraud or illu-
sion of the senses, to simple faith or preconception, are, in the
very great majority of cases, real and certain, and the small
minority, as to which I am uncertain, do not in any way
disprove the existence of a category of extraordinary, preter-
normal facts, which depend upon the special organization or
activity of certain individuals. ... It is important to de-
fine the mental state of the medium during the phenomena.
I will only say here that whereas, for the minor phenomena
(raps, movements of the table, levitations, etc.), Eusapia
can be seen to be awake and attentive — although very soon

Eusapia Palladino 307

her attention is restricted to certain groups of perceptions —
yet in the case of the major phenomena, those of great signifi-
cance in the spiritistic doctrine, and more novel to the ob-
server (such as strong action at a distance, apparitions, forms,
phantoms), it is necessary that her consciousness should be ob-
scured in trance, and her will in suspense. It is only then
that we have the automatic discharge of the energies which
we will call 'mediumistic' accumulated in her nervous cen-
ters. Then only do we enter into the mysterious and sur-
prising region of true spiritism."

Professor Morselli offers the following interesting remarks
relative to Eusapia's mental state before and during trance :


'l. First of all, the modifications in the state of conscious-
ness of the medium and sitters during the seances. In Eusa-
pia, who is a subject from whom a very conclusive study
can be made, the consciousness is now clear, now clouded
up to complete suspension ; she then very plainly shows the
operation of the subconsciousness, which is of such great im-
portance in modern psychology.

"2. The state of auto-hypnosis, to which the Anglo-
American spiritists have given the name of 'trance.' I have
been able to follow Its phases, examine its symptoms, con-
vince myself of its affinity with hysterical states and with
hypnotism, w^ith reserve as to the existence of a 'magnetic'
state distinct from the 'hypnotic' state.

"3. Suggestibility. Eusapia is not only hypnotizable, but
also suggestible in the waking state; she is then dominated
by various auto-suggestions, among which I may include all
the superstitious beliefs as to her previous existence in another
body ( ?), her present reincarnation, her submission to a spirit
guide ('John King,' who was her father in a previous life),
etc. This mass of improbabilities and 'spiritistic' conjectures
has formed itself in her mind by the suggestion of others
(training by Damiani, instruction of Chiaja, influence of
spiritistic circles, etc.). Eusapia is very ignorant, and one
cannot listen to her without smiling when she tries to put

3o8 Eusapia Palladino

forward her naive or involved explanations of her own phe-
nomena. She, however, does not speak much or willingly
of theoretical spiritism; she does not do like Home, Stainton
Moses, or Mme. d'Esperance, who took upon themselves the
office of doctrinarian propagandists. Eusapia is indeed proud
of her mediumistic athleticism, and becomes triumphantly
sarcastic toward the incredulous when any extraordinary
phenomenon succeeds well, but is modest enough in professing
or thinking of herself as a living champion of preternormal

"4. Oniric or dream phenomefia. A great part even of
the material phenomena of Palladino's mediumship is con-
nected with her strong, though monotonous and stereotyped,
activity during sleep.

"5. Personifications. Ordinarily in the mediumistic half-
sleep, and still more so in 'trance,' Eusapia believes herself
changed into other personalities, into the child of 'John King,'
which she had been in a former incarnation. Sometimes it
seems that she herself is impersonated in John King, who
speaks through her mouth and acts through her. Other
times she personifies the spirits of the deceased whom, by
desire of those present, or for reasons of proselytism, she
imagines that she evokes. This transformation of person-
ality offers a large field for psychological research, but in
Eusapia it does not assume the intense coloring nor the power
of expression seen in other intellectual and intuitive me-
diums and psychographists, as, for instance, in Flournoy's
Helene Smith, of Geneva, or of Randone, of Rome.

"6. Communications and messages in Italian. These are
mostly given by means of the table ('typtology'), rarely
with the voice (exceptionally, they say, by writing, also).
During our sittings, as we gave the most attention to physi-
cal effects, these phenomena, always scarce with Eusapia,
were extremely rare and of little interest.

"7. Communications in foreii^n languages. One or two
are attributed to Eusapia, who speaks even Italian very badly,
and expresses herself only in a corrupt vernacular; but al-
though this was asserted to me by persons worthy of belief,

Eusapla Palladino 309

no such phenomenon was observed by me, and I have strong
doubts about it.

"8. Divination of thought and mental suggestion. I have
collected a few examples of these, chiefly in the series of sit-
tings in 1901-2 ; they were also described by my companion in
the group, Dr. G. Venzano, an excellent observer ; however,
they appear to me probable rather than proved, and many at-
tempts of mine to suggestionize Eusapia mentally were fruit-
less, though I succeeded in hypnotizing her ; this, however,
does not imply that others may not obtain better results.

"g. Lucidity and clairvoyance. It has not been proved
to me that Eusapia hears or sees or feels at a distance, nor
that she has premonitions, or precognitions, or presents other
similar metapsychic phenomena. I believe that Chiaja has
asserted it, but it would be necessary to examine her more at
ease, and while living close to her.

"10. Externalization of sensibility. The able observer.
Colonel de Rochas says that Palladino has given him some
elementary phenomena of this very singular subnormal state ;
I also have succeeded in making her perceive (with closed
eyes) pricks with a pin made in the air an inch or two from
her skin, but I am not certain about all my experiments; I
should have to repeat and scrupulously verify them, and not
as passing and half-concealed observations ; this is not easy
to do, on account of the repugnance of Eusapia (and of all
mediums) to physiological examinations.

"All this subjective portion of the mediumistic phenomena
is revealed by the attitude, the deportment, the physiognomy
and mimetic action, the speech and the entire conduct of Eu-
sapia; and if on the whole even the amateurs of seances and
the uninitiated in psychology' are able to grasp superficially
the main and most apparent lines, in reality it belongs to us,
psychologists and medical alienists, to apply to the subjective
phenomena of mediums the analytic and synthetic methods
and procedures of psychical examination ; and I have given
a particularized exposition of these methods in the two vol-
umes of my Seinejotica dcllc inalatiic mentali, as I give it in
my lessons in experimental psycholog}'."

3IO Eusapia Palladino

There is a great deal to learn about Eusapia's seances,
for they are far more complicated than would appear at
first sight. One must be familiar, not only with the general
run of the phenomena, and know what to expect, but one
must make a careful psychological study of the medium, in
order to insure the best results, and cater, more or less, to
her various prejudices and idiosyncrasies. Thus, Eusapia
has a great dislike to soiling her hands. She has a great
antipathy to mechanical or electrical apparatus of any kind,
or to anything that she does not understand. She dislikes
excessively being controlled in too severe a manner — since,
if her hands are grasped too firmly, or if the controller's feet
are planted too solidly on hers, it pains her, because of the
hyperzesthetic patches or zones on the backs of her hands, and
on her insteps. Some investigators endeavor to force the
phenomena — that is to say, insist upon their production, claim-
ing that the best results can be obtained in this manner.
Others, on the contrary, who have had equal experience, con-
tend that this is entirely the wrong course, and that the in-
vestigators should merely sit expectantly, without controlling
the medium more than is necessary, and wait passively for
results. If no attention be paid to the lesser phenomena oc-
curring in Eusapia's immediate vicinity, say these investiga-
tors, more important phenomena will be obtained at a dis-
tance. I may say that this is opposed to Professor Morselli's
observations, and to our own. We discovered that the more
rigorous the control, other things being equal, and the greater
the contact with the medium's body, the better the results.
Above all, suspicion must not be shown at a seance, for if
Eusapia feels ill at ease on this account, phenomena will
almost invariably be inhibited. This is not due to fear that
close investigation will expose her in trickery, since, no mat-

Eusapia Palladino 311

ter how rigorous the control, // suspicion be not manifested,
excellent phenomena will result.

On some occasions Eusapia will talk of "John King," her
supposed control, and of spirits ; at other times she will speak
of "my fluid" or of the "wind" that issues from her head,
leg, and various other parts of her body. As a matter of
fact, her own idea of the phenomena seems quite hazy and ill-
defined. It is a great pity that a medium cannot arise such
as Eusapia, who is, at the same time, a psychologist !

Eusapia talks but little during a seance, except at first,
when she is, generally, finishing some narrative begun before
she entered the seance room, and continued after she has
seated herself at the table. But this soon lags, and silence
intervenes, except for an occasional remark addressed to the
sitters, or a few words addressed to "John." Generally,
during the seance, however, the table will tilt four times, be-
ing the conventional code adopted to signify "talk." The
investigators are thereupon expected to converse, not to Eu-
sapia, but to each other, and a phenomenon generally occurs
soon after this signal is given. We ourselves did not do so,
however, as a rule, regarding it (evidentially) as an attempt
to distract our attention, and spoke but little, while we re-
doubled our attention. Phenomena invariably followed
nevertheless. When Eusapia has passed into deep trance,
she rarely speaks at all, and all conversation with the in-
telligent agent, whatever it is, producing these phenomena,
is carried on through the table — which is tilted automatic-
ally — or by raps, or levitations, which are apparently pro-
duced by the agent direct, and without the intervention of
her physical body.

Eusapia's psj'chologj^ is a puzzle to all her investigators.
Questioned about her phenomena, she either offers contra-

312 Eusapia Palladino

dictory or unintelligible replies, or shrugs her shoulders and
says nothing. We asked her on one occasion what feelings
she experienced when a phenomenon was about to take place.
She said she felt annoyed, irritated, somewhat nauseated,
and, just before the production of the phenomenon, a cloud
seemed to pass over her mind, and she remembered nothing
until it had transpired. She stated that she remembered most
of the phenomena that happened during our early seances,
but occasionally had lapses of memory when important phe-
nomena took place, and sometimes, as during the sixth seance,
remembered very little of what had transpired. This is a
significant fact, seeming to show that during the lesser phe-
nomena, when the energy is directed by her own will, she
retains memory of all that occurs ; Tjut during the more im-
portant phenomena, so to speak, when an independent in-
telligence is shown, she remembers little or nothing of such
occurrences. It would seem that when "John King" (what-
ever that may mean) is merged with her personality, amnesia
takes place, and the more important phenomena are produced.

Eusapia stated to us that she is rarely or never troubled
with manifestations, or is in any way psychic or mediumistic
at other times than during the seance ; then only are her
powers displayed. She has, two or three times during her
life, experienced premonitions and vivid dreams, but such
experiences could be counted on the fingers of one hand and
are probably not more numerous than many persons have
experienced in their own lifetimes. In this she differs from
other mediums, who have been, as a rule, more or less psychic
constantly, and phenomena have frequently occurred in their
presence when they did not wish them to do so, and against
their own direct volition.

Eusapia was quite unable to tell us how she could dis-

Eusapia Palladino 313

tinguish one phenomenon from another when It was about
to occur, though this distinction is certainly clear in her own
mind, and their production depends largely upon her will
in many cases, since she frequently says, "I will show you
a head," or, "I will fetch such and such an object from the
cabinet," and the head is shown, or the object is fetched im-
mediately afterwards.

It is an interesting psychological fact that phenomena may
occasionally be obtained by merely clamoring for them, when
otherwise they would not have manifested at all. Thus,
Mr. Oilman Hall obtained lights by incessantly demanding
them, and this happened upon various other occasions, with
different investigators. It is probable that this adds some
stimulus to the phenomena, but what that stimulus is

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Online LibraryHereward CarringtonEusapia Palladino and her phenomena → online text (page 24 of 27)