Hereward Carrington.

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— who had come on from England, and who joined us after
the fourth seance. At this seance, again, the phenomena were
comparatively weak, and did not commence until a longer
period had elapsed than at any previous sitting. We did
not find, therefore, that mere numbers added anything to the
production of the phenomena — even when those attending
were personal friends of the medium and entirely in sym-
pathy with her and her methods.

We seemed to find, on the contrary, that physical contact
helped the production of phenomena, and that forming the
"chain," as she expresses it, stimulated their production on
more than one occasion. Thus, to quote one instance, we
had asked Eusapia to fetch one of the musical instruments
out of the cabinet and have it brought on to the seance table.
Her hands were at that moment free, but visible to us, rest-
ing upon the table. She lifted her hands, and made gestures
with them toward the curtain, but nothing resulted. After
various attempts she suddenly cried: "The chain! the
chain!" and grasped our hands, making us join hands all
around the table. After a few seconds she again raised her
hand toward the curtains, held in one of ours and again made
gestures. This time the instrument inside the cabinet came
out with a rush and landed upon the seance table.

Usually the phenomena are more abundant on the left-
hand side of Eusapia than on the right, but this only agrees
with what we should suppose a priori — inasmuch as Eusapia
is left-handed. This fact is, therefore, open to the double in-
terpretation ( I ) that she can more easily produce fraudulent

Eusapia Palladino 327

phenomena with the left hand, and (2) that the "force,"
whatever it is, is more abundant on the left side. The duty
of the controller on that side is, therefore, the more respon-
sible of the two, and in our seances we took it in turn to con-
trol this side, so as to check one another's sensations of con-
tact, pressure, and observation. In every case our conclu-
sions agreed, so that we felt in the end morally certain that
none of us had been mistaken, but that genuine phenomena
did, in fact, occur more abundantly on this side than on the

Of course the question will be asked — and it is a perfectly
legitimate question — if Eusapia can produce genuine phenom-
ena, why is it that she ever cheats at all and thus leave her-
self open to attack from skeptical critics because of this ? To
the average healthy mind, it would appear a paradox that
this should be so, and the majority would prefer to believe
that Eusapia invariably cheats, and that all the phenomena
occurring in her presence are necessarily fraudulent.

I can quite appreciate this attitude — one that I myself as-
sumed before attending my sittings. I could not easily believe
that the same medium could be both fraudulent and genuine
and preferred to believe in the former alternative. In spite of
the fact that I could not account for many of the phenomena
recorded, I still inwardly believed that there must be some
error somewhere, which, if discovered, would serve to ex-
plain the facts. Only personal sittings can remove this a
priori objection, which I now regard as worthless and con-
clusively disproved by the facts in the case.

The question still remains, however: Why does Eusapia
cheat? I believe that she does this sometimes simply and
solely because of her love of mischief. She delights in seeing
onlookers mystified at the phenomena produced through her

328 Eusapla Palladino

mediumship, and when she is in a trance state she remembers
very h'ttle of what takes place, and, as it were, misses all
the fun ! But when she is in a normal state and can observe
what is going on, she will try fraudulently to proci'.oe phe-
nomena simply and solely for the love of the thing. Still,
I admit that this is but a small part of the reason. Some of
it is doubtless premeditated fraud — intended to deceive her
sitters, and which she would pass off as genuine phenomena
if she could. But I am convinced that the great majority of
her fraudulent phenomena are produced in a semitrance con-
dition, and that she is unaware of her movements. The fact
that she is in a state bordering on trance, and the definite
proof that amnesia is present a great part of the time, allows
us to assume that Eusapia does not know many of her move-
ments while in the trance state ; and the statement that she
feels a strong desire to produce the phenomenon with her
own hand, immediately before it takes place, coupled with
the convulsive twitchings of her hands and body as a whole,
at the moment of the occurrence of the phenomenon — all
these facts point, it seems to me, to a spasmodic reflex action
on the part of the medium rather than to deliberate fraud.
There is a strong impulse to produce phenomena, and, if she
is not restrained, she will endeavor to produce them in a
perfectly manner. But if she is restrained, genuine
phenomena will result — as we repeatedly ascertained.

It is true that there are certain suspicious circumstances
that crop up from time to time, while hardly a seance elapses
without the investigators having to ascertain by the sense
of touch, and by that of sight, that they are in reality holding
the hands of the medium. Eusapia insists upon more or less
darkness, especially as the seance proceeds, when the more
important phenomena are witnessed. Almost invariably, too,

Eusapia Palladino 329

the phenomena originate within the cahinet, instead of out-
side It. But rarely do phenomena take place in good light,
outside the curtains; and when they do they are almost in-
variably telekinetic in character and of a simple nature.

W:y this cabinet? Why darkness? It must be admitted
that it would be far more satisfactory if both of these condi-
tions were done away with ; but we must submit to them
with as good grace as possible. The medium says that the
cabinet is necessary in order to concentrate and hold the
magnetic fluid which emanates from her person, and which
the spirits use for the production of the phenomena. Of
course this may be due, largely, to auto-suggestion. All me-
diums use cabinets, and Eusapia thinks she must have one,
too. But there is ground for supposing that there is a good
deal of truth in this assumption. In the first place, it would
seem that the medium's statement must be given some weight
— since she might be supposed to know how she feels and
Vv^hat conditions stimulate the phenomena better than out-
siders possibly can. In the next place, we have frequently
noticed that the nearer the cabinet curtains the medium can
get, the stronger are the phenomena, and the more abundant
and convincing. Most of the phenomena originate from
within the cabinet, so that, on any hypothesis, we can safely
say that it stimulates their production — no matter what view
we hold of the phenomena themselves.

All mediums insist on certain "conditions," which, they
assert, are necessary for the production of their phenomena.
Darkness is one of these necessary conditions, apparently, for
the production of physical manifestations. Why should this
be so? It must be admitted that it is usually insisted upon
for the reason that it renders possible trickery of all kinds.
Fraud is easily possible in the dark — trickery of a kind which

230 Eusapia Palladino

light would successfully disclose and reveal. But why should
genuine mediums insist upon this condition? To tell the
truth, it is not positively known why this should be so; but
various theories have been advanced, and numerous mediums
have made a declaration, stating exactly why this should be
the case. They say that light is a very disruptive agent, pos-
sessing fine, yet powerful influences, and that, when one is
dealing with such subtle forces and conditions as one is in a
seance, light must be excluded, for the reason that it de-
stroys the subtle forces produced, and disintegrates the forms
that would otherwise materialize.

Is there any truth in this assertion ? Is there any warrant
for such an assumption? To tell the truth, there is. Let
us take a simple analogy, which has often been used. Sensi-
tive plates, used in photography, cannot be exposed to the
light before the picture is taken ; if they were, they would be
ruined, and the photograph spoiled. Darkness is necessary,
it is one of the "conditions" required by every photographer
for obtaining a successful photograph. And it may be so
here. Light rays are now known to be very destructive to
some forms of animal life and to human protoplasm; if too
long continued, they are extremely energetic, and liable to
disintegrate and disrupt any excessively fine and subtle body.
That being the case, we are certainly entitled to take into
consideration these requests of the medium, and we may con-
sider her statements well founded — provided the imposed
conditions do not permit the possibility of fraud. And I
may say, that in Eusapia's case, this was nearly always pre-
cluded by the amount of light allowed. In her case, during
the greater part of the seance, sufficient light was always
present to allow us clearly to see her hands, as well as feel
them in ours, resting on the table. Although the light was


Eusapla Palladino 331:

lowered, it was at no time completely extinguished ; and dur-
ing the greater part of the seance, it was very good, allow-
ing us to see everything in the room with the greatest clear-
ness and precision.

While the lesser phenomena seem to be directly under the
control of Eusapia's will, the more important phenomena
are certainly dictated and are brought about by intelligences
other than that of the medium herself. Eusapia believes
that "John King," her supposed control, officiates at her
seances, and is responsible for most of the more important

This "John King" is said to be the brother of Crookes'
Katie King, and to have been Eusapia's father in another
existence. It is John who speaks when Eusapia is in her
trance; when he speaks of her he calls her "my daughter,"
and gives advice about the care of her person and her life.
M. Ochorowicz thinks this John is a personality created in
the mind of Eusapia by the union of a certain number of
impressions collected in the different psychic environments in
which her life has been passed.

Writing of Eusapia's phenomena, and her psychology, Sig-
ner Angelo Marzorati, Editor of Luce e Ombra, sa5's:

"During the first part of them (the sittings), she keeps up
a lively conversation, interspersed with witticisms, when she
finds that she is among friends. She rarely goes into com-
plete trance, and only toward the end of the sitting is she
overtaken by a semitrance, characterized by an incoherent
babbling and a strongly marked alteration of her counte-
nance; but more often her face seems to acquire a glassy
clearness, as though something extra human were watching
within her. Sometimes, in pursuit of the phenomena, by
the pale gleam which came from the antechamber, I caught
the watchful keen glance of the witch, and had the impres-

332 Eusapia Palladino

sion that of all those present, believers or skeptics, she was
the one who had the greatest presence of mind; that she
dominated all the rest, with the full power of the unknown
which is within and about us. . . .

"Although rarely, Palladino falls into a truly feminine
languor and calls upon her John : 'Come, my father, come !'
Her voice then trembles with a strange and feeling passion;
one feels behind the curtain the presence of someone; shadows
flit rapidly between the curtains, raising the outer edges, and
sometimes stopping long enough for us to see the characteris-
tic features. I remember also clearly, at a distance of two
years, the diaphanous figure and sweet face of 'Katie'; and
I also remember those black shadows of various forms and
densities which, in a sitting at Genoa, came right up to my
face, and which seemed mere empty appearances, for they
offered no solid resistance. I remember also how I once
stood erect, holding both Eusapia's hands firmly on the table
in my left hand, and introduced my right into the open-
ing of the curtains, where, at a height of more than two
yards, which my stature allowed me to reach, it was shaken
by a vigorous and gigantic hand. Palladino was seated
and I standing and no deception was possible. . . . An-
other time, while I was standing outside the chain, iso-
lated and at least two yards from Eusapia, to my great
surprise an electric lamp was repeatedly lighted, of which
I had the switch in my pocket — I say repeatedly because,
being placed on my guard by the first lighting, I was
a more careful and conscientious observer the second

"I ought to say that, at the close of the sitting, Palladino
is exhausted, done up, even more than other mediums. She
looks round savagely, like a wounded animal, and clutches
at the objects round her, as though attracted by them; at
other times she has fits of weeping, of which she feels the
effects the next day. Not unfrequently, when in this state,
she is impelled to simulate a few phenomena, but in so
childish a manner as to render it doubtful whether she is
aware of it. . . ."

Eusapia Palladino 333

Some have thought that they noticed that Eusapia pre-
pared herself, consciously, or unconsciously, at the seance,
by diminishing the respiration — a very singular thing. At
the same time her pulse gradually rises from 88 to 120 pul-
sations a minute. Is this a practice analogous to that which
the fakirs of India emploj^ or a simple effect of the emotions
which, before every seance, Eusapia experiences? — a fact
which has a strong tendency to convince the sitters, but is
never sure of the production of the phenomena.

Eusapia is not hypnotized ; she herself enters into the
trance state when she becomes a link in the chain of hands.
She begins to sigh deeply, then yawns and hiccoughs. A
series of varied expressions passes over her face. Sometimes
it takes on a demoniacal look, accompanied by a fitful laugh
(very much like that which Gounod gives to Mephistopheles
in the opera of "Faust") which almost always precedes an
important phenomenon. Sometimes her face flushes ; the eyes
become brilliant and liquid, and are opened wide. The smile
and the emotions are a mark of the erotic ecstasy. She says
"into caro" ("my dear"), leans her head upon the shoulder
of her neighbor, and courts caresses when she believes that
he is sympathetic. It is at this point that phenomena are
produced, the success of which causes her agreeable and even
voluptuous thrills. During this time her legs and her arms
are in a state of marked tension, almost rigid, or even under-
go convulsive contractions. Sometimes a tremor goes through
her entire body.

To these states of nervous superactivity succeeds a period
of depression, characterized by an almost corpselike pale-
ness of the face (which is frequently covered with perspira-
tion) and an almost complete inertia of her limbs. If she
lifts her hand, it falls back of its own weight.

334 Eusapla Palladino

During the trance her eyes are turned up and only the
white is visible. Her presence of mind and her general
consciousness are diminished, or not at all in evidence. She
gives no reply, or if she does, her reply is retarded by ques-
tions. Eusapia has no recollection of what has taken place
during the seances, except for states of mind bordering close
on those of her normal state ; and, consequently, they only
relate, as a general thing, to phenomena of slight intensity.

In order to aid in the manifestations, she frequently asks
that her force be increased by putting one person in the
chain. It has frequently happened to her to address a sym-
pathetic spectator, to take his fingers and press them as if to
draw something out of them, then push them abruptly away,
saying that she has enough force.

In proportion as her trance increases, her sensibility to
light increases. A sudden light causes difficulty in her breath-
ing, rapid beatings of her heart, an hysterical feeling, gen-
eral irritation of the nerves, pain in the head and eyes and
a trembling of the whole body, with convulsions — except
when she herself asks for light (a thing which frequently
happens to her when there are interesting verifications to be
made upon the subject of displaced objects), for then her
attention is strongly called in other directions.

She is in constant motion during the active period of
many of the seances. These movements may be attributed
to the hysterical crises which then agitate her; but they
appear to be necessary to the production of the phenomena.
Every time that a movement is being caused at a distance
she imitates it, either with her hands or with her feet, and
by developing a much stronger force than would be neces-
sary for producing the movement by contact.

During and after the levitations of the table, she has a

Eusapia Palladino 335

feeling of pain in her knees; during and after other phe-
nomena, in her elbows and all through her arms.

Here is what she herself says of her impressions when she
wishes to produce a movement at a distance. She suddenly
experiences an ardent desire to produce the phenomenon; then
she has a feeling of numbness and the gooseflesh sensation
in her fingers; these sensations keep increasing. At the same
time she feels in the inferior portion of the vertebral column
the flowing of a current which rapidly extends into her arm
as far as her elboiv, where it is gently arrested. If is at this
point that the phenomenon takes place.

It would appear to me that the above statement explains,
in part at least, much of Eusapia's fraud. Here there is the
wish, amounting to a strong desire, to produce the phenome-
non by normal means; and this desire would naturally find,
or attempt to find, motor expression, in the release of one
hand, and in the shooting out of that hand automatically,
toward the object. These desires doubtless produce abortive
muscular twitchings and movements, which, by a hyper-
critical investigator, might be interpreted as attempts on her
part to release a hand or a foot, and with it produce the
phenomenon fraudulently. But we repeatedly found that if
she were checked from doing so, and the hand or the foot
securely held, genuine phenomena would result and the ob-
ject be moved by an exteriorization of motor force. It would
find actuality just as (to use an analogy) a visualized thought
might, under certain conditions, become externalized in the
mind as a full-blown hallucination — having all the appear-
ance of reality.

Whatever the Interpretation of the facts, however, I re-
gard it as certain that they are established, and that they

33^ Eusapia Palladino

should, in consequence, be studied by men and by societies
interested in natural knowledge. It need hardly be pointed
out that if but one or two of the facts asserted to occur at
Eusapia's seances ultimately prove to be facts, they are of
the utmost possible importance to science — necessitating, as
they would, reconstructions and enlargements of the present-
day view, upon an unprecedented scale. Nevertheless, the
facts, I am fully convinced, do occur ; and that is the opinion,
also, of a large number of scientific men in Europe who have
studied Eusapia for a number of years. I think, therefore,
that Eusapia should be brought to America, and studied
here, by a commission of scientific investigators — as she has
been studied in the past in England, France, Italy, Russia,
and elsewhere. Eusapia is yet alive, and it is not too late
to reverify, or to discredit, the facts. Fresh sittings are
constantly being held, and each body of investigators leaves
under the distinct impression that it has seen genuine physi-
cal phenomena of a supernormal character. Should not these
opinions be checked, and the argument settled one way or
the other before Eusapia dies? As a matter of fact, I think
the case has practically been settled — for all unbiased students
of the records ; but further and more conclusive tests should
doubtless be performed, since it is impossible to establish too
thoroughly facts which are of such great moment to science.
It is earnestly hoped that sufficient money and sufficient in-
terest will soon be raised in this country to bring Eusapia
to America, and to study her by means of a long series of
experiments; and, when once the facts have been established
(as I feel certain they would be), to begin a scientific investi-
gation — physical, mental, and possibly spiritual — of the me-
dium and her phenomena. Certain it is that the present state
of things is a disgrace to science — particularly in a countrj'-

Eusapia Palladino 337

which boasts of its wealth, its progress, and its openminded-
ness! I cannot do better than quote, in this connection, the
words of Professor Sidgwick, who, in his first presidential
address before the Society for Psychical Research, delivered
July 17, 1882, said:

"Why form a Society for Psychical Research at all at
this time — including in its scope not merely the phenomena
of thought reading, but also those of clairvoyance and mes-
merism, and the mass of obscure phenomena commonly
known as Spiritualistic? Well, in answering this, the first
question, I shall be able to say something upon which I
hope we all agree — meaning by 'we,' not merely those who
are in this room, but we and the scientific world outside;
and as, unfortunately, I have but few observations to make
on which so much agreement can be hoped for, it may be
well to bring this into prominence — namely, that we are all
agreed that the present state of things is a scandal to the
enlightened age in which we live. That the dispute as to
the reality of these marvelous phenomena — of which it is
quite impossible to exaggerate the scientific importance, if
only a tenth part of what has been alleged by generally
credible witnesses could be shown to be true — I say it is a
scandal that the dispute as to the reality of these phenomena
should still be going on — that so many competent witnesses
should have declared their belief in them, that so many
others should be profoundly interested in having the ques-
tion determined, and yet that the educated world as a body
should still be simply in the attitude of incredulity'."

Such, it appears to me, is the attitude of the scientific
world with regard to Eusapia Palladino and her phenomena.
It is earnestly to be hoped that the time will not be far dis-
tant when this "scandalous" state of things will no longer
exist; when scientific men will consent to investigate these
phenomena; and then, it is to be hoped, Eusapia Palladino

33^ Eusapia Palladino

will be ranked, not as a vulgar impostor, but as a rarely
gifted individual, possessing powers worthy of the deep-
est study and respect; as a delicate and sensitive piece of
organic machinery, which should be guarded and cared for
with the utmost kindness and consideration.


In the Annals of Psychical Science, for July-September,
1909, Mrs. Finch — its late editor — published a "letter" bit-
terly attacking Eusapia and her phenomena. Mrs. Finch as-
serts that very few of them are genuine; that most of her
sitters are simply deluded or "glamoured" by her mere pres-
ence; that she succeeds in casting a sort of spell over
her sitters, merely by reason of the fact that she is a
woman! She accuses her of "erotic tendencies"; and con-
cludes that no evidence is of any value in her case unless
supported by photography.

I took occasion to reply to this letter at the time — as I
deemed it not only misleading, but totally false in implica-
tion and in fact; and I reprint here what I then said:


By Here ward Carrington

Mrs. Finch's extraordinary letter in the July-September
^Annals deserves more than a passing mention. To many
mindS; doubtless, the letter answers itself, and, reading be-
tween the lines, one can quite easily surmise some of the mo-
tives which prompted the writing of so scathing a criticism.
Nevertheless, it may be well to indicate how baseless are


340 Eusapia Palladino

the assertions contained in this contribution to psychical re-
search ; and to examine her letter in some detail.

Mrs. Finch is surely unaware of the implications of her
theory regarding Eusapia's phenomena; for if she were aware
of it, she would surely not advance it — at least in public.

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Online LibraryHereward CarringtonEusapia Palladino and her phenomena → online text (page 26 of 27)