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altogether uneducated woman of the very lowest Neapolitan

"During the two months passed by Eusapia at Turin I
often saw her," writes Mme. Carrara, "and I always thought
that her real personality is as interesting as her personality
as a medium, and that it is the resuh of the strangest product
which the human race can supply.

Eusapia Palladino 21

"Eusapia is a mixture of many contrasts. She is a mix-
ture of silliness and maliciousness, of intelligence and igno-
rance, of strange conditions of existence. Think of a sales-
woman of Naples transplanted without any preparation into
the most elegant drawing-rooms of the aristocracy of Europe.
She has gained a smattering of cosmopolitan intellectuality
but she has also ingeniously remained a woman of the lower

"She has been carried on the wing of universal renown
and yet she has never cast off the swaddling clothes of illiter-
acy. No doubt this illiteracy saves her from vanity, for she
knows nothing of all the rivers of ink which have been spent
upon her. . . .

"Here are a few details sufficiently piquant to awaken
public interest.

"Her appearance and words seem to be quite genuine and
sincere. She has not the manner of one who either poses or
tricks or deceives others. She has had the perversity, a rare
occurrence, to remain as nature made her: outspoken, sin-
cere, instinctive, to such a degree that however wonderful
may be the tales she tells, they are true.

"Her physiognomy is not ugly, although M. Barzini has
discreetly insinuated that it is so. Her face is large, marked
by some suffering, and bears traces rather of the spiritistic
seances, of the effort and the fatigue which they involve,
than of the fifty-three years that she has lived.

"She cherishes her appearance, or, at least, she shows some
coquetry about it. She has magnificent black eyes, mobile
and even diabolical in expression. She displays coquettishly
her famous white lock among her dark hairs.

" 'Formerly,' she says, 'I was ashamed of it, but now that
everyone compliments me on it I do not hide it any more.'

"Her hands are pretty, her feet small. She always keeps
them visible outside her dress to show that they are closely
shod in polished shoes."

The first time that she saw her at her father's house, Mme.
Paola Carrara could not draw from her any confidences con-

22 Eusapia Palladino

cerning her life as a medium. Instead, she told her of the
feelings she had when frequenting high-class society. Her
impudence and arrogance as a Neapolitan of the lower class
sometimes almost takes the form of personal dignitj .

On one occasion, she related that she was sta3ing with
the Grand Dukes in St. Petersburg: the Grand Duchess
often sent for her to come and talk to her or keep her com-
pany in the drawing-room, but when visitors came she made
an imperious sign, showing her the door. Twice Eusapia
rather reluctantly obeyed, but at last she rebelled and plant-
ing herself in front of the princess, she said: "Madame la
Grande Duchesse, you doubtless mistake me for a basket
which is carried to market when it is required, and left in a
corner when it is done with. Either I shall remain in the
drawing-room with all the visitors, or I shall leave the

And the princess by blood, not to discontent the princess
of spiritism, consented that she should remain in the drawing-

At Turin the Duke of the Abruzzi asked and obtained a
seance with her and afterwards paid her lavishly, but Eusapia
was dissatisfied.

"What is a five-hundred-franc note to me ? I am capable
of tearing your five-hundred-franc note into four pieces (she
made a gesture of tearing it, but did not really do so) , but
■ I do what I choose, and I choose to be treated politely."

She had been very annoyed because the prince had not
sent her his card.

But one day Eusapia, who ordinarily replies apathetically
to those who interrogate her on this question, consented to
relate how she became a medium.

"My history is long and incredible," she said, "but I wish

Eusapia Palladino 23

to tell it to you because everybody pretends to know it (I
mean journalists), and they know nothing, and have only
accumulated a heap of lies about me."

She told us that she was born at Minervo-Murge, a moun-
tain village near Bari (Apulia). Her mother died shortly
after her birth, and her father, who was a peasant, caused
her to be brought up on a neighboring farm.

But the villagers took little care of the orphan. Once
when she was only a year old, she was allowed to fall, so
that a hole was made in her head. That is the famous
cranial opening from which, in moments of trance, a cold
breeze is felt to issue. On this scar has grown a tress of
hair that has always been white since infancy, and which is
easily distinguishable in her photographs.

"As if I had not had trouble enough," she said, "when I
was twelve years old my father died. I was thus completely
alone, for I had no near relations. A native of my village,
who lived in Naples, having learned my sad history, took
charge of me. At Naples he put me in the care of some
foreigners who wished to adopt a little girl. But I was not
at all the sort they wanted, for I was like a wild animal,
a forest bird, ignorant, and having always lived as a poor
creature, and these ladies wanted to make of me an educated
and learned girl. They wanted me to take a bath every day,
and comb my hair every da)^, and to use a fork at table, to
study French and the piano, and to learn to read and write.
In fact, I was to fill up all my time with occupation, and I
could not amuse m3^self. Then began scoldings and revolt.
They told me I was lazy, and, in short, in less than a year I
was turned out of their house. I was in despair; I went
again in search of that family in my own country, who gave
me shelter for a few days, whilst arrangements were being
made to put me in a convent. I had been in the house for a
few days when, one evening, some friends came who spoke of
tables that dance and give raps, things which were much

24 Eusapla Palladino

talked about at that time. And, as a joke, they proposed to
try and make a table turn.

"They fetched one, sat around it and called me to come
and make a chain with them. We had not sat down for ten
minutes before the table began to rise, the chairs began to
dance, the curtains to swell, the glasses and bottles to walk
about, and the bells to ring in such fashion that all were
frightened, as if in fun they had called up the devil and
expected him to appear every minute. We were tested one
by one to see who produced these phenomena, and they finally
concluded that it was I. They then proclaimed me to be
a medium and talked to everybody about it, inviting their
friends and acquaintances to little spiritistic seances. They
made me sit whole evenings at the table, but that was tedious
to me, and I only did it because it was a way of recompensing
my hosts, whose desire to keep me with them prevented their
placing me in the convent. I took up laundress work, think-
ing I might render myself independent and live as I liked
without troubling about spiritistic seances."

"But," she was asked, "how did John King appear on the
scene ?" ^

"That is the strangest part of my story, which many per-
sons will not believe. At the time when I began to hold
spiritistic seances in Naples, an English lady came there who
had married a Neapolitan, a certain Damiani, a brother of
the deputy, who still lives. This lady was devoted to spirit-
ism. One day when she was at the table, a message came to
her informing her that there was in Naples a person who
had lately arrived, who lived at such a number, in such a
street, and was called Eusapia, that she was a powerful me-
dium, and that the spirit who sent this message, John King,
was disposed to incarnate himself in her and to manifest by
marvelous phenomena. The spirit did not speak in vain,
for the lady at once sought to verify the message. She went
directly to the street and the number indicated, mounted to the
third floor, knocked at the door and inquired if a certain

* John King is the so-called spirit "guide" or "control" of Eusapia, who
is supposed to regulate her seances and produce most of the phenomena.
For this, however, see later on in the book.

Eusapia Palladino 25

Eusapia did not live there. She found me, though I had
never imagined that any such John had lived either in this
world or another. But almost as soon as I sat at the table
John King manifested and has never left me since. Yes! I
swear" (and she said this emphatically) "that all that I am
telling you is the simple truth, although many persons seem
to think I have arranged the facts."

Mme. Paola Carrara then relates the following anecdote,
told by Eusapia Palladino:

This happened ten j'ears ago. Eusapia saj^s she possessed
diamond earrings and bracelets set with emeralds, massive
chains and rings with precious stones. Her rich acquaint-
ances — Sardou, Aksakoff, Richet, Ochorowicz, Semiraski,
Flammarion — knowing her Neapolitan taste for gold orna-
ments, had loaded her with many gifts. For better security
she put these treasures into a sort of strong box in her shop.

"One night," she said, "I had a horrible dream: I saw
a man, of whom I saw not only the face, but all the details
of his clothes, with an old hat, a handkerchief round his neck,
check trousers; he came into the shop and forced open the
box, whilst two companions watched at the door."

The impression was so strong that she awoke her husband
and told him that the shop was being robbed. He paid no
attention; but she got up about two o'clock, went into the
shop and assured herself that there were no thieves there.
But to set her mind at rest she took her precious jewels and
carried them to her room, where she shut them up in a
piece of furniture after counting them one by one. What
was her alarm next day when she encountered, near the door
of the house, an individual identical in appearance with the
person she had dreamed of! Worried by this thought, she
went to consult a police functionary whom she knew, but he
excused himself, saying: "1 cannot, dear Madam, undertake

26 Eusapia Palladino

to act as policeman of dreams, but If you wish to make your
mind easy take your jewels to the bank, where they will be
better looked after than by my officers."

Following this sound and simple advice, she took her
precious box to the bank, but she arrived too late, the doors
were closed ; being still uneasy, she returned to the officer
and asked him to station two of his men at her door for one
night. This was done. The two guards remained there all
night. And on that night the dream of the theft was re-
peated, so that on awaking her first thought was to assure
herself whether her small treasure was still in the place
where she had put it.

At about ten o'clock she went out to the shop, a
few yards away from her house. When she reached it she
bethought herself suddenly that she had been unwise to leave
her jewels in the house. She returned quickly to fetch them.
The entrance door was closed ; but she had scarcely reached
the cupboard before she perceived that the precious box had
disappeared. She rushed out, crying, like one possessed:
"Holy Virgin, holy Virgin! my jewels are stolen. Catch
the thief! catch the thief!" for she had not been out of the
house ten minutes, and the thief could not be far away.

The police commissary recognized the individual, whom
Eusapia described, as one of the best-known thieves of a gang
in Naples. Afterwards, Eusapia found out how he, in league
with one of her servants, had succeeded in getting a false
key made to fit the lock of the jewel box. "You see," Eusapia
bitterly remarked, "you see what little use there is in this
fine mediumistic faculty! It did not serve to save my jewels,
those jewels which were dear to me as the apple of my eye.
.What is to happen, happens in spite of everything!"

On being asked whether the spirits, or at least the medium-

Eusapia Palladino 27

istic faculty, had intervened previously, in other circum-
stances of her life, she replied :

"No, I never perceive the presence of a spirit, but some-
times without my being aware of it or wishing it, a spirit
must have helped me. Two years ago I was ill in Paris,
and I had a lazy and negligent nurse who, instead of giving
me medicine, lay down on her bed and slept profoundly. I
might call and ring, nobody answered. And what hap-
pened then? The lazy woman was aroused by blows and
pinches which I had no intention of making, so that the nurse
became alarmed by this strange phenomenon and would have
nothing more to do with me and my sorceries."

Everj'one who has observed and studied Eusapia, has
noticed that her hands and her fingers produce a repercus-
sion on objects and persons at a distance. The movements
which her hands made in her imagination were probably
movements of irritation against the nurse and resulted prob-
ably in those pinches which the nurse actually felt.

Mme. Paola Carrara thus terminates her interesting study :

"There are singular things in this nature which seems
so simple and open — certain attempts at cheating have been
remarked. An observer who held more than thirty seances
with her, and who saw produced by day and in full light
really marvelous phenomena, asserts that two or three times
in the course of the seance she had recourse to trickery, to
fraud and deceit, but so clumsily that she was easily discov-
ered. It is not because at these moments the medium-
istic faculty fails, for when controlled, she immediately after-
wards produced indisputable phenomena."



§ I. Professor Lombroso's Conversion — 1891

Eusapia Palladino owes her introduction to the scientific
world to Professor Chiaia, of Naples, who published, on
August 9, 1888, in a journal issued in Rome, a letter
to Professor Lombroso, in which he stated that he had in-
vestigated this medium for some time, and had become con-
vinced of her genuine supernormal powers. He called upon
Professor Lombroso to investigate likewise; and put the
matter of her mediumship to the test. Professor Lombroso
did not accede to this challenge for a considerable time; but
some years later he consented to sit with Eusapia — the re-
sult of the sittings being to convince him that at least some
of the observed phenomena were genuine, beyond dispute.
In a letter dated June 25, 1891, he said:

"I am filled with confusion and regret that I combated
with so much persistence the possibility of the facts called
Spiritualistic. I say facts, because I am still opposed to the
theory. . . ."

It was in February, 1891, that Professor Lombroso, Pro-
fessor Tamburini, MM. Gigli, Vizioli, Ascensi, and Ciolfi
(who drew up the report) secured two seances with Eusapia
in Naples. The usual phenomena were observed, and one
incident of remarkable interest that should be recorded here.
This phenomenon was the following:


Eusapia Palladino 29

"The light was extinguished, and the experiments began
again. While, in response to the unanimous wish, the little
bell was beginning again its tinklings, and its mysterious
aerial circuits, M. Ascensi, taking his cue unknown to us,
from M. Tamburini, went (unperceived, owing to the dark-
ness) and stood at the right of the medium, and at once, with
a single scratch, lighted a match, so successfully, as he de-
clared that he could see the little bell while it ivas vibrating
in the air. and suddenly fall upon a bed about six feet and a
half behind Mme. Palladino."^

Later in the seance, a small table, in spite of M. Ascensi's
efforts to hold it, extricated itself from his grasp, and went
rolling over the floor.

At the second seance, Eusapia was bound with ropes. In
spite of this, however, the usual phenomena occurred — raps,
touches, etc. — and the small table, which had been placed in
the cabinet, advanced toward Mme. Palladino. Suddenly,
while the table was still in movement, a salver that had
been placed upon it, turned upside down, without a particle
of the flour which it contained being spilled. It was asserted
that such an occurrence is, under usual circumstances, im-

§ 2. The Report of the Milan Commission — 1S92

As the result of Professor Lombroso's conversion, several
savants — Professors Schiaparelli, director of the observatory
of Milan; Gerosa, professor of physics; Ermacora, doctor
of natural philosophy; Aksakof, councilor of state to the
Emperor of Russia; Charles du Prel, doctor of philosophy
in Munich; Professor Charles Richet, of the Sorbonnc, Paris;

' A number of photographs of objects floating in the air without visible sup-
port — violins, horns, etc. — are to be found in The Annals of Psychical Science,
April-June, 1909. The medium in this case is Carancini.

30 Eusapia Palladino

and Professor Bu£fern — met in October, 1892, in the apart-
ment of M. Finzi, at Milan, and conducted a long series
of experiments. Seventeen sittings, in all, were obtained —
extracts of which are quoted below. >

The most striking phenomena took place in full light.
These were (i) the levitations of the table, and (2) the
alteration of the medium's weight in the balance. Photo-
graphs of some of these levitations were taken, and published
in the Report. Arguments were adduced, showing that Eu-
sapia could not have lifted the table by her hands, knees, or
feet. The committee attempted to duplicate these levitations
of the table under conditions imposed upon Eusapia, but
failed to do so. The experiments in which her weight ap-
peared to be altered are of great interest. The account of
these reads as follows:

"Eusapia, seated on a chair, was placed on the platform
of a weighing machine, and her feet were strongly bound
together by a handkerchief. One of us, M. Finzi, was told
off to read the weight. M. Schiaparelli and I employed our-
selves in watching closely the balance and its surroundings,
so as to be sure that Eusapia did not touch with hand or
foot the ground, or any object in the neighborhood.

"Her weight with the chair being 58 kilogrammes (nearly
128 pounds, or over 9 stone), we placed on the scale 500
grammes at a point where it would be equivalent to 50 kilo-
grammes, and then the rider was placed at the figure eight.
Eusapia's weight was thus exactly balanced. Then, though
Eusapia did not move her chair, we had, in order to main-
tain equilibrium, to shift the rider, first to six, then to four,
and then to two, and finally to zero, and further to obtain
exact equilibrium, it would have been necessary to take away
a little of the weight of 500 grammes which represented 50
kilogrammes. It will be seen, therefore, that Eusapia di-
minished her weight in this experiment by at least 8 kilo-

Eusapia Palladino 31

grammes {17^2 pounds). We are certain that she threw
nothing away (if she had thrown anything away she would
have had to recover it in order to restore her original weight),
and equally certain that she derived no support from any
neighboring object. And, finally, the movements were suf-
ficiently slow — it occupied from ten to twenty seconds —
to make it impossible to attribute it to any jump, or quick
"movement of any kind. Nevertheless, the observation did
not appear to us conclusive. In brief, in the ordinary weigh-
ing machine, constructed on the principle of the steelyard,
the weight varies (although it is true within very narrow
limits) with the position of the center of gravity. By chang-
ing his position on the platform, especially when, as was the
case here, the machine is not a very good one, the person
who is being weighed can appreciably vary his weight.

"We devised, accordingly, a weighing machine of a differ-
ent kind, in which the platform was suspended by the four
corners. In this machine, the weight Avould show no varia-
tion, no matter what was the position of the sitter on the plat-
form. An automatic arrangement, devised by M. Finzi,
registered the movements of the lever. In the fifth sitting
we obtained a result which was certainly remarkable — seeing
that it occurred under exceptionally good conditions. M.
Schiaparelli and I were watching the machine, both above
and below, so as to be sure that Eusapia did not touch either
the ground or the support from which the platform was

"Under these conditions, there was certainly a slight up-
ward movement of the platform, but it was very trifling;
and although the automatic register indicated a marked
diminution in the weight, lasting for about 15 seconds, I
cannot say for certain that the movement of the register did
not occur at the moment when Eusapia, in order to gain
more strength, asked one of the investigators to give her his
hand, which she held for a short time before relinquishing."

• The committee point out, however, that the evidence for
a new physical force is incomplete, because this experiment

32 Eusapia Palladino

succeeded only when a part of Eusapia's dress touched the
floor, and when precautions were taken to prevent this con-
tact, no appreciable effect was produced on the balance.
Upon one occasion, when the balance was placed some ten
inches behind Eusapia, in response to an urgent movement
of her hand, the rider oscillated violently, and the hands,
feet, and knees of the medium were being securely held.
This effect, as of some heavy weight being thrown into the
scale, was, however, never repeated.

In a further set of experiments, results were obtained
which seemed clearly beyond the medium's unaided powers.
A portion of the room was curtained off from the rest, and
the medium placed in the aperture of the curtains, which
were joined above her head. The space curtained off was
left in absolute darkness, the rest of the room was dimly
lighted by a lantern with red glass sides. On one occasion
Professor Richet took up his station in the darkened part
of the room, behind the curtains, his chair placed back to
back with that upon which Eusapia sat. The medium's
hands were held on either side by M. Schiaparelli, and M.
Finzi. Her feet were also held. Under such circumstances,
however, the curtain was blown out, and Professor Richet
was touched on the right shoulder by a distinct hand and
pulled with some force. At the same moment, M. Finzi
was touched on the ear, on the forehead, and on the temple
by fingers from behind the curtain — while the hand which
touched Professor Richet was free from the curtain. The
committee state in their report:

"It is impossible to count the number of times that a hand
appeared and was touched by one of us. Suffice it to say
that doubt was no longer possible. It was indeed a living,
human hand which we saw and touched, while at the same

Eusapla Palladino 33

time the bust and arms of the medium remained visible, and
her hands were held by those on either side of her."

The committee express their conviction that the results
obtained in the light, and many of those obtained in dark-
ness, could not have been produced by triclcery of any kind.
Professor Richet, who did not sign the committee's report,
states his own conclusions as follows:

"Absurd and unsatisfactory though they were, it seems
to me very difhcult to attribute the phenomena produced to
deception — conscious or unconscious — or to a series of de-
ceptions. Nevertheless, conclusive and indisputable proof
that there was no fraud upon Eusapia's part, or illusion on
our part, is wanting — we must therefore renew our efforts
to obtain such proof."

§ 3. Experiments at Naples and at St. Petersburg — 1893

As a result of the publication of this joint report, a long
series of experiments was conducted by scientific men in
various centers. In 1893 a series was held in Naples under
the direction of Professor Wagner, Professor of Zoology in
the University of St. Petersburg; in Rome, in 1893 and i894»
under the direction of M. dc Siemiradski, Correspondent of
the Institute; in 1893-4, at Warsaw, at the house of Pro-
fessor Ochorowicz; in 1894, ^^ Carqueiranne, at the house
of Professor Richet, and on the ile Roubaud, under the
direction of Professor Richet, Sir Oliver Lodge, Mr. F. W.
H. Myers, and Dr. Ochorowicz; in 1895, at Naples, under
Dr. Paolo Visani-Scozzi, Specialist of Nervous Diseases, at
Florence; and at Cambridge, at the house of Mr. F. W. H.
Myers — these sittings being shared by Professor and Mrs.
Sidgwick, Miss Alice Johnson, Dr. Richard Hodgson, and

Online LibraryHereward CarringtonEusapia Palladino and her phenomena → online text (page 3 of 27)