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Observations placeholder

Didier, Alexis – A séance with Alexander Dumas and Robert Houdini



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Flammarion, C., Carroll, L, - Death and its mystery: before death

Vision without eyes

The press of October 17, 1847, contained a long article on a hypnotic séance in which the somnambulist Alexis had read not only closed books, through several pages, but even concealed letters; in a word, he had shown that the magnetic fluid, by illuminating with a supernatural splendor the subject which had been magnetized, permitted the spirit to pierce through the most opaque objects with an ease that left far behind it all the power with which the imagination has endowed magic.

This séance was endorsed, with the name of Alexander Dumas and took place at his country house in the presence of honorable men who had attested the truth of the facts related in the written report by signing their names to it.

The astonishment was general. Dumas, curious to produce the phenomena of which he had been a witness, let us persuade him to, himself, magnetize Alexis. The spirit of the somnambulist told him the history of a ring that had been given to him; told him the day and the hour when the man who had confided it to him had become its possessor; then, like those invincible birds which cleave the air, his soul borne on the wings of another’s will, he described with admirable precision Tunis and its environment, of which the name alone was known to him in his waking state: in a word, space and time had been conquered.

A great number of papers copied the account of these séances; others protested. As they were not able to attack the honor and uprightness of the men who certified that they had seen these prodigies with their own eyes, they made haste to ridicule them, by representing them as honest men whose simplicity had been exploited. They declared, that with the help of skilful ingenuity Robert Houdin produced the same marvels every evening in the rooms of the Palais-Royal. Unfortunately, the illustrious prestidigitator had already written a letter to the Marquis de Mirville, in which he admitted the powerlessness of his art to produce these prodigies, and in which he certified on his honor that these phenomena were not produced by any subtlety of a clever sleight of hand.

There is an extract from this letter:

"During a séance at the home of Marcillet, the following event took place:

'I unsealed a pack of cards which I had brought with me, and the case which I had marked so that, it could not be changed. I shuffled them. It was my turn to deal. I dealt with all the precautions of a man skilled in the finesse of his art. It was a useless precaution.

Alexis stopped me by pointing out a card which l had just placed before him on the table. I have a   king,' he said. 'You know nothing about it, as the trump card, has not yet appeared!' 'You will see,’ he answered. 'Continue.’ I did in fact turn up the eight of spades, and his card was the king of spades. The game was continued in a rather curious manner, for he told me the cards that I ought to play, although my own cards were at the time hidden under the table and tightly clasped in my hand. For each of the cards I played he put down one from his own hand without turning it over, and it was always in perfect agreement with the one I had played myself.

I therefore returned from this séance as astonished as I well might be, and persuaded that neither chance nor skill could have produced such marvellous results.

"Be good enough to receive, etc.

Robert Houdin

Paris; May 15, 1847

The source of the experience

Didier, Alexis

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps