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Observations placeholder

Dr. Liébeault - Hypnotic suggestion to induce or cure blisters



Type of Spiritual Experience


A vesication is the medical term for a blister, sore or boil

phthisic (plural phthisics) (pathology) A wasting illness of the lungs, such as asthma or tuberculosis; phthisis. (pathology, formerly) Any wasting disease. A person suffering from phthisis.

vesicatory - a chemical agent that causes blistering

A description of the experience

As described in Spiritism (Western Fakirism) Study Historical, Critical and Experimental - Dr. Paul Gibier [1887];    July 23, 1886, Le Rappel, Mr. Victor Meunier - Causerie scientifique (A talk about science)a description of new experiments shared with him by Dr. Liébeault from Nancy. ….we reproduce verbatim the article of the scholar columnist.

Dr. Liébeault sends us the protocol of a very curious experience of hypnotic suggestion made on the 9th of this month in Nancy. Its author is Mr. Focachon, a pharmacist in Charmes (Meurthe-et-Moselle), already known to our readers, and as witnesses, in addition to our very learned and honourable correspondent mentioned above:

  • Mr. Liégeois, professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Nancy,
  • Mr. Fèvre, former notary and
  • Mr. Brulard, who followed it from beginning to end and have guaranteed on it.

It will be recalled that in order to find out whether the alleged miracle of stigmatization does not cover some hypnotic phenomenon, Mr. Focachon undertook with a young lady Elisa..., on the subject of research that led him to produce burns and vesication by simple suggestion; this was ascertained by professors Beaunis and Bernheim of the Faculty of Medicine in Nancy, and Liégeois of the Faculty of Law, Mr Brulard and Mr. Liébeault, and finally by Mr. Laurent, statuary architect, and Mr. Simon. The Rappel reported on all this last year.

However, after obtaining vesication without vesicant substance, Mr. Focachon was naturally curious to see if the opposite effect would also take place, that is, if, by constant suggestion, he would not prevent a vesicant substance from producing vesication.

It is this experiment that we are now talking about. As we will see, it was perfectly conducted.

Three parts were made of a piece of epispastic Albespeyres canvas. Two of them will be applied respectively to Miss Elisa's arms for one to be influenced, if necessary, by the suggestion to make it an inert material; the other, which will not be the subject of any suggestion, to produce its ordinary effects.

The third fragment will be placed on a sick person who may require it.

By these stipulations we see that all the terms of comparison and means of control, as to the quality of the epispastic agent, the natural and current ability of the subject to feel its effect, and finally as to the role of the suggestion to modify either this quality or this provision, will be combined.

And so it was done.

Miss Elisa, being asleep, a first square of vesicant cloth of 5 centimetres side is placed on the palm surface of her left forearm, at the junction of the upper third of the middle third, and a second square of only 2 centimetres side is placed on the corresponding area of the right forearm. At the same time, at the civil hospital, the last portion of the canvas was applied by Dr. Brulard to the front and upper chest of a phtisic  patient. Let us get back to Miss Elisa.

As soon as the plasters were applied to her, Mr. Focachon energetically made this statement to the subject who was already in somnambulism: that the vesicatory applied to her left forearm (5 cm side vesicatory) would not produce any effect there.

From the beginning of the experience - ten hours twenty-five minutes in the morning - until eight in the evening, Miss Elisa was not alone for a moment.

At eight o'clock in the evening, the above witnesses came back and gathered around her, after having ascertained by the condition of the dressing that it had not been disturbed, removed it and then noted this:

Left forearm (this is the one where the largest vesicator was placed, whose suggestion was to cancel the effect):

The skin is intact. The revulsive has completely failed. The suggestion was fully successful.

"Only - we read in the protocol - there was redness around a pin prick unnoticed at the time of the dressing and seated near a point on the skin that was covered by the outer edge of the vesicator".

Right forearm (this is the one where the smallest vesicator was placed, which was not the subject of any suggestion):

The repellent had determined a strong staining of the epidermis, and the patient had a painful sensation. If the vesication appeared so quickly, the witnesses decided to prolong the experiment and asked Mr. Focachon to put the two vesicators back in place.  Forty-five minutes later: there were two well-marked phlyctenes (blisters) on the right, one of which had been pierced and allowed serosity to flow out. (The next morning, Mr. Liébeault received from Mr. Focachon, who had returned to Charmes with his subject, a postcard giving him notice that the small vesicator produced an abundant flow, accompanied by a strong inflammation.)

As for the vesicator placed by Dr. Brulard on the patient in the civil hospital, it produced a magnificent blister in eight hours.

Therefore, the signatories to the protocol conclude in this way:

"From the above it follows for us that by suggestion in the sleepwalking state, the effects of a Cantharidian vesicatory can be neutralized", their conclusion is absolutely unquestionable, because it is only the formal statement of the fact that they have been given the opportunity to observe.


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