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Osty, Dr Eugene - Supernormal faculties in Man – Dr. Dufay, of Blois and the prisoner who hanged himself



Type of Spiritual Experience


from PITRES, Leçons sur l'hystérie et l'hypnotisme, p. 200

Dr. Dufay, a senator from Loir-et-Cher, published the observation of a young girl who, in a somnambulatory state, had squeezed jewellery belonging to her mistress into a drawer. When she could no longer find her jewellery in the place where she had left it, she accused her servant of stealing it. The poor girl claimed her innocence, but could not give any information on the causes of the disappearance of the lost objects.

She was put in prison in Blois. Dr. Dufay was then a doctor at that prison. He knew the prisoner because he had had some hypnotic experiences with her in the past. He put her to sleep and asked her about the crime she was accused of. She then told him, with all the desirable details, that she had never intended to steal her mistress, but that one night it occurred to her that some of the jewellery belonging to this lady was not safe in the furniture where it was placed and that she had therefore huddled them in another piece of furniture. The investigating judge was informed of this revelation. He went to the stolen lady's house and found the jewellery in the drawer indicated by the sleepwalker. The defendant's innocence was thus clearly demonstrated and the patient was immediately released.

A description of the experience

Supernormal faculties in Man- Dr Eugene Osty

Dr. Dufay, of Blois, had occasion to verify the faculty of hyper-cognition in a young servant of Mme D- during hypnosis. Her liability to somnambulic crises led to her imprisonment on an accusation of stealing her mistress's jewellery.

Dr. Dufay put her to sleep, awakened her memory, and proved her innocence. While awaiting her release, the opportunity for an exact and conclusive experiment presented itself.

"On the next day," Dr. Dufay writes, in the Revue philosophique, 1889, Vol. I, p. 205, "I was called very early on account of a suicide in the prison. A prisoner, accused of murder, had strangled himself with his cravat, which he had tied to his bed. Lying flat on the floor of his cell, he had pushed, himself back with his hands till the slip-knot produced strangulation. The body was already cold when I arrived simultaneously with the magistrate.

The Public Prosecutor, to whom the magistrate had told the story of the experiment with the girl on the preceding day, desired to see Marie, and I suggested that we should try an experiment with reference to the suicide. Both magistrates eagerly accepted the proposal. I cut off a piece of the cravat and wrapped it in several folds of paper, tying it up with string.

Going to the female ward, we found the prisoners just out of the dormitory, and asked the Sister in charge to place her room at our disposal. I signed to Marie to follow us, and without saying a single word to her I hypnotized her by simply placing my hand on her forehead. I then took the paper from my pocket and put it into her hands. The poor girl started violently, pushed away the packet, saying she would not touch it. Of course, it is the custom that suicides in prisons are kept secret as long as possible. Nothing had transpired in the prison, and the Sister was herself in ignorance of the matter.

‘What do you think there is in the packet?' I asked when quiet was restored.

‘It is a thing which has killed a man.' . . .

'Is it a knife or a pistol?’

'No, no . . . I see, I see . . . it is a cravat… he hanged-himself. Make the gentleman behind me sit down; his legs tremble so that he can hardly stand' (One of the magistrates was, in fact, so moved that he was trembling all over.)

'Can you tell me where this has occurred?'

'Why, here, you know quite well. . . It is one of the prisoners.'

‘For what was he in prison? ' . . .

'For murdering a man who had asked to get into his cart.'

'How did he kill him?' . .

'With a gouet.'

In this part of the country (Loir et Cher) a bill-hook is called by this name; it is a tool much used by woodcutters and coopers, and I had mentioned such a tool in my report as being most likely the instrument with which the murder had been committed.

Up to this point Marie's answers had told us nothing that we did not already know. At this moment the judge of first instance drew me apart and whispered that the bill-hook had not been found.

I asked, 'What did he do with his bill-hook?'

'What did he do?... wait a moment …. he threw it into a pond. . . . I see it quite well at the bottom of the water.'

She designated the position of the pond well enough to enable it to be dragged the same day in presence of an officer of the constabulary. The bill-hook was found there. We only heard of the result in the evening, but the scepticism of the magistrates was already much shaken.

To satisfy their curiosity, I asked the Sister to borrow from some of the convicts some small objects belonging to them-an earring, a ring, etc.-and to wrap them in papers so as to conceal their nature effectively. Marie gave us an exact statement of the facts which had determined each conviction.

The source of the experience

Osty, Dr Eugene

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