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Observations placeholder

Palladino, Eusapia - 1897 Experiments with letter scales



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Albert De Rochas D'Aiglun - Levitation of the human body

We know the experiment of the letter scale, which took place at the Agnélas in 1895; it was repeated in 1897 in Bordeaux at the home of Mr Maxwell, who sent me the protocol he had written himself.

Séance of August 4, 1897

"Present: Eusapia, medium; Mrs. A...; Mr. Maxwell ([1]); Mr. de Pontaud;

Mr. Denucé, Doctor of Medicine; Mr. Pr. lawyer.

"Light green glow given by an electric lamp placed in a photographic lantern. We can distinguish the smallest details of the apartment, except the underside of the table because of the shadow cast by the board.

"Eusapia is in a light bodice, the one she had during dinner.

"I bought a scale for weighing the letters that I bring in that day. E.... makes us stay two or three minutes with our hands on the table, then approaches his hands to the scale, placing Dr. D...'s right hand under the medium's left hand.

"Dr. D... experiences a sensation of cold breath that stops after a moment, then starts again.

"Eusapia's hands are about fifteen centimetres from the scale, on each side and in the extension of a diameter of the tabletop.

"Eusapia moves up and down two or three times with her hands, with her palms face below. However, the second time, the letter scale is pushed to the limit, which requires a force of more than one hundred and seventy grams.

"Eusapia took Mr. de Pontaud's left hand and placed it under her right hand and tried the experiment with him. She asked if he could feel the cold breath; Mr. de Pontaud replied that he could not. After a few moments, Mr. de Pontaud felt a cold breath on his ring finger and little finger (the two fingers of his hand closest to the body of the medium). The table top lowers and the needle stops at division twenty.

Eusapia takes over Dr. D's right hand... She no longer places his hands as long as the diameter of the tabletop, but in two directions at an angle of about 120°, whose top would be in the center of the tabletop.

"Dr. D... still has his right hand in Eusapia's left hand. The ends of the hands of the latter are about ten centimetres from the edge of the tabletop and about fifteen centimetres from each other. The tabletop drops to ninety grams and slowly returns to zero.

"In the two previous experiences, it had suddenly returned to zero.

"Eusapia is trying to get the board up. Her hands are in the extension of a diameter of the board; the palms surface is, this time, upwards. The board is rising. In this position the movement of the table is small; it is blocked after half a centimetre.

Mr. Pr... places his black morocco wallet, weighing seventy grams, on the tray. Eusapia repeats the experiment under the same conditions of hand position and distance counted from the edge of the wallet. After two or three movements of her hands from bottom to top, the tray is fully raised.

"Before the letter scale is removed, Eusapia points out that these experiments are the ones she likes the most. She is not asleep and is aware of everything that is happening. She says she feels a cold sensation in her back, along the spine, then in her arm, and a tingling sensation in her fingertips as the tray descends."

In Montfort-l'Amaury, this phenomenon took a different and quite original form. It was also at the end of a séance.

"We pass, says Mr. de Fontenay ([2]), into the dining room, we sit around the big table. We're having tea and cakes. There is a tray in front of Eusapia loaded with cups with their saucers and teaspoons, a sugar bowl, a teapot and various small objects, including a dessert spoon weighing forty grams: it is placed on the tray, resting on the rim which it exceeds six or seven centimetres. Eusapia, who is waiting for her cup of broth, shows the spoon to her neighbours, and, as if for fun, blows it up and down, passing both hands a few centimetres to the left and right of the object.

Mr. Flammarion and I were immediately called and Eusapia started again. We are under the full light of a lamp and several candles. Everybody's watching. Eusapia repeats two or three times the gesture of lifting something between her two hands, which each time pass at least three or four centimetres from the tip of the spoon. The first movement brings no result; in the second or third movement, the spoon jumps and falls back into the same position. We ask the medium to do it again. She repeats the same gesture two or three times, but without success, and rubs her hands against her skirt as if to wipe them off and rid them of some impurity that would prevent the passage of some kind of force. Then she repeated her attempt. The first two passes produce nothing; the third brings a slight movement of the spoon; the fourth jumps completely up in the air and overturns end to end on the board. Let's applaud and Eusapia starts laughing and joking; she is, I repeat, completely awake (p.116)."

Mr. de Fontenay's book contains an excellent photograph of table levitation and many details on other remote movements, which took place in full light.

In Montfort-l'Amaury, as in the other groups where she operated, the audience usually ends the séance after two or three hours because the medium is completely exhausted; the audience breaks the chain, and the light is gradually increased. Eusapia then gradually emerges from the state of trance, takes up the use of her senses, gets up, walks, talks and ends up appearing to be in her normal state. However, she is always highly charged with psychic force, and it is at this moment that she produces phenomena in the light of which she often repeats several times in a row at the will of observers. For example, she tells you to place your hand on a table, on the back of a chair; then she places hers over it, also flat and raises it; then, your hand and the furniture underneath follow the movement and the furniture remains suspended from your own hand for forty to fifty seconds, until it falls suddenly, while Eusapia sighs with relief, as if she had just stopped a violent effort.

This experiment is of the utmost interest because the impossibility of a trick is clearly obvious; I have witnessed it several times. It was obtained in Palermo with Eusapia in July and August 1902.

However, the records of these séances state: "On two occasions, when we were not in the séance and Eusapia was in full light near a table with several trinkets, she used a wire she had in her hands to move these objects and led us to believe that she was committing a conscious fraud."

As the experimenters elsewhere do full and complete justice to the extraordinary faculties of Eusapia, we are inclined to conclude that they had actually seen a thread, but that they had been wrong not to check the nature of that thread. They could then have observed that this yarn was purely fluidic, as demonstrated during the séances held in March and April 1903, with the same medium, at the knight Peretti's in Genoa. Here is how one of the witnesses, Mr. Bozzano, describes it ([3]).

"The séance was barely finished; the room was lit by a red light electric lamp; the medium, still a little exhausted, was sitting at the table. Suddenly she seemed to wake up from the kind of numbness in which she found herself; she rubbed her hands; after which, by moving them away from each other and carrying them forward, she approached them to a small glass placed on the table; then by making movements with her hands, sometimes forward, sometimes backward, she managed to impart to the small glass in question, similar movements of traction and repulsion from a distance... While this phenomenon was taking place, all the experimenters were able to see very clearly, unexpectedly, something like a big whitish thread, which started indefinitely from the phalanxes of the fingers of one hand of Eusapia would join in an equally undefined way to the phalanxes of the fingers of the other hand.

"No doubt: the medium was cheating; each of the experimenters could not help but think about the Palermo episode at that moment. Now the medium herself starts to shout with a tone of joyful surprise: here! look at the wire! look at the wire!

"At this spontaneous exclamation of the medium, the knight Perretti conceived of attempting a test as simple as it was decisive. He stretched out his arm and began to squeeze slightly and then slowly pulled towards it, this wire which arched, resisted for a moment, then broke and suddenly disappeared; a sudden nervous tremor made the medium's body tremble. There is no need to describe the general astonishment; such a fact was enough to solve all uncertainty at once. It was not an ordinary yarn, but a fluidic filament."

Mr. Bozzano made even more complete use of this by making some twenty observations during the Genoa séances, in which the phenomenon was repeated, albeit slightly changed, by means of the following device. When the medium had given a good séance and it was assumed that she was in good conditions to externalize her fluid, all that was needed was to spread, in full light, on her lap, a black sheet and to arrange the table or any piece of furniture in such a way that her shadow fell on the sheet in question; then placed the medium's hands in the same area of shadow, both points opposite the other, about ten centimetres away; with the backs of the raised hands and fingers slightly open. A few moments later, some very thin, whitish fluidic filaments could be clearly observed which, starting from each of the phalanxes of one hand of Eusapia, would attach themselves to each of the corresponding phalanxes of the fingers of the other hand ([4]). Thanks to this fluidic filament, we can therefore explain certain movements that seem to occur in contradiction with the laws of gravity.

[1] Mr. Maxwell gave a summary of this séance on page 292 of the book he has just published in the Library of Contemporary Philosophy, under the title: Psychic phenomena, research, observations, methods, by J. Maxwell, Doctor of Medicine, Advocate General at the Bordeaux Court of Appeal. - Preface by Charles Richet, member of the Academy of Medicine, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Paris.
[2] About Eusapia Paladino, Paris. Society of Scientific Editions, 1898.
[3] Journal of Psychic Studies, March 1901.
[4] M. Maxwell has demonstrated, in chapter IV of his Psychic Phenomena, the objective reality of these organic digital fragrances which occur more or less in everyone, but which are generally too weak to be perceived by others than by the sensitives.

The source of the experience

Palladino, Eusapia

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps