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Observations placeholder

Professor Carmagnola witnesses the little girl who could hear with her shoulders and see with her hands



Type of Spiritual Experience


No images can be discerned in mirrors in the out of body state

A description of the experience

Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism

This case was reported in 1840 by Professor Carmagnola. … I have been able to consult Carmagnola's own account of the matter which is printed in the Giornale delle Scienze Mediche for the year mentioned. Considerations of space must restrain me from going into much detail, but I may note that the Professor's first sentences show him to have been almost as much startled by what he witnessed as Lombroso was by his experiences with the Signorina C.S. He tells his readers that he is going to describe a series of facts which had come under his own observation, but he adds that he himself, if he had merely heard these recounted by someone else, would have dismissed the whole as a cock-and-bull story unworthy of serious attention.

While unable to offer any sort of scientific explanation, he protests that he held it his duty to be sternly and strictly truthful in his statement of what he had witnessed.

This case was concerned with a young girl of thirteen or fourteen, and here again the starting point of the subsequent harassing developments must be looked for in the physiological conditions attendant on the approach of womanhood. The trouble began with a nervous cough which came on whenever the child attempted to eat or drink and which was so persistent that for three months she could hardly take nourishment of any kind. Then followed exaggerated hyperaesthesias and all sorts of neurotic troubles.

In her normal waking condition she became speechless, but while asleep and dreaming she spoke freely recounting past adventures with great animation, and singing, with perfect accuracy as to words and music, the airs of the operas then in vogue. Upon this supervened a state of constantly recurring somnambulism, alternating with cataleptic trances.

The details are curious, but I must content myself with noting that at this stage of her illness, while she was absolutely deaf and blind, so far as concerned the special organs of these two senses, she could hear with her shoulders-or, more strictly, her shoulder-blades (spalle)- and see with her hands. In her somnambulisms she dressed herself, moved about and performed all sorts of little domestic tasks in her room, without ever knocking against any obstacles. She conversed freely, and when shown pretty coloured ribbons and other things she would discriminate the colours with perfect accuracy, and yet all the time the pupils of her eyes were completely turned up and only the lower portion of the sclerotic was visible.

She went about holding the palms of her hands open before her, and it soon became clear that these in her somnambulant condition served her as organs of sight. Professor Carmagnola's statement in justification of this conclusion is interesting:

I took [he says] the first book that I chanced to pick up; it was a copy of Telemaque. l opened it at random and put it under her extended hands. They were not in contact with the book but remained at a distance of half an inch or so from the printed page.

In that position she read the text correctly and rapidly. I put the book in a different position and she went on reading as before. It was night time and I held a candle near to see if what she read aloud corresponded accurately with the printed text. The reading, I found, was quite correct. Then I moved the candle away to ascertain if she was dependent upon the light it gave but she went on reading quite evenly and without stumbling. Her mother wrote these words on a scrap of paper Therese, je vous aime, and she not only read the words with her hands but she recognized that it was her mother's writing.

She wanted to look at herself in the glass and so she spread out her hands in front of the mirror, but she only saw her hands; then she lowered them to see her face but apparently saw nothing at all, then by a sort of instinct she put up her hands once more, and again she saw only her hands; so she put one in front of the other, but with no better success. Finally she lost her temper, stamped on the floor, tore off her cap from her head and hastily beat a retreat.


The source of the experience

Scientist other

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items


Activities and commonsteps