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Reese, Bert

Category: Other spiritually gifted people

Bert Reese (1841–1926) was an American-Polish man most well-known for his psychic abilities.  He was a paid performer and normally we would not have placed him on the site. But, the reason we have done so, is that he was subjected to a test by Dr Eugene Osty which appears a very interesting demonstration of his abilities.

The other reason is that the description given in Wikipedia is exceptionally nasty and factually inaccurate concerning  They describe Reese simply as a ‘billet reader’, which is simply not correct.

Life

Born Berthold Reise, Reese was said to have manifested extraordinary psychic faculties from the age of about six. According to Felix Hollaender, writing in the Annals of Psychic Science (September 1913), these abilities so terrified the people of the little town where he was born that they deserted the shop where his father sold miscellaneous goods, and to avoid ruin he had to send his son away to Posen. 'The people of the country town were filled with horror. They considered the child a wizard and possessed by the devil.'

Reese emigrated to New York from Posen in Poland in 1861 and changed the spelling of his name from Reise to Reese. He became fascinated by a man called Charles H. Foster, The Salem Seer and eventually became his pupil.

Much of the animosity and vitriol directed at Reese appears to be caused by fear of his powers, jealousy of his talents [especially from minor magicians] and fear about the threat he posed to some people’s livelihoods. For example:

From Ernst, B. M. L., and Hereward Carrington. Houdini and Conan Doyle. New York: A & C Boni, 1932.

In America, Reese was arrested, condemned and sentenced for disorderly conduct. Appealing against his sentence he appeared before Judge Rosalsky and proved his powers to him. He asked the Judge to write something on three different pieces of paper, to fold them up and place them in three different pockets, mixing them in such a way that they could not be recognized.
Then Judge Rosalsky took one of the pellets and pressed it against Reese's forehead. He immediately answered: "You have fifteen dollars in the bank mentioned in your question." He continued by reading the second paper, which contained the name of a Miss O'Connor, a former governess to Judge Rosalsky's children. He also read the third paper, whereupon Judge Rosalsky acquitted him.

Investigations by science

As his reputation grew, psychic researchers, including Baron von Schrenck Notzing, tested his powers and concluded he was a remarkable man with extensive abilities. Hereward Carrington, and Felix Hollaender also conducted experiments with him and considered him genuine and gifted.

Reese possessed an extensive scale of hyper-cognition. Besides his gift of revealing character, he was a remarkable dowser, “to whom Mr. Rockefeller was said to have owed the discovery of some of his most valuable oil deposits”.  He had other equally distinguished supporters:

Thomas Edison
I am certain that Reese was neither a medium nor a fake. I saw him several times and on each occasion I wrote something on a piece of paper when Reese was not near or when he was in another room. In no single case was one of these papers handled by Reese, and some of them he never saw, yet he recited correctly the contents of each paper.


The allusion to the not being a medium means that Edison simply believed he did not get the information by reading the mind of another person, that his abilities went far beyond this.

But Reese could mind read and at least Wikipedia concedes this, as such they admit he had telepathic powers even if they appear to know about none of the other powers.

From Ernst, B. M. L., and Hereward Carrington. Houdini and Conan Doyle. New York: A & C Boni, 1932.

Schrenck-Notzing considered him one of the most extraordinary men of the time. Thought reading could not sufficiently account for his performances as the experimenters mostly took care that they themselves should not know which piece of paper contained which question. In certain performances, "X-ray clairvoyance" also fell short as an explanation; his success must have been due to psychometry. According to the account of Felix Hollaender, he indicated to a commercial firm the pages on which there was a fraudulent entry. He was given five percent of the amount of the fraud.

The picture is not of Reese

The vitriol of magicians

Reese was said to be a friend of Aleister Crowley.  In other words, he was also a magician, as Crowley was.  A good magician is able to mix magical physical tricks with more advanced psychic tricks and it appears that Reese did this in order to both earn an income in shows and demonstrations, but perhaps more amusingly to ensure his methods were not apparent to skeptics.

From Ernst, B. M. L., and Hereward Carrington. Houdini and Conan Doyle. New York: A & C Boni, 1932.

Harry Houdini claimed Reese was a fraud, and that he knew his methods. In a letter to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini wrote: "I have no hesitancy in telling you that I set a snare at the seance I had with Reese, and caught him cold-blooded. He was startled when it was over, as he knew that I had bowled him over. So much so that he claimed I was the only one that had ever detected him." Houdini never divulged to anyone how it was done. Houdini was very good at throwing out accusations to enhance his own career and reputation.  So it looked as if this person was one more to the list of Houdini's victims.


And thus we have one of the interesting problems about magic and psychic powers. 

Most magicians are mediums, but at the time and even now they can earn a great deal more if they have the tag ‘magician’ than the tag ‘medium’.

Harry Price, for example, earned his living initially as a magician and he later ‘tested’ mediums. As the War approached and recession of the 30s bit deeper, it became clear to Price that not only was his funding in danger of drying up but the work he was doing was actually undermining his own skills and those of his fellow magicians.
If, as a magician, your main abilities are achieved via mind reading and telepathy, and people see them as ‘magic’, then if you legitimise telepathy, find out enough of how it is done so that anyone can do it and then publicise the fact – you have, to all intents and purposes shot yourself in the foot.

Magicians and mediums have always been in battle. It is all about money. And at the moment there is more money in calling the same thing ‘magic’ and not ‘mediumship’.

Perhaps, as the quote above says what makes no sense at all is that there are those who claim to be ‘scientists’ who are prepared to accept the evidence of a magician.  To present this as a counter argument is totally illogical. How does this ‘magic’ work?

Many of the magician’s used by scientists saw that there was mileage and a great deal of publicity and money in persuading skeptics/scientists that spoon bending, mind reading and table rapping etc were all magic tricks.  If one thinks about this for a moment the skeptics/scientists are thereby admitting they believe in magic and have not once asked how the magic works.

It shows a gullibility that is breath-taking. [I am being kind here because other words do spring to mind].

Academics and 'skeptics' were and are making true science a laughing stock.

References

The Annales des Sciences Psychiques has a number of accounts of the abilities of Mr Reese, for example:

  • The November 1913 edition contains Hereward Carrington’s description and also contains accounts of similar ‘seances’ in Paris conducted by Dr J Maxwell and Dr Schrenck-Notzing
  • The August 1913 edition has the account of the experiments done by Edison
  • The September 1913 edition has accounts of experiments completed with Felix Holloender under the title Le Voyant Reese

Observations

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