Was Eva C a medium or a fake?
Posted on 13 May 2019, 8:19
If you put the name “Marthe Béraud” (also known as Eva Carrière or just Eva C) into an Internet search, the chances are that the first thing to pop up will be a Wikipedia entry, and you’ll read that she was nothing more than a fraudulent “psychic.” If, however, you go on to the second selection, the PSI Encyclopedia, sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), you’ll get a much more complete history on her, one that offers objective reports and from which you might accept that she was a true materialization medium, even if not a particularly strong one.
The Wikipedia “bio” begins by saying Béraud (hereinafter “Eva”) was born in France in 1886 and was a prominent spiritualist and a psychic. The biographer does not explain in what way she was “prominent,” if she was in fact involved in the Spiritualist movement, which I doubt. One might infer that the biographer does not know the difference between a psychic and a medium or between a spiritualist and a Spiritualist (with a capital “S”).
The biographer goes on to say that Eva (below) claimed to materialize a spirit called Bien Boa, a 300-year-old Brahmin Hindu, in 1905, when living with her father, a French officer, in Algiers. The biographer does mention that Professor Charles Richet, a physiologist, was present at “other sittings” and that he reported that Boa moved around the room and touched him. However, the article goes on to say that a newspaper revealed Boa to be a hoax and that a photograph revealed Boa was a man dressed up in cloak, helmet and beard. A newspaper revealed and a photograph revealed? So much for scientific reporting. As if it is factual or relevant, the bio goes on to say that Eva had a sexual relationship with her elder, Juliette Bisson, with whom she performed during her seances.
The 22 references listed for the Wikipedia bio appear to be mostly, if not all, second-, third- and fourth-hand reports by “skeptics” who never observed Eva C. Some of the “authorities” cited weren’t even born at the time Eva was being studied by a number of scientists. Interestingly, the reports and books by the three scientists who studied her the most – Richet, a professor of medicine at the University of Paris and the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, Gustave Geley, a French physician and Laureate of the French Medical Faculty at the University of Lyons, and Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German neurologist – are not listed among the 22 references.
The well-researched SPR entry on Eva is authored by Benjamin Steigmann and extends to about 12,300 words. It appears to touch all bases, and the primary references are the three scientists who studied her the most, all three being convinced that she was a genuine medium.
Over a four-year period (1909-1913), Schrenck-Notzing carried out 180 experiments with Eva. His controls were so strict that he required an examination of all cavities of her body, including the rectum and vagina, to rule out anything being smuggled into the laboratory room. “The productions of Eva C. are undoubtedly genuine, and only a malicious prejudice could doubt the reality of the occurrences,” declared Schrenck-Notzing, who studied a number of other mediums over a 40-year period. It might be kept in mind that Schrenck-Notzing was not a Spiritualist, Spiritist, or even a spiritualist. In fact, he was a materialist and believed the spirit hypothesis was “unscientific.” As he saw it, the phenomena all originated in Eva’s subconscious mind. However, according to one reference, Dr. Gerda Walther, his assistant, Schrenck-Notzing did not entirely exclude the spiritualistic theory.
Schrenck-Notzing reported that materializations usually liquified or evaporated when exposed to too much light or touch. “The mysterious intelligence, which appears to be concerned in this prepatory work, evidently wishes to make face and head types optically visible, but requires a certain time for doing so, which may amount to as much as an hour,” he wrote in his 1923 book, Phenomena of Materialization, further noting that the materialized hands produce by or through Eva sometimes showed no signs of life and at other times showed their living character by grasping objects held out to them, even digging their nails into the skin of his hands. Since he didn’t believe in spirits, it is not entirely clear what he had in mind as the “mysterious intelligence.”
Richet and Geley collaborated in their study of the young French woman. Richet explained that the ectoplasm exuded by Eva, usually came from her mouth but at other times from the top of her head, from her nipples and the ends of her fingers, and was initially invisible. “Then one observes a whitish steam taking the shape of gauze or muslin, in which a hand or arm develops, gains consistency, then moves,” he added.
“I shall not waste time in stating the absurdities, almost the impossibilities, from a psycho-physiological point of view, of this phenomena,” Richet wrote of the many materializations he witnessed, with both Eva and other mediums. “A living being, or living matter, formed under our eyes, which has its proper warmth, apparently a circulation of blood, and a physiological respiration (as I proved by causing the form of Bien Boa (below) to breathe into a flask containing baryta water), which has also a kind of psychic personality, having a will distinct from the will of the medium, in a word, a new human being! This is surely the climax of marvels! Nevertheless it is a fact.”
Richet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on anaphylaxis, the sensitivity of the body to alien protein substance, explained that a kind of liquid or pasty jelly emerged from the mouth or the breast of Eva and organized itself by degrees. The materializations were usually gradual, beginning with a rudimentary shape and complete forms and human faces only appearing later on. “At first these formations are often very imperfect,” he explained. “Sometimes they show no relief, looking more like flat images than bodies, so that in spite of oneself one is inclined to imagine some fraud, since what appear seems to be the materialization of a semblance, and not of a being. But in some cases, the materialization is perfect.”
As for Bien Boa, Richet was absolutely certain that no fraud was involved – no servant acting like a spirit, no trap doors, no hallucination, no hypnotism, no trick of any kind. “No legerdemain can produce a living hand that melts in the hand that holds it,” he wrote, further mentioning that he saw the arm of Bien Boa take form from the ectoplasm coming from Eva’s mouth and shoulders. “I have seen the form of Bien Boa disappear into the floor under my eyes, but a visual sensation is not nearly so certain as a tactile one.” Moreover, he observed Bien Boa five or six times, not just once. But like Schrenck-Notzing, Richet subscribed to the subconscious mind theory, rather than spirits, although indications are that such was his public and “scientific” position and not his private one, at least later in life.
The very hokey nature of most of the materializations, as seen in various photographs, lend themselves to fraud, until one asks him- or herself why a charlatan would think that such bizarre manifestations, especially those that appear like cardboard cutouts, would fool anybody. As Richet and Geley came to understand it, the fact that nearly all the forms and objects produced by or through Eva were crude, rudimentary, fragmentary, amorphous or defective in one way or another did not suggest fraud. Quite the contrary, they served as evidence, Geley declared, of her good faith. “How should the medium, ignorant as she was of natural science, have conceived the idea of simulating a rudiment?” he asked, going on to mention that he had seen in certain cases a face appear flat, and then become three dimensional, entirely or partially.
“The most remarkable materializations which I have myself observed are those produced by Eva in my laboratory during three consecutive months of the winter of 1917-1918,” Geley reported. “In the bi-weekly séances in collaboration with Madame Bisson, the Medical Inspector General M. Calmette, M Jules Courtier, and M. LeCour, we obtained a series of records of the greatest interest. We saw, touched, and photographed representations of heads and faces formed from the original substance (ectoplasm). These were formed under our eyes, the curtains being half-drawn. Sometimes they proceeded from a cord of solid substance issuing from the medium, sometimes they were progressively developed in a fog of vaporous substance condensed in front of her, or at her side.”
Geley stressed that the experiments were carried out under strict controls, the curtain necessary to protect the ectoplasm from damaging light. They were held in his Paris laboratory, to which no one was permitted beforehand. Eva was completely undressed in his presence and then dressed in a tight garment, which was sewn up the back and at the wrists. Her hair and the cavity of her mouth were examined by both himself and his collaborators before and after the séances. Eva was walked backwards to the wicker chair in the cabinet and her hands were always held in full sight outside the curtains, the room always quite well lighted the whole time. “I do not say merely, ‘There was no trickery,’ I say ‘There was no possibility of trickery,” Geley stated. “Nearly all the materializations took place under my own eyes, and I have observed the whole of their genesis and development.”
Geley added that the better materialized the forms were, the more power of self-direction they seemed to have. “They evolved round Eva, sometimes at some distance from her,” he continued. “One of these faces appeared first at the opening of the curtain, of natural size, very beautiful and with a remarkably life-like appearance. At another séance, through the curtain of the cabinet, I could feel with my hands the contact of human body which caused the curtain to undulate. (Eva was stretched out in the arm-chair, in full sight, and her hands were held.).”
While both Schrenck-Notzing and Richet (below) publicly rejected the spirit hypothesis, Geley came to accept it, if not totally at the time he studied Eva, after his study of Polish medium Franek Kluski and other mediums who produced similar materializations. “The lights, the touches, the apparitions of faces – all showed a directing intelligence which seemed conscious and autonomous,” he concluded, agreeing with Dr. William Crawford, an Irish researcher who initially rejected the spirit hypothesis and then came to accept it. “The mouldings (below) showed obvious collaboration between the operating entities (whatever they may be) and ourselves. For instance, the mould of a foot was given at our request. Similarly it was on my demand that I afterwards received at Warsaw the moulds of a hand and forearm up to the elbow, free from any of the defects previously mentioned.”
Geley’s more detailed explanation and those of other researchers accepting the spirit hypothesis seem to suggest that while the “entities” or spirits were attempting to project images into the ectoplasm by thought, their ability to do so was limited by the power of the mediums as well as by their own power of projection. The latter has been likened to asking a human to draw a picture of him- or herself. A few will look like the person, but most will resemble cartoon characters or scarecrows.
Sadly, all that is likely a bit too much for the so-called skeptics to grasp.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: May 27
I am fascinated by your research on these historical mediums. It seems very little modern researchers are paying attention to the old cases.
Would you be able in future blog posts to cover some other forgotten materialization mediums. For example William Eglinton, Francis Ward Monck, Mme. d’Esperance or Cecil Husk?
There was also Ada Besinnet, William Cartheuser, Charles H. Foster, Pierre L. O. A. Keeler, Bert Reese, Anna Eva Fay, Charles Miller and other American mediums from the late 19th century that we never hear of today. It would be interesting to know what you think about these mediums. Regards.
Luke, Sat 25 May, 13:16
Thank you, Eric, for your additional thoughts. To quote the great physicist, Sir Oliver Lodge:
“The material side of a picture is canvas and pigment, nothing else would be detected by a microscope; but to such an examination there is no ‘picture,’ the ‘soul’ or meaning – the reality – has evaporated when the material object is contemplated in that analytical manner. So it is with our bodies; dissected they are muscle and blood-vessel and nerves – a wonderful mechanism; but no such examination can detect the soul or mind.”
Michael Tymn, Sat 25 May, 10:15
I do not know whose comment, pointing out how Schrenck-Notzing was
fooled by some of those he investigated, I am responding to. However, this
response widens and deepens the context, without, be it said,
First, just the simple remark that if some people consider it worthwhile, or even imperative on account of some personal non-scientific psychological need that compels the dishonesty of committing a deception this situation itself suggests (merely suggests!) the wisdom of investigating further because some (merely some!) of the cases may be genuine and the deception a response to the consequent pressure to perform felt by the subject of investigation, either by dishonesty or by the need to save face instead of honestly admitting a failure.
A more important relevance is that of physics, though the physics
needs to be well-understood before its relevance can be perceived (or
can even make sense to many minds) and the power of its support thus
be realised. Unfortunately, physics is not at all well understood,
despite the many popular books on the appropriate subjects now available.
The relevance of Quantised Physics (usually referred to as quantum
physics, but I use the word ‘quantised’ to point to the term’s meaning
because the term is glibly cited but its significance not well grasped
by the general public) is fairly widely (glibly) acknowledged, but the
other great theory of today’s physics, Relativity Theory, provides the
added recognition of the broader but non-sensible locus of those
events that are alleged by mediums and other experiencers and which
are genuine, not any species of stage-managed deception, whether
provably genuine or not. The genuine events probably do not take place within our Universe, though phenomenalizing themselves here. Without relativity and the quantisation of the interactions of matter and energy here
within our Universe science would provide no support whatever for ‘paranormal’ events, but in fact these two theories, the best-corroborated sciences humans have ever devised, do provide that support. It only takes a sufficient understanding of the science to realise this, and if that realisation were there it would sweep away as utterly irrelevant the current arguments about the genuineness or otherwise of the historical accounts.
Even though this support extends only to a near-proof of the possibility of the (genuine) phenomena alleged, without it investigators would have only
Eric Franklin, Thu 23 May, 20:01
anecdote and the honest or fraudulent testimony about the private
experiences of other minds than those of the investigators. Until the relevance of science is perceived, if an investigator her/himself has a genuine experience he/she hirself then faces the probability of being accused of fraud by those who are not honest about science’s support.
Thanks for the comment. I am not familiar with the book by Carlos Maria de Heredia and the two cases mentioned, so I am not prepared to refute them. However, I do know that the debunkers of that time and to this day frequently rely on hearsay and rumor to make their cases against some researcher or medium. Even some researchers who observed various physical mediums jumped to the conclusion that it had to be a trick of some kind because they could not believe in spirits. Rumor and hearsay frequently became fact.
I recall one theory offered by a debunker that Eva C smuggled the ectoplasm into the lab in a false tooth, which the researchers didn’t know about. Schrenck-Notzing went so far as to check her rectum and do a gynecological exam, but he missed the tooth. Actually, I think his assistant, Dr. Gerta Walther, did the body searches, so an argument might be made that she was in on the trick.
If Schrenck-Notzing was duped in all 120 experiments in which he witnessed materializations, he was a real fool. And so were Richet, Geley, Flammarion, and Schrenck-Notzing’s assistants. Believe what you will, but keep in mind that ectoplasm is only an intermediate step in the materialization process. If Eva C and all the other physical mediums were tricksters, why even bother with ectoplasm?
Also, keep in mind that both Schrenck-Notzing and Richet did not believe in spirits. They believed it was all produced by the medium’s subconscious. So the argument that they had a “will-to-believe” doesn’t hold water here.
Michael Tymn, Thu 23 May, 09:06
Just my two cents on this. The issue for me is that Schrenck-Notzing was easily duped, he had a track record of being fooled in the seance room.
Another medium materialization medium Ladislas Lasslo confessed to fraud, he had hidden his fake ectoplasm in Schrenck-Notzing’s pocket. Lasslo was a professional pick-pocket.
Karl Kraus was another materialization medium who duped Schrenck-Notzing into believing his ectoplasm was genuine. Kraus wrote a manuscript that described Schrenck-Notzing as credulous.
Carlos María de Heredia’s “Spiritism and Common Sense”, on page 192 comments that “Schrenck-Notzing admits that on several occasions Eva Deceptively smuggled pins into the cabinet in spite of his rigid control”.
John Davies, Thu 23 May, 00:08
Excellent observation Michael! Even Frederic Myers, author of the concept of a subliminal mind (subconscious mind) and preeminent researcher into matters of survival, is today ridiculed by some Skeptics because he did not have a degree in psychology, that is, he was not a scientist. What the Skeptics conveniently ignore is that there were no advanced degrees in psychology or psychiatry during the early part of the 19th century when Myers was a young man at University. It wasn’t until the latter part of the century when Myers was deep into his parapsychological investigations that psychology began to be viewed as a science worthy of study. Myers was at the vanguard of a new field of study along with Freud and Jung as he developed his ideas about the human psyche. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 22 May, 12:52
As usual, I agree with you. However, the problem quickly becomes one of semantics. Who gets to be called a “scientist”? Most of the pioneers of psychical research were scientists of one kind or another, but once they came out in favor of the reality of paranormal phenomena, even survival, they were called pseudo-scientists and were told that even the best of scientists do not understand pure magic. It takes a real magician to understand it all, or so said the scientists who thought it all fraud.
Michael Tymn, Wed 22 May, 07:57
I agree Michael that there is not 100% certainty in anything except, as they say, death and taxes but some people never pay taxes so that old saying is not 100% correct. So-called “science”, that is, people who concentrate on, study and evaluate ‘things’ and then come to conclusions about the world around them proclaim to the best of their ability that they think they have ‘discovered’ about the way the world works, usually in a very narrow field of study. There are multiple examples through the years where ‘science’ was wrong. There is no more blatant current example than what science has recommended for years as proper nutrition for humans than the “Food Pyramid”. Science is wrong about nutrition because following the recommended ‘food pyramid’ has turned out to be a major cause of obesity and other chronic diseases. It is not a healthy way to eat. There are many, many more examples in medicine, for example, the cause of stomach ulcers, the cause of infections, the cause of high cholesterol, effectiveness of anti-depressants and on and on. ‘Science was wrong about these things. “Science’ seems to be stumbling along with the rest of us because “science IS us. It is not some separate identity, some all-knowing being. It is basically ‘belief by consensus’.
It could be that more than one thing stimulates the growth of cancer cells and when science proclaims that one thing, like smoking cigarettes, causes it, science misleads all of humanity. Are there substances in smoke, from any source in which there are irritants that can stimulate abnormal growth of some cells? Well, apparently yes but there are people who have never smoked who get lung cancer. Maybe it is what is in smoke from cigarettes, maybe it is in smoke from burning leaves or garbage, maybe it is asbestos, maybe it is plaster dust, maybe it is from talcum powder and maybe it is genetics. All of those things could be a trigger for abnormal cell growth but when science proclaims that smoking cigarettes in fact causes cancer, science is going beyond fact and really dealing in possibilities. Science is ‘dumbing-down’ an explanation for consumption by the masses of people who really don’t understand science. Smoking may or it may not cause cancer but it is a possibility! The odds are that it could but there are other things that could do it too.
That said, I think that people should pay attention to what ‘science’ says because science might be right sometimes but science may also at times be wrong. In a way it is all opinion but scientists provide a considered opinion based upon time, either a lot or a little, spent studying an issue. Who else should we turn to for information about any subject than the people who study it? - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 21 May, 13:10
A possibility IS a fact. It is not the fact of what is asserted to be possible, of course.
But your response is almost entirely verbal, and your use of a number of words is not the same as mine. (What do you understand by ‘psychological’ and ‘spiritual’, for example?) Further discussion is therefore doomed to futility and further misunderstanding. I do not indulge in such disputation.
You misunderstand the somewhat Popperian significance I give to the word ‘reasonable’. ‘Reasonable’ sometimes means approximately the same as ‘possible, even probable, but, of course, unproved’ .
Even so, it is sometimes discernible whether a writer is thinking precisely or not, logically or not, even when the words are used more imprecisely than is usual.
(Verbal definition of the meanings of words is a foolish and perpetually circling wild goose chase, despite Wittgenstein’s fashionable but fruitless goose-chasing.)
Physics, in both the current main theories (relativity and the various realms of quantised theory), gives the best possible support to the WHOLE POSSIBILITY of paranormal experiences, and the provision of logical and factually valid evidence for their genuineness, but the personal experience itself remains a secret personal experience because the person’s own Being is her own Being, not anyone else’s. That separateness is fundamental to what we experience as Being. Some persons are honest, and also observe their own experiences accurately - but they have to report them via the treacherous servants of words. That is one of the tragedies of living in an only-four-dimensional-world.
Much more could be said, but words are no use when attempting to say the most important things.
Eric Franklin, Tue 21 May, 12:17
Thanks for your additional comment. I think I agree with you and that is why I remain at 98.8% believer in survival, i.e., a 1.2% doubter.
Since you mentioned the Loch Ness Monster, I will add that I’m only at 7% on Nessie, even though both my wife and I may have seen him/her during a visit to Scotland about 20 years ago. As we stood on top of the castle ruins (Uruquat?) there, we observed a large underwater wake coming straight toward us and then veering off about 25 yards from shore. There were no boats around and nothing that we could see that might have caused the wake. In effect, I am a 93% doubter on Nessie, although I was at 94.4% before that experience.
Michael Tymn, Tue 21 May, 08:48
Not an outburst Eric just a comment, one of many; puzzling to some but not so puzzling to others. I agree that my previous comment was not presented as ‘evidence’ of anything, it is just a comment.
Facts, either from scientists or non-scientists that support the “possibility” of a “totally private experience” are not evidence of the experiences themselves. A possibility is not a fact and anything is possible.
Testimony from more than one person may suggest that a given experience occurred and I value multiple reports of the same phenomenon. In fact I think that the multiple reports from people especially over many years and from various cultures, such as reincarnation reports or near death experiences, do in fact provide some reason or evidence to believe that what is being said may be true, that is, it may reflect some reality. However perhaps it might not be evidence in that all of those who report such experiences could have been deceived by one or more clever tricksters or other means. It’s a possibility! Mass hysteria (as a kind of mass hypnosis) and the will to believe may be explanations; for example, the visions of Medjugorie where crowds of worshipers claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in the sky.
No, I don’t agree that reasonableness of something is evidence of something. That is the same as saying that something is possible or seems reasonable. Reasonableness of something is not evidence of anything. It might be reasonable to think that plesiosaurs still exist in Loch Ness but is that really probable and does that reasonableness provide evidence that they do in fact still exist there? I think it would be nice to assume that people who report psychic happenings are reasonable honest reporters, but that is something a naive very young inexperienced person might believe. Honesty of the reporter and reasonableness of what is reported does not make whatever is reported a fact or evidence of anything.
Progress in science was and is made by considering possibilities and impossibilities however. But something is proven a reality based on hard evidence by testing those impossibilities and possibilities.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 20 May, 22:33
There are two cases that come to mind of so-called psychic phenomena where I think that hard evidence is available and there may be more. One, is the many paintings of the Bangs sisters. If we are to believe reports of their production then I have to grapple for an explanation other than a psychic one to explain them. (Not necessarily a spiritual explanation.) The second case in which hard evidence is available is the case of Patience Worth. I don’t believe that the writing composition, word usage, intelligence, knowledge of history, wit, delivery and writing mechanics demonstrated by Patience Worth through Pearl Curran can be duplicated by any normal or supernormal means by any writer. - AOD
Is there 100% certainty in anything that science has dealt with? Science has supposedly demonstrated a very high correlation between smoking and lung cancer, but there are life-time smokers who live into their 90s and even to 100 without any signs of lung cancer. Should all potential smokers disregard the scientific findings because of the exceptions?
Michael Tymn, Mon 20 May, 21:52
Further to the comment I just made, please check my blog of December 30, 2013 in the archives at the left. It dealt with the subject of harmony.
Michael Tymn, Mon 20 May, 21:44
A negative test or a series of negative tests does not prove fraud. Keep in mind that Schrenck-Notzing had 180 experiments with Eva C and 60 of them produced nothing. I don’t recall the exact number of consecutive tests in which he got nothing, but I think it was around a dozen. The failure to understand this is the failure to understand the role of harmony and the passive state in producing something. All of the best mediums, including Piper, Leonard, Palladino, Wriedt, etc., had days when nothing happened because the conditions weren’t right or because they simply couldn’t achieve the passive state required, or because they were trying too hard, or because the negativity of some of the sitters was affecting them.
Hamlin Garland reported waiting up to three hours for something to happen with one medium and then he got amazing results. How many researchers would wait that long?
I realize that the pseudo-skeptic doesn’t buy into the latter reason, but that is their problem. The issue of harmony was well established in psychical research.
If you live in the United States and know anything about baseball, you might consider the case of Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. He is one of the highest paid ballplayers. Yet, he went something like 49 times at bat during the beginning of the season without getting a single hit. He should have been getting at least one hit every four at bats. The harder he tried, the more he failed, until he finally found the groove. I suspect that the negativity of the fans was a factor in his failures. Certain mindsets do not act positively to the boos of the crowd, while some mindsets might be motivated by it. People differ in this respect.
The bottom line here is that the skeptic needs to prove fraud on the 120-plus cases in which Eva’s spirits produced something, not focus on the 60 in which they didn’t. Of course, there were many more hits and misses with Geley, Richet, and other researchers.
Michael Tymn, Mon 20 May, 21:40
A puzzling outburst, Amos.
Your comment is itself certainly not evidence either for or against claims of what we call paranormal events. It is certainly true that only the experiencer her/himself receives what might be called evidence, namely the experience itself.
However, well-corroborated facts from science that support at least the possibility of such totally private experiences ought to be accepted as evidential. After all, if there were well-corroborated testimony from more than one person regarding the same experience or from a number of people regarding a number of experiences the accounts of which showed a high correlation and/or many points of similarity all rational people would begin to see the accounts as evidential.
There is no proof available from science, nor from personal testimony, but reasonableness and honesty have provided a very great deal of evidence already. It is, in my view, no longer possible to be adamantly unwilling to accept the fact of events which do not appear to be possible within our universe, and there science comes into its own because it does not preclude such ‘unscientific’ purported facts, but rather allows them even if it does not confirm them. That open door is important. And what science do I believe provides such support? Both Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory, the ‘hardest’ sciences we have developed, from both of which what we call the paranormal flows very naturally.
Eric Franklin, Mon 20 May, 19:43
Evidence! Evidence, what is it? I know that it is NOT something some ‘so-and-so’ long dead wrote in a book many years ago. Anything stated without evidence is of little or no value. Anyone can have an opinion and promote their opinion as fact but ‘facts’ need to be supported by evidence and evidence is hard to come by. Even things like photographs and recordings can be manipulated to support or refute an opinion. Verbal reports of observations likewise are not good evidence as they may be subjective in that people generally pick and choose to remember things that are emotionally relevant to them and to forget the rest. Vision is not always a reliable source of information as attention—-or lack of it—-and focus tend to distort what is seen and subsequently remembered.
(I myself failed to see a gorilla walking across a basketball court during a basketball game in a popular video available on the internet. This only works once however. Once one knows a gorilla is there one cannot fail to see it.)
Hypnosis has apparently proved that by directing either a positive or negative hallucination in hypnotized subjects hypnotized subjects may fail to see things that are there or conversely see things that are not there.
Laboratory analyses are good but they too, can be biased by the person who conducts the laboratory testing and the results may be doubted. So what is evidence! What is one to believe? Maybe evidence is an individual experience. Maybe “Doubting Thomas” was right when he reportedly said the unless he was allowed to put his hand into the bleeding side of Jesus he would not believe. Unless one can experience for oneself physic phenomena, then probably there is not irrefutable evidence sufficient to remove all doubt.
I suppose like beauty, evidence is in the mind of the beholder. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 20 May, 14:59
Eva C was caught in fraud by the SPR.
Simeon Edmunds wrote about it, in his survey on spiritualism.
“In 1920 Eva C came to London at the invitation of the SPR. Forty séances, held under the direction of Dr. E. J. Dingwall and Dr. J. V. Woolley, proved entirely negative. The small amount of ‘ectoplasm’ produced proved on analysis to be nothing more than chewed up paper.”
Her ectoplasm was chewed paper. How do you explain this?
James, Mon 20 May, 05:37
Responding to you, Michael, for your much-appreciated response [[Michael Tymn, Wed 15 May, 23:24]]:
What is bewildering to me, a curious being, is that it seems no-one is curious to know that, and to understand how, Relativity Theory supports, (rather than precluding a priori, as some cynics would believe without investigation), the possibility of what we all hope for, continuing life in another, probably better, world. I would have thought that all readers of your blogs would have been amazed and joyful to hear the claim responsibly made that PHYSICS ITSELF supports their belief, against the dismissive derision of those philosophers and scientists of today who maintain sceptical or even a priori prejudiced, ergo cynical, stances.
I am astonished that only one correspondent, himself presuming to be my judge by requiring of me sight of my intellectual penny BEFORE being willing to acknowledge interest in the subject (which is a dismissal a priori entirely similar to that of the cynical scientist and/or philosopher), before even becoming interested. I would have thought that ALL your readers are INTERESTED a priori. It seems a puzzling phenomenon that they apparently are not.
Eric Franklin, Fri 17 May, 07:41
I doubt my ability to get the word to you via email, as I likely won’t remember my password. However, I will get it to you one way or the other. It will be a word known to only you, Patience Worth, and your dog, if you have one.
Michael Tymn, Thu 16 May, 21:45
Thanks Michael for your additional comments. I guess that I am too remote from any experience of materializations, ectoplasm or apparitions to believe that they exist. I am one of the ‘Doubting Thomases’ needing to experience it for myself. I think I am too jaded against human beings to wholeheartedly trust any of them. That is, I have seen enough of human nature to understand that what is reported to have been said, heard, seen or experienced is not necessarily what was really there. I don’t accept most of the photographs of materialized spirits as pictures of real spirits for many of the reasons that you have acknowledged in this post and many others. But I understand that there are many explanations, some seemingly valid, why any pictures of materialized spirits appear as they do.
I do recall that it was reported that Etta Wriedt did manifest the spirit of W.T. Stead, but he was only able to materialize his head which spoke as a direct voice phenomenon of Mrs. Wriedt. No body or draperies were noted to have been produced. If I am inclined to believe the truth this report of Etta Wriedt then I am more satisfied with this description of a materialized spirit than the photographs of spirits warm to the touch with a palpitating pulse and swathed in ectoplasm or bed sheets as the case may be. It is unfortunate that there is not more information about Etta Wriedt because she seems to have been an authentic talented direct voice medium who included materializations and other spirit phenomena in her séances.
I think Lodge was right when he said that ‘it is the cumulative evidence that is convincing.’ There is a lot of it available these days.
Don’t waste your vibrations trying to materialize here from the other side Michael. You will have much more interesting things to do. Just send me an email; one word will do. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 16 May, 15:58
I think the typographical error Eric alluded to is my fault. When I sent out the email containing the first part of the Eva C. blog, some text from the previous blog had become mixed in with it. A reader kindly alerted me to the fact and I sent out a replacement email. My apologies for any inconvenience caused.
Jon, Thu 16 May, 09:02
In my earlier comment to you, I mentioned in jest that if I am able to materialize after death, I will attempt to project an image of myself wearing one of my favorite Aloha (Hawaiian) shirts. It occurred to me later, as I was picking out a shirt to wear to the dentist’s office, that while I can visualize the general color scheme of the shirts, I have never paid much attention to the little designs contributing to the overall color scheme. One of my favorite shirts has little sail boats on it. I have had the shirt for several years and the sail boats never really registered before today. Thus, I would fail in projecting an accurate image of the shirt and the medium through whom the materialization manifested might be called a fraud. Best I not even try to materialize.
Michael Tymn, Thu 16 May, 01:28
Thank you for your comment and mentioning the “typographic anomaly” in the text. I assume you were referring to the capitalization of “search.” That’s what happens when your fingers work faster than your brain. Every part of my body has slowed significantly, but my fingers can bang out about 100 words per minute, compared to only about 70 in high school. Of course, that has something to do with the keyboard. I need to focus more on proofing the blog posts.
I don’t respond to every comment here, as many of them are stated opinions or facts not requiring a response. That does not mean that the comment is not appreciated or meaningful, just that it stands on its own. As I recall, such was the case with your prior comment, i.e., it was meaningful and there was nothing I or others might add to it. However, I must confess to not totally grasping relativity or quantum mechanics. While I get the gist of it, my limited vocabulary in that respect prevents me from adding to the discussion. I suspect that may be the case with other readers.
I very well know from 65 years of writing for various publications that only a very small percentage of the readers comment, usually much less than 1%, unless it happens to be a controversial subject creating emotion. You should not assume that because there was no response to your prior comment that it was not meaningful to some or not appreciated.
Michael Tymn, Wed 15 May, 23:24
I agree with you for the most part, but I also agree with Sir Oliver Lodge, who said that it is the cumulative evidence that is convincing, not just one phenomenon or one type of mediumship.
At the same time, I tend to agree with Professor C. J. Ducasse, of Brown University. “The prima facie most impressive evidence there could be of the survival of a deceased friend of relative would be to see and touch his materialized, recognizable bodily form, which then speaks in his or her characteristic manner,” Ducasse wrote in his 1961 book “A Critical Examination of The Belief In A Life After Death.” He went on to say that he had attended a séance with a materialization medium three or four years earlier and had observed “in very good red light” some 18 fully materialized forms, both male and female, some tall and some short, sometimes two together, emerge from the curtain cabinet, which he had inspected beforehand to rule out “surreptitious access.” The material forms were recognized as deceased loved ones by the 14 or 15 people present. He watched some emotional scenes in which the materialized spirits spoke with and caressed the living. However, when a spirit came out of the cabinet and called his name, he did not recognize her. When he asked who she was, she replied “Mother.” Ducasse stated that the woman did not speak, act, or in the least resemble his mother.
The friend who had arranged for Ducasse to attend the séance informed him that his mother had materialized on a number of other occasions and was recognizable at times and at other times she was not. Thus, Ducasse did not dismiss it as fraud, commenting that even if it was not his mother it still appeared to be a materialization of someone. He saw no way 18 humans posing as spirits could come out of that small cabinet, all the while passing as deceased relatives and friends of the others in attendance. (See my earlier comment about some spirits not really remembering what they looked like or perhaps projecting a more idealized image of themselves.)
William James may have addressed this when he wrote: “One takes part in a good sitting has usually a far livelier sense, both of the reality and of the importance of the communication, than one who merely reads the records. I am able, while still holding to all the lower principles of interpretation, to imagine the process as more complex, and to share the feelings with which Hodgson came at last to regard it after his many years of familiarity, the feeling which Professor Hyslop shares, and which most of those who have good sittings are promptly inspired with [i.e., the spirit hypothesis].”
I believe that ectoplasm is related to the odic force first described by German chemist Baron Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869), which has been likened to the “prana” of the ancient Hindus, the “vis medicatrix naturae” of Hippocrates, the “mana” of Polynesian culture, the “chi” of the Chinese, the “astral light” of the Kabbalists, the “telesma” of Hermes Trismegistus, and the magnetic fluid of Mesmer. In other words, it is the “life principle.” It is the “soul mist” witnessed by many leaving the body at death. Thus, it seems like a very worthy subject for science to pursue. Too bad it has missed the boat in that respect.
As pointed out Eva C does not appear to have been a particularly strong medium as the full materializations were few. Moreover, it is difficult to link two-dimensional cardboard-like cutouts to human figures, but I don’t doubt Geley when he wrote that he saw two-dimensional faces balloon into three-dimensional faces, nor do I doubt Schrenck-Notzing when he said an inert materialized hand came alive before him and scratched him. There is something to be learned from all of this.
The research of Dr. T. Glen Hamilton of Canada produced many bizarre materializations similar to those of Eva C and there was no doubt in Hamilton’s mind (or in those of his many assistants) that they were not fraudulent productions.
I wonder how Bien Boa should have imagined himself, or what image he should have projected into the ectoplasm. Should he have projected an image of himself in the nude or in modern attire? As I understand it, he projected an image of himself as he remembered himself appearing at his best. If I have the opportunity to materialize after I die, I will try to picture my best Aloha shirt and show myself at age 30 rather than in my 80s, assuming that I can remember then what I looked like when in the flesh. I hope I don’t mix up a vision from a prior lifetime with it and confuse everybody, causing some to think it is all fraud. Probably better that I don’t even try. If I were asked to draw a picture of myself, it would look more like Mickey Mouse than a human being, and that might very well be the problem I have in projecting my self image.
Michael Tymn, Wed 15 May, 23:05
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 15 May, 15:47
As one of the “correspondents” to whom your comment was addressed, I need for you to say it first (write a comment) before I know whether or not I am interested in what you have to say. - AOD
You asked the question, ”Was Eva C a medium or a fake?” She was a “medium” of course but from this perspective in time who can really say whether she was a fake or not. All that is available is what other people with good credentials have reported to have said about her but who are now long dead. No one is immune to being duped by clever charlatans or taken in by their own emotional need for reassurance that their consciousness will live forever. Therefore, I care little for what has been said about Eva without solid evidence to support the claims and I believe that evidence is lacking in Eva’s case.
The photographs of “spirits’ conjured-up by Eva C and others don’t convince me. To the contrary I recoil when I look at them. I ask myself, “Why is it necessary for a “spirit” like “Ben Boa” to swaddle himself in reams and reams of white material-like “ectoplasm”, often with seams and tattered threads. If it is too much trouble to conjure-up the entire body, why not just appear as a talking head a la the wizard in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’. That would be more convincing to me if I saw a semitransparent talking head, especially if it looked something like someone I had known when they were living. The photographs of the dark-skinned so-called solid-appearing materialization with glasses seated at a table with Carlos Mirabelli and friend equally taxes my belief system. Similarly, I am not impressed with Sir William Crookes’ Florence Cook and her sister and the materialization of “Katie King”; photographs of Katie not withstanding. I have no need to feel a pulse or touch their warm skin as is sometimes reported.
For whatever reason materialization of a head or body is relevant for a spirit without a body to produce, I don’t know. Overall, I don’t think that materializations and ectoplasm are really necessary to prove a spirit world when there is so much better real evidence of survival of consciousness. Why is there such a strong need to make the spiritual dimension function like the physical dimension? Spirits are not physical, why force them to appear as such. It is not because they need to appear as physical but I suspect that it is because of man’s difficulty in understanding that the spiritual realm is not the same as the physical realm and that materializations were appropriate for the level of intellectual understanding of people of that time. Like a “Doubting Thomas”, people have a need to thrust their hand into a gaping wound in the side of Jesus before they will believe.
Some cases of reincarnation are impressive and difficult to explain by any other means than a consciousness of a dead body has been transferred to another person and there is evidence to support that belief.
Drop-in personalities of long-dead consciousnesses, such as “Runki” and “Patience Worth”, seen convincing to me, but maybe less so than the reincarnation cases even though there may be some evidence of their existence.
The ‘direct voice’ phenomena of Etta Wriedt are difficult to dismiss, but one has to trust Admiral William Usborne Moore and his reports of them. And D.D. Home’s antics, if true as reported by Sir William Crookes, are difficult to explain as tricks of Home. There is no evidence, we have to believe the observations of Moore, Crookes and others, so those cases are less supported by real evidence.
Near death reports and reports of transplant cases are indicative of existence outside of the physical and sometimes these cases come close to providing real evidence of survival. No materialization of ghosts is necessary.
I also think that the precipitated paintings of the Bangs sisters are difficult to explain by any normal means of painting or other artistic skills. Anyone with any knowledge of the skills needed to produce those paintings will have a difficult time explaining how they could have been produced, reportedly in minutes, by any normal means.
Then of course there is the case of an apparent real evidential medium, Leanora Piper. And, if one is open to the show-biz mediums of today, John Edward and George Anderson may provide some credible evidence.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 15 May, 15:16
This whole idea of ectoplasm and materializations seems totally unnecessary to prove survival of consciousness after death to me and seemingly nothing more than stage props to entertain and awe the gullible. As Patience Worth would say, it is enough to start a “wagging”, meaning a tongue wagging that gets people talking and gossiping, generating a lot of opinions of no importance. - AOD
Dear Michael Tymn, and all your other correspondents,
I am, as you may know, known to Jon Beecher as I have a number of his company’s books, and have proof-read some of them. I am also author, with one other person, of a sizeable book published in USA by Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, in 2010 on matters relating to the truth we all seek concerning survival after what we call death.
First, a tiny point about your current blog. There is a galumphing typographic anomaly near the beginning of your blog. Neglect to proof-read properly is endemic in our computer-literate society, and I wish more people would allow typographic and verbal precision the importance it naturally has. Have a look for yourself, and you see that a chunk of text is missing, producing a huge non-sequitur
Now, a far bigger point. I have not yet had opportunity to read every single word of your present blog and the correspondence resulting, but the following remarks cry out for expression straight away, before I embark on my other important tasks of today.
On a previous occasion I drew attention to the fact that Einstein’s theory of relativity points clearly to the possibility of other universes intertwined within the same space as ours (a totally inadequate description of what I mean on account of the limits of verbal language - you need to let me explain if I seem to you to be talking nonsense).
You did not, at first, give me any response to my reference to relativity, and, when I drew that fact to your attention gave only a dismissive one, nor did any of your correspondents consider my mention of relativity worthy of response.
In fact the relevance of relativity is that it may well provide at least one important component of the correct and full explanation of phenomena such as those exhibited by Eva C and Kluski.
When I have performed a few urgent tasks I would like to return to this matter and provide as best I can in our everyday language how relativity provides support for what we all seek, namely the evidence for other worlds and for survival of consciousness after the death of the physical-world body.
But after being ignored on the previous occasion I am only willing to find the time and effort required if you (plural; yourself and/or any one or more of your correspondents) will pay me the respect of being interested in what I have to say.
Eric Franklin, Wed 15 May, 10:27
Thank you for the kind comment. Yes, pseudo-skeptic or nihilist is a better name for them.
One thing I didn’t touch upon in this post, as it has been previously discussed in an earlier blog, is the visualization aspect involved in projecting one’s image into the ectoplasm. As I understand it from piecing all the research together, many “spirits” did not know what they looked like when alive in the flesh or did not remember; therefore, the projected image was not recognized by some relatives. I recall one reference in which the communicating spirit was asked to project his image and he had to visit his old home to look at a photograph to recall what he looked like. This may explain why both Raymond Lodge and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle projected images though the medium being studied by Dr. T. Glen Hamilton that very much resembled old photographs of themselves. I think if I were asked to project an image of myself, I would project the image from a portrait, not from my ugly mug looking in the mirror while shaving.
It is likely that many people who lived before photography didn’t have a clear-cut self-image. I don’t know how good the mirrors were in those days. If I were asked to project an image of what I looked like at age 8 and had never seen a photo of myself at that age, I doubt that the
end result would resemble what I actually looked like at age 8.
When W. T. Stead projected an image of himself at a seance with Etta Wriedt, it was his head or face only. He was asked why just the head and not his entire body. He responded that he focused on only his face, not on his entire body in projecting the image.
All that seems to have not been properly dealt with by the researchers, probably because the spirit hypothesis was not “scientific.” How does one explain it as spirits unable to project a proper image when spirits don’t exist?
Michael Tymn, Tue 14 May, 06:14
I appreciate your comment, but I really don’t see the research on Kai Muegge either validating or repudiating the research carried out by Schrenck-Notzing, Richet, Geley, Crawford, Crookes, and many other respected scientists and scholars from yesteryear. As they say in the legal profession: Res Ipsa Loquitor. “it speaks for itself.” If all those researchers from the past had based their conclusion on a few sittings, I would be skeptical, but Schrenck-Notzing recorded 180 sittings with Eva C, 60 of which were blank sittings. Richet and Geley had dozens of sitting with her and Richet claims to have had over 200 sittings with Eusapia Palladino. They were clearly aware of the tricks of the trade and detailed their controls. And since Schrenck-Notizing and Richet were both materialists, claiming all the phenomena originated in the subconscious, it is difficult to say that they had a “will to believe.”
Mediums vary in ability as much as athletes and people with other skills or abilities. If Kai Muegge fails to meet the standards of Peter Mulacz, it means nothing relative to the old research.
Michael Tymn, Tue 14 May, 04:44
In its most general sense, a spiritualist (with a small “s”) is the opposite of a materialist, i.e., a person who believes in a spirit world. That would include members of orthodox religions. I consider myself a spiritualist, but although I have attended a few Spiritualist functions and have written a dozen or more articles for The National Spiritualist Summit, I have never been a card-carrying Spiritualist.
Michael Tymn, Mon 13 May, 20:14
This is typical of Wikipedia. I tried to correct an article on another medium and it was resisted and overridden several times.
Peter, Mon 13 May, 18:33
Um, yeah, a newspaper article written by people who weren’t there totally proves that Eva C. was a fraud….
Elene, Mon 13 May, 17:59
I know the differences between Spiritist and Spiritualist,but do not know “Spiritualist” with a lower case ‘s’ to be another meaning. What is that meaning?
Leslie Saunders, Mon 13 May, 15:40
As to the subconscious mind theory, physical mediumship can be a blend of a separate entity filtering through the mind, producing a result that blends both.
This is an excellent article on an extraordinary topic. I have the German and translated versions of Schrenk-Notzing’s study with all the photographs. (Some of which I used as the basis of paintings of my own.) As usual, Wikipedia (like President Trumpery in all things) lies through its teeth. You end with the phrase “so-called skeptics” indeed! I prefer the term ‘pseudo-skeptics’—real skeptics are inquirers not disbelievers. Cheers again for your essay.
Michael Grosso, Mon 13 May, 15:29
Certainly some strange things were observed in these seances and later ones (including by Baron Schrenck-Notzing and Eric Dingwall) but the claimed photographic proofs, as so often, is often the least convincing evidence. Regretably attempts at obtaining cine film evidence failed entirely according to Schreck-Notzing’s book on the phenomenon. One should not forget the warning “The history of physical mediumship is the history of fraud!” declared Professor Peter Mulacz from Vienna at the joint international conference of the Society for Psychical Research and the Parapsychology Association held at Greenwich in July 2015.
Alan Murdie, Mon 13 May, 14:55
His comment was part of a then burning controversy among psychical researchers which is still raging this autumn, ignited by the reports surrounding the German physical medium Kai Mugge of Hanau. Mugge has gained an increasingly high profile in the last few years with claims that he could produce a wide range of séance manifestations including ectoplasm, floating lights and the materialisation of small objects at sittings of his ‘Felix Circle’ (so-called after the name of the first spirit to make contact ). The judgment of Professor Mulacz was drawn from his extensive knowledge of the history of subject and his own opinion after one sitting with German medium Kai Muegge at which he noticed a distinct lack of controls. The inability to control proceedings – especially in the dark – obviously risks that manifestations reported around Mugge and others being manufactured. If there is anything in this type of materialisation such problems need to approached. Rather than look at Eva C which isn’t going to be settled now when everyone concerned is dead and presumed beyond recall (or short of some surviving fresh evidence of some remarkable character), more modern claims need to be examined; in this regard the literature of anthropology and indigenous societies may also be of interest.
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