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When Professors Were Kissed by Spirits

Posted on 10 April 2023, 11:06

Most remembered as the man who founded the science of criminology, first called criminal anthropology, Dr. Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) was an Italian psychiatrist and a hard-core materialist before he began investigating the mediumship of Eusapia Paladino (also spelled Palladino and almost always referred to by her first name).  “If ever there was an individual in the world opposed to spiritism by virtue of scientific education, and, I may say, by instinct, I was that person,” he wrote in his 1909 book, After Death-What?

Lombroso (below) explained that he had made it an indefatigable pursuit of a lifetime to defend the thesis that every force is a property of matter and the soul an emanation of the brain.  For years he laughed at the reports he had heard about tables being levitated and spirits communicating through them. However, his attitude began to change in 1891 when he somewhat reluctantly accepted an invitation to attend a séance in a Naples hotel with Eusapia. He was warned that he would ruin his reputation, but he felt it was his duty to investigate, as he had heard so much about Eusapia from his colleagues. He had earlier witnessed some supposed psychic phenomena but dismissed it as hysterics or hypnotic phenomena. “And when I then and there saw extremely heavy objects transferred through the air without contact,” he wrote of his first sitting with Eusapia in full daylight, “from that time on I consented to make the phenomena the subject of investigation.”


By 1903, Lombroso had observed Eusapia countless times, but at a sitting with her in Genoa that year, he experienced something new.  Before Eusapia entered the trance state, Lombroso asked her for some special manifestation that day.  Eusapia (or John King, her spirit control) consented.  “…after half an hour of the séance had passed, I was seized with a very lively desire to see her promise kept,” Lombroso wrote. “The table at once assented to my thought by means of its usual sign-movements up and down; and soon after (we were then in the semi-obscurity of a red light) I saw detach itself from the curtain a rather short figure like that of my mother, veiled, and which made the complete circuit of the table until it came to me, and whispered to me words heard by many, but not by me, who am somewhat hard of hearing.  I was almost beside myself with emotion and begged her to repeat her words.  She did so, saying, ‘Cesar, fio mio!’ (I admit at once that this was not her habitual expression, which was, when she met me, ‘mio fiol’; but the mistake in expression made by the apparitions of the deceased are well known, and how they borrow from the language of the psychic and of the experimenters), and removing the veil from her face for a moment, she gave me a kiss.”  Lombroso added that his mother reappeared at least 20 times during Eusapia’s séances, although less distinct than on that first occasion.

Kisses were followed by caresses …

Lombroso reported another kiss, one taking place on November 26, 1906 in Milan. It involved a man named Massaro, of Palermo. Lombroso reported: “Madame Paladino remarked quite suddenly that she perceived a young man who came from a distance, and, after being questioned, specified ‘from Palermo’; and afterwards said, ‘Portrait made in the sun.’ Whereupon Massaro remembered that he had in his letter-case a photograph of his son taken out of doors (in the country). At the same time he was aware of being sharply tapped on the breast at the very spot where he had that picture of his son, and felt himself kissed twice on the right cheek through the curtain that hung near him; and the kisses were followed by very arch caresses, though most delicate withal. Then all of a sudden the significant touches were repeated, but this time by a hand that insinuated itself with eager movements into the inside middle pocket of the coat just where the letter-case was. This it opened just at the compartment that held the portrait.

“During this second appearance caresses and kisses were held back at first; then he felt himself seized around the body, drawn near the curtain, and repeatedly kissed. Finally, there was projected on the curtain the apparition of a head bound with a white bandage – a head which he recognized as that of his son.”

Lombroso recorded that they could often see fluidic limbs emerging in full light from the shoulder of Eusapia (below) or from her skirt and that these fluidic limbs would perform the function of an arm. Also, “John King” would sometimes respond in English, a language unknown to Eusapia.


Concluding that many of the phenomena were beyond telepathy of any kind, Lombroso came to accept the spirit hypothesis.  “I am ashamed and grieved at having opposed with so much tenacity the possibility of psychic facts – the facts exist and I boast of being a slave to facts.” he wrote.  “There can be no doubt that genuine psychical phenomena are produced by intelligences totally independent of the psychic and the parties present at the sittings.”

Professor Enrico Morselli, an Italian neurologist and director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa, was also among the observers in Milan.  “There can no longer be any doubt as to the reality of Eusapia’s phenomena,” he wrote in the May 1907 issue of The Annals of Psychical Science. “They have now been seen by too many persons under excellent conditions of verification, with the full certainty that the medium had not her hands and feet free, and that many of the phenomena occurred at a distance which excluded all possibility of deception…..” 

In the October 1907 issue of The Annals of Psychical Science (“The Unexplored Regions of Human Biology”), Professor Phillipe Bottazzi, director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples, reported on seven sittings he and four other professors had with Paladino during April 1907.  Bottazzi rejected the spirit hypothesis, both before and after his experiments with Paladino, as unscientific, but he concluded that it was a possibility and would at times address his remarks to “John King” rather than to Eusapia, apparently in order to appease Eusapia (or John King), i.e., to go along with Eusapia’s little pretend “game,” whatever it was. 

At a sitting on April 24, Professor Tommaso De Amicis “was not only touched on the arm, but was forcibly pulled as if by an invisible hand, issuing from the interior of the cabinet, and this more than once.”  Then, De Amicus asked to be kissed by a dead person who was dear to him. “The curtain on the left shook, enveloped his body as if to embrace him, and he felt the contact of another face against his and a mouth kissing him. At the same time, Eusapia’s lips moved as if to kiss, and she made the sound of a kiss, which we all distinctly heard.

“A suspicious mind would call this fraud; but this would be a mistake,” Bottazzi wrote. “ For in the first place, kisses given by the invisible are also heard when the medium only makes the movement of kissing, without any sound. He went on to explain that other phenomena taking place beyond Paladino’s reach were accompanied by movement of her body. “When [Professor Oscar] Scarpa held Paladino’s feet in his hands, he always felt her legs moving in synchrony with ongoing displacements of the table or chair,” he explained. He further noted that when others were holding Eusapia’s hands, the person could feel her fingers moving in rhythm with the activity away from her.  (This “synchrony” aspect was discussed in my blog of March 14, 2022 and seems to be the key to understanding much of what was called “fraud” by researchers.)

In his 1909 book, Mysterious Psychic Phenomena, Camille Flammarion, a renowned French astronomer, observed that while he was holding one of Paladino’s hands and M. Fontenay the other, the hand held by Fontenay came toward his (Flammarion’s) cheek “and imitates upon the cheek, with the fingers of M. Fontenay, the movement of a little revolving crank,  or handle. The music box, which has one of these handles, plays at the same time behind the curtain in a perfect synchronism. The instant that Eusapia’s hand stops, the music stops: all the movements correspond, just as in the Morse telegraphic system.”  (Flammarion and other researchers realized that the so-called “cabinet” with its curtain invited much suspicion, but reported that it was supposedly required by spirits for materialization purposes and that it was thoroughly checked before and during each sitting.)

Amore mio! Amore mio!

Flammarion was so impressed by his observations of Paladino in Montfort-l’Amaury that he arranged for her to give eight séances at his home in Paris during November 1898. He invited different scientists and scholars to sit in on them and asked them to provide a written account of their observations.  M. and Mme. Pallotti were present at the November 14 sitting (Flammarion does not provide their first names).  In a detailed report to Flammarion, M. Pallotti reported that he witnessed a vague materialization of what appeared to be his deceased daughter, Rosalie.  M. Boutigny, who had been his daughter’s fiancée, “announced to us aloud that he was being very affectionately caressed. The medium, who was at this moment in an extraordinary state of agitation, kept saying, ‘Amore mio, amore mio! (My love, my love!), and, addressing herself to me, called to me several times in the following words, ‘Adesso vieni tu! Vieni tu!’ (Come at once, come!). Pallotti approached and felt himself kissed several times.

“I ought to say that, while these events were taking place, my eyes were carefully observing the medium, as well as the persons who were by my side,” Pallotti added. “I can therefore boldly certify that I was not the victim of any illusion or subterfuge…” Mme. Pallotti was also embraced by the figure and was certain that it was her daughter.

“It amazes me, every time I think of it, that the majority of men are so densely ignorant of the psychic phenomena in question, considering the fact that they have been known, studied, valued, and recorded for a long time now by all who have impartially followed the movement of thought during the last few lustrums,” wrote Flammarion. 

Sadly, Flammarion’s words still apply.

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: April 24


Newton, thanks for the very interesting you-tube link.  I have forwarded it on to a few relatives and friends who remain on the fence. 

I noted that in the beginning Karen said that she seemingly lost her faith when her father died and her prayers were not answered.  That seems to be a very recurring theme on TV lately, second only to the priest or minister always being the bad guy in detective stories.

Michael Tymn, Sat 22 Apr, 02:48

I loved the NDE video. I have been researching telepathy recently and in the video Karen keeps mentioning she conversed telepathically. I also liked the free will talk. I was shown a major event in my future (12 months ahead) and as the pieces fell in to place (a wedding reception place booked years in advance received a last minute cancellation when someone was in their office). Strange things like a harp was part of the musical group, again it came about. My free will was compromised by seeing the event. It was a disaster of a marriage.
Talking to dead people is one thing but weird precognition stuff throws me.

I was only thinking of you and your comment about sitting on the pew this morning (first time the thought arose) and then spotted your comment. My question is Have things changed? Do you feel that the “flow” has changed? Is sitting on the pew more rewarding?

I also came across some clever religious marketing a few days ago. Back of a Hare Krishna bus was the bumper sticker After Life Insurance. 

Bruce Williams, Sat 22 Apr, 02:30

Just a refreshing little NDE account, one you can wrap your head and heart around, one which doesn’t extrapolate a brief glimpse of eternity into elaborate metaphysical speculation.

Newton Finn, Fri 21 Apr, 01:31

Bruce, thanks for the links.  I do plan to get to spirit photography soon.  I have six or seven good references; it’s just a matter of finding time to reread some of my highlighted areas in those references.

As for telepathy, I don’t know how much research there has been since the ganzfeld experiments of the 1979s and ‘80s, but new research would seemingly be nothing more than reinventing the wheel. To put it another way, the evidence is strong and as close to absolute certainty as it will likely get, so there would not be much point in doing more research in that area.

Michael Tymn, Wed 19 Apr, 02:49

Dave and Michael,
There is a nice article on spirit photographs at page 313
I might ask if anyone is up to date on telepathy. I recently found my hero Alan Turing mentioned telepathy in his work on machine intelligence.
He was probably across Rhine’s research but I feel that the loss of his friend that made him think about the after life.

Bruce Williams, Mon 17 Apr, 06:44

Thanks to Bruce for the links and comments.

Another memorable kiss is reported in my blog of September 7, 2010 in the archives at left.  Here is a quote from it;

One of the sitters asked if Dixon-Smith could kiss her and Betty responded in the affirmative.  “I then kissed her on her lips which were warm, soft, and natural,” Dixon-Smith went on.  “Thereupon she bent her head and commenced to weep, and in a moment or two she sank. I watched her form right down to the level of the floor at my feet where it dissolved, the last wisp of it being drawn within the cabinet.”

Michael Tymn, Wed 12 Apr, 20:36

Mike, you always find the most interesting stories.

I have experienced a strong loving caress (even feeling a solid arm) from a spirit.

Also, I have felt friendly nudges by spirits pushing me towards something to do.

Best wishes always,

Yvonne Limoges, Wed 12 Apr, 20:16

I read in the summary by Pat Deveney to the Patience Worth Magazine that “Curran had been a published novelist and a newspaper writer before encountering Patience Worth,  .  .  “  It is inaccuracies like that that drive me up the wall. Too many articles about Pearl Curran and Patience Worth contain false information.  Unfortunately, untruths like that work against the case of Patience Worth as spirit communication.  Often these summary writers have a smattering of information and often conflate Pearl Curran with Emily Grant Hutchings who sat with Pearl during the early encounters with Patience Worth.  It was Emily who was a newspaper writer, not Pearl. Emily went to college and taught school, not Pearl as was written on another article. In another article it reporte that Pearl had five children when she actually bore only one child and adopted one other child.  And, Pearl had published nothing prior to her encounter with Patience Worth.  It was Casper Yost who wrote the first book about Pearl’s experience with Patience Worth in which he included several of her poems.  Pearl became a published author of novels after she encountered Patience Worth.

Also, Deveney says that Pearl raised money for charitable causes.  Well, that may be true in the early days, but is highly unlikely later on since Pearl was left destitute after her husband John and her mother died.  Pearl received very little money for her novels and plays as much of the money went to the publishers and the men who compiled the books, i.e., Dr. Prince, Casper Yost, Herman Behr and others. Later Pearl went on a lecture tour to earn money for herself and her girls.  The Saturday Evening Post did pay Pearl a small amount of money for her short story Rosa Alvaro on which a movie was based from which Pearl received a nominal payment.

Pearl had two children to raise with no Public Aid to support her.  She went on the lecture tour to earn money for herself. In truth It was a friend Herman Behr who contributed a substantial amount of money to Pearl on a regular basis to keep her and her girls afloat.  Pearl Curran did not charge money for persons attending her sessions with Patience Worth.  And, over the years there were hundreds of people who attended.  Additionally, there was a stenographer to pay and postage to send typed copies of each session to those who attended.  They met at Pearl’s home and Pearl provided snacks and other accoutrements for them at no charge.

However, a painfully thin Pearl did survive.  She sent one of her daughters to live with a friend in California but kept her youngest daughter Eileen with her.  Pearl and Eileen eventually moved to California where she gathered a cadre of friends who encouraged and supported her. But in the end, Pearl was not healthy enough to fight off a case of pneumonia and she died in 1937. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 12 Apr, 17:44

Thanks Bruce for the link.
I have a copy of the Patience Worth Magazine.  AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 12 Apr, 16:19

You might already have this link to Patience Worths magazine.

Bruce Williams, Wed 12 Apr, 12:35

Michael and Amos,
I do not wish to start a debate on Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick. (I would support Michael’s point of view - she would seem to me to be a person that gives a left handed compliment -Romans used their left hands to wipe their bottoms so a left handshake/compliment was big insult). I like Alfred Russell Wallace so I am biased.

From the PS at the end there looks like support from the SPR. Hugs and kisses all round. Nowadays you would need informed consent to touch the person.

However there was a review in the Proceedings of the SPR which might be of interest.

REVIEWS. Psicologia e ” Spiritismo” : Impressioni e note critiche sui fenomeni medianici di Eusapia Paladino, by E. Morselli. (2 vols. Fratelli Bocca, Turin, 1908.)
The fame of Professor Morselli as a nerve-specialist and psychologist is world-wide, and his pronouncements on the mediumistic phenomena of Eusapia Paladino cannot therefore but excite considerable interest. The book before us, in two thick volumes, consists of three parts, besides a valuable bibliography of the literature of modern spiritualism and Psychical Eesearch, and Professor Morselli approaches the subject with a wide, if not in every case deep, 1 acquaintance with this literature….....
Nevertheless I do not at all deny that there are grounds for thinking that such extended powers do exist, and if so, their investigation is very important. Our hope of discovering the truth about them lies in their being developed in private persons willing to take trouble and allow investigation, and should Professor Morselli’s work stimulate and lead to the discovery of such persons, it will not have been thrown away.
Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick.

P.S. —Since the above review was written, an investigation of Eusapia Paladino has been carried out for the Society for Psychical LVI.] Revieiv. 52o Research by Mr. Feilding, Mr. Baggallj’, and Mr. Carrington—all experts in the tricks of physical mediums—and I understand that they have come substantially to the same conclusion as Professor Morselli. Their reports will doubtless appear in a future Part of the Proceeding*. E. M. S.
I have been active on cybersecurity matters (I love Michael’s blog as a wonderful distraction)- people can check if their identity details were on Genesis marketplace (36,000 Australians were listed) by clicking Check the hack
Good if you do not get a reply as you are not on the hackers database.

Bruce Williams, Tue 11 Apr, 02:13


The Lombroso story is always a a dramatic one. I used it in “Witch of Napoli.’
Good blog.
Mike S.

Michael Schmicker, Mon 10 Apr, 20:45

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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