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Thursday, January 3, 2019

When World-Class Scientists Saw Ghosts (Part 3)

In part 1 of this 3 part series, I defined a ghost as a human figure, full or partial, that mysteriously appears and mysteriously disappears. Let us now consider the case of the Nobel prize winner who saw a ghost (according to this definition of a ghost). Page 6-7 of Schrenck-Notzing's book  Phenomena of Materialization (discussed below) contains a quote from a work by Professor Charles Richet, who won a Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1913.  Referring to an observation near the medium Marthe Beraud (referred to as Eva C. in Schrenck-Notzing's book), the quote by Richet is below:

"I see something like a white luminous ball of undetermined outline suspended above the floor. Then suddenly there appears, emerging from this white orb of light as from a trap-door, the phantom 'Bien Boa.' It is of moderate height. He is draped in a flowing garment with a belt around his waist. 'Bien Boa' is halting and lame in his walk. One cannot say whether he walks or glides...Without opening the curtain he suddenly collapses and vanishes on the floor. At the same time one hears the noise of a body falling on the floor. Three or four minutes afterwards the same white orb appears in the opening of the curtains above the floor, then a body is seen quickly rising straight up and attaining the height of an adult, and then it again collapses on the floor...Before my eyes outside the curtain, a living body has been formed, which emerged from the floor, and vanished into the floor."


As I have personally photographed an astonishing range of inexplicable phenomena relating to mysterious orbs, including 600+ cases of speeding orbs and 500+ cases of mysterious striped orbs, with these striped orbs often appearing with dramatically repeating patterns, I find this Nobel-prize winner's account of an astonishing orb manifestation to be not terribly surprising. As Richet reported a “phantom” mysteriously appearing and disappearing, the account can be called a ghost sighting.

On page 466 of of his book Thirty Years of Psychical Research, Richet makes a similar claim, stating the following:

"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 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."

On page 505 Richet states the following:

"It is therefore established that there was no instrumentation and no theatrical accessories that the medium could use, and that no stranger could enter the room. The materializations produced were very complete. The phantom of Bien Boa appeared five or six times under satisfactory conditions in the sense that he could not be Marthe masquerading in a helmet and sheet. Marthe would have had not only to bring, but also to conceal afterwards, the helmet, the sheet, and the burnous. Also Marthe and the phantom were both seen at the same time. To pretend that Bien Boa was a doll is more absurd still; he walked and moved, his eyes could be seen looking round, and when he tried to speak his lips moved."

Now, the claim of Nobel-prize-winner Richet to have seen a phantom produced by the medium Marthe Beraud might be dismissed as bunk were it not for the fact that the same medium underwent years of exhaustive testing under controlled conditions, and under such scientific scrutiny, countless similar paranormal phenomena were observed countless times. The main record of such experiments is the book "Phenomena of Materialization" by Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a physician who made lengthy scientific studies of the medium Marthe Beraud (referred to in the book as Eva C.). Filled with relevant photos, the book can be read online using this link (as it's a very long book that may be hard to read online, I suggest downloading it as a .pdf file and then opening the file with a .pdf file reader such as Adobe Acrobat or a web browser).

Schrenck-Notzing spent four years investigating Beraud under controlled conditions, and produced an extremely detailed book describing a vast assortment of inexplicable phenomena he observed in her presence. The book includes more than 50 clear photos of the paranormal. Schrenck-Notzing makes frequent reports of things such as "spirit hands" appearing and disappearing, "materialized heads" appearing out of parts of Beraud's body, and equally astonishing things. Schrenck-Notzing took careful precautions to prevent fraud, such as placing the medium in a small "cabinet" (actually just a small corner of a room with a curtain in front of it) that was always carefully checked, and even often arranging for a full body examination before the phenomena were produced. Under conditions that should have prevented all possibility of fraud, the most inexplicable phenomena were produced on many different days.

You should be impressed by the book's photos when you understand the conditions under which they were produced. The medium Marthe Baraud was placed in a small corner of a room, with a small curtain in front of her. Both the area behind the curtain and the medium herself were always checked to exclude the possibility of magical apparatus being sneaked in.  Observers sat a few feet from her. The photos often show "materializations" the size of heads or half a human body, and in the text Schrenck-Notzing says such things were often seen to slowly appear or disappear. The photos typically show the curtain opened, with the medium's hands clutching the curtain (or observers) while the mysterious "materializations" are above her hands. The photos show many such "materializations" behind the medium or above the medium's head. Given such observations, skeptic explanations (such as something hidden in the medium's vagina) don't work, as the photographed "materialization" is often way too big to be something that could be hidden in a vagina. There is always the possibility of a gigantic fraud conspiracy involving multiple persons, but such a thing would have had to have been one of the most elaborate frauds in history, given the huge book with so many details and seemingly paranormal photos (all produced long before Photoshop existed). Schrenck-Notzing stated that in four years of such experiments he never saw any sign of trickery from the medium Marthe Baraud.

On page 270 of the book Schrenck-Notzing summarizes why his observations cannot be explained as a fraud by the medium, referring to body checks of the medium, and to a body tight she was put in to hinder any chance of extracting something from her body:

"The counter proof to these considerations is given by the mode of production of the photographs (simultaneous exposures on five to seven cameras, within and without the cabinet), by the rigorous initial and final examinations, by the dress of the medium, by the sittings with the nude medium, by the occurrence of curious forms and fragments which cannot easily be produced by commercially obtainable figures, by the numerous plastic products, by the artistic character of certain portraits, which cannot be imitated in this way, by the repeated photography of features of deceased persons recognised by their families, by the growth and recession of the teleplastic phenomena, by their movements, proved evidentially through the sense organs {e.g., materialised hands which make touches or grasp objects, etc.), by the lightning-like appearance and disappearance of the phenomena, while the medium's body is visible and motionless, and, finally, by a class of phenomena which cannot at all be imitated artificially, as, for instance, the creation of an amorphous, living and moving substance, leaving a residue of decomposition products of organised matter, and the penetration of the substance produced through textile fabrics and veils {see Figs. 152 and 153). To this we must add the progressive development, advancing from simple to complex performances, the elementary character of the forms and phenomena, and the consideration that a fraud, which would require at least a laboratory for producing the most varied assortment of pictures and utensils, and would presuppose the use of considerable sums of money for procuring them, could hardly have been practised for four years, in spite of the constantly varying and continuously intensified precautions and photographic methods, and could not have been carried out without the slightest failure, in the face of the acumen of numerous learned observers."

On page 275 Schrenck-Notzing states the following:

"Not one of the observers, during these four years, has ever found on 
the medium's body, or in the seance costume, anything which could have been used for the fraudulent production of the phenomena. The importance of this negative result can hardly be emphasised too strongly. The author was a witness to the thorough performance of this task on no less than 180 occasions. The honesty of the medium is therefore not a 'probability, but a certainty placed beyond all question. She has never introduced any objects into the cabinet with which she could have fraudulently represented the teleplastic products. The various seance rooms, in different houses, had no secret passages or trap-doors, and were regularly examined, both before and after every sitting, by the savants who took part in the sittings...In some sittings the curtains were not closed at all, and the phenomena were often observed from beginning to end, while the medium's body was motionless and visible."

Corroborating testimony is given both in Richet's book quoted above, and in the book "From the Unconscious to the Conscious" by physician Gustave Geley, which can be read online here (it's another case of a large book that is best downloaded as a PDF file and then opened from the .pdf file using Adobe Acrobat or a web browser). On page 53-57 Geley states the following, referring to Marthe Beraud by the same "Eva" pseudonym used by Schrenck-Notzing:

"I had the honour and privilege of studying Eva with her for a year and a half, at bi-weekly seances, held at first in her house, and afterwards, for three consecutive months, exclusively in my own laboratory....I have been able to see, to touch, and to photograph the materialisations of which I am about to write. I have frequently followed the event from its beginning to its end; for it was formed, developed, and disappeared under my own eyes. However unexpected, strange or impossible such a manifestation may appear, I have no right to put forward the slightest doubt as to its reality....In the more complete cases the materialised organ has all the appearance and biologic functions of a living  organ. I have seen admirably modelled fingers, with their nails; I have seen complete hands with bones and joints; I have seen a living head, whose bones I could feel under a thick mass of hair. I have seen wellformed living and human faces! On many occasions these representations have been formed from beginning to end under my own eyes. I have, for instance, seen the substance issue from the hands of the medium and link them together ; then, the medium separating her hands, the substance has lengthened, forming thick cords, has spread, and formed fringes like epiploic fringes. Lastly, in the midst of these fringes, there has appeared by progressive representation, perfectly organised fingers, a hand, or a face.  In other cases I have witnessed an analogous organisation in substance issuing from the mouth."

An example of such an "an analogous organisation in substance issuing from the mouth" is shown in the photo below taken by Geley, and reproduced on page 336 of Schrenck-Notzing's book.  The caption states, "This head (enlarged) was seen to form from a mass emerging from Eva's mouth."  Schrenck-Notzing's book contains quite a few photos of what looks like strange radiant blobs emerging from the mouth of both Marthe Beraud and another medium named Stanislava.



To summarize, we have three different biomedical professionals (Schrenck-Notzing, Geley and Richet) who stated in print that they were convinced that paranormal phenomena were being produced near Marthe Beraud, after each did separate investigations of her. 

See here for an in-depth modern article on Marthe Beraud. An excellent scholarly paper on the work of Schrenck-Notzing and its unfair treatment by an opponent is the paper “Policing Epistemic Deviance: Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Albert Moll” by Andreas Sommer. Sommer details the defamatory treatment that Schrenck-Notzing received from a skeptic named Albert Moll, who pulled many a dirty trick in his efforts to discredit Schrenck-Notzing, acting with all the fairness of a prosecutor at the Salem witch trials. Some comments of Sommers at the end of his paper are well worth reading:

"Paul Feyerabend, the great enfant terrible of the philosophy of science, once cautioned that western science, which is said to have started as a movement of liberation to overcome ideological suppression by religion, was turning into an institution with problematic power structures not unlike that of the medieval Church itself: ‘The very same enterprise that once gave man the ideas and the strength to free himself from the fears and prejudices of a tyrannical religion now turns him into a slave of its interest.’ In support of Feyerabend’s concern there is strong evidence that the pathologisation of ‘paranormal belief’, and the defamation of parapsychological researchers and other scientific heretics as intrinsically incompetent, fraudulent or otherwise intellectually or morally deficient, is a dominant academic tradition that still goes strong.....Nowadays, the heirs of Moll have institutionalised themselves into popular ‘sceptics’ organisations, several of whose activists make a comfortable living as self-appointed watchdogs of science..... Analysing popular ‘sceptics’ organisations, several of whose activists have been shown to engage regularly in intellectual dishonesty in the name of ‘science’, ‘reason’ and ‘civilisation’, sociological studies raise concerns regarding the embracing and support of self-styled popular guardians of science by major scientists and philosophers....Stirred by the above observations, the aim of the present historical case study has been to show the historical and current relevance of certain forms of scientific dogmatism as a problem that deserves focused academic attention. For to tolerate its (very real) effects is not only to risk the destruction of careers of potential scientific innovators, it also threatens to undermine basic ideals and requirements for science to maintain and fulfill its role as an intrinsically progressive rather than ideologically regressive project: self-criticism, epistemic pluralism, and intellectual freedom."

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