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Saturday, September 7, 2019

An Astronomer's First-Hand Accounts of the Paranormal

Camille Flammarion was one of the most well-known astronomers of his day. I have published one post on the many accounts of apparition sightings written up by Flammarion, based on accounts sent to him. I have also published a post on the accounts of ESP incidents written up by Flammarion. Now let us look at some astounding paranormal events that Flammarion claimed to have seen with his own eyes.

The accounts can be found in Flammarion's book Mysterious Psychic Forces, which you can read online here or here The page numbers I give will correspond to page numbers in the first of these links. On page 20 Flammarion states the following:

"I have so often seen a rather heavy table lifted to a height of eight, twelve, sixteen inches from the floor, and I have taken such undeniably authentic photographs of these; I have so often proved to myself that the suspension of this article of furniture by the imposition upon it of the hands of four or five persons produces the effect of a floating in a tub full of water or other elastic fluid, that, for me, the levitation of objects is no more doubtful than that of a pair of scissors lifted by the aid of a magnet."

An account like this should come as no surprise to anyone who read my previous post “When World Class Scientists Saw Ghosts (Part 1).” In that post I quoted the testimony of the world class scientist Sir William Crookes (the discoverer of the element thallium) that he had personally observed paranormal levitation occurring multiple times. Very specifically, Flammarion states on page 20 that on March 29, 1906, he saw a table rise 15 to 20 inches above the ground while he and the medium Eusapia Palladino were standing above the table with their hands on it (the other observers being at a distance), and also while one of Eusapia's hands was resting on Flammarion's hand. On page 21, Flammarion says, “This phenomenon of levitation is, to me, absolutely proved, although we cannot explain it.” He also states this on page 21:

"I will add that quite often the table continues to rise even after the experimenters have ceased to touch it. This is movement without contact."

Skeptics always try to dismiss the many accounts of scientists, physicians and professors who stated they observed a wide variety of shockingly paranormal activity around Eusapia Palladino, on the grounds that Palladino was sometimes found cheating. But such an objection doesn't work, because the fact is that innumerable times such wonders were observed when Palladino was constrained so that there was no opportunity of cheating. On countless occasions such authorities would hold the arms and legs of Palladino, preventing her from moving. Under such controlled conditions the inexplicable and paranormal would happen again and again. 

On page 22 Flammarion says he saw a heavy chair five times move across a floor without anyone touching it. He also states the following: “Curtains near the medium, but which it is impossible for her to touch, either with the hand or the foot, swell out their whole length, as if inflated by a gusty wind.” This effect was reported by numerous other distinguished observers, such as Lombroso on this page. Also on page 22 Flammarion states the following:

"Here is a fifth instance, authenticated by me several times, and always with the same care. While I am holding one hand of Eusapia in mine, and one of my astronomical friends, tutor at the Ecole Polytechnique, is holding the other, we are touched, first one and then the other, upon the side and on the shoulders, as if by an invisible hand."

On page 27 Flammarion discusses a session on June 7, 1906 with Eusapia Palladino, in which a table was levitated:

"We had on that evening some movements of the table and a complete lifting of the four feet to a height of about eight inches. Six of us sat around the table,—Eusapia, Madame and Monsieur Ostwalt, their son Pierre, sixteen years old, my wife and myself. Our hands placed above the table scarcely touched it, and were almost wholly detached at the moment it rose from the floor. No fraud possible. Full light."

On page 64 to 65 Flammarion discusses an 1892 session he had with the medium Eusapia Palladino:

"There is full light,—a big kerosene lamp with a wide burner and a light yellow shade, besides two lighted candles. At the end of three minutes the table begins to move, balancing itself, and rising sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left. A minute afterwards it is lifted entirely from the floor, to a height of about nine inches, and remains there two seconds. In a second trial, I take the two hands of Eusapia in mine. A notable levitation is produced, nearly under the same conditions. We repeat the same experiments thrice, in such a way that five levitations of the table take place in a quarter of an hour, and for several seconds the four feet are completely lifted from the floor, to the height of about nine inches. During one of the levitations the experimenters did not touch the table at all, but formed the chain above it and in the air; and Eusapia acted in the same way. So then it seems that an object can be lifted, in opposition to the law of gravity, without the contact of the hands which have just been acting upon it."

Flammarion then describes a long series of inexplicable events he witnessed. Here from the middle of page 67 is part of the long description:

"The little round table, placed outside of the cabinet, at the left of the medium, approaches the table, climbs clear up on it and lies across it. The guitar in the cabinet is heard moving about and giving out sounds. The curtain is puffed out, and the guitar is brought upon the table, resting upon the shoulder of M. de Fontenay. It is then laid upon the table, the large end toward the medium. Then it rises and moves over the heads of the company without touching them. It gives forth several sounds. The phenomenon lasts about fifteen seconds. It can readily be seen that the guitar is floating in the air, and the reflection of the red lamp glides over its shining surface. A rather bright gleam, pear-shaped, is seen on the ceiling in the other corner of the room."

On page 74 Flammarion states this:

"After the end of that séance of the 27th of July, 1897, as I desired to see again the levitation of a table in full light, the chain was formed standing, the hands lightly placed upon the table. The latter began to oscillate, then rose up to a height of nine inches from the floor, remained there several seconds (all the participators remaining on their feet), and fell heavily back again."

From this page of the Flammarion book

On page 76 Flammarion begins to quote some reports written by those who witnessed sessions he carried out with Eusapia Palladino in Flammarion's house. Some of the highlights of these reports are in the table below:

Writer of account Quote from account
M. Arthur Levy, page 78
We rest our hands on the table. In a few moments it begins to oscillate, stands on one foot, strikes the floor, rears up, rises wholly into the air,—sometimes twelve inches, sometimes eight inches, from the ground. Eusapia utters a sharp cry, resembling a cry of joy, of deliverance; the curtain behind her swells out, and, all inflated as it is, comes forward upon the table. Other raps are heard in the table, and simultaneously in the floor at a distance of about ten feet from us. All this in full light....The table is always shaking and makes sudden jolts. Eusapia calls to us to look. Above her head appears a hand. It is a small hand, like that of a little girl of fifteen years, the palm forward, the fingers joined, the thumb projecting...we hear the sound of the tambourine, which is then quickly thrown upon the table. Next the violin arrives in the same manner, and we hear its strings sound. I seize the tambourine and ask the Invisible if he wishes to take it. I feel a hand grasping the instrument. I am not willing to let it go. A struggle now ensues between myself and a force which I judge to be considerable.”
M. Armelin, pages 89-90
At five minutes of ten the table is lifted from the side opposite to the medium and falls back with a bang. At ten o'clock it rises from the side of the medium, who withdraws her hands, the other persons holding their hands lifted up. The same effect is produced three times. The second time, while the table is in the air, M. Antoniadi declares that he is leaning on it with all his weight and is unable to lower it. The third time, M. Mathieu leans on it in the same way and experiences the same resistance. During this time, Eusapia holds her closed fist about four inches above the table, looking as if she were strongly grasping something. The action lasts several seconds. There is no doubt whatever about this levitation.”
M. Le Bocain, page 100-101 I addressed myself to the spirit in Arabic, in very nearly the following terms: 'If it is really thou, Rosalie, who art in the midst of us, pull the hair on the back of my head three times in succession.' About ten minutes later, and when I had almost completely forgotten my request, I felt my hair pulled three separate times, just as I had desired. I certify this fact, which, besides, formed for me a most convincing truth of the presence of a familiar spirit close about us.”

On page 101 Flammarion says that while there was some disagreement among the witness reports he has given, with one witness refusing to believe anything paranormal was occurring, “The levitation of the table, for example, its complete detachment from the floor under the action of an unknown force acting in opposition to the law of gravity, is a fact which cannot reasonably be contested.”

On page 103 Flammarion describes an experiment he tried similar to an experiment the scientist William Crookes did with the medium Daniel Dunglas Home. In that experiment with Home (according to Crookes) an accordion that Crookes had bought was observed to play by itself.

Flammarion bought an accordion at a bazaar. He placed it above the head of the medium Eusapia Palladino, while her hands were firmly held: "All possibility of fraud is eliminated; for the instrument is well above Eusapia's head, her hands are firmly held." Under such conditions the accordion was heard to play by itself. Page 108 reports a levitating book floating in the air after passing through a solid curtain.

On page 115 Flammarion quotes a letter written by Professor Chiaia of Naples. He states the following about Eusapia Palladino:

"This woman rises in the air, no matter what bands tie her down. She seems to lie upon the empty air as on a couch, contrary to all the laws of gravity; she plays on musical instruments— organs, bells, tambourines—as if they had been touched by her hands or moved by the breath of invisible gnomes....This woman, at times, can increase her stature by more than four inches. She is like an india-rubber doll, like an automaton of a new kind; she takes strange forms. How many legs and arms has she? We do not know. While her limbs are being held by incredulous spectators, we see other limbs coming into view, without knowing where they come from."

On page 134 Flammarion quotes a report of M. de Siemiradski, who stated the following:

"The piano then opens noisily, and we hear the bass notes of the keyboard sounding. I utter aloud my desire to hear high notes and low notes touched at the same time, as a proof that the unknown force can act at the two ends of the keyboard. My wish is granted, and we hear bass notes and treble notes sounded at the same time, which seems to prove the action of two distinct hands. Then the instrument advances toward us. . It presses against our group, and we are obliged to get up and move back with our experiment table, and we do not stop until we have thus moved back several yards."

On page 137 Flammarion quotes a M. Ochorowicz as stating, “The hypothesis of a 'fluidic double' (astral body), which, under certain conditions, detaches itself and acts independently of the body of the medium, seems necessary for the explanation of the greater part of the phenomena.”

On page 151 Flammarion quotes M. Porro as giving this account of a levitation in which Eusapia Palladino (seated in a chair) levitated to the top of a table:

"The medium lifts her two hands, all the time clasped in mine and in those of No. 5 (Morselli), and uttering groans, cries, exhortations, she rises with her chair, so far as to place its two feet and the ends of its two front cross-bars upon the top of the table....Eusapia was lifted up still farther with her chair, from the upper part of the table, in such a way that No. 11 on one side and I on the other were able to pass our hands under her feet and under those of the chair. Moreover, the fact that the posterior feet of the chair were entirely off of the table, without any visible support makes this levitation still more irreconcilable with the supposition that Eusapia could have made her body and the chair take an upward leap."

Flammarion's testimony and accounts are corroborated by several sources you can read online. One of these is Hereward Carrington's long book "Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena," which you can read online here. Another such book is the book "After Death -- What?" by Cesare Lombroso.  You can read the book online here. Lombroso was an influential figure in criminology, the scientific study of crime. On page 49 of the book, Lombroso states the following, repeating the astonishing claim made by Porro:

"The Levitation of the Medium to the Top of the Table. Among the most important and significant of the occurrences we put this levitation. It took place twice, — that is to say, on the 28th of September and the 3d of October. The medium, who was seated near one end of the table, was lifted up in her chair bodily, amid groans and lamentations on her part, and placed (still seated) on the table, then returned to the same position as before, with her hands continually held, her movements being accompanied by the persons next her. On the evening of the 28th of September, while her hands were being held by MM. Richet and Lombroso, she complained of hands which were grasping her under the arms; then, while in trance, with the changed voice characteristic of this state, she said. 'Now I lift my medium up on the table.' After two or three seconds the chair with Eusapia in it was not violently dashed, but lifted without hitting anything, on to the top of the table, and M. Richet and I are sure that we did not even assist the levitation by our own force. After some talk in the trance state the medium announced her descent, and (M. Finzi having been substituted for me) was deposited on the floor with the same security and precision, while MM. Richet and Finzi followed the movements of her hands and body without at all assisting them, and kept asking each other questions about the position of the hands. Moreover, during the descent both gentlemen repeatedly felt a hand touch them on the head. On the evening of October 3 the thing was repeated in quite similar circumstances, MM. Du Prel and Finzi being one on each side of Eusapia." 

On page 43 of the book,  Lombroso gives corroboration of the previous report by Flammarion of table levitations (the mysterious rising of a table into the air).

"Complete Levitation of the Table. It was natural to conclude that if the table, in apparent contradiction with the law of gravitation, was able to rise on one side, it would be able to rise completely. In fact, that is what happened, and these levitations are among those of most frequent occurrence in experiments with Eusapia. They were usually produced under the following conditions : The persons seated around the table place their hands on it and form the chain there. Each hand of the medium is held by the adjacent hand of the neighbor on each side; each of her feet is under the foot of her neighbor ; these furthermore press against her knees with theirs. As usual, she is seated at one of the short sides (end) of the table, — the position least favorable for mechanical levitation. After a few minutes the table makes a lateral movement, rises now to the right and now to the left, and finally is lifted wholly off its four feet into the air, horizontally, as if afloat in a liquid, and ordinarily to a height of from lO to 20 centimetres (sometimes, exceptionally, as high as 60 or 70), then falls back on all four feet at once. Sometimes it stays in the air for several seconds, and even makes fluctuating motions there, during which the position of the feet under it can be thoroughly inspected. "

On page 55-56 of the book Lombroso tells us of another astonishing thing he saw, corroborating the report of M. Arthur Levy quoted above:

"Once a closed fist appeared on the head of the medium. It opened slowly and showed the hand open, with the fingers spread  apart. It is impossible to state the number of times that this hand appeared and was touched by us. Suffice it to say that no doubt was any longer possible. It was actually a living human hand that we saw and touched, while at the same time the entire bust and the arms of the medium remained in sight and her hands were continuously held by her neighbors on each side." 

Eusapia Palladino was not the only medium who seemed to have an abundant ability to produce paranormal effects under the observation and restrictions of scientists.  There were several others, including (1) Daniel Dunglas Home (who produced dramatic paranormal effects under controlled conditions set up  by the leading scientist William Crookes, as described here); (2) Marthe Beraud, who produced a wealth of inexplicable effects under the controlled investigation of a scientist, as described here;  (3) Indridi Indridason who produced spectacular paranormal effects under controlled conditions set up by a scientific committee to investigate him (as described here). 

Claims about the impossibility of effects such as these are based on a belief in a non-existence of spiritual beings and the non-existence of a human soul.  But if there exists spiritual beings or human souls, then we have no idea what are the limitations or powers of such things, and you have a situation that is best described with the colloquial expressions "it's a whole new ballgame" and "all bets are off" -- in other words, we have no warrant making claims about an impossibility of paranormal phenomena. 

Postscript: On page 377 to 430 of Volume 6 of the Annnals of Psychical Research (1907), we have an astonishing account by Professor Phillipe Bottazzi of a host of paranormal wonders he witnessed in the presence of Eusapia Palladino. On page 422 we read the following account of the appearance of a doubling of Eusapia's left arm:

"Whilst Galeotti was controlling Eusapia's right hand, he distinctly saw the doubling of the left arm of the medium. 'Look!' he exclaimed, 'I see two left arms, identical in appearance ; one is on the little table, and it is that which Mme. Bottazzi touches; the other seems to come out of her shoulder, to approach her, and touch her, and then return and melt into her body again. This is not an hallucination ; I am awake, I am conscious of the two simultaneous visual sensations which I experience when Mme. Bottazzi says that she bas been touched.'  The results of this seance were very favourable because they eliminated the slightest trace of suspicion or uncertainty relative to the genuineness of these phenomena."

On page 413 the professor gives this account:

"I felt an open hand seize me behind, gently, by the neck. Instinctively I let go of Dr. Poso's right hand with my left and I carried it where I clearly felt this sensation of contact, and I found the hand which was touching me : a left hand, neither cold nor hot, with rough bony fingers which dissolved under pressure ; they did not retire by producing a sensation of withdrawal, but they dissolved, 'dematerialized,' melted. Shortly afterwards the same hand was laid on my head ; I carried mine quickly to the spot, I felt it, I grasped it ; it was obliterated and again disappeared into my grasp."

On the same page the professor states, "Two apparitions of human faces were also seen."

The account above of a dissolving spirit hand may seem too hard to believe, but let us consider that the same thing was reported by the very prestigious scientist William Crookes, one of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century. On pages 92 to 93 of his Researches into the Phenomena of Spiritualism, Crookes reported observing such paranormal hands multiple times, and said they were often self-luminous. Below is a quote by Crookes which sounds very similar to the passage just sighted:

"To the touch, the hand sometimes appears icy cold and 
dead, at other times, warm and life-like, grasping my own 
with the firm pressure of an old friend. I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort made to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapour, and faded in that manner from my grasp."

On page 556 of Volume 6 of the Annals of Psychical Research (1907), we have the following statement asserting that levitation and apparitions of hands were observed under carefully controlled conditions, by quite a few distinguished scientists and professors:

"A SERIES of seances with Eusapia Paladino have just been held in Naples. They have been perhaps more important than all that have preceded them, because conducted under even more severe scientific control. These seances took place in the laboratory of Professor Ph. .Bottazzi, Director of the Physiological Institute in the University of Naples. There were also present, Dr. G. Galeotti, Professor of General Pathology in the University of Naples; Dr. T. De Amicis, Professor of Dermatology and Syphilography at the same University, Dr. 0. Scarpa, Professor of Electro-Chemistry at the Polytechnic School in Naples; M. E. Jona, Senator, President of the Italian Electro. Technical Association; Dr. A. Cardarelli, Senator, Professor of Clinical Medicine in the University of Naples; M. N. Minutillo, Professor of Jurisprudence in the University. Mme. Bottazzi was also present at two seances, in the course of which mediumistic faculties revealed themselves in her-which disturbed her considerably. By the light of three lamps the table round wbich the experimenters were seated was seen to rise as high as nearly half a yard (4oc.) or to float in the air untouched, without any contact with Eusapia, for about twenty-five minutes; then apparitions of hands began, and of black heads, etc." 

Below is Figure 2 following page 404 of Volume 8 of the Annals of Psychical Research (1909). It shows a levitation produced during one of the scientific tests of Eusapia Palladino. 

On pages 404-405 we have a description of what went on, which included a levitation of the table when no one was touching it:

"The two hands, feet, and knees of Eusapia · being controlled, the table is raised suddenly, all four feet leaving the ground, then two and again four feet; Eusapia closes het fists, and holds them towards the table, which is then completely raised · from the floor five times in succession, five raps being also given. It is again completely raised, whilst each of Eusapia's hands is on the head of a sitter. It is raised to the height of one foot from the floor and suspended in the air for seven seconds while Eusapia kept her hand on the table and a lighted candle was placed under the table; it was completely raised to a height of ten inches from the floor and suspended in the air for four seconds, M. Curie only having his hand on the table, Eusapia's hand being placed on top of his. It was completely raised when M. Curie had his hand on Eusapia's knees and Eusapia had one hand on the table and die other on M. Curie's hand, her feet tied to the chair on which she was sitting. Two and then four feet of the table were raised when a weight of ten kilogrammes was placed on the table, the hands, feet, and knees of Eusapia being thoroughly controlled. It was completely raised when touched by no one, not even Eusapia, she being under perfect control."

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