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Monday, August 31, 2020

Still More Nineteenth Century Evidence for ESP

In the posts here and here and here I discussed evidence for extrasensory perception (ESP) dating from the nineteenth century. Below is some more evidence for ESP dating from that century. 

On pages 108-109 of the book Enigmas of Psychical Research by James Hyslop, we have an account by Sir John Drummond hat seems to involve in 1879 a telepathic recognition of the exact words of a distant speaker:

"I was woke by hearing distinctly the voice of my daughter-in-law, who was with her husband at Mogodor, saying in a clear but distressed tone of voice, ' Oh, I wish papa only knew that Robert was ill.' There was a night lamp in the room. I sat up and listened, looking around the room, but there was no one except my wife, sleeping quietly in bed. I hastened for some seconds, expecting to hear footsteps outside, but complete stillness prevailed, so I lay down again, thanking God that the voice which woke me was an hallucination. I had hardly closed my eyes when I heard the same voice and words, upon which I woke Lady Drummond Hay and told her what had occurred, and I got up and went into my study, adjoining the bedroom, and noted it in my diary....A few days after the incident a letter arrived from my daughter-in-law, Mrs. R. Drummond Hay, telling us that my son was seriously ill with typhoid fever and mentioning the night during which he had been delirious. Much struck by the coincidence that it was the same night I had heard her voice, I wrote to tell her what had happened. She replied, the following post, that in her distress at seeing her husband so dangerously ill, and from being alone in a distant land, she had made use of the precise words which had startled me from sleep, and had repeated them. As it may be of interest to you to receive a corroboration of what I have related, from the persons I have mentioned, who happen to be with me at this date, they also sign, to affirm the accuracy of all I have related."

The narrative was signed by three members of the family besides Sir John. It would be hard to get a more convincing account to establish ESP.  We have a very distinguished witness, multiple corroborating witnesses, and an exact match not only in time but an exact match of the words spoken and the words heard by the distant person. 

On pages 122-123 of the book Psychical Research by Sir William Barrett,  we have the following account of a wife who seemed to telepathically hear what her husband was saying 150 miles away:

"On September 9, 1848, at the siege of Mooltan, my husband, Major- General Richardson, C.B., then adjutant of his regiment, was most severely and dangerously wounded, and supposing himself dying, asked one of the officers with him to take the ring off his finger and send it to his wife, who, at that time, was fully 150 miles distant, at Ferozepore. On the night of September 9, 1848, I was lying on my bed, between sleeping and waking, when I distinctly saw my husband being carried off the field, seriously wounded, and heard his voice saying, ' Take this ring off my finger, and send it to my wife.' "

Below is another case  described on pages 284-285 of  Volume 1, Number 3 of the Psychical Review (February 1893).  We read of someone who had a dream exactly matching the trouble his son far away was experiencing at the same time, with the man's anxiety lasting until the exact time that his son's problem cleared up:

"In the spring of 1837, Mr. A. C. K., a merchant of Terre Haute, Ind., was at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans, La. One night he dreamed that his son James, then a year old, was choking; that he breathed with great difficulty, and with a deep, hoarse sound. The child’s mother, his Aunt Mary, and young Dr. Hitchcock were standing by the bedside, evidently much alarmed. It seemed strange to Mr. K. that the old family physician, Dr. Daniels, was not there. Soon the child gasped and struggled for breath. The doctor said to the mother, 'I think that he is dying.' Mr. K. awoke much alarmed; the dream had been so vivid that it seemed to be a reality. When fully awake he could not shake off the effect. As he found it impossible to sleep, he went down into the rotunda of the hotel and tried to read, but could not, he felt so anxious and excited. About two o’clock he suddenly felt relieved, went up to bed, and slept soundly until late in the morning. He thought nothing more of his night’s experience, except to consider it a very disagreeable dream. When he arrived home several weeks after this, his wife said, 'We came very near losing James one night while you were gone. He had the croup. From midnight until two o’clock we were very much alarmed about him. Once the doctor said that he thought that he was dying. At two o’clock he was relieved, and slept till morning.' " 

Some of the most astonishing nineteenth century evidence for ESP comes in accounts involving Alexis Didier.  The original accounts can be read in the pages of the nineteenth century journal The Zoist, which can be read here.  At the link here you can read an account of many pages describing evidence regarding this person. 


Alexis Didier
Alexis Didier

Before discussing Alexis Didier, the author (a doctor) gives on page 478 a remarkable account of a female clairvoyant: 

"For six years I have made repeated trials with numerous patients of my own : but never have found one who I was satisfied could even see the objects about them with the eyes closed, or look into the interior of the bodies of others and state their condition and prescribe for them. But among my searches after clairvoyance I have at length found one example of the highest kind...This patient is the perfection of integrity and every other moral excellence. Her word is a fact : and her truth is not less absolute than her freedom from vanity. She dislikes to exert her clairvoyance....

She will accurately describe who are in a particular room at her father's house at a particular moment, and the arrangement of the furniture, &c. —a distance of above fifty miles : or she will search for and see a member of her family, and describe the place in which he or she is, and the others also present. I at length succeeded in prevailing upon her to see some others, not members of her family, or known to them or to herself, and whose names even I did not mention, but only a very few particulars about them. She has described their persons most accurately, the places in which they were, their occupations at the moment ; and told what others were in the same room with them : and all this when I knew nothing of the truth at the time, and had to verify it afterwards. Far more than this she would tell : and tell with perfect accuracy : and predict numerous things relating to others which have since exactly taken place."

The author then describes many feats of clairvoyance performed by Alexis Didier, typically in a hypnotic trance and with a blindfold  over his eyes (usually with cotton balls between his eyes and the blindfold).  It is futile to speculate about some idea of some tricky blindfold that Alexis could see through, because very many of the accounts involve Alexis successfully describing details that were distant in time or space. Below is an example from page 485:

"Another lady then said, 'Alexis, will you travel with me ?' 'Yes ; give me your hand.' She did. He then just passed his own over it, slightly clasping it, but let it go immediately. - 'Well, I am ready ; which way do you go ?' 'Towards Fontainbleau, (forty miles from Paris) ; are you there ?' 'Yes.' ' Pray describe my house near there.' Alexis then rapidly described the approach, the appearance, the number of stories, and the windows, very minutely, and, as the lady allowed, very correctly. She then proposed to him to go indoors, to tell her the plan of the house, &c., and then her room, and the windows, &c., and furniture, and how arranged. This he did as perfectly !" 

On page 492 we read the following:

"Seven of us encircled the devoted youth. 'Tell us,' we cried, ' the exact time each of our watches now in our pockets is.' He did : one after another, as he spoke the time, took out his watch, and as he spake so it was, to the minute, and sometimes to the second ! Before I took out mine, I said, 'What is there about my watch ?' 'The glass is broken,' he said, 'and you have lost the little hand that goes tic tac, tic tac, in a little circle.' I knew it was so. I drew it out, and the time was right to a minute : the glass was broken, and the second-hand gone."

Below is another example from page 494. A soldier who had been wounded visted Alexis Didier, and encounters him with a blindfold  around his eyes (which he often used in attempts to demonstrate clairvoyance):

"Years past away, when a few months since a neighbour of his a military man, called upon him, and proposed to take a run up to Paris, to see Alexis Didier. ' I think,' said the soldier, ' he will be puzzled to find out where I have been wounded.' It was agreed to. They arrive, and find Alexis sitting in due, blind bandaged state. ' I have a question to put to you, Alexis.' ' Give me your hand, Sir.' He felt it a moment. 'l am a military man.' ' I know that.' ' Have I been ever wounded? ' 'You have.' ' How often ?' ' Three times.' ' Where ?' ' There, there, and there' touching the three wounds. ' Were they made by ball or by sword ? ' 'This was by sword, those two by musket balls,' fixing his fingers on them ! ' Pardieu, Mons. Alexis,' cried the astonished soldier ; ' you are quite right. It is as you say !' "

On page 497 we have this astonishing account of clairvoyance by a blindfolded Alexis Didier:

"He frequently told his adversary what cards he had in his hand, as on one occasion that he had three tens, on another that he had four trumps...Once or twice he made mistakes, as saying the nine of hearts instead of the seven, but in the great majority of instances was right. Another person then took the cards, and the same wonders were repeated. He then moved away from the table, and played at a distance of about four yards from his adversary, but he still told the cards as before, and played his own frequently without looking at their faces....Alexis was then asked to read, and a volume of Le Moyen, Aye Pittoresque, was placed before him. The wool and bandages were still unmoved, but he read off from the page wherever he was told by any of the visitors, and by myself amongst the rest. On one occasion he continued to do so, although two hands were placed before his face and the type. He seemed, however, to find this somewhat more difficult. He was very animated, and talked rapidly as he turned over the pages, as if pleased with his own exploits."

On page 500 we have this account of Alexis Didier reading while heavily blindfolded by an inch of cotton and three handkerchiefs:

"Alexis' eyes were bandaged. Lord L. took up a card, and Alexis told it after thinking a few seconds. He then extracted one from the pack ; and after one mistake Alexis told it correctly. Lord Adare then gave him Villemain's Cours de Literature to read, (opening a page ;) he held it nearly on a level with his eyes ; -so that it was impossible for ordinary vision to act ; there being an inch thick of cotton and three handkerchiefs between his eyes and the object. He began by spelling the first word : and then read more easily, reading a line or two. He then turned to another page, and read quite rapidly, the book being about twenty degrees below the level of his eyes. Lord Adare asked him to read through several pages ; and turned to another place and pointed to the right side, in which he had seen nothing : he told three words. The party looked over the pages, but could not find the words. The same happened again. We tried again : he said, ' I see two lines — on one Francois, and below Albigeois. ' This was right, four leaves off, and near the inside of the page. We turned to another place, and he read, ' descendants les anti- quitis mysterieux :' which was right."

On pages 502-503 we have another of many examples of Alexis Didier correctly describing a distant location he had never seen:

"Another gentleman now put himself en rapport with Alexis. He wished him to follow him in mind into Lincolnshire, and describe the house he lived in there. Alexis said, ' I am with you : but this house is too large for me to describe. Let us fix on some of its rooms.' He then described a library — a small room in which there was a bust — not marble, but plaster on a pedestal ; and lastly, a very large room, lighted by a dome raised from the centre of the ceiling ; he said there were two fire-places with white marble chimney- pieces, and spoke in terms of admiration of the varied colours of the light admitted into this noble apartment. All these points were assented to as correct."

On page 508 we have this account of an ability by Alexis Didier to read while blindfolded, with a hand in front of his face:

"Alexis was bandaged most carefully : cotton-wool and handkerchiefs were not merely placed over and below the eyes, but over and below the nose : and, in this state, he read six or seven lines, out of a French book, opened at random, with an ease and a rapidity of utterance that I could scarcely imitate in my own language. He repeated the experiment with another passage, when the hand of a gentleman was interposed between the face and the volume, and he succeeded completely. He read a few words, through five or six thick pages of the same volume ; and this he did two or three times, not failing once."

On page 508-509 we read that Alexis Didier was able to  describe an object in a thick closed case, an object he had never seen:

"An officer, of long standing in the army, who was severely wounded at Waterloo, and is well known in the highest military circles, was one of the company present. He was an unbeliever, and knew nothing of mesmerism, and had never seen or scarcely heard of Alexis, — but having been accidentally invited to join the party, and been told that the young man had the power of reading through opaque objects, he determined to bring his talent rigidly to the test.
He produced a morocco case, eight inches long, and an inch and a half thick, looking like a surgical instrument case, or a small jewel-case. It was placed in the hands of Alexis, who held it for a short time in silence, and then gradually and slowly gave the following description :

 'The object within the case is a hard substance.'
' It is folded in an envelope.'
' The envelope is whiter than the thing itself.' (The envelope was a piece of silver-paper.)
' It is a kind of ivory.'
'It has a point (pique) at one end' (which is the case).
' It is a bone.'
' Taken from a body'—
' From a human body' —
' From your body.'
' The bone has been separated and cut, so as to leave a flat side.'

This was true : the bone, which was a piece of the colonel's leg, and sawed off after the wound, is flat towards the part that enclosed the marrow.

Here, Alexis removed the piece of bone from the case, and placed his finger on a part, and said, ' The ball struck here.' (True.)

' It was an extraordinary ball, as to its effect.'

'You received three separate injuries at the same moment.' (Which was the case, for the ball broke or burst into three pieces, and injured the colonel in three places in the same leg.)

' You were wounded in the early part of the day, whilst charging the enemy.' (Which was the fact.)"

On pages 512-513 we have this astonishing account of blindfolded reading by a hypnotized Alexis Didier:

"Alexis, having been put in a state of somnambulism, had a large piece of cotton wool placed over each eye, after which three handkerchiefs were closely bound on; he then rose from his chair, and placing himself at the table, proceeded to open a new pack of cards, which he shuffled and arranged with greater rapidity than his antagonist ; he played two or three games of ecarte, winning each time, and telling, not only his own cards, but those of the other person. One of the guests took from the shelf the first book that presented itself; Alexis, then, with his eyes bandaged and his outspread hand placed on the page, read the passage which the hand covered."

On page 513 we have another one of countless accounts of apparent clairvoyance by Didier that cannot be explained through any hypothesis of blindfold trickery, because distant objects are being described:

"Another person then took his hand, and pointing to a gentleman, (whose name Alexis did not know,) asked him to describe a certain picture in his apartment. He said he saw a very large picture without a frame ; at one side was a great building, from the windows of which men were firing; in the centre was a man on horseback — an dese de I'ecole Polytecnique, and round him were a number of men. The building was the Louvre, and the scene represented the French Revolution of 1830. All these particulars were correct to the letter, and he described some others, which I do not at this moment recollect, but which were equally true. He was then asked by the same person to describe another picture. He said it was large, but not so large as the preceding one : it was a portrait representing a man in a very singular costume, — full length. He could not exactly describe the costume, but it was dark, with a great deal of white in front, and a white stiff ruff round the neck : the wearer was fair, with the hair thrown back from the temples, and with large whiskers : — this was equally correct."

On page 517 we have the following astonishing account, which uses the term "mesmeric trance" to refer to a state of being hypnotized:

"Alexis was in a very few minutes placed in the mesmeric trance, and having had his eyes carefully bandaged, played at ecarte, read from a book, &c. &c., with great success and facility. I then sat down by him, and asked to have some conversation with him. He took my hand. I asked him if he could tell me where I lived. After a good deal of hesitation he said, ' North-east of London ;' and gave the distance very correctly in leagues. He then said, ' There is a railroad which leads to your part of the country. There are two branches to this railroad, and your house is situated on the left branch ; and on the right side of that branch — ' He then called for a sheet of paper, and began to draw a map of the part of the country he was describing. He delineated the railway with great correctness, marking the branch which turns off eastward at Stratford, and continuing the other to a point where he said there was a station. He gave a very minute account of the position of this station, answering in all points to that of Roydon ; the river running nearly parallel to it, and the bridge immediately in front : and he also described with much truth the general character and appearance of the surrounding country, and said that the railroad extended only three or four leagues from this point, which is the fact. He then marked on his chart another station, a few miles farther on, and gave exactly the relative distant and position of my house with these two stations. . He then said, ' Now let us go to your house,' and proceeded to give a sketch of the road with its various turnings. As he approached the house he was more minute, and described with singular correctness the sudden descent ; the brook about half as wide as the room, the steep ascent on the other side, and the gateway on the right hand of the road. He gave the distance of the house from the gateway very exactly, mentioned a piece of water on the right with ducks upon it, (I keep a few wild-ducks,) and described the position of the stables, &c. The perfect accuracy of the whole of this minute description was truly astonishing. I then asked him if there was any one living in the house during my absence from home. He said, ' Yes ; there was only one person — a gentleman, ' (which was the fact); and he then proceeded to state his age and describe his character and appearance, as correctly as if he had been well and personally known to him."

At the link here you can read an account of about 50 pages describing these and very many other observations as impressive as the ones I have quoted above, all of them involving reports of clairvoyance by Alexis Didier. No one who has read my previous post  on hypnotic clairvoyance ("The Academic Committee That Found in Favor of Clairvoyance") should be enormously surprised by any of these accounts. In that post I had described how a committee of the Royal Academy of Medicine in France had spent years investigating phenomena such as hypnotism and clairvoyance, and had issued an 1831 report stating that clairvoyance in a hypnotic state was a fact established by the committee's careful observations.   The observations involving Didier reported by the Zoist in 1844 (quoted above) were just further reports of the phenomena (clairvoyance under hypnosis) that had been thoroughly attested by the official academic report of 1831. 

Although the study of enhanced psychic abilities under hypnotism was greatly neglected in the twentienth century, the US government funded for many years experiments involving something similar, involving an anomalous mental ability to discover details about distant locations.  There were many remarkable successes (some discussed here and here), but they were called "remote viewing" rather than clairvoyance. 

Postscript: In the nineteenth century book Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance we have on page 27 another remarkable account of ESP. The patient described was one suffering from mental and  physical problems so very severe that any type of clever swindle on her part would have been impossible. Here is the account:

"It sufficed to call her attention to any object placed in her room or in the next room, or in the street, or out of the town, or even at enormous distances, to have it described by her as perfectly as if she saw it with her eyes. The following are some experiments sufficient to prove this assertion. In presence of a celebrated Professor of the University, it was agreed to ask her to describe a convent in the town, into which neither herself nor any of her interrogators had ever entered. Next to describe a cellar in a country house, equally unknown to the questioners. According to the description she gave, plans were designed ; and, on the places being visited, they were found to correspond perfectly with the designs made by her dictation. She even pointed out the number and position of some barrels in the cellar. Odorous substances were discovered by the patient with the same promptitude and precision."

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