Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
I was saddened to learn from an email sent to me by Dr. Massimo Biondi that Silvio Ravaldini, from Italy, passed away on November 24 this year. For many years he was the main editor of the journal Luce e Ombra as well as the Director of the Fondazioni Biblioteca Bozzano-De Boni. He is probably unknown to most of the readers of my blog, but he is worth remembering. Details about his life appear below in a short obituary that Massimo sent to me.
I first met Silvio in 1995 when my wife Nancy L. Zingrone and I went to Italy. We met him in a conference in Riccione. But even nicer than the conference, was meeting Silvio, and what followed.
Silvio and his wife Teresa, at Massimo Biondi’s wedding in 1993
After the conference was over Nancy and I took a train to Bologna, where we stayed overnight at Silvio and Teresa’s apartment. We were both struck by Silvio’s good nature and his giving and positive personality. That night we all watched a video of the Three Tenors Caracalla concert and had a great time even though neither of us spoke Italian. I was able to understand some of what Silvio said because of the similarities between Spanish and Italian, and Silvio was able to understand some of what I said. Other than that we were gesturing and using words we all knew in English or Italian. It was interesting how well we could communicate. At one point in the evening we understood Silvio to say that he had in his computer a bibliographical database of thousands of entries about psychic phenomena and related topics formed mainly from the annotations that Ernesto Bozzano made in his books. He playfully asked us to give him a topic to search the database. At the time Nancy was interested in apparitions and she suggested that topic. Silvio left us for 10 minutes or so and then returned holding what Nancy remembers to have been 42 pages of closely printed references about apparitions mainly from the Italian, French, and English spiritualist and psychical research literatures. This unique source has been published in print in several volumes.
I will never forget Silvio’s face with a big smile and an amazing sense of pleasure, when he saw how absorbed I got during my visit to the Bozzano-De Boni Library. The experience, almost intoxicating, was remarkable, because the collection houses many rare Italian and French books and journals, many of which I had never seen. Somehow I escaped momentarily from my altered state and saw Silvio’s reaction and that made my experience even better.
Bozzano-De Boni Library
Over the years I have had occasional contacts with Silvio, some of them through other persons. He wrote many articles and a number of books. I particularly remember his study of Bozzano, Ernesto Bozzano e la Ricerca Psichica (Ernesto Bozzano and Psychical Research; Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 1993), which I reviewed for an American journal.
Massimo refers to Silvio’s work and bibliography in his comments below. For my part and for Nancy, in addition to his work, we will always remember him for two attributes, his great kindness, and his keen dedication to the foundation and its work. We are sure Massimo feels the same.
Dr. Massimo Biondi
Silvio Ravaldini: A Relevant Figure in the History of Spiritism and Psychical Research in Italy
The name and the person of Silvio Ravaldini (December 5, 1925-November 24, 2015) are probably little known to the psychical researchers outside Italy, but they are certainly familiar to many spiritualists all over the world. Because, as a child, he attended séances performed with a non-professional medium in his parents’ home, early in his life he accepted spiritist beliefs, and later became a firm advocate of that belief as well as developed a strong interest in the history of spiritism and psychical research.
When he was forced to move to Bologna (from his native Tuscany), he got in touch with Gastone De Boni, Ernesto Bozzano’s protégé and the leader of Italian spiritualists. At the time in Verona De Boni was the director of the quarterly Luce e Ombra and, occasionally, published books by Bozzano and other authors in the field of spiritualism. De Boni owned all the materials (books, volumes and issues of journals and magazines, letters, documents, photos, etc.) that had previously belonged to Bozzano. The first task De Boni assigned Ravaldini was to write down a report of his old private séances. Afterwards De Boni asked Ravaldini to take part in all of De Boni’s publishing activities. So in 1982, it was natural that when De Boni died, Ravaldini became the proprietor of all the papers and the books of Bozzano and De Boni, as well as the director of Luce e Ombra, a position he continued to hold until his death.
Ravaldini’s first accomplishment, over a few years of intensive activity, was to revive the fortunes of the journal, growing the subscribership. He also arranged for the restorations of the books, collected new papers and documents, and created a “library on the occult” for scholars, students and friends. Luce e Ombra attracted many people with different levels of involvement in parapsychology and spiritism from Italy and other countries around the world. In time, Ravaldini had developed a host of friends and colleagues, among them many well-known people in the field in Italy such as Piero and Brunilde Cassoli, Enrico Marabini, Paola Giovetti, Giovanni Iannuzzo, Alfredo Ferraro, Iacopo Comin, and Ettore Mengoli, and myself. In addition, Ravaldini knew well many Italian mediums such as Roberto Setti, Corrado Piancastelli, Demofilo Fidani, and Marcello Bacci. His list of colleagues outside of Italy included Ian Stevenson, William G. Roll, Hubert Larcher, Erlendur Haraldsson, and Carlos S. Alvarado.
From the 1960s, Ravaldini regularly attended séances with the medium Corrado Piancastelli, and adhered to the “philosophy” of that circle. With some friends he transcribed the tapes of recorded communications of the “spirit” of the circle, publishing bimonthly excerpts of those discourses. In the meantime, from the 1970s he published many articles and book reviews in Luce e Ombra and other Italian “psychic” journals and magazines, recounting both his own experiences in mediumship as well as covering both historical and contemporary topics of psychical research. Moreover, he gave lectures, participated in parapsychological meetings and contributed many chapters to books. His complete bibliography, including published and unpublished writings, amounts to approximately 150 items.
During the Eighties, under my suggestion and that of Ian Stevenson, Ravaldini tried to solve some “drop-in cases” that had occurred during the séances held in his home many years before. His hope was to identify some of the unknown “spirits” who manifested by giving their names or a few fragmentary details. He employed two detective agencies, but only one of those cases was solved, thanks to information discovered by Ian Stevenson in the United States.1
Toward the end of the Twentieth Century, with the financial and entrepreneurial aid of the textile manufacturer Silvana Pagnotta, Ravaldini managed to create a Library Foundation so as to guarantee a future home for Bozzano and De Boni materials. The same day Mrs. Pagnotta died, the “Bozzano-De Boni Library” was inaugurated in Bologna, governed by the Foundation with Ravaldini acting as its first President.
The last fifteen years of his life were occupied with work designed to strengthen the Library (developing catalogs and indexes and fundraising), with the publication of Luce e Ombra, and with providing news, books, and copies of documents to scholars in Italy and abroad, as well as with supporting students engaged in master theses on “occult” topics. In addition to this Ravaldini answered questions that came in from all over the world and compiled new books that were destined to be published by different publishers, among these, anthologies of excerpts from old issues of Luce e Ombra (with his prefaces),2-4 a biography of Ernesto Bozzano5 (the only of Ravaldini’s books to be included in the Library of Congress in the United States), a summary of the séances that he attended in his early years,6 a “spiritual” autobiography,7 the communications recently received through a (currently active) medium,8 and a collection of a long series of old lectures on classical mediumship.9 He worked at his usual activities until the last weeks of his life. His last essay, an article on the psychic abilities of animals, was published in the third volume of Luce e Ombra in 2015.10
- Ravaldini, S., Biondi, M., Stevenson, I. The case of Giuseppe Riccardi: An unusual drop-in communicator in Italy. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 1990, 56, 257-265.
- Ravaldini, S., Biondi, M. Le tracce dell’anima, scelta di brani dalla rivista Luce e Ombra, 1901-1925 [Traces of the soul. Excerpts from Luce e Ombra, 1901-1925]. Rome: GSE Edizioni, 1998.
- Ravaldini, S., Biondi, M. La realtà dell’anima, scelta di brani dalla rivista Luce e Ombra, 1926-1950 [The Reality of the soul. Excerpts from Luce e Ombra, 1926-1950]. Rome: GSE Edizioni, 1999.
- Ravaldini, S., Biondi, M. Il potere dello spirito, scelta di brani dalla rivista Luce e Ombra, 1951-1975 [Powers of the spirit. Excerpts from Luce e Ombra, 1951-1975]. Rome: GSE Edizioni, 2000.
- Ravaldini, S. Ernesto Bozzano e la ricerca psichica: Vita e opere di un pioniere della parapsicologia [Ernesto Bozzano and psychical research: Life and work of a pioneer of parapsychology]. Edizioni Mediterranee, Roma 1993.
- Ravaldini, S. Realtà e mistero: Esperienze di vita vissuta a contatto con i fenomeni paranormali [Reality and mystery: Life experiences in contact with paranormal phenomena]. Bologna: Casa Editrice Conti, 1988.
- Ravaldini, S., with Dotti, L. Il progetto della mia anima: Una vita a contatto con la medianità [My soul’s project. A life in contact with mediumship]. Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 2015.
- Dotti, L., Ravaldini, S. Colloqui con le anime: Grandi personaggi ci parlano [Talks with souls: Great personalities communicate with us]. Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 2014.
- Ravaldini, S. La medianità 1840-2000. I medium, i fenomeni prodotti e gli studi fatti su di loro. [Mediumship 1840-2000: Mediums, their phenomena, and studies done on them]. Unpublished.
- Ravaldini, S. I misteri del mondo animale, [Mysteries of the animal world]. Luce e Ombra 2015, 115(3), 223-232.