Archive for September, 2019

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Animal magnetism continues to be a topic of historical research. Here are some articles on the subject published between 2015 and 2019.

Animal Magnetism

Alvarado, C.S. (2019). Classic text No. 119: Jules Bernard Luys on magnetic pathology. History of Psychiatry, 30, 359–374. (Available from the author:

In the mesmeric movement, one of the phenomena cited to defend the existence of magnetic and nervous forces was the visual perception of them in the form of luminous emanations from people, or effluvia. This Classic Text is an 1892 article by French neurologist, Jules Bernard Luys (1828–97), about the observation of such effluvia by hypnotized individuals. Interestingly, the luminous phenomena perceived from mentally diseased individuals and from healthy ones had particular properties. Luys’s interest in this and other unorthodox phenomena were consistent with ideas of animal magnetism in the late neo-mesmeric movement, as well as with some physicalistic conceptions of hypnosis and the nervous system held at the time.

Jules Bernard Luys 2

Jules Bernard Luys

Brückner, B. (2016). Animal magnetism, psychiatry and subjective experience in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Friedrich Krauß and his Nothschrei. Medical History, 60, 19–36.

Friedrich Krauß (1791–1868) is the author of Nothschreieines Magnetisch-Vergifteten [Cry of Distress by a Victim of Magnetic Poisoning] (1852), which has been considered one of the most comprehensive self-narratives of madness published in the German language. In this 1018-page work Krauß documents his acute fears of ‘mesmerist’ influence and persecution, his detainment in an Antwerp asylum and his encounter with various illustrious physicians across Europe. Though in many ways comparable to other prominent nineteenth-century first-person accounts (eg. John Thomas Perceval’s 1838 Narrative of the Treatment Experienced by a Gentle manor Daniel Paul Schreber’s 1903 Memoirs of my Nervous Illness), Krauß’s story has received comparatively little scholarly attention. This is especially the case in the English-speaking world. In this article I reconstruct Krauß’s biography by emphasising his relationship with physicians and his under-explored stay at the asylum. I then investigate the ways in which Krauß appropriated nascent theories about ‘animal magnetism’ to cope with his disturbing experiences. Finally, I address Krauß’s recently discovered calligraphic oeuvre, which bears traces of his typical fears all the while showcasing his artistic skills. By moving away from the predominantly clinical perspective that has characterised earlier studies, this article reveals how Friedrich Krauß sought to make sense of his experience by selectively appropriating both orthodox and non-orthodox forms of medical knowledge. In so doing, it highlights the mutual interaction of discourses ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ as well as the influence of broader cultural forces on conceptions of self and illness during that seminal period.

Crabtree, A. (2019). 1784: The Marquis de Puységur and the psychological turn in the west. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 55, 119-215. (Request reprint from author

In 1970 Henri Ellenberger called attention to the previously unrecognized importance of Franz Anton Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” in the rise of psychodynamic psychology in the West. This article takes the next step of tracing the course of events that led to Puységur’s discovery of magnetic somnambulism and describing the tumultuous social and political climate into which it was introduced in 1784. Beginning from the secret and private publication of his first Mémoires, only a few copies of which remain today, the original core of his discovery is identified and the subsequent development of its implications are examined. Puysègur was initiated into his investigations by Mesmer’s system of physical healing, which bears some resemblance to the traditional healing approaches of the East. But Puységur took Mesmer’s ideas in an unexpected direction. In doing so, he accomplished a turn toward the psychological that remains one of the distinguishing features of Western culture.

Puysegur Memoires

Donaldson, I.M.L. (2017). Antoine de Lavoisier’s role in designing a single-blind trial to assess whether “animal magnetism” exists. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 110, 163-167.

“In 1784, a Royal Commission was appointed in Paris to examine the claims made by Anton Mesmer and his associates that there existed a fluid – the so-called Animal Magnetism, which permeated all living creatures – manipulation of which could relieve or cure all human maladies . . . In the course of the investigation, which eventually proved to the Commissioners’ complete satisfaction that the effects produced by the manipulations of the magnetisers were not due to any physical force, the Commission devised the first known experiments using blind comparisons to compare the effects of two treatments.” This paper examines the contributions of Antoine Lavoisier to these studies.

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Antoine Lavoisier

Gainot, B. (2018). Des baquets sous les Tropiques: À propos de la diffusion du magnétisme animal à Saint-Domingue en 1784 [The baquets in the Tropics: On the dissemination of animal magnetism in Santo Domingo]. Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, No. 391, 81-104. (Request reprint from the author

The export of mesmerism out of metropolitan territory is very limited, but it had a great success, a few weeks after the arrival of Antoine Hyacinte Chastenet de Puysegur in the great town of the northern part of the colony of Saint-Domingue, Le Cap Français, in June 1784. This episode is especially known after the hostile testimony, of Moreau de Saint-Mery. The lists of the members of Philadelphes, however, are often the same than those of the members of the Society of Universal Harmonie in Le Cap. So, magnetism and learning sociability are the same expression of a creolising white-consciousness, which self-modelled on the fashions of the metropolitan culture, though different. This social phenomenon will be developed mainly in the great northern town, the other sources coming from the same background. Black slaves and free-coloured people are not directly concerned. The usual testimony of Moreau de Saint-Méry, who gives mesmerism equivalent to voodoo must be kept in perspective.

Häfner, S. (2017). Justinus Kerner and mesmerism. European Psychiatry, 41, S685–S686.

The aim of this study is to evaluate the influence of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815) on Kerner’s way of treating patients . . . Kerner was very much influenced by Mesmer and left volumes of psycho-pathological case histories that helped to prepare a way for a medicine more psychotherapeutically founded.

Justinus Kerner

Justinus Kerner

Laerda, D.C.O. (2018). Saberes ocultos no Brasil Império e arte da cura pelo magnetismo animal e a busca pela legitimidade [Hidden knowledge in the Brazil Empire: the art of healing through animal magnetism and the search for legitimacy]. História e Cultura, 7, 91-119. (For a reprint write to the author:

The principles and practice of animal magnetism were consolidated in France a few years before the French Revolution took place. Amid controversy and a growing number of adepts, animal magnetism surpasses the barriers of time and space frontiers, arriving in Brazil in the first decades of the nineteenth century through the French immigrant Leopold Gamard. The purpose of this work was to understand Gamard’s attempts to legitimize animal magnetism as a curative practice before medical scientific institutions and public opinion in the imperial court. In order to do so, we examined popular scientific journals and newspapers in an attempt to combine fragments to reconstruct Leopold Gamard’s intriguing trajectory and helped to weave the fabric of social relations in the construction of representations and appropriations of the practice of animal magnetism as an alternative for healing diseases.

Manson, D.K. (2017). Science with a soul: James Freeman Clarke and the promise of mesmerism. Studies in Religion / SciencesReligieuses, 47, 246-262.

From the 1840s through to the end of his life in 1888, James Freeman Clarke’s influence permeated newspapers, churches, and lecture halls in Boston. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Clarke was an educated and active participant in his community and a respected voice amongst Boston intellectuals. At a time when sciences of the mind were rapidly expanding, Clarke neither ceded authority nor turned a blind eye. Instead, he studied emerging psychologies himself, approaching them as ways to enhance his understanding of the human being—body, soul, and spirit. In his private writings, including journals and letters, Clarke discusses his applications of experimental science, and he appears especially enthusiastic about mesmerism. However, from the pulpit and the lectern, Clarke was almost silent on the topic. This article examines Clarke’s private letters, journals, and sermon notes, accessed in the archives at the Massachusetts Historical Society, for evidence of the role mesmerism played in Clarke’s religious ideology, specifically his concept of man’s physical and spiritual constitution. For Clarke, mesmerism allowed an intimate incorporation of the body with theology, for through it the body became a conduit to the soul and to individual character. Clarke’s interest in and practice of mesmerism reveals it as an underground force that not only shaped his thoughts and theology, but also influenced a number of fellow theologians and intellectuals during the mid-nineteenth century.

Morabito, C. (2019). Rethinking mesmerism and its dissemination in the 19th century: At the intersection between philosophy, medicine and psychology. Medicina nei Secoli: Arte e Scienza, 1, 71-92. (Reprint available from the author:

The thought and work of Anton Mesmer had a great dissemination in the last decades of the XVIII century and all along the XIX, a dissemination that differed in its theoretical and practical valences in line with the peculiar cultural, social and political contexts of the main European countries. On the basis of a new science of the mind social reforms were invoked, ranging from education to ethics and to the treatment of mental disorders, obviously passing through the questioning of the legal and political organization of the various States. A new physiology justified and at the same time required to replace with the scientific knowledge the basic ideological and social assumptions upon which the whole society was based, from schools to prisons and asylums. But does it really was scientific knowledge? And who had the last word on this problem, a problem that was in the first place epistemological but had also enormous social implications?

Vallejo, M.S. (2015). Magnetizadores, ilusionistas y médicos. Una aproximación a la historia del hipnotismo en México (1880-1900). Trashumante: Revista Americana de Historia Social 5, 200-219.

The purpose of this article is to present a historical reconstruction of the use of hypnosis by physicians in Mexico City during 1880-1900. In addition to discussing how hypnotism was studied and used by these professionals, an attempt is made to show that in the publications of physicians there is a dialog between an academic discipline and other users of hypnosis, mainly theatrical illusionists.  Particular attention is paid to the performances of two hypnotists that visited Mexico at the end of the 19th century.

Image result for animal magnetism

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

I have met the editor of the book commented here, Dr. Gerhard Mayer, in conventions and have had email correspondence with him. He obtained a PhD in psychology from the University of Freiburg with a dissertation about how adolescents view movies about occult topics. Currently he works at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene on cultural aspects of frontier fields, including parapsychology, shamanism, altered states of consciousness and astrology.

Gerhard Mayer 2

Gerhard Mayer

The book he has edited, N Equals 1: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics (Zurich: Lit, 2019, 397 pp.; click here; to order from the publisher click here), is a unique compilation of papers about the use of single case studies of various types of unexplained phenomena. Such as crop circles, hauntings, poltergeists, recurrent apparitions of the living, and UFOs. I am glad to be one of the authors in the book.

Mayer N Equals 1

Here is the table of contents:

Stephen E. Braude: Foreword

Steve Braude 4

Stephen E. Braude

Part I: General Considerations

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: Introduction – Research Logic, Models, and Particularities

Carlos S. Alvarado: The Place of Spontaneous Cases in Parapsychology

Part II: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: Introduction: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics

Michael Schetsche

Michael Schetsche

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: RSPK Investigations

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: Cryptozoology & Crop Circle Research: Two Further Fields of Investigation at a Glance

Andreas Anton: UFO Research

Part III: Historical Case Studies

Michael Nahm: Historical Perspective: Justinus Kerner’s Case Study Into the “Prison Spook” in Weinsberg and Spooky Actions at a Distance in 1835–1836

Gerd H. Hövelmann, Carlos S. Alvarado, Massimo Biondi & Friedrike Schriever: The Case History as an Exemplar: The Recurrent Apparitions of Emélie Sagée

Gerd Hovelmann 2

Gerd H. Hövelmann

Gerd H. Hövelmann

Gerhard Mayer: The Bélmez Faces: An Investigation of a Supposedly Strong Case

Gerhard Mayer: The Authority Strikes Back: Considerations About the Allegedly Fraudulent “Chopper” Poltergeist Case

Part IV: Contemporary Case Studies

Gerhard Mayer: Case Report of the Investigation of a Strange Photographic Anomaly

Gerhard Mayer & Jürgen Kornmeier: Mysterious Objects in Pictures Taken by a Wildlife Camera: The Pitfalls of Perception

Jürgen Kornmeier

Gerhard Mayer: The “Castle Hotel” Case – Becoming a Haunting Myth and a “Lost Place”: An Investigation Report

Manuela v. Lucadou & Sarah Pohl: Dead Monks Walking: Methods and Experiences from the Parapsychological Counseling Centre (Freiburg/Germany) for Dealing with Poltergeist Phenomena

Renaud Evrard: The “Amnéville RSPK Case“: An Illustration of Social Elusiveness?

Renaud Evrard4

Renaud Evrard


About the Contributors


Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

This volume, N equals 1. Single Case Studies in Anomalistics, is intended to give an overview of the methodological peculiarities of anomalistic field research. Single case studies have a long tradition in the field of parapsychology and anomalistics research. Although case studies do not usually provide hard evidence for the existence of paranormal effects, they demonstrate the dynamics of occurrence of such extraordinary phenomena and experiences in the living world. On the basis of historical and current case studies, certain specific psychosocial dynamics and problems in this interesting and challenging field of research are presented and discussed.

N Equals 1 contains 15 chapters written by different authors on the subject of single case studies. Although the focus is on poltergeist cases, other fields of anomalistics are also addressed such as UFOs, cryptozoology, or allegedly photographic anomalies.

What is your background in the study of anomalies, and with the topic of the book specifically?

I have been working at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene  in Freiburg/Germany since 1996. During my studies in psychology, I was interested in qualitative research approaches because they offer a greater proximity to everyday life and a different view of the phenomena under investigation. This is particularly important for parapsychology and anomalistics because paranormal effects in the laboratory rarely occur spectacularly. Furthermore, they seem to have nothing to do with such phenomena and extraordinary experiences made in, and reported from the living environment. Careful examination of single cases can provide information about contextual conditions of their occurrence and give input for improving experimental research and theory building. I have had the opportunity to be part of the examination of several single case studies in the field. Some reports found their way into the book.

What motivated you to write this book?

The first edition mainly consisted of texts by my colleague Michael Schetsche and me. Since that time, I expanded the research with new as well as old cases to represent specific topics, such as  the role of mass media or the social dynamics. During my translation of the German text, I became interested in going deeper into the reconstruction of some historical cases such as the famous one about the Bélmez faces. This volume, accordingly revised, is a considerably extended version of a German edition published in 2011. I wanted to enrich the book with the work of other authors on this topic. And I wanted to reach a larger readership by publishing it in English.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Single case studies in parapsychology and anomalistics have only been seen as illustrative or anecdotal. In recent years, the value of single case studies for gaining knowledge about anomalistic phenomena and the conditions under which they occur has been increasingly recognized with a wider acceptance of qualitative research methods in general. The book is intended to provide a building block for the appreciation of this type of research as an equivalent complement to laboratory research. In addition, the case reports clarify methodological peculiarities that involve field investigations in anomalistics. Furthermore, contemporary and historical case material is presented to English-speaking readers for the first time in this detailed form. Last but not least, the case studies and methodological considerations presented in this volume are intended to correct the publicly dominant picture of what a scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena looks like, which much of the time is characterized by so-called paranormal investigations by amateur ghost hunters.