Category: Voices from the Past

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

Another interesting report about Palladino’s phenomena was authored by a group of Italian scientists: Aggazzotti, A., Foà, C., Foà, P., & Herlitzka, A. (1907). The experiments of Prof. P. Foà, of the University of Turin, and three doctors, assistants of Professor Mosso, with Eusapia Paladino. Annals of Psychical Science, 5, 361–392.

Aggazzotti Palladino Annals 1907

In the first  page of the report it was stated that these were séances  “held in Turin by Doctors Herlitzka, Charles Foà and Aggazzotti, the assistants of Prof. Mosso, the eminent physiologist, whose works on fatigue, puberty, etc., now looked upon as classics, are universally known. Another Professor of the same University, Dr. Pio Foà, Professor of Pathological Anatomy, Director of the Anatomical Museum, General Secretary of the Academy of Sciences in Turin, was present at the second and most remarkable seance.”

In a section of the article before the description of the first séance the authors describe an instrument they used as follows:

“In order to register objectively the movements that might be made by the medium, we had prepared a cylinder which revolved around a vertical axis, making a complete circuit in six hours. Round the cylinder is rolled a sheet of glazed paper, covered with a layer of lamp-black. This surface is touched by a needle, which, as the cylinder moves, carries away the lamp-black, and makes a horizontal white line on the paper.”

“If the point is moved from above downwards, it makes a little vertical line on the paper. The writing-lever could be put in motion by a small electro-magnet (Desprez signal) connected.with an accumulator and a telegraphic key. The revolving cylinder with the Desprez signal is under a glass bell placed on a solid wooden stand. The bell, which at its lower extremity has a thick rim, was fixed to the wooden stand by means of a string which passed through three eyelet holes formed of little ribbons attached to the wooden stand by seals; the string passed round the bell just above the thick rim.”

“Through two holes bored in the wood conducting wires leading from the signal issued from the bell, passing immediately into tubes of glass, so as to prevent contact, either intentional or accidental, occurring between them, and consequently the closing of the electric circuit. One of the wires terminated at the accumulator, and the other ended at the telegraphic key, from which a third wire, also insulated by a glass tube, led to the other pole of the accumulator. All the parts of the wires which could not be insulated by means of glass (the connecting wires of the accumulator) were surrounded by an insulating cord covered with ribbon, sealed with our seal. The key itself was closed in a card-board box, nailed to the stand, and secured by means of two ribbons crossed and sealed. Two little holes in the box admitted the glass tubes containing the conducting wires. The accumulator and the key were fixed on the same stand on which was the revolving cylinder. By this arrangement, a mark could only be made on the cylinder when the key had been depressed. Consequently, if we had found a mark on the cylinder, that would have proved conclusively that the key had been depressed, and if the seals were found intact, there would be absolute proof that no trick had been perpetrated.”

Here is the report of their first séance.

“The first seance took place on the evening of 20th February [1907], at the house of Count Verdun. We thank the Count and Countess, not only for their warm hospitality, but also for allowing us to examine the room minutely, without taking ofence at our, certainly ill-concealed, mistrust.”

“The seance took place in a dining-room, which occupied a corner of the house on the ground floor. One of the outer walls has two windows; the adjacent wall has one only. In front of the two windows is a big sideboard, beside which is a door which communicates with the vestibule; the fourth wall has two doors, the first leads to a little room and remained closed during the seance; the second leads to a small office; between the two doors is a chimney-piece surmounted by a mirror. All the windows were closed. One of them, the angle of which was intended to serve as the medium’s cabinet, was closed with shutters without any openings, which opened from the inside only and were barred with two strong iron bars which crossed each other and were fastened into a ring in the wall. The shutters were attached to each other by a band of gummed paper. The angle of the window, where the cabinet was arranged, was enlarged by a wooden canopy enclosed in front by two black woollen curtains. In the cabinet were two small tables, on one of which had been placed our apparatus and some pieces of cardboard on which were gummed the sheets of smoked paper. On the other table various toys were placed; under the table was a child’s piano.”

“There were present at the seance, besides the owners of the house and the undersigned, Dr. Imoda, Chevalier Rostain and a lady.”

“At the beginning of the seance the two of us who took the control were Dr. C. Foà and Dr. Herlitzka. The seance began in full light, and whilst the medium was still quite conscious, movements at first slight, then stronger, began in the seance-table, which raised three of its feet. In full light the slight outward movements of the curtain on the left were observed. The medium asked by means of the table (five raps) that the light might be lessened; this was done rather slowly, and the strong red light, reflected by the mirror on the mantelpiece, fell directly on to the medium’s eyes, which occasioned in her a fit of hysteria; she wept and cried out as if demented, hitting her face repeatedly with her fists. This was a genuine fit of hysteria, and every doctor at all familiar with these attacks could not fail to recognise it as such. The tears of Eusapia fell on the hands of those seated near her . . .”

“When the attack was over, Eusapia was no longer in her normal state of consciousness, and no longer spoke in the first person; she spoke as if she were John King, remaining in her well-known state of delirium. The medium advised the controllers to fix their attention on her head and one of them, Dr. C. Foà, saw a dark ill-defined profile like a head in a Capuchin-hood, which disappeared and afterwards appeared again at his request. M. Foà  liberated his hand from that of his neighbour to seize the head, but the latter withdrew. The others present did not see the apparition.”

“In the meanwhile, the table on which the toys had been placed, and which we will call No. I, made a noise in the interior of the cabinet, from which it at last came out completely. Then there began to arrive on the séance table many objects from table No. I: a sheet of paper, a little wooden sheep and a mandoline; the latter was accompanied by the curtain which covered the handle; the curtain, being pushed back by M. Foà, came back and covered the handle of the mandoline, and a hand, which was not that of the medium or of the sitters, pulled the hair of the person who had pushed back the curtain. At the same time we heard a scratching on the strings of the mandoline.”

“The little piano, in its turn, issued from under the table, we heard the sound of the keys being depressed of themselves and causing the strings to vibrate. We lit up, and observed that the objects which had arrived were really on the table; nothing abnormal was noticeable in the cabinet behind the curtain.”

“Dr. Foà now gave up his control to M. Rostain, whilst, in full light, table No. I made strong movements which synchronised with the movements of the medium’s hand.”


“The light was lowered. A peacock’s feather which was on the toy table rose up in the air from the table and stroked several of the sitters. In the meantime—addressing ourselves always to John King, in order to humour the delirium of the medium—we began to express the desire that our apparatus might be set in motion. Then we heard the table, on which the apparatus was standing, moving towards us behind the curtain, and we perceived that some continuous operation was going on round the card-board box; immediately afterwards some fragments of sealing-wax were thrown outside the curtain on to the séance table. After a pause, one of us having taken out his pocket handkerchief and replaced it in his pocket, someone remarked jokingly that he must take care that his handkerchief was not carried off; at once he felt and saw the handkerchief taken out of his pocket, without being able to observe whether it was done by a hand or not. The handkerchief was unfolded and carried to the nose of the owner: then it disappeared behind the curtain and was afterwards thrown upon the seance table.”

“After this interlude, the operations round our apparatus were begun again and a ribbon was thrown on to the table with the wax seal. We lit up immediately, and one of us hastened into the cabinet holding in his hand a little lighted electric pocket lamp, but he observed nothing indicative of trickery. He observed that the card-board box containing the key was unfastened, that a glass tube was broken, and that one of the ribbons which fastened the box was missing. There was no mark on the cylinder; the bell was still sealed. We assured ourselves by opening the box that the key acted all right, then we closed it again, sealed it afresh and lowered the light.”

Eusapia Palladino 5

Eusapia Palladino

“The work began again round the apparatus; we heard the seals being torn off, and the lid of the card-board box being removed. We asked that the instrument might be carried through the air on to the seance-table, and the lid at once approached us, accompanied by something white, which everyone saw but no one could identify.”

Dr. Herlitzka asked permission to seize the lid; the medium consented, through the table, which rapped three times, and Dr. Herlitzka stretched out his hand and touched the lid, but the curtain advanced and it was rapidly removed.”

“At the same time Dr. Herlitzka felt himself pulled by the ear, and received a blow on his shoulder which was heard by all the sitters. The lid again appeared in the air, was thrown on the table and was taken into the hands of some of us.”

“We then asked that the key of the apparatus might be pressed down. Eusapia replied, pronouncing the words very indistinctly:”

“The key is uncovered and as I can do this, I can also press the key down.”

“When she said the word this Dr. Herlitzka felt a finger press strongly on his shoulder. Eusapia’s hands were at this moment firmly held by her two neighbours.”

“A few minutes later several raps on the key were heard at intervals of a minute or so from one another. At the same time, the seance-table rose up and one of the controllers felt his arm seized by an unknown hand. Dr. Herlitzka also felt himself touched on the shoulder, and felt the curtain pressed against his nose; he had the impression that a hard spherical body was behind it.”

“We asked that the lid of the box should be replaced and at once a white luminosity which several of us saw, but which no one could identify as a hand, felt about on the table for the lid. It could not find it and, as if annoyed, it rapped forcibly two raps on the table and disappeared. Supposing that the lid was too far outside the “ sphere of activity,” one of us placed it nearer to the medium; immediately the curtain advanced on to the table, enveloped it and carried it away. It is needless to repeat that the medium continued under strict control. Dr. Herlitzka saw the usual white form come out from the curtain and make the action of throwing something; and at once a piece of ribbon bearing a wax seal was thrown forcibly on the hand of Dr. Imoda, who was at some distance, opposite the medium.”

“The table with the toys was then pushed completely outside the cabinet.”

“The medium, sighing and groaning, managed to ask, uttering the words indistinctly, whether she might make an apport of the glass bell. We did not consent, fearing that the marks registered on the smoked paper would be smudged, and we said that the bell was sealed; the medium laughed ironically, and the table rapped twice as a sign of negation.”

“Then seven raps informed us that the medium wished to terminate the seance. Before we lit up, Eusapia was carried by the experimenters into an adjoining dark room, where she gradually came to herself.”

“Then we examined the field of operation of the unknown force, and we found that the cardboard lid was lying imperfectly on the box, and that the ribbon which surrounded the bell had been removed. On the smoked paper of the cylinder, we found the marks made by the pressure on the electric key. The diagram was fixed, signed by the sitters, and preserved.”

“The window was closed and barred, there was no indication of trickery in the little room, which had been under constant supervision.”

The report of this séance was signed by Drs. A. Herlitzka, C. Foà, and  A. Aggazzotti.

As in other séance reports, there were several mentions of movement of objects, mainly the table, but also of other objects such as a sheet of paper, a mandoline, the cabinet curtain, and a handkerchief. In addition some musical instruments were played, some sitters felt things (pull of an ear, blow on shoulder), there were raps, and a luminous form and the profile of a head were seen. Also interesting was the fit the medium had, and possesson by her control John King.

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

In 1908 Italian physician Enrico Imoda published a short report of of Palladino’s attempt to influence an electroscope: “The Action of Eusapia Paladino on the Electroscope” (Annals of Psychical Science, 1908, 7, 410–412). He was later known for his séances with materialization medium Linda Gazzera.

Enrico Imoda

Enrico Imoda

Imoda wrote:

“At the mediumistic séance held with Eusapia Paladino, on the evening of April 10th, 1908, at the house of the engineer, M. F., I experimentally obtained a phenomenon which appears to demonstrate that radiations resembling those of radium and the cathodic rays of Crookes emanated from the medium. The phenomenon consisted in the rapid discharge of an electroscope without contact.”

“At the end of the séance, and when I she was completely aroused from her trance condition, I asked Madame Paladino to stand beside a table on which I had placed a charged electroscope, the dielectric portion of which was made of pure sulphur, so that the insulation might be perfect. I got her to stretch her hands forward to a distance of about four inches from the electrode. Her hands were watched by a friend of mine, so that there was no possibility of her touching the electroscope, whilst I attentively observed every movement of the gold leaves, separated by the charging of the electroscope.”

“For perhaps two minutes no visible effect was produced, but after that the leaves began to fall together, very slowly, but perceptibly; at length, after three or four minutes more, the gold leaves of the electroscope suddenly came together, showing that the electroscope was discharged.”

“Since the conditions under which the phenomenon was obtained (the room was lighted by six small oil lamps, with red glasses) precluded the possibility that Eusapia had touched the instrument, it seems to me possible to argue that the discharge was due to the surrounding air having become a conductor of electricity, just as if I had approached to the electroscope a radium salt or a Crookes’ bulb. But there was one difference between the action of the radium and that of the medium—viz., that whilst the discharge of the electroscope by the approach of a radium salt produces an instantaneous effect as soon as the radium is brought close to it, in the case of Eusapia the discharge did not take place until after several minutes, as though the body of the medium, previously passive, suddenly projected a jet of these radiations. That is to say, the emission of the mediumistic rays appeared not to be continuous, but by shocks, as, perhaps, is the case with the electrical discharge of the gymnotus and torpedo.”

Imoda Palladino Electroscope

“If we compare this phenomenon of the mediumistic discharging of an electroscope with the phenomena already certified by myself and others, such as impressions on photographic plates tightly sealed up in paper or wooden boxes, the hypothesis that radium emanations, cathodic rays, and mediumistic rays are one and the same thing appears to gain in probability.”

“One other phenomenon equally well vouched for by myself and others as occurring in mediumistic séances, appears to support this hypothesis; namely, that a small white cloud, floating like a vapour, and resembling a slightly luminous fog, is frequently seen above the surface of the table during séances. In one instance I saw, surrounding the head of Professor Lombroso, a thick cloud of white vapour, the medium having asked us to blow our breath in that direction.” [On this medium and Lombroso click here]

“We know that one of the properties of the cathodic rays is precisely that of causing the formation of a fog when they pass through a layer of air saturated with moisture. It would be interesting to ascertain whether mediumistic radiations, as well as cathodic rays and the emanations of radium, have the property of phenomenon, equally rendering phosphorescent a screen of platino-cyanide of barium placed in their track; up to the present I have not had the opportunity of trying this experiment.”

“The phenomenon of the discharge of the electroscope, taken by itself, would not, for me, be an absolute proof that the surrounding air had become a conductor of electricity, because the phenomenon can be explained in another way.”

“We have only to suppose that a materialised limb had placed the hand of the medium in direct contact with the instrument, and that this small degree of materialisation, sufficient to discharge the electroscope, but not to make an impression on my retina, had remained invisible to me. We know, in fact, positively, that the lower degrees of materialisation are not visible to the physical eye, while they may be sufficiently powerful to impress a photographic plate, even by reflected light.”

“But this hypothesis, reasonable in other respects, is contradicted by the two classes of phenomena mentioned above: The cloud of vapour and the impression on the covered photographic plate. Therefore, the former one seems to me more probable—viz., that the mediumistic radiations are able of themselves to render air a conductor of electricity, and that, in consequence, the radiations of radium, the cathodic radiations of the Crookes” bulb, and mediumistic radiations, are fundamentally the same.”

“I would strongly urge experimenters to undertake researches in pursuance of this idea; for if we can definitely establish the identity of all these radiations, one of the mysteries of an obscure and complex problem—that is, the physical nature of mediumistic force—would begin to be cleared up.”

Eusapia Palladino 16

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

William Henry Harrison was an English journalist and a publisher of works on Spiritualism. He was the editor of The Spiritualist (an influential publication later called The Spiritualist Newspaper) and the author of several works. This included his anthology Psychic Facts (1880) in which he collected accounts of psychic phenomena, particularly mediumship, from various writers.

In the book commented here, Spirits Before Our Eyes, Harrison presented an examination of apparitions, mainly apparitions of the dying. His purpose, he wrote, was “to classify some of the authenticated apparitions of our own and past times, to examine the conditions under which the spirits of human beings are seen, to show that the spirit of man can sometimes temporarily leave the earthly body, and to seek to draw only those conclusions which well-proved facts warrant. Thus may laws and principles be deduced, to guide future explorers of the realm between the known and the unknown, in relation to spirit existence.” (p. 14)

Harrison Spirits before our Eyes

Harrison believed that, unlike mediumship, which critics tried to attribute to non-spiritual processes, apparitions could be explained “only by the presence of the spirit, the whole spirit, and nothing but the spirit” (p. 21). He started discussing what he referred to as deathbed apparitions. Not to be confused with what we refer to today as deathbed visions, or those visions experienced by a dying person, Harrison defined deathbed apparitions as the “occasional appearance of the spirit of a person in one place, at about the time that his body is dying in another place,” cases he believed were “so common as to indicate some connection beyond that of accidental coincidence between the two occurrences” (p. 24).

Such deathbed apparitions, the author believed, were caused by the spirit leaving the body. In his view the dying body provided the spirit “enough materiality to make itself visible” (p. 62). This speculation was similar to those presented by others at the time to account for materialization phenomena observed with mediums, something that was part of a rich history of ideas of vital forces to explain psychic phenomena.

Related to this idea, Harrison stated that some apparitions produced physical effects, being “objectively and palpably temporarily materialised” (p. 55). He further wrote about materialization to illustrate the point: “Spiritualists who have seen much of materialisation seances know that spirits have a remarkable power of duplicating, not only the forms of their mediums, but their clothes. . . . Still there is no creation of new matter. The law of the conservation of energy is not broken. Recent experiments . . . have shown by means of self-recording weighing apparatus that, while the duplicate form of the medium and his clothes is being materialised in one place, the weight of his normal body and clothes is diminishing in another, and vice versa. There is a play of forces between the two, underlying the vulgarly known phenomena of molecular physics. . . .” (pp. 60–61).

But Harrison also entertained some cases being explained differently. He believed some apparitions were perceived through normal vision and others were seen psychically, in response to the thoughts of spirits. As he wrote, “when apparitions are psychically recognised, what the spirit thinks the medium sees, and . . . the unearthly visitor becomes visible in consequence of his mesmeric influence over the spectator” (p. 83).

The thoughts of distant living persons were also believed by Harrison to be a cause for some apparitions of the living, an idea that had been discussed by others before. Harrison also argued that some cases of veridical dreams in which the dreamer visited a distant location were not necessarily the projection of the spirit. They “might be instances of natural clairvoyance, or of a dreamer seeing that which a spirit or mortal in rapport with him thought” (p. 146).

Like other writers before him Harrison cited a variety of cases to illustrate the existence of the spirit and its powers manifesting during life. He discussed apparition cases in which the appearer was not dying, cases in which the content of dreams was affected, and cases of mediumistic communications from living persons. As stated in the first chapter of the book, Harrison’s intent was an attempt to validate the movement of spiritualism by showing how the human spirit could act at a distance producing mental and physical effects, an idea that was in direct contradiction to the materialistic assumptions of the times.

Furthermore, Harrison made the observation that both apparitions of the living and of the dead were similar. He wrote that “there is no break of continuity in the phenomena of apparitions in consequence of the death of the body. So impossible is it to find any indication in the phenomena, of a natural dividing line coinciding with the death moment, that in this volume several cases of after-death apparitions are included, differing in no way from the apparitions of living persons whose mortal bodies are in a sleeping or quiescent state” (p. vii).

This appeared first as a book review in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2011.

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

Over the years many episodes of fraud have been reported in connection with materialization mediums. An interesting one was reported by A. Wallace: “Spiritualists Unmask a Pretender: Exposure of Mr. Eldred” (Light, 1906, 26, 111, click here and go to p. 111).

This was the case of Charles Eldred in England, who sat with a special chair he owned. After several suspicious incidents a group of spiritualists discovered a secret compartment in the chair and made a key to unlock it in the medium’s absence. They found in the secret compartment paraphernalia to simulate materialized forms.

Charles Eldred's chair

Charles Eldred’s chair

According to the report these consisted of a “collapsible dummy head, made of pink stockinet, with flesh-coloured mask . . . ; six pieces of fine white China silk containing in all thirteen yards; two pieces of fine black cloth . . . three beards of various shades; two wigs . . .; an extending metal coat-hanger for suspending drapery to represent the second form, with an iron hook on which to hang the form; a small flash electric lamp with four yards of wire with switch . . . ; a bottle of scent, pins, &c.”

The medium was later confronted, and he confessed his guilt.

The photograph above was printed in Light (1906, 26, 129), where it was stated “We give the above photograph as an ‘object-lesson’ that Spiritualists may in future be on their guard against, and ready for, the crafty tricks of pretenders to mediumship, and also in the interest of all honest mediums, that they may realise the necessity for fraud-proof conditions . . . so that they may not be classed with the plausible and conscienceless rogues who seek to exploit our movement in their desire to get rich quickly.”

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

Polish psychologist and philosopher Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917) presented a few observations about Palladino in an article about Polish medium Stanislawa Tomczyck. The article in question, a section of a multi-part paper, is “A New Mediumistic Phenomena” (Annals of Psychical Science, 1909, 8, 333-399).

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Eusapia Palladino 8

Ochorowicz (left) in séance with Palladino (Carqueiranne, 1894)

The observations took place in 1893 and 1894 in Warsaw. Here is the relevant excerpt:

“In my report of her sojourn at my home at Warsaw in 1893 and 1894, a report which has not yet been published, but which was drawn up immediately, I find amongst others the following details:-“

“December 31st, 1893.– After having explained the duplication of the medium’s hands in the fluidic attouchements, John, that is to say, Eusapia, in complete trance, gave me still further explanations as to the transport of slates. With the view of obtaining some sign by writing, we had prepared two slates tied together and placed in the centre of the table.”

“When John was explaining to me that it was easier for him to materialise the tips of the fingers and the nails than any other part of the arm, I felt something hard tapping lightly on my head.”

“Those are the slates, said John.”

“In answer to my question as to how he was able to hold them in the air, he gave me all his theory, which I will try to reproduce as faithfully as possible:-”

“The hands of all present, and principaly the medium’s, release an emanation which John simply called fluid. This fluid forms bundles of straight rays, which are like stretched threads and support the slates. When these threads or rays are sufficiently strong, the object may perhaps be raised above the heads, because then the rays converge on to a surface or a point of the object, becoming, so to speak, rigid, and the object rests on them as on shafts. But their power depends upon certain conditions, and, above all, on the harmony established between, the various fluids. By suddenly changing the conditions, for example, by breaking the chain of hands, you cut the current and the power from the fluidic rays is dispersed.”

“In order to verify this assertion of John’s, I suddenly withdrew my hand from my neighbour on my left, and immediately the slates fell on to the table.”

” ‘That is true,’ I said to John; ‘but do you know that I had an impression as if the slates had fallen from the medium’s head?’ ”

“ ‘I shall prove to you by-and-by that you made a mistake.’ ”

“We re-formed the chain, as he directed, and a few minutes afterwards the slates were again in the air, above our heads. ‘And now lift up your hand,’ said John. We raised our hands, Eusapia and I, as high as it was possible without letting go of each other’s hands, and the slates manifested their presence at that height several times by touching our hands.”

“It was evident:-”

“1. That the slates were much higher than the medium’s head;”

“2. That the raising of both our hands, without breaking the chain, did not in any way interfere with the mechanical action of John’s rays.”

“When, several seconds afterwards, I unexpectedly left go my left hand neighbour’s hand, the slates fell with a crash.”

“John’s assertions were thus confirmed by experiment. The same thing occurred on the occasion of a complete levitation of the medium, whom John wished to raise in her chair and put on the table.”

“At my request, this levitation which, like all the previous experiments with Eusapia, took place in total darkness, had to be accomplished slowly, in order to facilitate observation.”

“When he medium sitting on her chair was levitated to the height of the table, one of the controllers, M. Prus, loosed his hold of Eusapia’s hand; her chair fell to the floor immediately, and she herself fell on to the edge of the table uttering a cry of pain.”

“On another similar occasion, when the medium (without a chair) was already on the table, she gave suddenly a cry of distress, asking that we place our hands, without breaking the chain, underneath her.”

“It therefore seems that even in a levitation of the medium, executed by the hands of her double, the rays from John . . . come in play . . .”

“I also find in my notes for 1894, the enumeration of the sensations experienced by Eusapia Paladino . . . :”

“1. From the first she felt a shiver passing down her back by the arms, up to the fingers, which became numbed;”

“2. Then came disagreeable pricking in the fingers;”

“3. A cold breeze was felt between her hands or about them;”

“4. The skin of her hands became very dry;”

“5. Finally, synchronising with the phenomenon, she felt a sharp pain in her arms . . .”

Eusapia Palladino table movement IGP

Ochorowicz (far right) in Séance with Palladino at the Institut Générale Psychologique (Paris), Around 1905-1908


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

While there are earlier accounts of Palladino’s mediumship, probably the most important of the early investigations were those conducted by what has been called the Milan Commission. These sittings took place at Milan in 1892 and were first published in the newspaper Italia del Popolo. They were important due to the men involved in the investigation, individuals such as once Councilor to the Czar, Alexander Aksakof (1832-1903), and others such as  astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), philosophers Angelo Brofferio (1846-1894) and Carl du Prel (1839-1899), and physicists Giuseppe Gerosa (1857-1910), Giorgio Finzi (1868-1958) and Giovanni Battista Ermacora (1858-1898). In some seances both physiologist Charles Richet (1850-1935), and psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) were also present.


Giovanni Schiaparelli


Alexander Aksakof


Carl du Prel

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

The séances were also published in other places, such as in the influential Annales des Sciences Psychiques (Aksakof, A., Schiaparelli, G., du Prel, C., Brofferio, A., Gerosa, G., Ermacora, G. B., & Finzi, G. (1893). Rapport de la commission réunie à Milan pour l’étude des phénomènes psychiques [Report of the commission gathered at Milan to study psychic phenomena]. Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 3, 39–64). Here I am using the English translation that appeared in the Psychical Review (The psychical experiments at Milan. Psychical Review, 1893, 2, 45-64).


The report was divided in two sections, observations with good lighting and in darkness. Below I present part of the introduction of the report and the section of phenomena observed when the séance room was illuminated. Notice that the translation in the Psychical Review uses the word “psychic” to refer to Palladino, while the French report in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques uses the word “medium.”

“We held in all seventeen sittings . . . The psychic, who was invited to come to these sittings by Professor Aksakow, was presented by Signor Chiaia, who was present at only a third of the sittings, and generally during the first and least important part of them …”

“Before entering upon the subject, however, it will be well to say at once that the results of the experiments did not always correspond to our expectations. Not that we have not had, in great abundance, facts which were apparently or really important and marvellous; but in the greater number of cases it was impossible for us to apply to the same those rules of experimental art which in other fields of experiment are considered necessary for arriving at sure and incontestable results. Among these rides, one which is most important is to vary, one by one, the circumstances of experiment in such a way as to isolate the true causes, or at least the true conditions, of every fact. Now it is precisely in this regard that our experiments seem to us only too deficient. It is true that many times the psychic, in order to prove her good faith, spontaneously offered to change certain details of the experiments, and from time to time introduced such changes of her own accord; but these were concerning circumstances which were of trifling importance according to our way of thinking. On the other hand, the changes which in our judgment seemed necessary, in order to remove every doubt, were either not accepted by the psychic, or, if they were put into effect, resulted usually in rendering the experiment null, or at least were conducive to results which were not clear.”

“We do not consider ourselves as having the right to interpret this fact by injurious suppositions, which to many seems the simplest way. We think, rather, that this has to do with phenomena of an unknown nature, and confess that we do not know the necessary conditions for their production . . . Admitting all this . . . , the fact still remains that the said impossibility of varying the experiments as we wished singularly diminished the value and interest of the experiments performed, taking away, in many cases, that demonstrative rigor to which in facts of this nature we have the right and also the duty to aspire. Therefore, in many cases, ours were not true experiments, but simply observations of that which happened under given circumstances, not fixed, indeed not wished for, by us.”

“For that reason we will not mention those experiments which seemed to us not to be sufficiently demonstrated, and we will touch lightly upon those regarding which the conclusions could easily be diverse among the various investigators. We will note more minutely the circumstances in those where, in spite of the obstacles above mentioned, it seems to us we have arrived at a degree of certainty.”


Palladino with Aksakof at Milan, 1892


“1. Inexplicable mechanical movements with only direct contact with the hands.”

“(a.) Lifting of a table laterally beneath the hands of the psychic seated at one of its ends.”

“We employed for this experiment a pine table, three feet seven inches long, two feet eight inches in height, weighing twenty pounds. Among the several movements of the table, by which answers to questions were given, it was impossible not to observe especially the motion made during the raps; two legs of the table were raised simultaneously beneath the hands of the psychic, without the slightest preceding lateral oscillation of the table, forcibly, rapidly, and several times in succession, as if the table had been glued to the psychic’s hands — a motion more remarkable from the fact that the psychic was always seated at one end of the table, and we did not release her hands and feet for an instant. As this phenomenon is produced usually with the greatest ease, to observe it better we, on the evening of October 3, left the psychic alone at the table, with both her hands above it completely, and her sleeves rolled to the elbow. We stood around the table, and the space above it and below it was brightly illuminated. Under these conditions the table raised itself to an angle of thirty or forty degrees and remained in that position several minutes, while the psychic held her legs stretched out and beat her feet one against the other. Then producing a pressure with our hands upon the raised side of the table, we felt a very considerable elastic resistance.”

“(b.) Measure of force applied in raising the table laterally.”

“For this experiment the table was suspended by one of its ends to a dynamometer attached to a rope fastened to a small beam which rested upon two wardrobes. If the end of the table was lifted to a height of six inches, the dynamometer indicated a pressure of about eight pounds. The psychic was seated at that end of the table with her hands completely above it, at the right and at the left of the point at which the dynamometer was attached. Our hands made a chain upon the table without making a pressure upon it; for that matter our .hands could not in any case have acted in any way except to augment the pressure exerted upon the table. The wish was expressed that the pressure should diminish, and soon the table began to raise itself up- from the side of the dynamometer. Signor Gerosa, who was watching the indicator, announced the diminutions marked by the successive indications, as seven, five, three pounds, and then nothing, after which the lifting was such that the dynamometer rested upon the table horizontally.”

“Then we reversed the conditions, placing our hands under the table, the psychic putting her hands not only under the edge of the table, where she would have been able to touch the framework of it and exert an action from below, but even underneath the framework uniting the legs. She did not touch this with the palms of the hands, but with the backs of them. Thus none of the hands could have done other than diminish the tension upon the dynamometer. Having expressed the wish that the tension should increase instead of diminish, very soon Signor Gerosa informed us that the indications marked an increase from eight to fifteen pounds. During the whole of the experiment both feet of the psychic were under the feet of those at the right and at the left of her.”

Drawing sitters with EP

“(c.) Complete lifting of the table.”

“It was natural to conclude that if the table could lift itself on one side, against every law of gravity, it could also lift itself entirely. In fact this occurred. This lifting is one of the most common phenomena with Eusapia, and permits the most satisfactory examination. It is produced usually under the following conditions. The persons seated around the table laid their hands upon it, forming a chain. Each of the psychic’s hands was held by the hands of those seated next her, and each foot under the foot of her neighbor. More than that, they pressed her knees with theirs. As usual, the psychic was seated at the end of the table, the position most unfavorable to raising it mechanically. In a few moments the table made a movement laterally; it lifted itself to the right and then to the left, and finally raised itself completely, with its four legs in the air horizontally, as if floating in a liquid, to a height of from four to eight inches (at times from twenty-four to twenty-eight inches), then fell to the floor on its four legs simultaneously. Sometimes it remained in the air several seconds and made fluctuating movements, during which we could examine thoroughly the position of the feet beneath it. During the lifting of the table the right hand of the psychic often left the table, locked in that of her neighbor, and remained in the air above it. Throughout the experiment the face of the psychic was contorted, the hands contracted, she groaned and seemed to suffer, as was usually the case when a phenomenon was about to take place.”

“In order to examine better the facts in question, we withdrew from the table one by one, having discovered that the chain of hands on the table was no longer necessary, either in this or other phenomena. Finally there was but one person left at the table with the psychic. That person rested his foot upon both Eusapia’s feet, and placed one hand upon her knetfs. With his other hand he held the left hand of the psychic. Her right hand was laid on the table in plain sight, or even raised above it in the air while the table was elevated.”

“As the table remained in the air for several seconds, it was possible to take a number of photographs of the phenomenon. Up to this time this had never been done. Three photographic outfits acted at the same time in different parts of the room. The light necessary was produced by a magnesium light thrown on at the opportune moment. There were twenty-one photographs obtained, several of which were excellent. In one of them, the first one made, Professor Richet is seen holding one hand, one foot, and the knees of the psychic; her other hand is held by Professor Lombroso. The table is being raised horizontally, which is shown by the space between the extremity of each leg and the extremity of its respective shadow.”

“In all the preceding experiments our chief attention was turned to controlling the hands and feet of the psychic, and as regards them we feel ourselves able to say that they played no part in the phenomena. Nevertheless, for the sake of exactness, we cannot pass over a fact which became evident to us only on the fifth of October, but which probably existed in the previous experiments also. It consists in this, that all four of the legs of the table could not be said to be entirely isolated during the raising of the table, for at least one of them came in contact with the dress of the psychic. On that evening we noticed that, shortly before the elevation of the table, the left side of the skirt of Eusapia’s gown began to puff out so that it touched the table leg. One of us having tried to prevent such contact, the table did not rise as usual, and we found that it did so only when the observer allowed such contact. This is seen in the photograph taken from that side, and also in those where the leg in question is visible in its lower extremity. It is noticeable that at the same time the hand of the psychic is placed on the surface of the table on that side, so that that part of the table was under the influence of the psychic from the lower portion by means of the gown as well as from the upper part by means of her hand. Nothing could be verified as to the degree of pressure exerted by the hand of the psychic at that moment upon the table, nor was it possible to discover, the elevation of the table being so brief, what part the simple contact of the gown (which appeared to be applied laterally) could have had in sustaining the weight of the table. We tried to avoid the contact of the gown by requiring the psychic and all others at the table to stand up, but the experiment did not succeed. We proposed putting the psychic at one of the long sides of the table, but the psychic opposed this, saying it was impossible. We are obliged, therefore, to acknowledge that we did not succeed in obtaining a complete uplifting of the table, with all four of its legs absolutely free from contact, and there is reason to fear that an analogous difficulty may have taken place in the lifting of the two legs which were on the side of the psychic.”


Seance at Milan, 1892 Standing: Angelo Brofferio, Sitting: Carl du Prel

“In what manner the contact of a thin gown with a leg of a table (at the lower part of it, moreover) would be able to aid in the lifting of the table we are not able to say. The hypothesis that the gown may have hidden a solid prop, introduced to serve as a momentary support to the leg of the table, is not plausible. To maintain the entire table held up on that one leg by means of an attrition which a single hand can make applied on the upper surface of a table would require that the hand should exert an enormous pressure, such as we are not able to believe Eusapia could exert, even for three or four seconds. Of this we are convinced by attempts made by us upon the same table. The only movements of the table not subject to this cause of uncertainty are those where the two legs of the table most distant from the medium are lifted; but this kind of movement is easily produced by a light pressure of the hands of the psychic on the sides of the table next her, and it is not possible to give to this the slightest demonstrative value. The same may be said of the lateral lifting of it on the legs to the right or left of the psychic, which she could produce by the pressure of even one hand.”

“(d.) Variation of pressure exerted by the whole body of the psychic seated upon a balance.”

“This experiment was very interesting, voluntary or involuntary, but very difficult, because, as can easily be understood, every movement of the psychic upon the platform of the scales would cause an oscillation of the platform and also of the steelyard. In order to have the experiment conclusive, it would be necessary that the steelyard, when it had changed position, should remain stationary for a few seconds, to permit one to suspend the weights on the steelyard for measuring. With this hope we made the attempt. The psychic was made to sit upon a chair placed upon the platform of the scales, and we found that the weight marked for both was one hundred and sixty-three pounds. After a few oscillations there occurred a decided descent of the steelyard, which lasted several seconds, and which allowed Signor Gerosa to measure the weight immediately. It indicated one hundred and thirty pounds-—-that is to say, a diminution of thirty-three pounds. The desire being expressed that the opposite phenomenon should occur, the extreme end of the steelyard immediately arose, indicating an augmentation of twenty-five pounds. This experiment was repeated several times and at five different sittings. Once it did not succeed, but the last time a registering apparatus enabled us to obtain two curves of the phenomenon. We tried to produce the same deflections ourselves, and were not able to produce them except by several of us standing on the platform and bearing first on one, then on the other side of it near the edge, swaying our bodies violently, a movement which we never saw in the psychic, and which was impossible in her position on the chair. Notwithstanding, we recognize that the experiment cannot be said to be absolutely satisfactory until we complete it with what will be described in 3 c.”

“In this experiment with the scales it was noticed also that its success seemed to depend upon the contact of the psychic’s dress with the floor upon which the scales were placed. This was verified with an opposite experiment on the evening of October 9. The psychic was placed upon the scales. The one of us who was appointed to watch her feet saw the lower folds of her dress swelling out and protruding over the edge of the platform. Whenever we tried to prevent this (which was certainly not produced by the feet of the medium), the levitation did not take place; but as soon as we permitted the hem of the dress to touch the floor, the repeated levitations took place and were marked by broad curves on the registering dial. Once we tried the levitation of the psychic, placing her upon a broad pallet, extended upon the platform. The pallet prevented the contact of the dress with the floor, and the experiment did not succeed.”

“Finally, on the evening of October 13, another balance was prepared, a Roman balance, with the platform isolated completely from the floor, and distant from it one foot. Carefully watching, and not permitting contact of any sort between the platform and the floor, not even by means of the hem of Eusapia’s dress, the experiment failed. On the other hand, in similar circumstances, a slight result seemed to be obtained on October 18, but on that occasion the experiment was not certain, there being a chance that the mantle which Eusapia requested should be wrapped about her head and shoulders had touched the arm of the balance during the incessant agitation of the psychic. We conclude, therefore, that no levitation succeeded with us while the psychic
was completely isolated from the floor.”


Levitation of Table at Milan, 1892. Sitting: Lombroso (left) and Richet

“2. Mechanical movements with indirect contact of the psychic’s hands, so arranged as to render any mechanical action by her impossible.”

“(a.) Horizontal movement of the table with the psychic’s hands upon a small board on three balls, or on four wheels, which were placed between the board and table.”

“For this difficult but conclusive experiment the feet of the table were provided with rollers. A board twelve inches wide and fifteen inches long was placed on three wooden balls about one and one half inches in diameter, which were placed on the table. The psychic was asked to put her hands on the middle of the board. Her sleeves were rolled to the elbows; those seated beside her placed their feet on her feet and their knees against hers, thus forming, with their legs and those of the psychic, two angles, in the opening of which the two legs of the table stood isolated. Under these conditions the table moved several times, forwards and backwards, to the right and left, parallel to itself, four to ten inches, together with the board which, although on the balls, appeared to be of a piece with the table. In a second experiment of the same kind, the balls, which in the former experiment easily escaped from under the board, were replaced by four movable wheels fastened to the four corners of the board, which gave greater stability without making the movements more difficult. The results were the same as before.”

“(b.) Lateral raising of the table with a board on three balls, or four wheels, interposed between it and the psychic’s hands.”

“This phenomenon, obtained in the first experiment, was repeated with the board on wheels under the conditions stated above. The table rose laterally on the side of the psychic and under her hand, together with the board on the balls or wheels, to a height of four to six inches, without any displacement of the board, and fell again with it. By these experiments, irrefutable proof was obtained that lateral and vertical movements of the table can take place independently of any force whatsoever from the hands of the psychic. In these experiments, the control was limited to that of the hands and feet of the psychic, and as the table was surrounded by several persons, there was no opportunity of seeing whether there was any contact of the legs of the table with the psychic’s skirt, which in the other experiments was found to be a necessary condition of success. The same observation is applicable to the experiment described below in 3 b. To remove every trace of doubt in this respect, a covering of pasteboard was prepared which enveloped the psychic and her chair, in the form of a vertical cylinder, and prevented any external contact with the floor up to a height of about two feet. As soon as the psychic saw this, however, she declared that standing in it would take away all her power, and we were therefore forced to give it up. We made use of it a single time, but under circumstances which rendered its use of no particular value.”

  1. Movement of objects at a distance without any contact with the persons present.

“(a.) Spontaneous movements of objects.”

“These phenomena were observed on several occasions during the sittings. Often a chair placed for this purpose, not far from the table, between the psychic and her neighbor, began to move and approached the table. A remarkable instance occurred during the second sitting. This took place in full light. A chair weighing twenty-five pounds, which was at a distance of a yard behind the psychic, approached Signor Schiaparelli, who was sitting near the psychic. He arose and put it back in its former place, but when he was seated again the chair came up to him a second time.”

“(b.) Movement of the table without contact.”

“It was desirable to obtain this phenomenon experimentally. For this purpose the table was placed on rollers, the feet of the medium were controlled as stated in 2 a, and all present made a chain of hands, including those of the psychic. When the table began to move, all raised their hands without breaking the chain, and the table alone by itself made several movements as in the
second experiment. This experiment was repeated several times.”

“(c.) Movement of the steelyard of the scales.”

“After having noted the influence that the body of the psychic exerted upon the scales while seated on it, it was interesting to see if this could be effected while she was at a distance. To that end the scales were placed behind the back of the psychic, seated at the table, in such a way that the platform came to within about four inches of her chair. First we placed the hem of her dress in contact with the platform. The steelyard began to move. Professor Brofferio got down upon the floor and held the hem of the dress with his hand, but ascertaining that there was not the least tension, he resumed his seat. The movement of the balance continuing with much force, Professor Aksakow got down upon the floor behind the psychic, took the dress away entirely from the platform, and assured himself with his hands that there was nothing between the platform and her chair, nevertheless the steelyard continued to beat violently against the restraining crosspieces. This we all saw and heard.”

“A second time the same experiment was performed, at the sitting of September 26, in the presence of Professor Richet. In a few minutes the steelyard began to move in full view of all, and was beating violently against the bars, whereupon Professor Richet immediately left his place near the psychic and assured himself by passing his hand in the air and on the floor between the psychic and the platform that all that space was free from any communication either by a thread or any other contrivance.”

“4. Raps and reproductions of sounds in the table.”

“These raps were always produced during the sittings to signify “Yes” or “No.” Sometimes they were loud and distinct and seemed to resound in the wood of the table; but, as is well known, it is very difficult to localize a sound, and we could not try any experiments in this direction, except by making rhythmical raps and various rubbing sounds on the table, which seemed to be faintly reproduced inside of the table.”

In the conclusion it was stated:

“In making public this brief and incomplete account of our experiences, we must again express our convictions, namely: —”

“1. That, under the circumstances given, none of the manifestations obtained in a more or less intense light could have been produced by any artifice whatever.”

“2. That the same conviction can be affirmed in regard to the greater number of the phenomena taking place in darkness.:

“For the rest, we recognize that from a strictly scientific point of view our experiments still leave much to be desired. They were undertaken without the possibility of our knowing what we should need, and the instruments and different appliances which we were obliged to use had to be improvised. Nevertheless, that which we have seen and verified is sufficient in our eyes to prove that these phenomena are most worthy of scientific attention.”

Richet published a separate account of his experiences in the Milan seances: “Expériences de Milan” (Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 1893, 3, 1–31). He was impressed by some of his experiences, but still had doubts. He wrote: “However, the formal proof, irrefutable, that this is not a fraud on the part of Eusapia and an illusion on our part, this formal proof is lacking.”


Richet’s Article in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 1893

Carl du Prel also published a discussion of the séances: “Der Kampf un den Spiritismus in Mailand.” (Psychische Studien, 1892, 19, 546-566).

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

Philosopher James H. Hyslop (1854-1920) was an important figure in American psychical research. He was director of the American Society for Psychical Research, and also conducted much research, including tests of the famous Leonora E. Piper. Furthermore he published many articles and books.

James Hyslop, US researcher of psychics

James H. Hyslop


Leonora E. Piper

One of Hyslop’s books was Science and a Future Life (available here,  and here). As the title indicates, the book was about survival of death, with emphasis on work conducted with Mrs. Piper. The author stated at the beginning: “The elaborate Reports of the Society for Psychical Research seldom get beyond the shelves of its members . . . I have endeavored in the present volume to summarise the most important of the Society’s work, more especially with reference to such matter as might
claim to bear upon the problem of a future life . . . I have not intended that the book should satisfy the more exacting scientific standards, but serve the purpose of inducing the scientific psychologist to go to the detailed records where his demands may be better satisfied, and give the general reader some conception of the complexity of the problem with which we have to deal. Hence I have only given samples of the facts which are accessible for the student . . .”




Table of Contents of Hyslop’s Science and a Future Life


This is an excellent book to obtain information about the work with Piper conducted by Richard Hodgson and Hyslop, among others. As Hyslop stated in his introduction the work summarizes reports found in the pages of the Proceedings f the Society for Psychical Research. In fact, this work is one of the best summaries of the initial work done with Piper in the Nineteenth Century.


Richard Hodgson

But the work also presents analyses of possible explanations, and Hyslop defended the spirit agency explanation. A particularly interesting chapter is that entitled “Conditions Affecting the ‘Communications.’ ” Here Hyslop writes about confusions and trivialities in the commnunications caused by various interfering processes. “They are (1) the intramediumistic conditions through which the messages have to come, or the physical and mental conditions of the medium; (2) the intercosmic conditions existing between the ‘communicator’ and those of the medium, and (3) the mental condition of the ‘communicators.’ The second of these divides into three classes, those affecting the transmission of a message from the ordinary ‘communicator’ to the ‘control,’ those affecting the ‘control’s’ interpretation of the messages received, and those affecting the ‘control’s’ ability to send them through the medium’s organism.”

This book is highly recommended as a representative of a survival interpretation of Piper’s communications, as well as an able summary of many of the medium’s early performances.

Selected Examples of Other Publications by Hyslop


Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Resarch, 1901









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

Many were the phenomena produced by Eusapia Palladino. She was well known for her physical phenomena, things such as table levitations and materializations, but her repertoire also included many other effects, among them changes in temperature, imprints on substances such as clay, and luminous manifestations.


Eusapia Palladino

Less discussed were the medium’s mental phenomena. This included, among others, trances and personality changes.

One of the medium’s researchers, Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli (1852-1929), listed and classified Palladino’s phenomena in his book Psicologia e “Spiritismo” (Turin: Bocca, 1908, vol. 2, pp. 507-521).


Enrico Morselli


Here is Morselli’s list of phenomena, showing this was a rich case of mediumship. He used the words “subjective” and “objective” to refer to mental and physical phenomena. Morselli wrote: “The phenomenology of E.P. is varied and intense in the physical sphere, [but] very poor in the intellectual [one]”(vol. 2, p. 507). His classification, he admitted, was somewhat artificial because many phenomena combined mental and physical components.

Here is his a brief version of Morselli’s classification and list of phenomena:


1. Modifications of the state of consciousness (e.g., diminution of normal consciousness)

2. Modifications of the physiological state (e.g., changes in sensory and motor functions)

3. Radiations from the body of the medium (e.g., luminous effects) [unclear why this is included here, maybe Morselli is emphasizing the subjective perception of light]

4. Auto-hypnosis (e.g., trance, catalepsy)


Palladino in trance

5. Amnesia from the period of “trance”

6. Exteriorization of sensibility (dubious spontaneous and experimental clairvoyance) [the term is generally used to refer to the projection of tactile sensations from the body]

7. Exteriorization of motricity (parakinesis: movement of objects with slight contact with object; telekinesis: movement of objects without contact) [unclear why this is included here]

8. Hypno-magnetic susceptibility (difficult to hypnotize, easy to magnetize using mesmeric passes)

9. Exogenous susceptibility (e.g., verbal suggestion, perceptions)

10. Monodeism (fixed ideas; e.g., obsessions, beliefs)

11. Hallucinatory dream phenomena (e.g., flying and fearful dreams)

12. Automatisms (dissociative: sensory and motor)

13. Mental regression (dissociative: primitive, infantile, playful ideas)

14. Personifications (secondary personalities)

15. Communications and messages in Italian

16. Communications in languages other than the medium’s

17. Pseudodivination of thought (use of sensory means simulating telepathy)

18. Cryptopsychism (use of mental material from memory and surrounding ideas)

19. Artificial mental suggestion (various phenomena produced via suggestion)

20. Lucidity, clairvoyance, second sight (Morselli stated that the medium was incapable of this)

21. Intrahuman telepathy (spontaneous communication with distant persons)

22. Hyperhuman telepathy (communication with spirits, disbelieved by Morselli)


1. Parakinesis (phenomena with physical contact, e.g., meaningless and intelligent table movements, raising of table)


2. Telekinesis (e.g., movements without contact, e.g., movement of tables, curtain, and various objects)

3. Weight phenomena (e.g., changes in the weight of various objects and medium’s body)

4. Thermic-radiant phenomena (temperature changes, cold breezes)

5. Acoustic phenomena (e.g., raps, sounds from musical instruments, voices)

6. Hyloplastic phenomena (phenomena producing marks or tracings on matter at a distance: e.g., writing, imprints)


Imprints on clay

7. Zollnerian phenomena (molecular phenomena: e.g., appearance of knots in cords, apports)

8. Tangible teleplasty (apparent living form presenting consistency: e.g., touches, limbs)

9. Simple telephany (luminous phenomena: e.g., clouds, luminous points)

10. Visible, active and tangible teleplasm (organized forms: e.g., clear, unclear and human forms, limbs)


Sketch of materialized figure



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

One of my most recent publications is an article about Sylvan J. Muldoon and Hereward’s Carrington’s The Phenomena of Astral Projection that appeared in the online encyclopedia of the Society for Psychical Research (The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951). In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research, 2016. The book, a modern classic about what today is generally referred to as out-of-body experiences, was published in 1951 and  consisted of discussions of the “doctrine of astral projection,” and of presentations of cases.


Today there are many books about out-of-body experiences, but this was not the case when The Phenomena of Astral Projection appeared. Muldoon and Carrington’s work became an important reference work that presented many cases.

As I wrote: “Muldoon and Carrington believe ‘astral projection’ implies that the mind is independent of the physical body, something that supports the idea of an etheric brain. This, they write, ‘certainly seems but a short step to the acceptance of an etheric body, separate and apart from the physical, which body we may inhabit at death, and which constitutes the vehicle of the mind in astral projections.’ ”


Sylvan J. Muldoon


Hereward Carrington

Muldoon and Carrington discussed evidence for the existence of a subtle body:

“First, there is the massive weight of human belief and testimony, from the earliest times to our own day, in all parts of the world, and among civilized and uncivilized peoples. Second, we have those cases of apparitions in which the phantom-form seems to exhibit a mind of its own—often imparting information unknown to the seer at the time, but afterwards verified. Third, we have those cases in which material effects are apparently produced by the phantom, or its image appears upon photographic plates. Fourth, we have instances of materialization, at séances… Fifth, we have cases of astral projection, in which the subject sees his own phantom body, and is occasionally seen by others. In these last instances especially, we have evidence that the phantom form possesses a mind of its own, separate and distinct from the physical brain and body, which latter may be seen resting upon the bed. The cumulative mass of such testimony is, we submit, most impressive, and gives us the right to believe that such a ‘spiritual body’ exists—as St. Paul long ago stated.”

The authors present many cases classified as those of deliberate  projections, and those that took place while using drugs, in emotional conditions, as well as during accidents, various illnesses, sleep, and during physical activity, a topic I have discussed before.

One of the physical activity cases they presented was the following:

“I was conscious of rising higher and higher, with each gliding step, until I ‘levitated’ about the height of a one-storey building…I was dumbstruck to see ‘myself’ left behind some distance… Looking down at my physical body… I had a great pity for it… I was…fully conscious in my astral body…and saw the eyes in my physical body moving and scrutinizing ‘me’ with a look of wonderment… A moment later my consciousness suddenly shifted to my physical body and, looking through its eyes, endeavouring to figure out the situation, I saw my astral body in space… This occurred several times…”

They also had a chapter entitled “Projections at the Time of Death” in which they presented the testimony of people around deathbeds that saw lights, mista and subtle bodies come out of the body of the dying persons. There is also a chapter with cases in which spirits were seen.

Muldoon and Carrington felt that the cases they presented supported the idea of survival of death:

“The universe seems to be, at basis, rational and spiritual in nature, and there is assuredly a narrow gulf between these phenomena and death itself. As Myers expressed it years ago, ‘death is but the irrevocable projection of the spirit.’ In the one case it is temporary; in the other permanent. But death is no more ‘terrible’ and no more ‘miraculous’ than these projection phenomena, and we have seen that, in many of these cases, the experience proved so delightful that the subject did not want to return to earth life at all! The transition into the spiritual world proved both easy and pleasant, while the experience in that world was little less than ‘blissful.’ ”

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

In the second blog in this series I reprint some early comments about the medium before she became an international figure (for the first one click here).


Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918)

In the words of historian of Italian Spiritism and psychical research, physician Massimo Biondi, in her early days the medium lived in Naples but left for Rome following spiritist Achille Tanfani. “Later she met all the major exponents of Italian Spiritism and would spent at least twenty or twenty-five years of her life from one city to another, even abroad, to display her gifts” (M. Biondi, Tavoli e Medium: Storia dello Spiritismo in Italia. Rome: Gremese, 1988, p. 96).


I am presenting here comments written by Italian spiritist Giovanni Damiani in 1872. Damiani, Biondi wrote to me in a recent email, was “a manager in an English bank (West of England and South Wales District Bank) and in the 1870s, when he openly declared his interest and belief in Spiritism, he was probably still working there. He began to have a strong interest in Spiritism in 1858, when he was 40. His first public action on the topics was – I think – in 1868, with a challenge to some critics of Spiritism.”

One of Damiani’s comments, where he called the medium “Sapia Padalino,” appeared in an article entitled “Spiritualism in Italy.-Mazzini a Spiritualist” (Human Nature,1872, 6, 220-224).


Eusapia Palladino, circa 1895

“I am happy to tell you that we have here in Naples a medium of most extraordinary and varied powers. Her name is Sapia Padalino, a poor girl of sixteen, without parents or friends. She is a medium for almost every kind of spiritual telegraphy known, one of which however is peculiarly her own, and consists in writing with her finger, and leaving behind marks as of a lead pencil, while no such article is in her possession, or even in the room. She will also take hold of the hand of the sitters, and cause the same phenomenon of leaving traces as of lead pencil under their fingers. In her presence discharges are heard as from pistols; lights are seen across the room like the  tail of a comet. She is a seer, a clairaudient, and an impressional medium. She is, however, far from being developed, and a few investigators sit with her three times a-week for the purpose of development. A peculiar and disagreeable bent of her mediumship, however, is the disappearance of objects from the room where the séances are held, and which causes often great inconvenience to the investigators. For instance, a gentleman is sent home in a cold night without his hat, another without his pocket-book containing money; a lady is robbed of her mantle; another lady has been deprived of her watch; the medium herself has her boots taken and carried away during the séance; and all this is done by one of the spirits, who boldly asserts his being John King . . . We are trying to wean that spirit of his disagreeable propensities, which . . . may cause suspicion of the honesty of the poor, simple medium. I do not doubt we shall soon have in Sapia a test-medium, that will convince thousands of the truth of spiritual intercourse” (pp. 222-223).

Biondi reminds us that the medium was 18 years old, not 16, as stated by Damiani.

Another communication from Damiani appeared in Human Nature for January 1873. I reprint it below taken from Light, where it was reprinted years later in its September 5, 1896 issue (“Pranks of undeveloped spirits.” Light, 1896, 16, 428-429). However, Damiani dated the communication November 24th, 1872.  Sapia was referred to as a poor girl who was obsessed by a group of low spirits “determined . . . to torture and drive her to despair.”

“The unpleasant phenomena began with a request from the circle that the spirits might bring in some material object through closed doors and windows. The request was immedi­ately complied with by our hearing an object fall upon the table. On striking a light we found a neatly made-up parcel, and on carefully unfolding it, we were much disgusted to find it containing—a dead rat! I mildly remonstrated with the spirits for the unpleasant joke, and told them to bring in future more genial objects. They said they would, and, at a subsequent sitting, some tawdry brass gilt trinkets were soon brought in (always with closed doors) as a present to the medium. At the next regular seance, they said they would show their power also by taking things out of the room, and sure enough, at the end of the séance, a new mantle belonging to a lady present had been abstracted, and has never been found since.”

“The next day poor Sapia brought a red mantle to the lady, asking if that was the mantle lost, and saying she had found it spread on her bed as she awoke that morning; but it was a different mantle, and remains still in Sapia’s possession. At another séance a member of the society, Signor Lainarra, had his new hat stolen by the spirits. He had to go home without his hat—not, however, before searching minutely the whole house for it; but it has never been recovered. The spirits next pilfered a watch and chain belonging to an ardent Spirit­ualist, Signora Commetti, who seemed distressed at the loss, as the watch and chain had belonged to her departed husband. This time, in a speech which I made as impressive and instructive for them as I could, I urged the spirits to return the property to the lady, as their mission here was to convince the sceptics, and not to distress the friends, of the spirit world. They promised they would, but not then; and when the lady reached home she found the watch and chain lying on her bed. A few days afterwards, however, both watch and chain were missed from before her eyes, and have never been found to this hour.”

“At the next séance I asked to speak to the spirits, and Sapia said she saw them muster all round our circle in great numbers. I again addressed them in a kind of sermon, explaining to them the law of progression, and how wrong it was thus to squander their time and ours, and give us such serious annoyance by abstracting our property; and that if they wanted to advance in a better sphere and be happier, they should be active in good works and not distress their fellow beings; they should repent their faults, and earnestly pray the Almighty for their deliver­ance from their present unhappy state. At the end of my speech, Sapia informed us that only one of the band seemed moved, and shed tears, while the others were dancing about and making horrible faces at me.”

“One of the most remarkable phenomena occurring through Sapia’s mediumship consists in noises, either as from the explosion of firearms in the room, or as from a large hammer striking the séance table. One evening, Signor Barone, an old Spiritualist and medium, felt alarmed at the concussion on the table so near his hands, and said aloud he had withdrawn them from the table in fear. A Spiritualist present observed that he had not the least apprehension of being hurt by the spirits, but he had no sooner said the words than he was struck with a very severe blow on his hand, the painful effects of which he felt for nearly a week. Sapia said she saw the spirits strike the table with an instrument like polished iron in the shape of a funnel or cone.”

“Their next trick was to throw to the ground from a table where they were standing five cages containing my pet canaries, and they did so by drawing a table-cover on which they rested. On hearing the crash we struck a light, and found the poor little things motionless, as if they were dead. They recovered a few minutes afterwards, and I cannot help thinking that they were mesmerised by the spirits, who, perhaps, felt compunction at hurting the poor little things.”

“Again, a séance was held at the house of another member of the society. A pet cat, seeing—or feeling, no doubt—the presence of ungenial beings, began loudly to mew. The sitters expressed their annoyance, and the spirits said they would soon quiet the beast, and the poor thing was found dead the next morning. At the same house the spirits broke a table almost shapelessly, and a large, expensive clock-shade. One day, at the house of Signor Lamarra, some object was missed, and he jocularly said to a friend who lives with him, ‘Ha! it must be Alessi’ (the chief of the band of low spirits who torment Sapia, and who, in life, had been a poisoning doctor) ‘who has stolen it!;’ Sapia knew nothing of this circumstance, but that same evening this spirit appeared to her whilst she was in bed, sur­rounded, as she said, with a sinister light, saying to her, ‘Tell those scurvy friends of yours, Lamarra and Co., that I am not going to stand their insults, ascribing to me that which I have not done. I have never been a thief, and if they say so again I will twist their necks, and yours too, if you do not speak more respectfully of me!’ Sapia says that as the spirit stamped the ground with his foot the whole room trembled, and all the objects standing on a chest of drawers against which the spirit leaned, moved and jingled most violently. She was, indeed, so frightened that she called the landlady where she lodged to her succour, and begged not to be left alone that night.”

“One evening Signor Lamarra, on entering his club, was set upon by two young lawyers of the Positivist school, who publicly ridiculed him for believing in spirits. He asked them if they had investigated Spiritualism. They said, No, but would he take them to the spirits? Lamarra boldly assented, and there and then they started for the medium’s lodgings. A dark séance was immediately held, and the light was scarcely put out when numerous very loud explosions, as from fire-arms, were heard in the room. This rather startled the new visitors; but they were still more surprised when blows were heard falling on the table as from a large hammer. The sceptics, however, charged their friends with producing these noises with some hidden machinery, at which Lamarra placed in the hands of the new visitors his own and those of the medium. The noises then ceased, but instead the affrighted voices of the non-believers were heard piteously asking for a light; for one of them had had his hair and beard pulled, and his face handled by a large, callous, ice-cold, perspiring hand; and the other was touched upon the head and face with an instrument in the shape of a club, cold and hard as iron. A light was struck, but nothing was perceived except the pale faces of the scoffing young lawyers, who do not like the subject being mentioned again. In this case, we must admit, the low intelligences did their business well.”

“Having tried every means to deliver this poor girl from her tormentors, the Naples society thought it better to suspend the séances for a time; and as the girl wanted employment, she was recommended to a nice place as a servant. In the night previous to her going to her new master’s the spirits appeared, and mockingly intimated to her that they would take care that she should not remain there. She expostulated with them, but they laughed and disappeared. She, however, did go, and was immediately set about cleaning a large drawing-room, her master, an old gentleman, being present. All at once a small table, in a part of the room opposite where Sapia was, began to move about. This much astonished her new master; but while he was wondering in bewilderment, an awful crash was heard, and a large shade and some china that were on a chiffonier some distance from the poor girl, had fallen to pieces. Frightened more than vexed at these strange occurrences, and believing them to be the work of Satan—whose escutcheon in Naples preserves still its ancient effulgency—Sapia’s master bid her im­mediately to leave the house, and the poor medium is again dependent on her friends and sympathisers.”

“We have had Sapia mesmerised and thrown into a trance, in which state kinder spirits have spoken through her, who, interrogated, have told us these unpleasant phenomena would give way if we could induce Sapia to cultivate her mind. This we have tried to do with unremitting patience, but without avail, as she shows the greatest reluctance and impatience at being taught the elements of letters. We have done all in our power to remedy this evil, which deprives us of one of the best physical mediums in existence. Can any of your correspondents give any suggestion, that we might, by some new tactics, reclaim this remarkable medium, Sapia Padalino?”

Biondi informs me that the first mention of Palladino in an Italian publication was in Achille Tanfani’s Lo Spiritismo Dimostrato e Difeso (Rome: Tipografia di Ludovico Cecchini, 1872). Tanfani stated he saw in a séance with “Padalino” that a “table suddenly raised, transported by itself without touching the ground to the outer wall of the room” (p. 10).”

Other comments by Damiani appeared in The Spiritualist in 1873. See also one of my articles in which I discuss an autobiographical essay supposedly written by Palladino and information about the medium’s early development and personal life.