Thursday, 6 January 2011


Let us take up where we left off regarding Eusapia Palladino. 
In Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Russia, she had apparently displayed extraordinary occult powers. In darkened séance rooms reports were publicized that she had apparently levitated  and elongated herself. She had been credited with   "apporting" flowers (I will come back to this).
I recount the following concerning this Medium because her fame spread in England and she traveled to this country in the last years of the 19th century.
At this time throughout Europe Palladino was regarded as a genuine Spiritualist medium. Her supporters asserted that she was different from the multitude of fraudulent Mediums. The famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was  an avid follower and eight years afer she died he was still praising her psychic phenomena and Spirit Materialisations, in his book, History of Spiritualism.(1926)


 In 1892, Palladino held 17 séances  in Milan. So impressed with what he witnessed Cesare Lombroso  described these sessions in his book, After Death — What? Researches in Hypnotic and Spiritualistic Phenomena. One of the things which most impressed him was the Levitation of the Medium. He witnessed this on two occasions.  
On the first occasion, 28  September, and again on 3 October he reported that The Palladino, who was seated near one end of the table, was lifted up in her chair bodily. Throughout the levitation she emitted groans and a sort of wailing. She was finally, still seated on the chair, placed on top of the table. She was eventually restored to her former position. Whilst in the trance state her voice was changed and to accomplish the levitation the same voice uttered the words, “Now lift my Medium up on the table.” This was done apparently without the assistance of any of the observers. Palladino described the levitation as if hands were grasping her under the arms and then lifting.
Both Pierre Curie and Charles Richet both Nobel prize winners were immensely impressed with Palladino’s demonstrations. At one séance Pierre Curie reported that in a dim light, whilst her hands were being held down, another hand and a ring made contact with his own hand.
I will leave Palladino at this point. Regardless of whether or not in later life she was exposed as faking, I am simply making the point that Spiritualism had penetrated the Victorian Consciousness to colossal degree.
Before I move finally to Katie King and the investigations of Sir William Crookes, I want to say something about APPORTS.
This is the name given by Spiritualits to a range of objects such as flowers, jewelry, and even live animals, that apparently materialize out of thin air during a séance. In fact, during the heyday of Spiritualism the production of apports was one of the most characteristic features of the séance. Sometimes apports flew through the air. Often they struck the faces of the sitters and landed in their laps. On occasions these apports would appear on the table.
In line with the popularity of Magnetism, Mesmerism and so on, it was easy for the Spiritualist Community to argue that these apports had been drawn to the Magnetically to the séance. There have been some odd objects which have appeared such as branches of trees, armfuls of fruit and flowers, money, jewels, and even, believe it or not, live lobsters. The mind boggles to imagine a live lobster wriggling on the table.
In conclusion let us have a look at THE MATERIALISATIONS OF KATIE KING BY THE MEDIUM FLORENCE COOK and the subsequent investigations by Sir William Crookes FRS.

During the high watermark of Spiritualism, Florence Cook was one of the movement’s most famous mediums. She could apparently produce full-form spirit materializations, especially those of her spirit guide, Katie King. When Katie King apparently spoke using Florence Cook her voice  was high pitched and resembled that of an uncultivated person.


By 1872, full form materializations were nothing new. In that year Florence Cook held a séance. She as usual was seated inside a cabinet with the curtains drawn. The sitters were arranged around a table outside the cabinet. After a short time a white face appeared in the darkness outside the curtains of Florrie's cabinet. It announced itself as Katie King. Here though, was something new. Katie was not the mysterious and ethereal figure of other séances. She was a spirit made flesh and a young woman who could walk and talk among the sitters. Her new body was almost indistinguishable from that of a living girl. Unfortunately, in the eyes of some sitters she bore a very close in resemblance to Florence Cook. 
During her séances Florence entered her cabinet. After as long as 30 minutes the curtains parted and a figure, dressed all in white and looking quite pale, emerged as Florence apparently continued to lie unconscious in the cabinet.

Occasionally, while Katie was present, Florence could be heard sobbing and moaning inside the cabinet, as if the manifestation was draining the energy from her. During Katie’s initial appearances, she would simply smile and nod at the audience. During later ‘materialisations’ she began to walk amongst the sitters offering her  hand and even speaking to them. After Katie returned to the cabinet, Cook would be found, still tied up and drained of energy.
It was asserted that spirit materialisations, like Katie, were composed of a mysterious substance known as ectoplasm. This was apparently which emitted from the medium's body and took on unexplained shapes. SItters were prohibited from interfering with the ectoplasm in any way as this might damage the health of the Medium.

At about this same time, the Medium Daniel Douglas Home was being tested by  Sir William Crookes. Florence Cook quickly got in touch with the famous scientist. She offered herself as a subject of investigation.
So, in 1874, Crookes began to test Florence Cook in earnest.  During this time he produced a number of photographs, 55 in number. Only a few remain at this time. Such photographs tended to cast doubt on Crookes scientific objectivity. In the minds of the sceptics it seemed to produce evidence that the whole thing was a fake. Some even wondered whether there was some collusion between Crookes and Florence Cook based on a sexual liaison.

In the photograph even a casual observer could see the obvious facial resemblance between Katie and Florence. In a previous photograph, we see Katie standing in the background while Florence is slumped (apparently in a trance) over a chair in the foreground. Quite conveniently  Katie's face is hidden by an the so called ectoplasmic shroud.
Crookes was attacked by his critics, and in fact nearly lost his Fellowship in the Royal Society. Nevertheless, Crookes defended the séances and the photographs as genuine. He declared that Florence Cook had gladly submitted herself to any test which he devised. He doubted that she ever set out to deceive him.
In spite of Crookes’ protests, criticism of the entire procedure remains to this day.
I think that is enough on the shaping of the Victorian Consciousness by the Spiritualist Phenomena.
For a bit of light relief I intend to consider an entirely different topic before I return to the Victorian Consciousness.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog.
Any comments
Photo sources wicki media commons


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