More Early Twentieth Century Evidence for Paranormal Phenomena


In the post here I discussed some early twentieth century evidence for paranormal phenomena. In this post I will discuss additional evidence for the paranormal from such a time. 

On page 112 of the book Enigmas of Psychical Research by James Hyslop, we read an account by Caroline Barber that reminded me of two events I have experienced myself.  We read the following:

"I had one day been spending the morning in shopping, and returned by train just in time to sit down with my children to our early family dinner. My youngest child — a sensitive, quick-witted little maiden of two years and six weeks old — was one of the circle. Dinner had just commenced, when I suddenly recollected an incident in my morning's experience which I had intended to tell her, and I looked at the child with the full intention of saying, 'Mother saw a big, black dog in a shop, with curly hair,' catching her eyes in mine, as I paused an instant before speaking. Just then something called off my attention, and the sentence was not uttered. What was my amazement, about two minutes afterward, to hear my little lady announce, ' Mother saw a big dog in a shop.' I gasped. ' Yes, I did ! ' I answered ; ' but how did you know ? ' 'With funny hair,' she added, quite calmly, and ignoring my question."

I have had experiences just like this with my own family members. Once I was at a zoo with my two daughters. We had not seen any apes that day, and were not close to any glass. For some reason I thought of a time about 10 years earlier when the three of us had briefly seen a gorilla just behind a wall of glass. I was just about to say something like, "Do you remember that time years ago when we saw that gorilla behind the glass?" An instant later, before I said anything like that, one of my daughters asked me exactly that question. On another day, I was just about to say, "See you later, alligator" to the same daughter. But I decided not to say that, thinking that she might be offended by such a remark. So I simply said, "See you later." She then said, "See you later, alligator" -- a phrase I had never heard her use before. 


 On page 85-86 of the book Death and Its Mystery: Before Death by the astronomer Camille Flammarion, we read of a man who had a horse accident that caused him to break his collarbone while he was trying to return home. At the very same time, his wife far away was struck by the conviction that her husband must have died or been injured. 

On page 33 of Volume 7 of the Annals of Psychical Science (1908), we have an account of a woman who went into trance and started to speak with the "voice, gestures, and play of features habitual with" her mother, and that "strange to say, her eyes changed color; being naturally brown, they became blue, the color of" her mother's eyes.  

On page 556 of Volume 6 of the Annals of Psychical Science (1907), we have the following statement asserting that levitation and apparitions of hands were observed under carefully controlled conditions, by quite a few distinguished scientists and professors:

"A SERIES of seances with Eusapia Paladino have just been held in Naples. They have been perhaps more important than all that have preceded them, because conducted under even more severe scientific control. These seances took place in the laboratory of Professor Ph. .Bottazzi, Director of the Physiological Institute in the University of Naples. There were also present, Dr. G. Galeotti, Professor of General Pathology in the University of Naples; Dr. T. De Amicis, Professor of Dermatology and Syphilography at the same University, Dr. 0. Scarpa, Professor of Electro-Chemistry at the Polytechnic School in Naples; M. E. Jona, Senator, President of the Italian Electro. Technical Association; Dr. A. Cardarelli, Senator, Professor of Clinical Medicine in the University of Naples; M. N. Minutillo, Professor of Jurisprudence in the University. Mme. Bottazzi was also present at two seances, in the course of which mediumistic faculties revealed themselves in her-which disturbed her considerably. By the light of three lamps the table round wbich the experimenters were seated was seen to rise as high as nearly half a yard (4oc.) or to float in the air untouched, without any contact with Eusapia, for about twenty-five minutes; then apparitions of hands began, and of black heads, etc." 

More details about these "apparitions of hands" can be found on pages 105-109 of the same volume.  On pages 120-130 of the same volume, we have an astonishing paper entitled "The Levitations of the Medium Zuccarini." It discusses observations of levitations by the medium M. Amedeo Zuccarini witnessed by several observers. On page 127 of the same volume we read the following, written by a Professor O. Murani:

"Whilst the left leg of the medium was stretched out in the air behind the curtain, where there was no possible object to support it, and whilst his body was bent forwards, the foot on the edge of the table first contracted extraordinarily, then rose gradually, and not by jumps, and the medium's body remained poised in space for a period of from ten to twelve seconds ! The phenomenon was exceedingly interesting : on the first impression one would say that the medium's body did not obey the laws of gravity. How is this to be explained no one knows; it is necessary to suppose that another force, opposed to that of gravity, prevents the fall."

Following page 134 we have photographs documenting this claim. In the nineteenth century a similar levitation phenomenon was observed by a host of distinguished observers in seances of the medium Daniel Dunglas Home, observers including the world-class scientist William Crookes (as discussed here).  

Professor M. L. Patrizi testifies to the same effect, that Zuccarini levitated. He states, "The duration of the suspension was variable, lasting while we could count from four to thirty-six, as also was the distance of his feet from the surface of the table (approximately from two to twenty inches)."  On page 140 of the same volume the same professor states the following;

"Sceptical readers, perusing the record of so many precautions, so many doubts, and so much initial scepticism, will have recognised that the conviction of the genuineness of this phenomenon was only reached, by me also, slowly and with difficulty. Of the four seances at which I was present, I may say that only the last, of March 23rd, gave me complete certainty ; of the eight journeys which I made between Modena and the meeting place in Milan, the final one back to the laboratory alone constitutes my 'journey to Damascus.' "

I was surprised to read recently on the online web site of Scientific American an interview with journalist Leslie Kean, the author of the excellent book Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife.  What I was very surprised by was that the interviewer (John Horgan) actually allowed Kean to talk at some length about evidence for life after death, the type of evidence that Scientific American almost never allows its readers to hear about. Kean referrred us to a remarkable piece of evidence from the early twentieth century, involving the medium Indridi Indridason. 

The evidence (discussed in detail here) involves statements of a "drop-in communicator" speaking though the lips of the medium Indridi Indridason. In a seance with Indridason held in Reykjavik, Iceland on November 24, 1905, this seemingly paranormal "drop-in communicator" identified himself as Mr. Jensen, and stated that a fire had started in a factory in Copenhagen, Denmark (more than 1300 miles away) on that evening (November 24, 1905) about midnight, and that the fire was quickly brought under control. It was soon found out that exactly such a thing had happened. A newspaper reported that in Copenhagen on November 24, 1905, a factory fire had started about midnight, and was soon brought under control. There were no telephones in Reykjavik until the next year, and no telegraphs until 1918, so there is no way in which electrical communication could have made such a thing known to Indridasson or anyone else at the seance.  Not many days later the same "drop in communicator" more specifically identified himself as Emil Jensen. 

No one present knew whether such an Emil Jensen had ever lived. But it was found out many years later through the investigation of Erlendur Haraldsson that an Emil Jensen had lived and died in Copenhagen, Denmark, very near to the place where the Copenhagen fire had occurred.  The "Emil Jensen" in the seances identified himself as a manufacturer who was a bachelor, and the actual Emil Jensen was such a person. 

Very remarkably, this "drop-in communicator" at the seance (speaking through the lips of the medium Indridi Indridason) had spoken in Danish, a language which Indridason did not even know (pages 218-219).  We read this on  page 221:

"At many sittings Jensen was seen by sitters appearing in a 'luminous, beautiful light-pillar', usually very briefly but several times during the same séance and at various locations in the hall. This 'pillar of light' would first appear in the darkness, and after that Jensen would appear in it. The 'pillar of light' was larger than Jensen and emitted light in such a way that Jensen and Indridi could sometimes be seen side by side at the same time (Gissurarson & Haraldsson, 1989, pp.82–85). Both of Indridi’s hands were at the same time being held by a witness to exclude the possibility of fraud."  

The physical manifestation reported above was only one of many extremely dramatic physical manifestations that occurred during the seances of Indridi Indridason. A special building was constructed to scientifically study this medium.  Under conditions under which fraud should have been impossible, a large number of witnesses (often including some of the top scientific or medical authorities in Iceland) reported seeing the following at the seances of Indridi Indridason (pages 203-204): 

  • Mysterious gusts of wind, cold or hot
  • Mysterious raps and other noises
  • Mysterious voices or choir music
  • Levitations and inexplicable movements of objects
  • Levitations of Indridi Indridason himself
  • Playing of musical instruments as if by invisible hands
  • Mysterious fire balls or fire-flashes
  • Writing appearing on paper without human touch
  • Luminous clouds as large as several feet

In the paper hereHaraldsson discusses how the Indridason/Jensen case bears a remarkable resemblance to one of the best documented cases of the paranormal: the description of a distant fire by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1759, a fire that came close to his home in Stockholm. Before 15 witnesses Swedenborg described the fire while in another city of Sweden (Gothenburg, more than 200 miles away), and days after his description his account was found to be uncannily accurate.