THE HAUNTED MUSEUM:
PSYCHIC WONDER OR BLATANT FRAUD?
THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF EUSPAIA PALLADINO
In the latter 1880s, Spiritualism began to become more organized and legitimate members of the movement began to practice their methods of mediumship in ways that differed from that of the Fox Sisters, the Davenport Brothers and others. The organized groups were now taking to steps to examine the claims of their own members and they did so with such thoroughness that mediums began to act with caution. This is not to say that physical mediumship began to disappear from the scene but the emphasis began to shift in 1880s away from tipping tables and tooting horns to a more serious attempt to examine those proofs of spirit existence that took the form of messages and information. Commercial mediumship suffered for a time.
And then along came Eusapia Palladino. This Italian peasant woman became almost single-handedly responsible for restoring the prestige of physical mediumship and went on to became perhaps the most famous medium of the period --- and one who more than made up for the lack of controversy that surrounded Spiritualists like William Stainton Moses.
Eusapia Palladino was born near Bari in southern Italy in 1854. Her mother died shortly after she was born and her father was murdered in 1866, leaving Eusapia an orphan at the age of 12. Even then, it was later reported, she had experienced many strange and supernatural events, such as rapping sounds on the furniture, eerie whispers and unseen hands that would rip the blankets from her bed at night.
Friends and relatives sent Eusapia to Naples, where it was hoped that she would find a position as a nursemaid. Things did not go well. The family that hired her was disturbed by the fact that the eerie events continued to occur around the young girl and also by the fact that Eusapia refused to conform to life in the city. She had a stubborn streak that ran through her character, which often showed itself in her refusal to bathe, comb her hair or learn to read. She was soon dismissed from her position.
She took shelter with some family friends, who dabbled in Spiritualism. Eusapia attended a séance one night and almost as soon as she sat down at the table, it tilted and then rose completely into the air. She began to act as a medium to reportedly avoid being sent to a convent, although she claimed that she was afraid of her powers and avoided using them. The family she was staying with asked Eusapia to stay on with them, and continue holding séances, but with her typical independence, she moved out and began to work as a laundress. She later married a merchant named Raphael Delgaiz and worked in his shop for a time before starting to offer séances on a professional basis.
In 1872, a wealthy and influential Spiritualist couple named Damiani sought Eusapia out. They had heard good things about the séances that she had been conducting and wanted to introduce her into society. Unfortunately, the coarse and rude young woman was no more interested in education and social polish than she had been years before and her introduction was a disaster. The Damiani’s efforts to develop and study Eusapia’s powers proved thankless and she lapsed back into a life of ordinary mediumship, virtually unknown outside of a small circle in Naples.
In this way, Eusapia would have lived out her entire life if she had not come to the attention of Ercole Chiaia, a doctor and occult buff, who sought her out in 1886. Acting almost like a manager, Chiaia too upon himself to publish an open letter to the famed Italian psychiatrist and criminologist Cesare Lombroso. In the letter, which he wrote as if describing a patient, Dr. Chiaia gave a summary of Eusapia’s mediumistic abilities and urgently requested Lombroso’s help in determining whether or not she possessed some sort of new physical force. The letter turned out to be a stroke of genius for Eusapia’s career. Even though Lombroso ignored the letter (at that time), her livelihood saw an immediate boost.
Dr. Chiaia wrote: She is 30 years old and very ignorant; her appearance is neither fascinating nor endowed with the power with modern criminologists call irresistible; but when she wishes, be it day or night, she can divert a curious group for an hour or so with the most surprising phenomena. Either bound to a seat or firmly held by the hands of the curious, she attracts to her the articles of furniture which surround her, lifts them up, holds them suspended in the air like Mahomet’s coffin, and makes them come down again with undulatory movements, as if they were obeying her will. She increases their height or lessens it according to her pleasure. She raps or taps upon the walls, the ceiling, the floor, with fine rhythm and cadence. In response to the requests of the spectators something like flashes of electricity shoots forth from her body, and envelops her or enwraps the spectators of their marvelous scenes. She draws upon cards that you hold out, everything that you want --- figures, signatures, numbers, sentences, by just stretching out her hand toward the indicated place.
If you place in the corner of the room a vessel containing a layer of soft clay, you will find after some moments the imprint in it of a small or large hand, the image of a face (front view or profile) from which a plaster cast can be taken. In this way portraits of a face at different angles have been preserved, and those who desire so can thus make serious and important studies.
This woman rises in the air, no matter what hands tie her down. She seems to lie upon empty air, as on a couch, contrary to all the laws of gravity; she plays on musical instruments --- organs, bells, tambourines --- as if they had been touched by her hands or moved by the breath of invisible gnomes. This woman at times can increase her stature by more than four inches.
She is like an India rubber doll, like an automaton of a new kind; she takes strange forms. How many legs and arms has she? We do not know. While her limbs are being held by incredulous spectators, we see other limbs coming into view, without her knowing where they come from. Her shoes are too small to fit these witch-feet of hers, and this particular circumstance gives rise to the intervention of a mysterious power.
This letter, which turned out to be her first real introduction to the glare of the public spotlight, would be typical of Palladino’s entire career. It described incidents in the séance room that were both common Spiritualist manifestations, along with events that were much more rare --- and much harder to explain. What, for example, was to be made of the bowls of clay where handprints appeared and yet were out of reach of the bound medium? And what of the phantom feet and limbs that appeared and could not be explained? Nearly the entire history of Palladino’s next 30 years was devoted to accounts of the committees and investigators who sought to answer these, and other, mysteries about her.
The first major researcher to seek out Eusapia was Cesare Lombroso, the same man who had ignored the letter from Dr. Chiaia two years before. He came to Naples in 1890 and arranged to hold a number of private séances with Eusapia at his hotel. Most of these initial sessions were below the level of Eusapia’s usual impressiveness, with one exception. At the close of one séance, the lights had been turned up and the observers were discussing their impressions while Eusapia was still tied to a chair, about 18 inches in front of the curtain that formed her spirit cabinet. Suddenly, sounds were heard from the alcove behind her, the curtain began to swing and billow forward and then a small table emerged from behind it and began to slide across the floor towards the medium. Lombroso and his associates hurried into the cabinet, convinced that a confederate must be hiding inside, but it was empty, save for a few musical instruments. The observers were stumped and Lombroso dismissed any previous doubts that he had about Eusapia’s abilities. He had no explanation for what he had seen.
Lombroso published a report of his findings and it was greeted with shock and surprise by many. Other investigators began contacting the medium and in October 1892, Eusapia was asked to sit for a scientific committee in Milan. Among its five members were Lombroso himself and Professor Charles Richet, a noted student of psychic phenomena and a winner in 1913 of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He would also go on to publish a number of books about psychic phenomena and investigate other mediums during his career.
The séances that were held for the Milan committee were the first of which they were relatively reliable records concerning the manifestation of Palladino. They are also the first to not only make note of unexplained occurrences but also of something else that would shadow the career of the medium: Eusapia cheated.
There was no question whatsoever, even among her most ardent supporters, that she took advantage of every lapse in attention or muscular relaxation on the part of those who were supposed to “control” her movements, in order to produce touches, raps, or movements of objects in places where they should have been impossible. Sometimes her tricks were clumsy and obvious and at other times, subtle and clever but it could not be denied that she cheated. It seemed to make no difference to her either that she might be exposed in these activities (as she repeatedly was), given the slightest opportunity, Eusapia cheated.
One of her most common ruses was to convince the two people assigned to hold her arms that each had continued to keep contact with a separate limb, when actually one of them had transferred his hand to her other arm. This was possible because Eusapia constantly moved about while in her trances, thrashing restlessly back and forth. In the course of her tossing her head and waving her arms about, it took great skill on the part of the handlers to be sure they were not both controlling the same hand. This was especially true as the handlers were usually allowed only to follow the medium’s hands by touch but not to restrain her movements in any way. Because of all of the excitement, it was also nearly impossible to decide whether or not Eusapia’s feet were where they were supposed to be.
And while the reports from the Milan’s sittings made it clear that Eusapia would cheat whenever she could, there were also manifestations that occurred that could not be explained. During the sessions, which were held by a dim red light, members were able to see and feel what were apparently a number of spectral hands that groped outward from behind the cabinet curtain while the medium remained plainly visible in front of them. Given the fact that Eusapia was not above faking certain effects, was it possible for anyone (let alone a semiliterate peasant woman with no knowledge of applied mechanics) to bring about such happenings through trickery? That is the exasperating problem that haunted the scientific minds of the time and still haunts us about Eusapia Palladino today.
Bizarre, and usually unexplainable, events became commonplace during Palladino's séances. The most common problem that investigators experienced was trying to discover what was genuine and what was the result of Eusapia's constant cheating.
Eusapia continued to baffle the scientists and the investigators. She performed for Russian zoologist N.P. Wagner in Naples in January 1893 and then did so again later in Rome. She sat for Polish psychologist Julian Ochorowicz in Warsaw at the end of the year and at the beginning of 1894. During every session, the results were mixed. Some of the effects that occurred were plainly the result of cheating. Some of them could have been produced by cheating although witnesses were prepared to state that no cheating had taken place. And some of the effects were judged to be inexplicable in terms of any of the methods of cheating that Eusapia had so far been known to use ---- and possibly inexplicable in any way whatsoever.
A more revealing series of séances was held in 1894 at the home of Professor Charles Richet in France. Almost every member of this group of sitters was major name in the fledgling field of psychical research. In addition to Richet himself, the earlier mentioned Dr. Julian Ochorowicz, and the German researcher Baron von Schrenck-Notzing, there were also four highly influential English investigators. They were Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor and Mrs. Henry Sidgwick and F.W.H. Myers, all of whom had been founders of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882.
The entire group was well aware of the medium’s tendency to cheat and the need for suspicious watchfulness. In spite of this, they observed the cabinet curtain billowing when there was no breeze, they experienced repeated “spirit touches” at times when all were certain that Eusapia could not have been responsible and saw and heard objects being moved around the séance chamber. One of these items was a stalkless melon that weighed more than 15 pounds. It somehow moved from a chair behind the medium to the top of the séance table.
Even if Eusapia had managed to get a hand (or foot) free on this occasion, it’s difficult to guess how she could have grasped an object as smooth as a melon, somehow moved it from a chair behind her to a table and managed to do it before the eyes of a group of trained observers. It seems impossible and because of this, alternate theories emerged to explain the incident. Some suggested that the observers had simply hallucinated the “magic melon”. Others claimed that one or more of the committee members had been in league with the medium, which seems even more unlikely given the reputations of those present.
So, how did this bizarre event occur? No one knew then and no one knows now. This is why investigators came to realize that there was a need for the more extensive use of recording devices and photographs during the investigations. That way, the control of the medium and the occurrence of the phenomena would not be subject to errors in human perception. Unfortunately, though, even after this important series of séances, such improved methods of investigation were not used with Palladino until a later period, and even then, were not as thoroughly applied as they should have been.
After the sittings in France, the next important sessions with Eusapia took place in England and were generally regarded as a disaster. Of the four English participants in the investigations of Professor Richet, only Sir Oliver Lodge had found himself completely satisfied that Eusapia’s phenomena was in part supernatural. The others, Myers and the Sidgwicks, wanted further trials before they could reach firm opinions. They invited Palladino to sit for that at Myer’s home in Cambridge, where she went in the late summer of 1895.
Unfortunately, no detailed record of the Cambridge séances was ever published by the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) and so we have no way of knowing what led up the conclusions reached by those involved. We only know that in October 1895, Professor Sidgwick announced at the society’s general meeting that nothing had been witnessed at Cambridge that could not be put down to trickery. He then went on to withdraw what limited support that he had for Palladino, based on the French sittings, and to state that he had come to believe that all of her manifestations were fraudulent. Myers joined Sidgwick in rejecting the Cambridge séances, although he did choose to reserve judgment on what he had seen in France, which he claimed was more impressive.
No one knows for sure what did occur in Cambridge that summer but it is clear that there were things about Palladino that would have likely offended the Sidgwicks and their friends, regardless of the quality of their mediumship. In fact, had it not been for her mediumship, it is highly unlikely that these highly cultivated English people would have ever associated with a person like Eusapia. Regardless of her reputation as a medium, she did fit into the mold of previous major mediums. She had none of the social graces or charm of D.D. Home and certainly none of the sober and upright character of William Stainton Moses. Instead, she was almost everything that her Cambridge hosts were not ---- poorly educated, coarse, emotional, loud and quite uninhibited about her interest in the opposite sex. She tended to wake from her trances hot, sweaty and sexually aroused. Several times, she had tried climbing into the laps of male sitters at the table. This was something that simply was not done in Victorian era England.
In spite of this, the Cambridge investigators did try and make Eusapia as comfortable as possible so that she would be in a receptive state for the séances. Professor Myers’ wife took her shopping, allowed Eusapia to cook Italian meals in her kitchen and listened to her incessant chatter, even though Mrs. Myers spoke only a few words of Italian and had no idea what Eusapia was talking about. The Myers’ young son, Leo, was recruited to play croquet with her on the lawn but even this young boy complained that she cheated during every game.
Even after all of the efforts made, Eusapia was unhappy. She hated the climate in Cambridge, the cool summer weather, the polite conversation and cultured people. She fell into an ill-tempered sulk that carried over into the sittings. She became indifferent about the entire situation, refused to be tied in place, sometimes wouldn’t allow her feet to be held and performed poorly. Because of this, little happened, tipping tables a time or two, but that was about all. It’s not surprising that Sidgwick and Myers had enough of the troublesome medium and withdrew their support of her after that summer.
A denunciation by the SPR should have damaged Palladino’s career but as it turned out, her work was far from over. She left England and returned to the continent, where she had always felt most comfortable. She presided over numerous séances in private homes and the sitters were apparently satisfied, for she continued to be in great demand. It was not until November 1898 that Eusapia consented to be examined by another scientific committee. This time the investigation was held in Paris and the organizer was Camille Flamarion, an eminent astronomer and a student of the paranormal. One of his chief assistants was Professor Richet.
The Paris séances produced a number of manifestations that were familiar --- and some that were decidedly strange. During one session, Eusapia was seated at one end of a table, and controlled in the usual way, when the sitters were stunned by the sight of a series of semi-transparent female half-figures that seemed to glide out of her body and down the length of the table.
Richet apparently felt the Paris séances were so interesting that they ought to be extended, and when the sittings sponsored by Flamarion had ended (and Flamarion himself had declared that he was satisfied that trickery could not account for what had occurred), Eusapia consented to continue the sittings. Richet quickly organized a new series of séances and invited the attendance of F.W.H. Myers, as a private individual and not as a representative of the SPR. According to their individual accounts, these further sittings were truly remarkable. But as with the Cambridge séances, it is unfortunate (and more than a little mystifying) that no official records exist as to tell us why they were so exciting.
Whatever occurred, it led the formerly skeptical (and hostile) Myers into declaring before the general meetings of the SPR for December 1899 that he was now convinced of Palladino’s gifts. He had just witnessed, he told the group, phenomena “far more striking” than the séances that he had attended by Eusapia in 1894. However, neither Myers not Richet ever published any notes on these sittings, though in the case of Myers the continuing negative attitude of his friends in the SPR was apparently responsible for this.
The only surviving account comes to us from the unofficial notes of Professor T. Flournoy of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Geneva, who was also present at the séances. Flournoy was an experienced observer of the Spiritualist movement but does not go into enough detail about what he saw to permit any sort of strict analysis. Regardless, there is no reason to doubt his overall description of the conditions of the séances. It’s interesting to note that this time Eusapia not only agreed to produce her phenomena in a light that, while dim, was more than sufficient for her movements to be seen by the sitters but she also allowed her wrists and legs to be firmly held rather than just followed about.
Under these conditions, which were more satisfactory for scientific observation than the medium usually allowed, the manifestations that took place were of familiar kinds but could hardly be dismissed when so many were at a loss to explain them. The curtains of the spirit cabinet blew about, as if in a strong breeze, although the closed séance room was still and quiet. A zither that lay on the floor of the cabinet, well out of the medium’s reach, was first to repeat a single note over and over again and then began to thump up and down on the floor. Finally, the instrument was seen leaving the cabinet and landing on the table in front of the sitters. During these and other happenings, the witnesses felt themselves pushed, pinched, patter and even struck by what they described as a “large hand”. All agreed that Eusapia’s hands were not only tightly held but were clearly visible at all times.
In spite of there being no records for these séances, word spread of the results and Eusapia’s fame increased once again. Judging from the fact that she had allowed the test conditions in Paris to be much stricter than normal, she must have seen these sittings as a way to recover ground that she had lost when the SPR withdrew their support of her. If this was her plan, they she succeeded. Even in England, the Cambridge disaster was all but forgotten and it seemed that every scientist in Europe was anxious to have a séance with Eusapia Palladino.
The next investigations were carried out in Genoa in 1901, under the sponsorship of a society called the Minerva Scientific Circle. This time, careful records were kept and published but the manifestations were far below the level usually carried out by Palladino. It should be noted though that Professor Enrico Morselli, the group’s leading investigator, though fully aware of Eusapia’s continued cheating, calculated that at least 75 percent of what occurred during the sittings was genuinely paranormal.
Over the course of the next few years, Eusapia sat for one commission after another but time was wearing on her and she was growing old. Her strong face had begun to sag and lines etched her features. Sometimes, she was unable to perform and sometimes she found herself so exhausted after a séance that she was barely able to walk. The feeling of constantly being put to the test was starting to wear on her and it manifested itself as contempt for her sitters. She was tired but she could not stop. The séance room was her place of work and she had no other way to make a living.
She was studied by Professor Bottazzi of the Physiological Institute of the University of Naples in 1907 and by Jules Courtier of the Paris General Psychological Institute at intervals from 1905 to 1908. In every session, the same problems occurred again and again. Eusapia made all of the rules as to what kind of control of her movements would be allowed. Any attempt to overstep these rules resulted in an absence of any phenomena. On the other hand, the kind of control that she permitted remained far from foolproof. She was not only adept at the substitution of hands (described earlier) but she could also sometimes slip a foot out of a shoe in a way that the handler never realized the shoe was empty. And, as the Davenport Brothers had shown, no amount of rope being used is proof that a medium is immobilized.
The one innovation implemented by Courtier was the fairly extensive used of recording devices during the séance. Measurements were taken of the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and electrical conditions in the room. Courtier also measured Palladino’s pulse and respiration rate and also the decrease in weight of various objects that levitated in the séance room. Nothing astonishing was shown by these tests but they did serve to provide evidence that, at least on this occasion, the phenomena was real and was not merely caused by hallucinations on the part of the witnesses. While much more progressive than any other investigative methods used up to that time, the sensors still did reveal anything about what caused the manifestations, whether it was Eusapia or some “unknown physical force.”
In 1908, Eusapia performed in Naples for a three-man committee that was likely the most formidable that she had ever encountered. One of the men was Hereward Carrington, an American researcher who, though only 27 at the time, had been engaged in exposing fraudulent mediums for eight years and had written a book on their methods called The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism. Carrington had persuaded the SPR (despite their continued misgivings about Palladino) to send with him its honorary secretary, the Honorable Everard Feilding, a man with little experience in the séance room but also a man who was hard to convince of the supernatural. The third member of the committee was W.W. Baggally, who had been investigating the paranormal for more than 30 years. He stated that he doubted that he had ever actually met a genuine medium and was an accomplished amateur magician who amused his friends and colleagues by duplicating the tricks of fraudulent Spiritualists.
These men were not your average believers and Palladino would have an uphill battle on her hands to convince these men she was genuine. They planned to document everything to the letter. The séance records were taken by a shorthand stenographer and appeared in detail in Feilding’s later book Sittings with Eusapia Palladino & Other Studies. The records gave a minute-by-minute account of the researchers, extensive descriptions of the séance room and its furnishings, diagrams and measurements and even careful notes on any changes in lighting. The phenomena witnessed were not only noted but was classified and discussed in separate sections. In addition, each investigator was given ample space to note any disagreements he might have and to state his individual conclusions.
Throughout the sessions, the investigators reported movements and levitations of the séance table; movements of the cabinet curtains; bulging of the medium’s dress; raps and bangs on the table; noises inside of the cabinet; the plucking of a guitar; movements of a small table from the cabinet onto the séance table and movement and levitation of it outside of the curtain; transportation of other objects from the cabinet; touches by unseen fingers and hands; appearances of hands from behind the curtain; appearances of heads and objects that looked like heads from the curtain; lights; sensation of a cold breeze issuing from a scar on the
medium’s brow; and the untying of knots.
The investigators were perplexed. These were highly skeptical, yet open-minded men. They could find no easy explanation for what they had witnessed. In their notes, they wrote:
It was only through constant repetition of the same phenomenon, in a good light and at moments when its occurrence was expected, and after finding that none of the precautions we took had any influence on impeding it, that we gradually reached the conviction that some force was in play which was beyond the reach of ordinary control, and beyond the skill of the most skillful conjurer.
The investigators offered only two explanations. One, that they were under some sort of hallucinatory trance that had been caused by Palladino or two, that there was some sort of unknown, unascertained force at work. The men reluctantly adopted the latter explanation. They wrote:
We are of the opinion that we have witnessed in the presence of Eusapia Palladino the action of some telekinetic force, the nature and origin of which we cannot attempt to specify, through which, without the introduction of accomplices, apparatus, or mere manual dexterity, she is able to produce movements of, and percussive and other sounds in, objects at a distance from her and unconnected with her in any apparent physical manner, and also to produce matter, or the appearance of matter, without any determinable source of supply.
The report turned out to be a tremendous victory of Eusapia. In light of it, the SPR specifically withdrew its ban on Palladino and reasserted her place among mediums meriting serious investigation, in spite of her continued cheating. Most investigators, familiar with the medium and her trickery, felt that she was psychologically unable to discontinue it. Easily identified, they chose to ignore it in light of what they felt was the genuine phenomena that she continued to produce.
One can only hope that Eusapia enjoyed this small bit of glory for the rest of her story is bitter and tragic. It was almost as if she managed one last spectacular series of séances before she began to crumble into obscurity. In spite of the success of the Naples sittings, Eusapia’s health was breaking down and with it, her power to create her acclaimed phenomena. Hereward Carrington was anxious to have her visit the United States so that his American colleagues might have the opportunity to witness her performances for themselves and she agreed to come to America, despite her failing health. The trip lasted from November 1909 to June 1910, a period of constant disasters for Eusapia.
In her younger days, Eusapia would have loved the raw vibrancy of excitement of America. She was have seen it as a challenge but by 1909, she was aging, tired, in poor health and used to be taken seriously. However, the American press did not treat her as a visiting celebrity or even a scientific enigma. Instead, they saw her as a carnival sideshow and treated her more as an oddity than as a person who had stumped scientists in the major cities of Europe. She received many requests to perform but most of them came from music hall managers rather than from scientific committees. The prevailing attitude, from both the general public and other mediums, seemed to be one of suspicion and hostility. Eusapia was very unhappy and soon became angry and difficult to work with.
The investigators at Cambridge could have predicted what would happen next. When Eusapia was unhappy, her séances suffered. Feeling undervalued in America, she became irritable. She recognized immediately that most of the sitters who were coming to her séances were inexperienced; so when the phenomena were slow in coming, Eusapia cheated. She was caught repeatedly (she underestimated the America sitters) and each time the press reported the incident as “exposure”, leading many of the American Spiritualists to wonder if the woman had ever produced anything genuine at all.
When Eusapia finally left America, she went into retirement. The time for the world to learn about the mysteries of the great medium had run out. She was a sick and tired woman by this point and she vanished into history. Eusapia Palladino died on May 16, 1918 and left to the scientific community an exasperating legacy. It’s doubtful that the questions raised by her mediumship will ever really be answered. As Hereward Carrington once wrote, the question of Eusapia leaves us with a choice “between two improbabilities” ---- either at least some of Eusapia’s phenomena were genuine or human testimony in such cases is without value.
There was no experiment that was conducted with her for which any other method of control or observation would have been more complete or with sitters who might have been better qualified to judge the results. Some may criticize what was done but can never agree on exactly what, given the technical limitations of the time, should have been done differently. There is no debate over the fact that she cheated. The scientists both recognized and accepted this. Her supporters maintained that she used trickery only when the phenomena were slow in coming or that she did it to save herself from illness and exhaustion. But should her trickery nullify all of the séances that she conducted, even the ones in which learned experts swore that no cheating took place?
Could Eusapia Palladino have been the “real thing”? Was she truly a person who was able to harness that “unknown force”? Or was she merely a clever hoaxer who managed to turn the tables on scores of observers who she saw as her intellectual and social betters? Did this common peasant woman have the last laugh?
Doubtless, we will never really know for sure, leaving us with one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the heyday of the Spiritualist movement.