BARON ALBERT VON SCHRENCK-NOTZING
Pioneering German Researcher & The Man who Exposed Eva C.

Exhibits in the Haunted Museum are based on the work of Troy Taylor from his book, Ghosts by Gaslight


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One of the pioneering psychical researchers of the early 1900s was German psychotherapist Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing. He became famous for his experiments and extensive studies of physical mediumship and his work earned him the nickname of “Gespensterbaron” or the “Ghost Baron.”

Schrenck-Notzing was born in May 1862 in Oldenburg, Germany. He came from a noble family that could traces its roots back to the 15th century and included many civil and military men employed by the grand dukes of Hanover and Oldenburg, which gave him his hereditary title. As part of his education, he studied treatments of nervous disorders with his fellow student Sigmund Freud and received his medical degree in 1888 for a study of the therapeutic use of hypnosis in a Munich hospital.

Schrenck-Notzing devoted himself full-time to his medical practice and established himself as one of the foremost authorities of the day on hypnosis, sexuality and criminal pathology. His studies of hypnotism introduced him to psychical research, an interest that was strengthened by his friendship with French physiologist Charles Richet, who he had met at a conference in Paris in 1889. The baron translated Richet’s reports on his telepathy experiments into German in 1891, which increased his interest in paranormal activities. The following year, he married Gabrielle Siegle, who came from a wealthy industrial family, and became financially independent. Soon after, he gave up his medical career and devoted all of his time to psychical research.

Schrenck-Notzing started working in the field by devising a series of telepathy experiments, based on what Richet had done. The direction of his research changed completely, though, after Richet invited him to take part in a series of séances with medium Eusapia Palladino in 1894.


Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (Left) and his friend, Charles Richet

The baron became fascinated with physical mediumship and began traveling through Europe, working with different mediums. He was often impressed with what he experienced, although he also managed to expose a number of the mediums as frauds. This seemed to show that Schrenck-Notzing was anything but gullible but so many questions have been created by his investigations into a medium named Marthe Beraud (who became known as Eva C.), that some members of the psychical research community agreed with his former medical colleagues --- they wondered if the baron had taken leave of his senses!

Schrenck-Notzing began investigating Marthe Beraud in 1909 but she had actually started her career several years earlier and had, in fact, been investigated by Charles Richet at that time. Unlike many other mediums of the time, Beraud did not produce raps or tilt tables. While she was in her trance, she exuded ectoplasm that would shape itself into various forms, including faces and entire spirit forms.

Beraud’s career began in 1902 and for the next two years, she was the frequent guest of her fiancé’s parents, General and Mrs. Noel, at Villa Carmen, their home in Algiers. The Noels had formed a spirit circle with a group of their friends and often held séances in their home with a medium, and seamstress, named Vincente Garcia. Vincente managed to materialize a turbaned figure that described himself as priest of ancient Hindustan and gave his name as Bien-Boa. Like far too many other “full-form apparitions” of the time, he walked around the séance room, talked with the sitters and even drank lemonade.

In 1904, Marthe’s fiancé was killed in the Congo and whether it was the shock of his death or something else, Marthe began to take part in the séances and soon displayed a remarkable talent. She quickly replaced Vincent as the regular medium although, strangely, Bien-Boa stuck around and was later joined by his “spirit sister”, Beroglia. About the antics of this spectral pair, a former president of the SPR commented in 1961: “The souls of the departed may conceivably inhabit forms resembling Bien-Boa; if so we must endure the prospect with fortitude.” Nevertheless, incredibly, the Noels and their spirit circle received the performances with enthusiasm.

Word of the new medium reached Paris and gained the attention of Charles Richet, who had also investigated Eusapia Palladino. Richet went to Algiers to observe Marthe’s séances and surprised just about everyone by declaring himself favorably impressed by what he had seen. As time would pass, many would question what Richet could have possibly have seen in Marthe Beraud, especially after the difficult conditions that he had imposed on Palladino. The reason for his belief in Marthe is of great interest. It was, in his own words: “The absolute honorableness, irreproachable and certain, of Marthe B., fiancée of Maurice Noel, son of the general.” Unfortunately, this type of conviction, based on the reputation of people and not their actions, would often taint Spiritualism. It happened with the power of Sir William Crookes to give scientific status to the performances of Florence Cook, with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s refusal to question the honesty of the girls in the Cottingley affair and, conversely, in the respectable SPR’s refusal to even consider the testing of Eusapia Palladino because of her reputation as a vulgar cheat.


Marthe Beraud, who became known as "Eva C.", slumped over in her spirit cabinet

Richet’s opinion was even more incredible when we consider that, according to testimony at the time, that Marthe was not even serious about her deception at first. She regarded the whole thing as a grand joke and even admitted it to some of her friends, although never to Richet or to the Noels. In 1904, an attorney named Marsault, who attended a séance at Villa Carmen, claimed that the young medium confessed that she faked the phenomena for fun. She hinted to Marsault that the mysterious “Bien-Boa” just might be the Noel’s coachman dressed up in white muslin and smuggled into the house with the help of other servants. The whole thing was a game until Richet showed up from Paris and the game became very real. One has to wonder if Marthe then wished that she had never started her performances ---- or did she only regret the admissions of fraud that she made to her friends?

Not long after Richet wrote glowing reviews of Marthe’s séances, she vanished from the Spiritualist scene. Several years passed and the location changed from Algiers to the city of Paris and the year was 1909. A series of dramatic séances have been announced at the home of Juliette Bisson and are being performed by a new medium named Eva C., which is understood to be a pseudonym for Eva Carriere. Eva C.’s phenomena including striking materializations, not of full forms but incomplete manifestations of ectoplasm. The séances were witnessed by Charles Richet, who wrote of them:

A kind of liquid or pasty jelly emerges from the mouth or breast, which organizes itself by degrees, acquiring the shape of a face or a limb… I have seen this paste spread on my knee, and slowly take form so as to show the rudiment of the radius, the cubitus or the metacarpal bone…

Eva C. was Marthe Beraud. The young woman, deprived of the security that had been taken from her by her wealthy fiancée’s death, Marthe saw a chance for her to make a profitable living as a medium. Through her mediumship, she had acquired friends, supporters, attention and even an adoptive mother in Juliette Bisson, who allowed the young woman to live with her. Through Bisson, Eva came to the attention of Baron von Schrenck-Notzing, who began to investigate the medium.

He would later write a book about her called Phenomena of Materialization, which was published in both German and English. It is a highly detailed and exhaustive examination of Eva C. and in the book, Schrenck-Notzing never reveals the fact that Eva C, was also Marthe Beraud. It is believed that he concealed her identity because he was afraid of the allegations of fraud that were made against her in Algiers. Was he concerned about the medium’s privacy or concerned about his own work being discredited?

Whatever the answer, Schrenck-Notzing’s findings concerning Eva C. sounded impressive on the surface. The séances, which were held over a period of four years, were never held in the darkness but under a red light. The séance cabinet, which was a curtained off corner of the room, was always searched. In spite of the fact that Eva was stripped naked in front of witnesses and then clothed in a close-fitting garment from neck to feet, she continually produced mysterious-looking ectoplasm that gave the impression of faces, limbs and unidentifiable living shapes.

Despite all of the precautions, critics suggested that Eva was somehow able to secrete these shapes somewhere on her person. The investigators carried out mouth, vaginal and anal examinations but nothing was found. Another theory was that she was able to swallow the props and then regurgitate them. She was given an emetic that caused her to vomit but nothing out of the ordinary was found. Her supporters suggested that even if she had been able to smuggle props into the séance room, the conditions would have made it impossible for her to use them.

Regardless, it’s obvious from the photographs that were taken during the séances that she somehow managed to get phony props into the séance cabinet somehow…

As the séances took place, Schrenck-Notzing employed a battery of eight cameras, two of them stereoscopic, and about 225 photographs were taken during various stages of the phenomena. The cameras were arranged to take pictures simultaneously in order to record phenomena at a number of vantage points (including above and behind the curtain), not usually accessible to the investigators.

The photographs of Eva C. are indeed remarkable --- but not because they offer the chance to observe genuine ectoplasm. What they show, in almost every case, are “materialized” faces that appear completely flat and often with creases as if they had been folded. Some time after the publication of Schrenck-Notzing’s book, which featured the less than mysterious images, several of the “spirit faces” were found to be those of perfectly real, living people whose pictures had appeared in the Paris newspaper, Le Miroir. One photo, taken from above the cabinet, actually showed the production of “ectoplasm” that had writing on it that appeared to be a newspaper headline or advertisement. With the publication of these obviously fraudulent acts, it was not up to the critics to show just how the newspaper clippings had been smuggled into the séance room, in spite of the “complete” search of the medium. It was plain that they somehow had been smuggled in, whether by Eva or some confederate in the audience.

THE EVA C. PHOTOGRAPHS

(Left) Medium Eva C. in one of the typical flashlight photographs taken by Schrenck-Notzing and Juliette Bisson. Here, she exudes some standard ectoplasm -- the more dramatic formations came later.
(Center) Another ectoplasm photo shows the substance apparently exuding from her ear. Most believe it was simply draped over the back of her head.
(Right) One of the first of the "faces" to appear in the ectoplasm.


The "ectoplasm" (left) turned out to be a photo of actress Monna Delza which appeared in the magazine Femina in April 1912.

(Left) A flashlight photo of a two-dimensional "spirit", complete with wrinkles, stands behind Eva. It proved to bear a striking resemblance to the King of Bulgaria.
(Right) Another "ghostly manifestation" turned out to be a photo from Le Miroir of American president Woodrow Wilson with a mustache drawn in.

The skeptics didn’t care how it was done but many in the Spiritualistic community did. So, how had she accomplished the blatant fraud? Most pointed not to Schrenck-Notzing but to Juliette Bisson, Eva’s greatest supporter. Many believed that she had assisted with the fraud in order to dupe the baron and gain additional publicity for the medium. These allegations were never proven, however, and Bisson would later publish her own book about Eva.

Despite his own book, Schrenck-Notzing was never really damaged by the “mediumship” of Eva C. He was openly critical of the ectoplasm that was produced and offered many examples of newspaper clippings that matched the “spirit faces” that appeared during the séances. Even so, his research was unpopular with both the public and the scientific community when it came to Eva C.

As for Eva herself, she unbelievably continued her career as a medium. After 1914, when German researchers were no longer able to come to Paris, Gustave Geley, the director of the Institut Metaphysique in Paris, continued the investigations of Eva C. Once again, the world of science declared that Eva’s manifestations were genuine but in this case, we have something of a mystery on our hands. When Dr. Geley was killed in an accident in 1924, his successors found some peculiar papers in his files. No one knows just what these papers may have been, since permission to publish them was refused by the Institut Metaphysique. Some of those involved with the investigations believe that the items in question may have been photographs that proved Eva C. was a fraud. If true, then Geley must have known that Eva was a fake and for some reason, suppressed the information. However, no accounting of this information has ever been made public and Geley’s supporters maintain that the accusations are baseless.

 In 1920, Eva interrupted her testing with Geley to travel to London for sittings with the SPR. Dr. Eric Dingwall and Dr. V.J. Wooley were the society’s chief investigators during 40 sessions that were held in London. Their results were disappointing in that the phenomena was either weak or nonexistent, although the researchers did manage to collect a small amount of “ectoplasm”. When it was analyzed, it was found to be chewed-up paper.

They had too little information to make any conclusions about Eva C. The phenomena had been too scanty to justify any definitive judgment, they stated. Their report read: “If we had not been acquainted with the work of previous investigators we might have felt inclined to draw a negative conclusion from our own observations.” Many feel that perhaps the SPR committee should have trusted its instincts. The case of Eva C. is a startling example of the cumulative effect of Richet’s belief that the future daughter-in-law of a general is above suspicion!

Although not discredited by these events either, Eva must have felt that her time was running out. A series of séances held at the Paris Sorbonne in 1922 were also worthless and her career ended a short time later when she was married. The medium known as Eva C. was finally retired, bringing an end to one of the most regrettable eras in Spiritualist history.

 INVESTIGATING THE SCHNEIDER BROTHERS

Baron von Schrenck-Notzing was undaunted by his research with Eva C. / Marthe Beraud. When a retired naval officer, who had read The Phenomena of Materialization, wrote to tell the baron about two brothers who were physical mediums, he immediately made arrangements to have sittings with them. Schrenck-Notzing took up a regular study of Willi Schneider in 1919 and his brother Rudi in 1925. These two young men were eventually studied by not only the baron, but by some of the most important psychical investigators of the day, using some of the most sophisticated instruments then available.

The Schneiders were born in the small Austrian city of Braunau (also the birthplace of Adolph Hitler) to Josef and Elise Schneider. Their father was a printer and he and his wife had 12 children altogether, nine boys and three girls, but only six boys survived: Karl, Hans, Fritz, Willi, Franz and Rudi. Rudi, the youngest, was born in July 1908. His parents were disappointed that he was a boy and went so far as to dress him in girl’s clothing, curled his hair and even called him “Rudoline” for a time. He managed to survive this ordeal though, and became interested in sports, cars and airplanes, preoccupations he shared with his brother Willi, who was five years older.

There are different versions as to how the Schneiders mediumistic activities began. The most widely told version is that in the spring of 1919, military officers stationed at Braunau began buying large quantities of paper from the print shop located below the Schneider’s apartment. The family discovered that the officers were holding séances to combat their boredom and were using the paper for automatic writing.


Josef Schneider, shown here with his wife, and sons, Willi and Rudi

Mrs. Schneider and some of her friends began experimenting with their own séances but had little success. One afternoon, some of the Schneider boys decided to try also but nothing occurred until Willi arrived and took a turn with the pen and paper. Almost as soon as he touched it, the pen began to scrawl out messages that allegedly came from a spirit named “Olga”, who would continue to act as Willi’s guide in the days to come.

Soon, it was not only automatic writing that Willi was able to manifest. The table tilted and rocked and objects around the room began to move. At one early séance, the tablecloth was slowly raised off the table, even though no one was touching it at the time. The spirit of Olga continued to come through Willi and on another occasion, she instructed the family to cover a kitchen stool with a large cloth and to place objects, including handkerchiefs and a basin of water, next to it. Willi sat near the stool and, a few moments later, strange things started to happen. The water splashed out of the bowl, the sound of hands clapping was heard, and the objects placed near the stool started to move. Throughout the activity, Willi seemed unconcerned about the weirdness going on around and actually seemed to enjoy the confusion. 

As the séances continued, the family, who were devout Catholics, asked her if there was anything they could do to help her in some way. She told them that she wished to have some masses said for the repose of her soul. The masses were said and the séances continued. Olga, grateful for their help, promised that in return for their kindness, she would make their name famous throughout the world. It was a promise that she kept: the events that started with Olga’s arrival signaled the beginning of paranormal manifestations that would puzzle scientists and ordinary citizens around the world.

One of these ordinary citizens was a retired naval officer named Captain Josef Kogelink, a man not predisposed to believe in the supernatural and rather inclined to dismiss it as antiquated rubbish. However, his first encounter with the mediumship of Willi Schneider would change his mind. According to Kogelink, in those early days before Willi became internationally known, his ability to produce unexplained phenomena was at its height. He stated: “Not even the slightest attempt was made by him to support the supernormal phenomena through normal means. He never fell into a trance. He himself watched the manifestations with as much interest as any other person present.”

Kogelink described how, one occasion, the cloth that had been draped over a stool lifted and a small hand emerged from under it. He wrote: “I quickly and firmly grasped it and was just about the draw out from under the table what I thought must be there ---- when I found my closed fist was empty and a heavy blow was dealt against it.”

Kogelink returned again and again to the Schneider home and regularly witnessed Willi’s powers. He became increasingly convinced that he was observing genuine psychical phenomena. These happenings, he wrote, were quite splendid: “A zither was put on the floor, close to the tablecloth, and out from under the table there came a small hand with four fingers stroking the strings and trying to play. The hand was very well visible, looked like that of a baby and was very well developed in every detail as far as the wrist, above which it passed off into a thin… glimmering ray which disappeared behind the tablecloth… A large brush was put before the tablecloth. The hand grasped it and began to energetically brush the floor in front of and behind the cloth…”

 As time progressed, the activity continued to change. In the beginning, Willi’s spirit guide, Olga, had written out her wishes and instructions while Willi was fully awake. After a time, however, he began to fall into a trance and she started to speak through him with an unfamiliar, hoarse whisper. Also, at this stage, another phenomenon began to occur: Willi began producing ectoplasm. Captain Kogelink described it as being a cobweb-like substance. It first wrapped around the medium’s face and then started materializing on one shoulder and then the other. The substance always disappeared without a trace. One day, Olga invited Captain Kogelink to take a closer look at it and from a distance of about 10 inches, he claimed to see a faint, undulating, glowing fog being emitted from Willi’s head. It eventually settled into his hair and rested there like a hat, before being sucked back into his body through his nose.

Not surprisingly, Willi’s activities began to draw local and then international attention. Captain Kogelink contacted Baron von Schrenck-Notzing, certain that he would be interested in Willi and the phenomena that he was producing. Schrenck-Notzing began his investigations of Willi later in the same year that the phenomena began, 1919, but his most serious work began in 1921, after the boy had finished high school. Willi moved to Munich for a year and placed himself in Schrenck-Notzing’s charge. Between December 1921 and July 1922, he had 124 séances with Willi and published his findings in 1924. During this time, he invited 27 university professors and 29 investigators, scientists and interested parties to participate in the experiments. The phenomena that had been reported in the Schneider home continued to occur in the laboratory.


Willi Schneider (Left) is controlled during a sitting by physical means. The other two men in the photograph are Professor Karl Gruber and Josef Peter.

 

Schrenck-Notzing was an experienced investigator by the time that he began his experiments with Willi Schneider. He knew how to limit and detect trickery. The séance room was carefully searched in advance and kept locked during the sessions. Willi was strip-searched and required to wear special tights, covered with luminous buttons that would make any movements visible in the dark. The room was lighted with a red light bulb that was placed on the center of the table in the circle of sitters. The participants in the séance joined hands and those closest to Willi would hold onto his arms and legs. The objects that he was to manipulate were placed on the lighted table and were enclosed in a wire cage.

Under these specific conditions, Schrenck-Notzing and the other sitters heard rapping sounds, felt cold breezes, saw the items on the table levitate and saw various materializations. These materializations started out as rather shapeless blobs but soon began to resemble arms and legs and saw the return of the mysterious hand described earlier by Captain Kogelink.

Among those who attended séances in 1922 were famed researcher Harry Price and Eric Dingwall. It was apparently with some amusement that Schrenck-Notzing allowed the two Englishmen to search the séance chamber for trap doors and false walls. Both men were familiar with conjuring techniques and the work of fraudulent mediums, so the fact that they satisfied themselves that intruders could only get in through the front door, which was locked and sealed during the duration of the séance, gave even more credibility to the activity that followed. During the séances, Willi produced a number of extraordinary manifestations, including the levitation of a table that rose with such force that Dingwall was unable to hold it down. After the series of tests, Dingwall thought the evidence strong enough to state that the phenomena did seem to be the work of unexplained “supernormal agencies”. At that point, he felt he could “scarcely entertain with patience” the idea that all involved were engaged in a hoax. Both Dingwall and Harry Price signed statements to say that they had witnessed genuine phenomena.

Dingwall’s conviction did not last, though. He had a reputation as an inveterate skeptic about physical phenomena and some times late, he suggested that Schrenck-Notzing must have somehow been responsible for what they had witnessed. It’s difficult to see how the baron could have managed such a feat but this would not be the only time that Schrenck-Notzing would be stung by criticism from other researchers.

Despite the amazing manifestations that he had created, Willi began to grow bored with being a medium. What he really wanted to be was a dentist. As he concentrated on his apprenticeship, his psychic skills began to weaken. He left Schrenck-Notzing’s home and moved to Vienna, where he lived with a Dr. Holub, who ran a sanatorium. Late in 1924, after Holub’s death, he traveled to London by invitation from the SPR, who wanted to arrange a series of sittings. The results were disappointing and even after he returned to Braunau and continued his work with Schrenck-Notzing, it was obvious that his powers were nearly gone. He gave up offering regular séances and died in 1971.

Before Willi’s decline started in earnest, his spirit guide, Olga, made a strange pronouncement one night. In her hoarse, hurried whisper, she stated that she wanted to contact Rudi Schneider, Willi’s younger brother, because he was, in fact, an even more powerful medium than Willi was. The Schneider’s parents objected. Rudi was only 11 years old at the time, could not stay up late and had even been frightened during some of Willi’s early séances in the Schneider home. Olga was adamant, though, stating that” “He will come!”

And Rudi did. Even as the Schneiders were arguing with Olga, the door opened and Rudi walked into the room. He was in a trance, looking as if he were sleepwalking with his eyes closed and arms outstretched, and he joined the circle of sitters. The moment he sat down at the table, phenomena began to occur in the room.

Rudi, in his trance, began to speak as Olga. Willi, meanwhile, appeared to take on a new spirit guide. She announced herself as “Mina” and she spoke in a voice that was quite distinct from the one that he had previously used. Olga would never return to speak though Willi again and, with the phenomena that he could produce already, younger brother Rudi now became the focus of attention.

Baron von Schrenck-Notzing took an interest in Rudi from the earliest days of the boy’s mediumship. Experiments were started almost at once. At first, they were held in Braunau but, later, the boy was taken to the baron’s laboratory in Munich. The powers that Rudi had seemed to be equal to, or perhaps even greater, than those his brother once had.

From the start, the boy’s father, Josef Schneider, decided to keep a record of Rudi’s séances and he quickly learned what was needed in the way of documentation and evidence. His experiences with Willi helped to convince him of the need to keep a detailed accounting of every event that occurred. Each time there was a sitting, he entered the names of those present, the date and the place in his record book. Then he, or someone that he appointed to do so, gave an account of what happened at the séance.

The two thick books that he compiled made for fascinating reading for later researchers. They were always described as Schneider’s geisterbucher --- or “ghost books”. He refused to be parted from them in his lifetime. The faded books can still be read today and contain notes form 269 separate séances. They not only provide good evidence for the authenticity of Rudi’s powers but on one occasion, were even a help to Rudi when he was accused of fraud.

Two Viennese professors, Stefan Meyer and Karl Przibram, who had attended a séance with Rudi, later claimed that the controller had been influencing the sitting. Josef Schneider was able to defend his son by producing the page on which the professors had endorsed the séance record, one of them adding for good measure the words “the control was perfect”. After that, they were obligated to retract the claim that they had caught Rudi cheating and instead had to state that they found no “natural” way to explain what they had witnessed.

But as time would pass, other events would come about that would cause some to question whether or not these men may have been correct when they thought that Rudi was faking some of the phenomena that occurred.

Rudi’s mediumship began to be widely publicized following a visit by Harry Price in the spring of 1926. Price, being a master publicist for his work and investigations, brought a reporter from the London Daily News with him to Schrenck-Notzing’s laboratory. As so often happened with Willi in the past, there were mysterious sounds, cold breezes, objects that moved and phantom limbs that materialized from nowhere. The reporter was greatly impressed and wrote a series of articles about what he had seen. But more controversy over Rudi was soon to follow…

It erupted after the publication of an article in the paranormal journal Psyche, which floated a hypothesis of fraud that involved a confederate of Rudi’s sneaking into the séance room unobserved. The article was written by an American journalist named W.J. Vinton, who had attended 10 of Rudi’s séances in the company of Eric Dingwall. Vinton’s hypothesis (which was obviously encouraged by Dingwall) was supported by J. Malcolm Bird of the ASPR. Bird attended only one séance, during which he was supposed to be guarding the door. Another skeptic was Walter Franklin Prince, who attended 10 séances, during which only some curtains moved. Having only this to judge by, he concluded that this could have been contrived.

Schrenck-Notzing was outraged by Vinton’s (and by extension, Dingwall’s) suggestions. He rightfully believed that the criticisms implied the inadequacy of his experimental methods, so the baron arranged for a series of sittings to be conducted under a newly devised system that was made up of electrical and tactile controls. The experiments were planned for 1929 but unfortunately, Schrenck-Notzing died on February 12, 1929, following an operation for acute appendicitis.

The psychical research world was stunned by the baron’s untimely death but Harry Price, who had always respected Schrenck-Notzing, implemented his planned electrical controls and invited Rudi to the National Laboratory for Psychical Research in London. Two series of experiments were conducted there in 1929 and 1930. Price extended Schrenck-Notzing’s plans to include the entire circle of sitters. The hands and feet of the medium and all of the sitters were joined together in a single circuit, so that it would be impossible for any of them to have helped out the phenomena without everyone present knowing about it.

The experiments were extremely successful and all of the familiar Schneider family effects were present. There were icy breezes, temperature drops, curtains that moved, the levitation of the table and even the materializations of arms and hands. Price, always quick to capitalize on the publicity that he gained, offered a 1,000 pound award to any magician who could duplicate what Rudi had done under the same controlled conditions. No one took him up on his offer.

 Eugene Osty at the Institut Metaphysique in Paris arranged the next major series of experiments for Rudi in October and November 1930. These experiments used an infrared beam that crossed the room between Rudi and a table on which were placed objects for him to move. At first, the beam was connected to a number of cameras, which went off automatically when the beam was broken. This occurred a number of times but during each incident, Rudi was always slumped over in his chair, seemingly deep in a trance. The cameras were then replaced by a bell, which would sometimes ring for 30 seconds or longer. Later experiments, designed to measure the deflection of the beam, found that it was never absorbed as completely as it would have been if broken by a material object. Whatever was crossing the infrared beam, causing the cameras to fire and the bells to ring, and at the same time moving the objects on the table, was only partially solid.

In the spring of 1932, Rudi returned to Harry Price’s lab. He was now 28 years old and distracted by his fiancée, Mitzi Mangl, who he insisted on bringing with him. Out of 27 séances, little or nothing occurred during 18 of them. At the remaining nine, though, weak versions of the usual phenomena took place under the same conditions as before. Rudi’s powers seemed to be waning but they were still strong enough to confirm the earlier findings.

A series of sittings arranged by Sir Charles Hope were even weaker in terms of observable phenomena but once again, the infrared apparatus noted the weird breaking of the beam. During 27 sittings, there was a record of 84 objects that moved and no fewer than 275 partial breaks in the infrared beam.


After the death of Baron von Schrenck-Notzing, Harry Price implemented his planned electrical controls and is seen demonstrating them in this photograph.


Harry Price testing Rudi Schneider in his laboratory

 It was hoped that the breaks could be captured on an infrared photographic plate that was devised by physicist John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh), but this was unsuccessful, possibly for technical reasons. Further experiments with modifications to the photographs probably would have been carried out but Harry Price managed to disrupt the proceedings with some startling information that would make Hope’s reports completely pointless.

According to Price, he had photographic evidence that Rudi had managed to free one of his arms and move a handkerchief during his sittings at the National Institute for Psychical Research in March 1932. The allegation rocked the paranormal community, as did the photograph when it was released. It had been taken during a séance and showed Rudi reaching for a table. The camera had been triggered by any movement from the medium. The resulting image was grainy and shadowed, but it managed to destroy Rudi’s reputation and embarrass investigators, including Harry Price, who had declared him to be genuine. Those who claimed that Price was simply a publicity-seeking fraud, who wanted to keep Sir Charles Hope’s findings from overshadowing his own, were hard-pressed to explain why he would have made himself look so ridiculous in this matter.

No one can explain how, if Rudi had been a fraud all along, how he had managed to produce such incredible phenomena under the stringent conditions employed by Schrenck-Notzing, Harry Price, Sir Charles Hope, Eugene Osty and others. It’s possible that his powers were fading and to make up for the fact, Rudi had resorted to trickery to enhance the weak phenomena that was still occurring.

We will never know for sure but we do know that Rudi gave up mediumship soon after the exposure, married his fiancée and became a very successful automobile mechanic. He died in Austria in 1957.

© Copyright 2008 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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