THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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The rapping spirit of Bergzabern - Part I


We had already heard about certain spiritist phenomena, which in 1852 caused enormous uproar around Speyer, in Bavaria. We even knew that a brochure had been published in German, containing an authentic report. After long and unsuccessful searches, one lady from Alsace, subscriber of our Review, showing great interest and perseverance, for which we are mostly grateful, was able to find and offer us one volume of that brochure.

We provide here its full translation, hoping that it may be read with great interest since it demonstrates once more that these kind of manifestations are from all times and places, considering that the ones given here occurred d when discussions about the spirits were only in the beginning.


FORWARD


“For the last several months ago a singular event is part of all conversations in our city and its

surroundings. We refer to the Rapper, as it is known, from the tailor Peter Sänger’s house.

So far we have abstained from any report in our daily – Journal of Bergzabern – about the manifestations which since January 1st, 1852 have been taking place in that house. As they have, however, drawn the general attention, to the point of having the authorities requested Dr. Bentner to provide an explanation to the case, and Dr. Drupping from Speyer had even visited the place, in order to observe the facts, we can no longer avoid the duty of publishing them.

We would feel really embarrassed if the readers expected us to pronounce about the facts: we leave that task to those who, by the direction of their studies and their positions, are more equipped to judge, which they will do without difficulties, if they find out the origin of those phenomena.

As for us, we shall limit ourselves to reporting the facts, mainly of those which we have witnessed or heard from trustworthy persons. The readers may decide by themselves.

F. A. BlanckEditor, Journal of Bergzabern

May 1852

On January 1st, this year, in Bergzabern, at the house where the family of Peter Sänger lived, in the room adjacent to the living room, a sound like that from a hammer was heard, in the beginning, as if muffled and coming from far away, then becoming progressively stronger and more distinct. Those knocks seemed to be happening on the wall, near the bed of his twelve year old daughter.

The noise was customarily heard between nine thirty and ten thirty. In the beginning the couple did not give it importance; however, as that singularity repeated every night, they thought it could be coming from the neighbor’s house, where perhaps a trickster could be trying to have some fun by knocking on the wall. They soon realized that there was no one playing tricks. The floor of the house was broken apart and the bed was moved to the opposite side of the room: then, remarkable thing, the noise changed its place and was noticed every time the girl was asleep.

It was obvious that the girl somehow took part in the manifestation of that noise. After unsuccessful searches by the police, people started to think that the noise should be attributed to some sort of disease or some particularity in the anatomy of her body. However, nothing so far has confirmed such a hypothesis. It is still a mystery to the doctors.

The event progressed with time: the noise prolonged for over an hour and the raps vibrated with more intensity. The girl changed bed and bedroom, but the rapper manifested in the other room; under the bed, on the bed and on the wall. The knocks were not identical: sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker and isolated, and finally succeeded rapidly, following the rhythm of the military marches and dances.

The girl was already occupying the room for some time when it was noticed that, during her sleep, she would produce short and incoherent words. The words soon became more distinct and more intelligible; it seemed that the child spoke to another person over whom she had authority. Among the facts produced by the author of this brochure reports one that he witnessed himself:
The child was in bed, lying on her left side. She had just fallen asleep when the noises started and this is how she began to speak: “You, you! Knock a march!” And the rapper played something which resembled a Bavarian march. The rapper stopped when a command to stop was given by the girl. Then she ordered: “Knock three, six, nine times”. The rapper executed the orders. After giving a new order for 19 knocks, 20 were produced, which made the girl rebut: “This is not right: it was 20 knocks.” This was followed by the count of 19 knocks. She then requested 30 knocks and 30 were heard. Then to the order of 100 knocks only 40 were counted, given the speed which they were produced. Once the 100th knock was heard the girl said: “Well done! Now I want 110.” We could only count up to 50. After the last knock the sleepyhead said: “It is not right. You only did 106”. This was soon followed by another 4 knocks to complete the 110. Then she asked: “One thousand!” Only 15 knocks were heard. “Come on!” She said. The rapper still knocked 5 times and stopped.

Then those who were present had the idea of giving orders directly to the rapper, who executed them. He stopped on hearing the command: “Halt! Silence! Enough!” Then, on his own and without a command, he restarted to knock. One of the individuals present said in a low voice, in one corner of the room, that he would like to command only by his thought, and his wish was 6 knocks. Then the experimenter positioned himself near the bed and did not say a word. The six knocks were heard. Still through his thought 4 knocks were requested and heard. The same experiment was carried out by others, but not always successfully.

The girl soon woke up, stretched, pushed the bed sheets away and stood up.

Once asked about what had happened she said that she had seen a large, scary faced man by her bed, and that he would have squeezed her knees! She fell asleep again and the manifestations proceeded until eleven o’clock. Suddenly the rapper stopped, the girl regained her normal sleep, recognized by the regularity of her breathing, and nothing else was heard that night.

We observed the fact that the rapper obeyed the order to produce military marches. Several people acknowledged the accuracy that the Russian, Austrian and French marches were produced.

On February 25th, in her sleep, the girl said: “Now you no longer want to knock. You want to scratch. Okay, let us see how you are going to do that.” In fact, on the very next day, instead of knocks it was possible to hear something like scraping, coming from the bed, which still happens today. The knocks were mixed with the scratches, sometimes alternately sometimes simultaneously, so that on playing marches and dance rhythms, the scratches would spot the strong times and the knocks the weak ones. According to the requests, the time of the day or people’s ages, they were indicated by dry knocks or scratches. With respect to people’s ages sometimes there were mistakes, soon corrected in the second or third attempt, as long as someone said that the number was wrong. Sometimes, instead of indicating the requested age, the rapper would execute a march.

Day by day the child’s language becomes clearer, during her sleep. What was, in the beginning, only words or rapid commands to the rapper, with time transformed into a meaningful conversation with her parents. Therefore, one day she would entertain a conversation with her older sister, speaking in a directive, lecture-like voice, saying that her sister should go to the Church’s mass, pray every day and show submission and obedience to their parents. Later at night she returned to the subject. Her teachings had nothing to do with theology but simply had some of those notions that one learns in school.

Knocks and scratches were heard for about at least an hour before the conversations, not only during the girls’ sleep, but even while she was awake. We saw her eating and drinking while the knocks and scratches were heard as we also heard orders given to the rapper, who executed them, while she was not sleeping.

On the evening of Saturday, March 6th, several people gathered at Mr. Sänger’s house as the girl, who was wide awake, had predicted that the rapper would show up at nine o’clock.
At 9 o’clock sharp, four violent knocks were heard on the wall, scaring those around them. Soon and for the first time, the knocks happened in and around the wood of the bed. The bed was completely shaken. Those bangs took place on all sides of the bed, first in one place, then in another. Knocks and scratches alternated. Following the girl’s and the participants’ orders, the knocks were heard from the inside of the bed, or from the outside. Suddenly the bed was lifted, moving in different directions, while strong knocks were made. About five people unsuccessfully tried to return the bed to its original place; as they had given up the bed still swung for a few moments before returning to the original position. This event had already happened once before this public occurrence.

Every night the girl would give a kind of speech, which we shall succinctly comment.

First of all it is necessary to note that as soon as the girl lowered her head, she would immediately fall asleep and the knocks and scratches would start. She would moan and get agitated with the knocks and seemed to feel unwell. This did not happen with the scratches. When she was about to speak, she would lie down, belly up, showing a pale face, as was her hands and arms. She would wave her right hand and say: “Come on! Come close to the bed and join your hands. I will talk about the Savior of the world.” Then, the knocks and scratches would go silent and everybody would respectfully listen to the speech of the sleeping girl.

She would speak slowly, in a very intelligible way, in pure German, a surprising fact as everybody knew that she was behind in school, which certainly was related to a problem with her eyes which caused great difficulty in her learning. Her speech was about Jesus’ life and his actions, since he was twelve years old; his presence in the temple, among the Scribes; his miracles and benefits to humanity. Then she would describe his sufferings and sternly censored the Jews for having crucified him, despite his good deeds and blessings.

At the end the girl would say a passionate prayer to God, asking him to give her the “grace to withstand the sufferings He had sent her with resignation, as He had chosen her to enter into communication with the spirit”. She would say that she did not want to die yet as she was still a child and she did not want to go down to the dark grave. Finishing her prayers she would solemnly recite the “pater noster” and then say: “Now you can come”. The knocks and scratches would then immediately restart. She still spoke twice to the spirit and in each of them the rapper stopped. She would say a few words and add: “Now you can go, in the name of God”. She would then wake up.

During those lectures the girl’s eyes remained tightly closed but her lips moved. Those closer to the bed could observe her gestures. Her voice was pure and harmonious. Once awaken, she was asked about what she had seen and what had happened. She said:

  • - G: It is the man who comes to see me.

  • - Q: Where is he?

  • - G: Close to my bed with the other persons.

  • - Q: Did you see the other persons?

- G: I saw everyone who was close to my bed.

It is easy to understand that such manifestations have found many skeptical. Some even thought that this story was a pure mystification. But her father was incapable of any buffoonery, particularly of the type that requires the professional skills of a conjurer. He enjoys the reputation of a serious and honest man.
In order to address the issue and stop the suspicion, the girl was taken to a different house. As soon as she arrived there the knocks and scratches were heard again. Besides, a few days earlier she had gone with her mom to Mrs. Klein’s house, a widow who lived half a league away, in a village by the name of Capela. Since she was tired, she was offered to rest on a sofa when the same phenomenon immediately started. Several witnesses can attest to this fact.
Considering that the child showed a healthy appearance, she should then be taken by an illness which affected her nerves and involuntary muscles, in case the phenomenon could not be explained by the manifestations described above. Finally, we shall mention that a few weeks ago the girl was taken to Dr. Bentner with whom she stayed in order to have those phenomena more closely studied by the wise doctor. Since then the noises that had by now completely stopped in Mr. Sanger’s house, were now happening in the house of Dr. Bentner.

These are the facts that happened, with all their authenticity. We deliver them to the public without passing any judgment. We hope that the men of Medicine soon provide a satisfactory explanation.

Blanck

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