THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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The rapping spirit of Bergzabern
Part II

We have extracted the following text from a new German brochure, published in 1853, by Mr. Blanck, editor of the Bergzabern newspaper, about the rapping spirit that we talked about in our May issue. This extraordinary phenomena reported in the brochure, whose authenticity could not be questioned, prove that we have nothing to envy America in that regard. The meticulous care used to report the facts in the report is noticeable. One would wish that the same attention and prudence would be used in all similar cases.

It is known these days that this kind of phenomena does not result from pathological states. On the contrary, they indicate an excessive sensibility of the persons in which they manifest, always easy to stimulate. A pathological state is not an efficient cause; it can, however, be its consequence. The experimentation mania has caused grave accidents more than once in similar cases, which would have been avoided had nature been allowed to operate its course. The necessary advices to such cases are found in our “Practical guide about the spiritist manifestations”.

Let us follow Mr. Blanck’s report.

“The readers of our first brochure entitled “The Rapping Spirits” saw that the manifestations of Filipina Sänger have an enigmatic and extraordinary character. We reported these wonderful facts since their initiation, up to the moment when the girl was taken to the general physician of the Canton. We will now examine what happened since then.

When the girl left Mr. Bentner’s house and returned to her home, the rapping and scratching restarted at Mr. Sänger’s house. Up until that moment and even after her complete cure, the manifestations were sharper and changed in nature *. In November 1852 the spirit started to whistle; then it was followed by the sound of a wheel barrel running on a dry and rusted axle but the most extraordinary from all that, no doubt, was the knocking down of the furniture in Filipina’s bedroom, a chaos that lasted fifteen days.

A brief description of the place is necessary.

The bedroom is about eighteen feet long by eight feet wide, positioned across from the living room. The door connecting both rooms is located on the right-hand side. The girl’s bed was placed on the right-hand side of her room. In the middle there was a shelved closet and in the corner, on the left- hand side, is Mr. Sänger’s working table where there are two circular cavities covered by two lids.

In the afternoon, when the uproar started, Mrs. Sänger and her oldest daughter were sitting in the first room, by the table where they were peeling green beans. A spindle suddenly fell on their feet, thrown from the bedroom. They were really scared, knowing that there was nobody in the room besides Filipina, who was then deeply asleep. Also, the spindle was thrown from the left hand side, although it was placed on a shelf, on the right hand side of the small armoire.

Had it been thrown from the bed then it would have been intercepted by the door. It was thus evident that the girl had nothing to do with the incident. While the Sänger’s family was still surprised with the occurrence, something fell from the table onto the floor: it was a rag of cloth which was already in a bowl of water before the occurrence. The head of a pipe was sitting by the spindle, the other half resting on the table.

What makes things even more incomprehensible is the fact that the armoire’s door, where the spindle was placed, was closed before it was thrown away. Also that the water in the bowl was not stirred and not even a droplet was found on the table. Suddenly the girl, still asleep, screams from the bed: “Dad! Leave! He shoots! Everyone out! He would shoot you too.” They obeyed the order but as soon as they crossed the room the head of the pipe darted across the room like a bullet, but did not break. A ruler used by Filipina in School had the same fate. The father, mother and sister looked at each other in amazement. Then, while still considering the best decision to make, Mr. Sänger had his planer and a large wooden board thrown from the carpenter’s stool to the next room. The two lids on his working table were in place but the objects they were covering were also thrown away. In the same evening, the pillows were thrown onto the top of the armoire and the bed coverlet at the door.

On another occasion they had a 6 lb pressing iron left under the girl’s bed sheets. It was soon thrown to the first room; the cord had been removed, found on a sofa in the bedroom.

We witnessed chairs located 3ft away from the bed being knocked down; tightly closed windows to be opened and all this just after we turned our back to enter into the living room. On another occasion two chairs were placed on the bed, without disarranging the bed sheets.
On October 7th the window had been hermetically closed with a white cloth hanging in front of it. As soon as we left the room it was violently and repeatedly stroked to the point of scaring away street’s passersby. We ran to the bedroom. The window was open, the cloth thrown on the small armoire nearby, the bed sheets and pillow on the floor, the chairs upside down and the girl still in bed, just covered by her nightgown. For fourteen days Mrs. Sänger did nothing else but to make the bed.

A harmonica had once been left on a chair. Sounds were heard. The family impetuously entered the room to find the girl in bed, as always. The instrument was on the chair but no longer playing.

One evening Mr. Sänger, after leaving the girl’s room, had the cushion of a chair thrown on his back. On other occasions it was a pair of old slippers, shoes which were under the bed or clogs which would move towards him.

Many times the candles on the table would be blown off.

The raps and scratches alternated with these demonstrations of the furniture. The bed seemed to dislocate by an invisible hand. After the command of: “Swing the bed” or “Lullaby the child”, the bed would noisily swing in one direction then in the other; after the word “Stop!” the bed stopped. We witnessed four men sitting on the bed, unable to stop its motion, being lifted up along with the piece of furniture.

At the end of the fourteenth day, the furniture stopped moving; the manifestations were replaced by others.

On October 26th, among other people, Mr. Luís Soëhnée, who has a bachelor’s degree in law, and Captain Simon, both from Wissembourg, were in the room, as well as Mr. Sievert, from Bergzabern.

At that moment Filipina Sänger was heavily asleep in a magnetic sleep. ** Mr. Sievert showed her a paper wrap containing a bunch of hair just to see what she would do with it. She unwrapped it without uncovering the hair; she then applied the hair onto her closed eyelids; moved the hair away as to examine it at a distance and said: “Indeed I wanted to know what was inside this wrapping. It is the hair of a lady who I don’t know... If she wants to come, be it... I cannot invite her since I don’t know her”.

She did not answer the questions framed by Mr. Sievert but, having placed the wrapping on her open hand, she moved and turned her hand and the wrapping would remain suspended. Then she held it by the tip of her index finger and for a long time she made hand drawn semi circles, saying: “Don’t fall!” and the package remained on the tip of her finger. Later on giving the command “Fall now!” it detached from her, without any movement of the hand which could determine the fall of the package. Turning to the wall she suddenly said: “Now I want to stick you to the wall”. There she placed it where it stayed stuck for about 5 or 6 minutes, having she removed it after that time. A meticulous examination of the paper and the wall could not show any cause for the adherence. It is our duty to clarify that the room was perfectly illuminated which allowed the accurate verification of the above particularities.

The following evening other objects were given to her: keys, coins, cigarette cases, watches, golden and silver rings. All, without exception, remained suspended in her hand. It was noticed that the silver adhered more easily than the other substances as it was difficult to remove the coins from her hand, and such operation caused her some pain.

One of the most curious facts of that kind was the following: Saturday, November 11th, an officer who was present gives her his spade and belt, weighing about 4lb; everything remained suspended by the finger of the medium, swinging there for a long time. What is even not less singular is the fact that all those objects, irrespective of the material, remained suspended. Such a magnetic property was communicated to the persons susceptible to the transmission of the fluid by a simple contact of the hands. We had several examples of this activity.

A captain and horse rider from Zentner, then serving in Bergzabern’s regiment, witnessed these phenomena and had the idea of placing a compass near the girl, in order to observe the variations. In the first attempt the needle deviated 15° but then it remained still, although the girl held it in one of her hands, stroking it with the other. That experience proved that such phenomena could not be explained by the action of the magnetic fluid or the fact that the magnetic attraction does not happen to all bodies.

When the little somnambulist prepared to initiate the session, she would habitually call all the persons present to the room. She would only say: “Come, Come!” or even “Give, give!”

Frequently she would only calm down when all, without exception, were by her bed-side. She would then request any object, with solicitude and impatience, and as soon as she had it the object would bond to her fingers. Usually there would be ten, twelve or more people present and each would offer her several objects. She would not allow any object to be taken from her during the sessions. She seemed to prefer the watches: she skillfully opened them, examined the movements, closed and placed them nearby, to examine something else. Finally she returned to each person what was given to her. She examined the objects with her eyes closed and was never mistaken with respect to the owner. If someone reached to get an object that was not his she would send that person away. How do you explain such a spotless and multiple distributions to such a large number of people? They tried to attempt the same thing by having the girl’s eyes open, but that was in vain. Once the session had finished and the strangers left, the raps and scratches that were momentarily interrupted, restarted.

Add to this the fact that the girl did not want anybody by the foot of the bed, near the armoire, where the space between the furniture was of about one foot. Whenever someone was located there, she moved him away by her gestures. If they insisted she would show great inquietude and with imperative gestures would command them to leave the place. Once she warned the audience about never occupying such a forbidden place because, she said, she did not want something unfortunate to happen to someone. This was such a peremptory warning that nobody forgot after that warning.

Following the raps and scratches, a humming sound was added, comparable to the sound of a thick bass cord; something like a whistle mixed with that sound. If someone requested a march or a dance rhythm his request was answered: the invisible musician was very accommodating.

The strangers or someone in the household were individually identified and called by scratches. Everybody easily knew to whom the appeal was directed. Once the appeal was heard, the designated person responded with a “yes” indicating acknowledgement. As a tribute to that person, a piece of music was played sometimes provoking funny situations. If another person that was not the right person responded “yes”, the rapper made that clear by the use of a “no”, expressing his own way that nothing was to be said to that person at that point.

These facts happened on November 10th for the first time and have continued this day.

Here is how the rapping spirit used to designate the persons:

Several nights earlier it was noticed that once requested to do this or that the spirit responded with a dry knock or a prolonged scratch. As soon as the knock was heard the rapper started to execute the order according to the audience’s request. On the other hand, when there was a scratch, he would not execute to the requests. Then a doctor had the idea of taking the first noise as a “yes” and the second as a “no” and since then that interpretation has always been confirmed. It was also noticed that with a sequence of scratches, with heavy or light intensity, the spirit demanded certain things from those who were around. From the observation and giving attention to the mode by which the noise was produced, it was possible to understand the intention of the rapper. Thus, for example, the old Mr. Sänger told us that in a given morning, still at dawn, he heard certain modulated sounds.

Although, in the beginning, he had not paid attention to them, he noticed that they would not stop while he was in bed, andby that, he realized the meaning of “Wake up!” This was how, step by step, everybody got familiarized with that kind of language and that by certain signs it was possible to know who the designated persons were.

It was the anniversary of the day on which the rapping spirit manifested for the first time: many changes had taken place in the general state of Filipina Sänger. The raps, scratches and humming sounds continued but a special scream was added which sometimes was similar to a goose, other times to a parrot or any other large bird. At the same time a kind of pecking sound was heard, similar to that of a wood pecker. Over this time, Filipina used to talk a lot during her sleep and, above all, she seemed worried about a bird, similar to a parrot, located at the foot of the bed, screaming and pecking on the wall. When we wanted to hear the parrot it would produce acute noises. Several questions were framed, having screams of the same kind by answers; some persons requested the word “kakatoes” to be pronounced and the word “kakatoes” was distinctly heard, as if pronounced by the bird itself. We shall remain quiet about less releveant facts and limit ourselves to the report of those incidents that are more important, with respect to the alterations that took place in the physical state of the girl.

Some time before Christmas the manifestations returned with more energy: the knocks and scratches became more violent and lasted longer. Filipina, more agitated than normal, many times requested not to sleep in her bed but in her parent’s bed; she rolled on the bed vociferating: “I cannot stay here any longer; I will suffocate; they will stick me to the wall; help!” and calm would only reestablish when she was returned to her bed. As soon as she was placed back to her bed, heavy knocks were heard as coming from the attic, as if a carpenter were hamming the roof beams. Sometimes these hits were so strong that they would shake the whole house and people would feel the floor trembling under their feet. On other occasions, similar knocks happened on the walls near the bed. The questions were again and habitually answered by raps and scratches.

The following facts, not less curious, were produced several times:

When the noise was over with the girl resting on her little bed, we often saw her stretched-out hands joined, her eyes closed, her head moving from one side to the other as if something extraordinary was catching her attention. Then she made a lovely smile. It was as if she was talking to someone. She would extend her hands indicating that she was shaking the hands of friends and acquaintances. Later she would fall back in a beseeching position, always joining her hands, moving her head until her face would touch the bed sheets, then straightening up and weeping. She would then sigh, apparently praying with ardor. On such occasions her face would change: she would look pale, having an appearance of a 24 to 25 year old woman. Sometimes this would last for about half an hour, during which period she would only say: ah! ah! Raps, scratches, humming and screams would go silent until she woke up. Then the rapper would make him heard again, trying to play joyful arias so as to dissipate the tough impression left in the audience. The girl would look greatly abated on waking up; she could only raise her arms; the objects which were shown to her could no longer remain suspended by her fingers.

She was interrogated many times by those wishing to understand what had just happened. It was only after insistent requests that she then decided to say that she had seen Christ crucified at Golgotha. The pain of the saint women at the foot of the cross and the crucifixion had produced an indescribable impression on her.

She had also seen a large number of women and virgins dressed in black, as well as little ladies wearing white dresses, following a procession through the streets of a beautiful town and, finally, that she saw herself transported to a large church where she watched a funeral.
Soon after all that Filipina Sänger’s health changed to the point of causing concern. Being up and lucid, she would wander about and daydream. She would not recognize her parents, neither her sister nor any other person. She them became deaf for a period of fifteen days.

We cannot silence about what happened during this long period.

Filipina’s deafness manifested between noon and three o’clock, having she declared herself that she would become deaf and ill for some time. At times she would recover her hearing for about half an hour, which was a remarkable fact that made her happy. She predicted the moment at which she would go deaf and when she would recover her hearing. One day, as on other occasions, she announced that she would start hearing again at 8:30 pm and that it would last for half an hour. In fact, at the predicted time, she heard again and it lasted until nine o’clock.

During her periods of deafness her looks changed: her face adopted an expression of stupidity, which she lost as soon as her hearing returned to normal. Nothing would then impress her. She would stay seated, staring at the audience without recognizing them. She could not understand anybody but by signs, which she would not respond to, limiting herself to fixate her eyes on the person who was talking to her. There was a time when she grabbed one person by the arm asking while pulling him: “Who are you?” She would remain in such a condition sometimes over one and a half hours, kind of immobilized in bed. She would stare at a given point then roll her eyes from right to left and stop them half open, staring at a fix point. Her whole sensitivity seemed impaired: her heart beat was hardly noticed, showing no reaction to a torch light directed to her eyes. She seemed dead.

Once, lying down and deaf, it happened that she requested a board and a piece of chalk. She then wrote: “At eleven o’clock I will say something but I demand that everybody be calm and quiet”. After those words she added five signs resembling Latin writing but none of those in the room could decipher it. Someone wrote on the board that nobody understood those signs. She responded back in writing: “It is not that you cannot read!” And, further below: “It is not German. It is a foreign language”. Then she turned the board and wrote on its back: “Francisca (her elder sister) will seat at the table and write what I shall dictate”. That was followed by five signs similar to the previous ones and the board was returned to the audience. When noticing that the signs were not understood yet she asked for the board back and wrote: “Those are particular orders”.

Just before eleven o’clock she said: “Stay calm. May all be seated and pay attention!” then at eleven o’clock she fell into a magnetic sleep as usual. A few moments later she started talking for about half an hour, uninterruptedly. Among other things she declared that during the course of that year there would be facts which nobody would understand and that all attempts to explain them would be fruitless.

The pandemonium of the furniture renewed a few times during Ms. Sänger’s deafness, like the inexplicable opening of the windows and the table lamp turned off. One evening two caps that were hanging in the bedroom were thrown on the table of the other room, hitting a cup and spilling the milk on the floor. The pounding on the bed was so violent that it was displaced from its original position; on other occasions the bed was noisily disassembled but the raps were not heard.

Despite the fact that the events were verified by more than one hundred witnesses who attested that the girl remained with her arms extended under the blankets during the occurrence of the phenomena, there were still skeptical people who attributed such events to a girl’s prank who, in their opinion, rapped with her legs or her hands; Captain Zentner then envisaged a way of convincing the skeptical. He sent for two thick blankets from the barracks and placed one on top of the other so that both involved the bed sheets and the mattress; the blankets were very shaggy, being impossible to produce any noise on them by simple friction. Wearing a simple t-shirt and a nightgown, Filipina was placed under the blankets so that once she was covered the raps and scratches started as before, first on the bed, then on the neighboring armoire, according to what the rapper wished to express.
It frequently happens that when someone hums the sound of an aria, the rapper follows that rhythm with sounds that seem to come from two, three or even four instruments: the sounds of scratching, knocking, whistling and grunting are simultaneously heard, according to the rhythm of the chosen music. The rapper also frequently asks the audience to sing a song. He designates the person by the process we already know and when the person understands that he refers to him or her they then consult the spirit, regarding the desired song. The answer is given by “yes” or “no”. When the chosen aria is sung it is then perfectly followed by the hums and whistles. After the execution of a happy song the spirit frequently requested the song “Great God we praise you” or the Napoleon I song. When asked to play this song or any other on his own, he executed them from start to finish.

The events were thus happening at the Sänger’s house, in day light as well as at night, with the girl up or asleep, until March 4th 1853, when the manifestations initiated a new phase. This day was marked by a fact even more extraordinary than the preceding ones.”

(To be continued in the next issue)

OBSERVATION: The readers will kindly forgive the extension given to these curious details. We thought, however, that the continuation will be read with even more interest. We want to reinforce that these facts do not come from overseas whose distance is an argument to the skeptical, despite everything else. They are not even from beyond the Rhine as they happened near our borders, almost under our eyes, only six years ago.

Filipina Sänger, as seen, was a very complex natural medium. Besides the influence she exerted on the well known phenomena of noises and motions of objects, she was an ecstatic somnambulist. She spoke with the incorporeal beings that she saw; at the same time she saw the audience and talked to them, not always responding back, which proves that at certain times she was isolated. For those who know the effect of emancipation of the soul, the visions that we have described have nothing that cannot be explained.

It is likely that during those moments of ecstasy the girl’s spirit was transported to a distant place, where she watched, perhaps keeping the memory, of a religious ceremony. The memory she maintained on waking up was amazing but the fact is not remarkable on its own. It is noticeable, by the way, that the memory was fuzzy, requiring great insistence to provoke it.

If we carefully observe what happened during her deafness we shall recognize, without difficulty, a cataleptic state. As the deafness was only temporary, it is evident that no alteration was caused into her respective organs. The same happened to the obliteration of her mental faculties, which had nothing of pathological, once it all returned to normal at some point in time. This kind of apparent stupidity was due to a more complete detachment of the soul, whose excursions were undertaken with more freedom, leaving the senses with no more than the organic life.

Just imagine the disastrous effect produced by a therapeutic treatment under such conditions! Phenomena of the same kind may be produced at any time. In such cases we cannot recommend anything but circumspection. An act of imprudence may compromise the health and even the own life of the subject.


____________________
* We shall have the occasion to talk about the indisposition of the child. As after her cure the same effect was produced, we have an evident proof that they did not depend on her health condition.
** A somnambulist from Paris had made contact with the young Filipina and, since then, she would spontaneously fall into a somnambulistic state. On those occasions notable facts took place which we shall report another time.

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