The rapping spirit of Bergzabern
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
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
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
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
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
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.