- Poltergeist Girl
1 | Part
On 30 April 1926, Harry Price, the well known and
controversial English psychical researcher, arrived in Vienna. He was much
interested in thirteen-year-old Eleonore's case and visited the Countess's
flat on three occasions.
While there he witnessed object-movements such as a
steel letter-opener fly across the room, a small mirror float over the partition
of a room, and a cushion move off a chair whilst he had both the Countess and
Eleonore in view. He also observed bite and scratch marks appear on Eleonore's
arm and chest, and a large black cloth dog appear from nowhere.
Price was impressed and convinced that
of the telekinetic phenomena (i.e. object-movements) he witnessed could not be
explained by normal means.
He decided to bring the Countess and Eleanore to London for study at the
National Laboratory of Psychical Research, an institution largely created and
run by himself.
They arrived in London on 30
September 1926, and stayed until 14 October. Eleonore's visit
produced great interest in the
British Press and large headlines, innumerable articles, photographs, and
cartoons were dedicated to Harry Price's new 'discovery'.
The National Laboratory of
Eleonore spent many hours at
the Laboratory sometimes alone and sometimes with the Countess.
lacerations in the form of bite and scratch marks occurred in ordinary
daylight when Eleonore was under close observation and some
of these 'stigmatic' markings were photographed by Price. However, Price was
more impressed by the object-movements which occurred in the vicinity of the
young Rumanian girl. Though two possible attempts at
cheating were noticed, telekinetic phenomena were convincingly demonstrated,
and their authenticity was attested by various prominent observers. The
most amazing of these incidents was when a small metallic letter C, from
the spare stock used for a notice board in the Laboratory, disappeared from a
securely locked cupboard.
Eleven days later the letter was found by Professor Tillyard
F.R.S. - in the strangest of places. It was fastened tightly around the metal
rim of his pocket knife case, sealing it shut. Professor Tillyard had used the
knife more than once that day and the metallic letter had not been there when he did.
Trickery was not possible as close control of Eleonore and the Countess was
operated in the Laboratory at all times. This incident helped to convince many
of the scientists and doctors invited by Price to observe the little Rumanian
girl that they had witnessed authentic paranormal phenomena.
Price and the Laboratory Council concluded that with Eleanore
they had indeed shown 'that under scientific test conditions movements of
small objects without physical contact undoubtedly took place'. Late
in October Eleonore and the Countess left London for Berlin. After she returned
from England Eleonore's telekinetic ability began to fade, but the biting and
scratching continued, with one important and unpleasant new element - the
appearance on her skin of large amounts of saliva.
There are other cases
of biting and scratching poltergeists and one - that which occurred in Bristol
in1761-2 - where foul-smelling spittle was found in some of the bite-wounds of
the young female victims.
Samples of this spittle taken from Eleonore's arm and
face were analyzed and found to be full of micro-organisms, whereas that taken
from Eleonore was relatively free of micro-organisms. Obviously the saliva was not Zugun's. To test whether the marks on Eleonore's body were caused from outside of her
body, a Dr Walther
Kr?ner smeared her face and arms with greasepaint; on
examination it was discovered that that when scratches appeared, the greasepaint had been pushed
aside - showing that they were externally created.
Sittings in Munich
In January 1927 Eleonore and the Countess left Berlin and
spent a fortnight in Munich, as the guest of Baron von Schrenck-Notzing. A
cine-film of the 'friend of Dracu', as she was dubbed, in action was made at one
of the sittings there by the Emelka-Kultur-Gesellschaft ('Eku' company), a copy
of which is held by the British Society for Psychical Research. One of the
things shown in the film is Eleonore's arms being held by researchers whilst she
cringes in apparent pain.; close-up shots show bite marks which had seemingly
Rosenbusch, a Munich doctor who had been present at two of the sittings, invited
Eleonore and the Countess to give a sitting in his own home. Shortly afterwards, he
announced that he had found Eleonore cheating with the help of the Countess, and
declared the girl a fake. Harry Price replied that, though the girl would
probably cheat if allowed, all of his test experiments with her were tightly
controlled and the Countess was not present at any of them, and still
unexplained phenomena occurred.
Many prominent Viennese scientists and
doctors also declared themselves convinced of the
psychic phenomena they had witnessed
for six months in the presence of Eleonore. The Countess came to her own and
Eleonore's defence, saying that she told Rosenbusch that Eleonore would probably
fake the phenomena if
she could. She sued Rosenbusch for libel, but the case was eventually dismissed on
technical grounds. Though Rosenbusch's case remains unproven,
the fact that Zugun seems to have been discovered cheating must cast serious
doubts on the genuineness of her 'psychic' abilities. However, it must also be
noted that Rosenbusch
completely ignored unusual phenomena which
occurred when no trace of fraud was
detected, and that later analysis of the
documentary film taken in Munich showed no indication of fraud.
The controversy became irrelevant when, in the early
summer of 1927, around the time of her fourteenth birthday
and the onset of menstruation, Eleonore's
phenomena ceased for good. When last heard of, in the 1930s,
she was running a successful hairdressing business in Czernowitz, Rumania.
As far as explanations for the Eleonore Zugun case are
concerned, the Countess Wassiliko-Serecki herself was convinced that Eleonore's
unconscious mind was responsible for the attacks. Obviously influenced by Freud,
she believed that Eleanore had strongly developed sexual urges, partly centered
on her father, and the 'attacks' were a kind of self-punishment for these
feelings. Harry Price agreed and compared the bites and scratches to the
'stigmata' found on some religious people. However, as Colin Wilson points out, carrying this
form of self punishment on for two
years, much of this spent in comfortable security with the Countess, seems
unlikely to say the least.
The threats of her grandmother and the peasants of her
village regarding 'Dracu' and what he would do to her must certainly be born in
mind when thinking of the subconscious origins of Eleonore's
even if this is taken as probable, where did the power come from to throw
objects around and make them disappear in one room and re-appear in another? Or
to generate scratch and bite marks that contained saliva that was not her own?
Was it an independent mischievous entity, or some unsuspected and bizarre part of
the human personality of which we know practically nothing?
Although no convincing
explanation has ever been offered for the case of Eleonore Zugun, the fact that
she was caught cheating in Munich is enough for sceptics to label her a fraud.
Her involvement with the
controversial Harry Price has also caused many researchers to have their doubts about the case.
[NOTE: The photos of Eleonore
Zugun in her native village and of Countess Wassiliko are ? Peter Mulacz and
are used with his kind permission. They may not be reproduced without his
Sources and Further Reading
Gauld, Alan, Cornell, A.D. Poltergeists. London, Boston and Henley,
Routledge & Kegan Paul 1979, pp127-142, 327-8
Michell, J, & Rickard, B. Unexplained Phenomena. London. Rough
Guides Ltd., 2000, pp74-5.
Mulacz, Prof. Peter. 'Eleonore Zugun ? the
re-evaluation of an historic RSPK case'
The Parapsychological Association http://www.parapsych.org
41st Annual Convention (1998), Proceedings of Presented Papers: 94-96.
Mulacz, Prof. Peter. Eleonore
Zugun ? the Re-evaluation of a Historic RSPK Case
The Journal of Parapsychology Vol. 63/1 (March 1999): 15-45.
Spencer, John & Anne. The Poltergeist
Phenomenon. London, Headline. 1997, pp131, 258, 266.
Tabori, Paul. Harry Price - Ghost-Hunter.
London, Sphere Books 1974. (1950), pp225-229.
Thurston, H. Ghosts and Poltergeists London, Burns Oates,
Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive
Kent, New English Library. 1982, pp 279-281.
Copyright 2003 by Brian
Haughton. All Rights Reserved.