Angelique Cottin -
Part 1 |
Arago probably arrived at his theory about electro-magnetism after observing the young
girl's strange sensibility to the action of magnets. A horizontally suspended
needle swung quickly with the movement of her arm, though there was no contact, or remained
still, while deviating from the magnetic direction. When she approached the north pole of
a magnet she
experienced a powerful shock, while the
south pole produced no effect at all; she was tested on this many times when a
scientist changed the poles without her knowledge, but she always found the
north by the different
sensations which she felt. This is remarkably similar to the talents of German
mystery child Kaspar Hauser 20 years earlier (see Kaspar
Hauser article on this site). Arago, however, did not see any evidence that
the young girl had any affect on the needle of a compass, though he had expected
there to be some.
Despite the unpredictable nature of the
phenomena the general
health of Angelique Cottin was very good throughout all this, though it was
suggested that some kind of nervous malady might explain her condition. Argo summed up his
findings by saying that the case
of Angelique Cottin demonstrated: 'That, under peculiar conditions, the human organism gives forth a physical
power which, without visible instruments, lifts heavy bodies, attracts or
repels them, according to a law of polarity, -overturns them, and produces the
phenomena of sound.' That was not the end of the case, however.
The girl's parents, poor and sensing an opportunity, decided, against the
advice of the doctors, to exhibit Angelique in Paris as an attraction for paying
visitors. Catherine Crowe
(see Night Side of Nature p301), has suggested that after the
psychic phenomena had in reality stopped, the girl
was persuaded to fake what had originally been a genuinely mysterious
On 10 April, 1846, the phenomena ceased, never to return.
Grounds for Scepticism?
Frank Podmore (Mediums of the 19th Century,
pp42-3) has maintained that the contact of the Angelique's garments, particularly the lower
edge of her
petticoats, with the various objects she was apparently effecting, was necessary to the production of the
phenomena. He observed, as other of her detractors had, that there was a 'double movement on the part of the
girl, a movement
first in the direction of the object thrown, and afterwards away from it, the
first movement being so rapid that it generally escaped detection'.
this may have been the case on one or two occasions when she is known to have
cheated, but would so many people have been fooled by the simple trick of the
girl using the muscles in her legs to move the objects? Possibly, though if she was using such an obvious method of trickery
it seems a little far-fetched, though not out of the question, that she could have avoided
detection for almost four months.
In any case the explanation does not
explain the chairs at the
Paris physics lab where she was tested being flung at the wall so violently that they were
smashed to pieces, or the 'immense kitchen
table . . . of enormous size and weight' which had been laid for dinner with
plates and glasses, being twice overturned whilst Angelique was being
closely watched. Unfortunately, as accounts of these phenomena may themselves
be exaggerated and unreliable, we cannot consider them as proof of anything.
Angelique was probably the best known 'Electric Girl', there were others around
at about the same time. Catherine Crowe mentions a young lady - Mademoiselle
Emmerich, sister of the professor of theology at Strasburg, who also had this
'electric' power. The problem originated from a serious fright, after which the
girl fell into a state of deep trance, accompanied by a great degree of clarity.
Her body was so charged with electricity that she became in effect a human
electric battery, as Colin Wilson puts it, (Poltergeist, p132), and she
gave electric shocks to whoever was near her, as with Angelique Cottin, often
without touching them. Incredibly, she was able to give her brother, Professor
Emmerich, a sharp shock when he was several rooms away. He ran into her
bedroom and as soon as he entered she said laughing, 'Ah, you felt it, did you?'
Unfortunately, Mademoiselle Emmerich's illness ended in her death.
Sources and Further Reading
Crowe, Catherine The Night Side of
Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions Ltd; London, The
2000 (1848), pp301-2.
Fort, Charles Wild Talents - In The Complete Books of
Charles Fort. New York, Dover, 1974, p1032.
and Supernatural - A History of the Paranormal.
Prism Press, 1992, pp184-6, p234.
Michell, J. & Rickard, B. Unexplained
London, Rough Guides Ltd, 2000, p69.
Podmore, Frank. Mediums of the 19th Century. New
York, University Books, 1963, (2 Volumes). Vol 1, pp41-43.
published in 1902 as Modern Spiritualism).
Wilson, Colin. Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive
Kent, New English Library. 1982, p132.
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Haughton. All Rights Reserved.
on Mysterious People