poltergeist girl

Angelique Cottin - Poltergeist Girl

Part 1 | Part 2

Magnetic Anomalies

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 phenomenon. 

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'. 

Indeed, 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.

Other Electric or Poltergeist Girls

Although 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 Nature. Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions Ltd; London, The Folklore Society. 
2000 (1848), pp301-2. 

Fort, Charles  Wild Talents - In The Complete Books of Charles Fort. New York, Dover, 1974, p1032.                

Inglis, Brian.  Natural and Supernatural - A History of the Paranormal. Bridport, Prism Press, 1992, pp184-6, p234.

Michell, J. & Rickard, B.  Unexplained Phenomena. London, Rough Guides Ltd, 2000, p69. 

Podmore, Frank.  Mediums of the 19th Century. New York, University Books, 1963, (2 Volumes). Vol 1, pp41-43. 
(Originally published in 1902 as Modern Spiritualism).

Wilson, Colin.  Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting. Sevenoaks, Kent, New English Library. 1982, p132.

Copyright 2003 / 2005 by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.

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