Who was Eusapia Palladino?
Eusapia Palladino era una medium Italiana.
I remember saying these words over and over in my dorm room in Schapiro Hall during my third year of college. I was practicing for the midterm presentation in my Advanced Italian Conversation course, in which we had to make a video on a topic of Italian culture that interested us. Behold, in the grand wonders of the internet, the short video that I created --- and completely forgot about --- has ended up with almost 10,000 views on YouTube (as I write this) and is the most viewed video on the exciting and popular subject of Eusapia Palladino, Italian medium/magic person.
Looking back now, the video is reasonably well done, and my countless trials to properly enunciate all the words paid off. Yet you can imagine my confusion and wonderment to check back on this video almost five years later. What was hosted on YouTube just so it could be played one time in my class session has been viewed by thousands around the world. People have even commented. Crazyness.
Eusapia Palladino was, in fact, a pretty interesting person. She claimed to possess extraordinary powers, and would demonstrate the ability to move furniture and play musical instruments without moving her body, as well as summon spirits to the room. Her abilities were "vetted" by several Nobel laureates, including Pierre and Marie Curie and physiologist Charles Richet. They detected "signs of trickery" but "could not explain all of the phenomena". Indeed, Pierre Curie, days before his death, wrote to a friend that
There is here, in my opinion, a whole domain of entirely new facts and physical states in space of which we have no conception.
Now that I look back on the Wikipedia article, a fact stands out in a footnote that is not included in the article body.
The most notorious medium who used her sexual charms to seduce her scientific investigators was Eusapia Palladino... [She] had no qualms about sleeping with her sitters; among them were the eminent criminologist Lombroso and the Nobel Prize—winning French Physiologist Charles Richet.
Perhaps Richet had difficulty "explaining all of the phenomena" because he was betwixt the sheets back in his hotel room.