The Princess was a Medium: 1908

Palladino medium behind curtain

The Italian medium Eusapia Palladino.




Famous Princess is a Spiritualist of International Prominence and is a Medium of Recognized Ability

Rome April 29. Although the University of Rome recently rejected the proposition to establish a chair of psychical research for the scientific investigation of ghosts, astral doubles and occult phenomena generally, it must not be inferred that the cult of the spook attracts little attention here. The Eternal City has more haunted houses and probably a larger percentage of believers in spiritualism than any other city in the world. They are found in all grades of society, and at the present time aristocratic circles are much given to entertaining mediums and visitors from the other world.

The recognized leader among them is the Princess d’Antuni del Drago. She bears not the slightest resemblance to the popular conception of a feminine ghost-chaser. She is a widow, young, pretty, and accomplished. She is not only a believer in spirits, but claims to be a medium also. It was she who drew from Marconi the acknowledgement that there was “something in it” which science—at least as much of it as he knew—could not explain. Further than that he would not go, but as this was the result of one sitting only with the princess, there is no telling where he would have ended had he continued his investigations.

Princess d’Autuni belongs to the aristocratic house of Potenziani, and owns the handsome del Drago palace, and has thus been landlady to the last two American ambassadors. She says that as a child she was conscious of voices and visions which troubled her little soul, but which her skeptical elders attributed to imagination. She married very young, and it was after this that she became conscious that she was not quite as other people, that she had powers which were denied them, and which no make her a remarkable medium.

A few months after her marriage, she relates, she was lying in bed one evening reading, when the bedclothes suddenly dropped to the floor, as though snatched away by impatient hands. She turned, surprised, and became conscious of a cloud, as it were, between her and the light. As she gazed the shadow took form and substance and assumed the aspect of a woman dressed in black. When the princess made an involuntary movement to rise the apparition said in a solemn voice, “Do not be frightened.  I come in love. I am your husband’s first wife and come to warn you that you will have a son, but he will not live. Give this to Ferdinando as a proof of my love,” at the same time holding out a lock of hair.

The princess’s entranced senses then burst their bonds and she shrieked with fear. Hearing her cries Prince d’Autuni, who was in the next room, rushed to her and found her half fainting. He also saw as he entered the room, so he said, the shadowy form of a woman for the ghost had begun to dissolve into thin air. Neither would have believed the reality of what they had seen had it not been for the lock of hair which was lying on the floor and which, being compared with that of the late princess, was found to be identical.

In due course a son and heir was born to the happy couple who forgot the warning, but their joy was short-lived, as the first Princess d’Antuni appeared again to her successor in almost the same circumstances as before. “I am come to warn you,” she said, “the other time you forgot my words, but now do not let a moment pass without having the boy baptized. My poor child, he will only live a day or two. Take heed of my words and do not delay the baptism.” The poor mother hugged her apparently healthy baby in her arms, but sent for the priest, had the ceremony performed, and the next day she was childless. The doctor declared himself baffled. “I never knew a perfectly healthy baby to die in that way before,” he exclaimed.

From this time on Princess d’Antuni has had many manifestations and warnings of a supernatural character. One day, she states, she had been at a kirmess at the Pincio, where she presided over a stall in the bridal dress of a Genoese peasant and made many sales. She entered her carriage with a friend in the highest of good spirits to return home, when suddenly she felt as though a pall had settled over her, and when asked by her companion what was the matter, replied that she was sure that when they met again something  dreadful would have happened. The next day she was standing before her mirror, when she saw her husband’s reflection in it. “What! You, Ferdinando!” she exclaimed, and turned around, but could see no one.

Her maid, Maria, said that the prince must have been in the room, as she heard his footsteps, but on going to look for him found that he was not in the house. Meanwhile Prince d’Antuni, who was at the capitol, had been seized with a fainting sensation and simultaneously, he declared, saw his wife before her glass. That night he was taken ill and died ten days later. For three months after his death the princess asserts, she was able to hold telepathic communication with him and was greatly solaced thereby.

She has had several séances with the celebrated medium, Palladino. On one of these occasions the later sat down at a table and began to write. She covered two or three pages of paper with what both she and her friends supposed to be rubbish; the letters were there, but they made no sense. The paper, however, was examined, and proved to be the purest Arabic, which language certainly neither Princess d’Antuni nor Palladino have any knowledge of whatever. Logansport [IN] Daily Reporter 29 April 1908: p. 4 

SPIRIT TELEGRAPHY—With regard to the statement that Mr. Marconi has become a spiritualist, a special cable dispatch from Rome, of December 15, says: “The conversion of Signor Marconi to spiritualism by Princess d’Antuni del Drago, who has the reputation of being a medium of exceptional power, has caused a sensation among believers in communication between the seen and the unseen world. Mr. Marconi has always been regarded as intensely practical. He was not known to take an interest in anything outside of the material and scientific except art and history. There is reason to believe that he became interested in the study of wireless messages to the other world by the declaration of Lombroso, the alienist professor of psychiatry in the University of Turin, in which he said the subject was of colossal importance. The Princess d’Antuni del Drago says she has held séances in her own palace and has been favored with extraordinary phenomena. ‘I met Marconi a few weeks ago,’ she remarked, ‘at an entertainment given by Marchioness Pinolecee. He said he did not believe in spiritualism. I invited him to my house to assist in a séance. He was one of three. A medium called Politi and I, with Marconi, formed a circle around a small table. Without relating all that took place, suffice it to say that when Marconi left he had been convinced so fully that he determined to study the subject scientifically, and promised to place me in communication with Prof. Crookes. I am anxiously awaiting to learn if the great inventor has found any explanation for the phenomena.'” Electrical World, Volume 48, 1906 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Marconi was, of course, the Italian inventor of the wireless. In his early days he wrote to the Italian ministry of Posts and Telegraphs with his proposal for wireless telegraphy. The minister did not believe his claims and wrote “to the Longara!” (Rome’s insane asylum) on Marconi’s letter.  Discouraged by this lack of interest, Marconi travelled with his Scotch mother to England where he impressed the chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office. The British knew how to appreciate his talents and he was launched on his electrifying career.  Mrs Daffodil suspects that if Marconi did say that there was “something in it” to the Princess, he was merely being polite to a charming lady. On the other hand, the inventor was an ardent apologist for Mussolini, which suggests a strong capacity for self-delusion.

Eusapia Palladino was a curious person. A coarse woman of peasant stock, she was considered to be a hugely powerful physical medium. Once married to a travelling conjuror, she was caught in fraud many times and frankly admitted that she would cheat if given a chance. Psychic investigator Cesare Lombroso was thrilled by her table levitations; he was, it was whispered, willing to support any of her claims, as he found her elevating in a more physical sense. In reading the glowing reports on the medium’s gifts, it becomes apparent that the Palladino creature managed to fascinate entire flocks of psychic investigators, including Hereward Carrington, who became her manager, and magician Howard Thurston. “Vital, vulgar, amorous, and a cheat,” is how her biographer Eric Dingwall described her.

Auguste Politi was an Italian watchmaker and medium noted for having once levitated a piano. We are not told of his personal charms. Prof. Crookes was Sir William Crookes, the distinguished English chemist, who saw it as his scientific duty to study the spirit world in darkened rooms with the assistance of pretty young lady mediums like Florence Cook, once caught flitting around the room in spirit character in her underclothes. Mrs Daffodil is never surprised at the credulity displayed in the charged darkness of the seance room.

1 thought on “The Princess was a Medium: 1908

  1. Freaky Folk Tales

    Yes, certainly a very intriguing woman. As for Marconi, I don’t believe he invested as heavily in the belief as, say, Conan Doyle but I’m sure he wasn’t a total sceptic.

    Drago’s words are interesting:

    “Here in Italy my set as a rule do not believe in spiritualism, which they consider in the light of a huge joke. If they knew I had taken up the matter seriously and succeeded In obtaining materialistic phenomena in seances they would look on me as hysterical. In America and England it is quite different. There science has been brought to bear on spiritualistic phenomena. The subject has been raised to a sort of cult and studied on a scientific basis.

    “I have felt since I was a child of four years that I had some extraordinary power – something mysterious and undefined – that enabled me to experience sensations denied others. I heard voices, which, of course, at that age I could not explain.”

    Another great article!



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