A SOUTH American medium of Italian parentage, born in Botucatu, Sao Paolo, in 1889, of whose phenomena such extraordinary accounts have reached
Britain and America that if they could be proved to the satisfaction of
British and American psychical researchers he would have to be ranked as the greatest medium of all times.
The first description of Mirabelli's amazing case was published in Germany by the Zeitschrift far Parapsychologie in August, 1929, on the basis of a Brazilian work,
O Medium Mirabelli, by Amador Bueno. Fearing a hoax this periodical made inquiries first from the Brazilian consul at Munich as to the standing and reputation of the witnesses and supporters of Mirabelli. The answer was positive and the Consul added that 14 persons of the submitted list were his personal acquaintances to whose veracity he would testify, nor had he the right of questioning the statements of other people on the list, known to him not only as scientists but also as men of character. Thereupon the Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie published a summary of the remarkable case.
The summary was further supported by E. J. Dingwall's examination
(Psychic Research, July, 1930) of the original Portuguese documents.
It appears that the reality of the Mirabelli phenomena was first acknowledged by psychiatrists. He was committed to an asylum for the insane for observation. The newspapers took up the case. They wrote of telekinetic movements, of apports, of a miraculous transportation of the medium from the railroad station of Da Luz to Sao Vincenti, 90 kilometres distance, in two minutes; of his levitation in the street two metres high for three minutes; of how he caused a skull to float towards an apothecary; of making an invisible hand turn the leaves of a book in the home of Dr. Alberto Seabra in the presence of many scientists; of making glasses and bottles at a banquet play a military march without human touch; of causing the hat of Antonio Canterello to fly off and float ten metres along a public square; of making and quelling fire by will in the home of Prof. Dr. Alves Lima; of making the cue play billiards without touching it and finally of having the picture of Christ impressed on plaster in the presence of Dr. Caluby, Director of Police.
A magician imitated some of the phenomena. Owing to the heated discussion which arose, an arbitration board was instituted for the investigation of Mirabelli, among the members of which were Dr. Ganymed de Sousa, President of the Republic, Brant, of the Institute of Technology and eighteen other men of high position and learning. After the investigation and the hearing of witnesses the board established that the majority of the manifestations occurred in daylight, that they occurred spontaneously and in public places, that the manifold intellectual phenomena could not well be based on trickery, that the statements of personalities whose integrity is reputed could not well be doubted.
In 1919 the Academia de Estudos Psychicos "Cesar Lombroso" was founded. Mirabelli submitted himself for experiments in trance speaking, automatic writing and physical phenomena. The report was published in 1926. It speaks of 392 sittings in broad daylight or in a room illuminated by powerful electric light, in 349 cases in the rooms of the Academy, attended by 555 people and the summary is as follows:
"The committee carried out with the first group (medical speaking) 189 positive experiments; with the second group (automatic writing) 85 positive and 8 negative; with the third group (physical phenomena) 63 positive and 47 negative experiments. The medium spoke 26 languages including 7 dialects, wrote in 28 languages, among them 3 dead languages, namely Latin, Chaldaic and Hieroglyphics. Of the 63 physical experiments 40 were made in daylight, 23 in bright artificial
The automatic writing was inspired by celebrities. Johan Huss impressed Mirabelli to write a treatise of 9 pages on the independence of Czechoslovakia in 20 minutes,
Camille Flammarion inspired him to write about the inhabited planets, 14 pages in 19 minutes in French, Muri Ka Ksi delivered five pages in 12 minutes on the Russo-Japanese war in Japanese, Moses wrote in Hebrew on slandering, Harun el Raschid made him write 15 pages in Syrian and an untranslatable writing of three pages came in hieroglyphics in 32 minutes.
The phenomena of materialisation were astounding. The figures were not only complete, they were not only photographed, but medical men made minute examinations which lasted sometimes as long as for fifteen minutes and stated that the newly constituted human beings had perfect anatomical structure. After the examination was completed the figure began to dissolve from the feet upwards, the bust and arms floating in the air. One of the doctors exclaimed: "But this is too much," rushed forward and seized the half of the body. The next moment he uttered a shrill cry and sank unconscious to the ground. On returning to consciousness he only remembered that when he had seized the phantom it had felt as if his fingers were pressing a spongy, flaccid mass of substance. Then he received a shock and lost consciousness.
For 36 minutes in broad daylight the materialisation of the little daughter of Dr. Souza, who died of influenza, was visible to all the sitters. She appeared in her grave clothes. Her pulse was tested. Father and child were photographed. Then the phantom raised itself and floated in the air. At the third sitting a skull inside the closet began to beat the doors, came out and slowly grew to a full skeleton In another sitting Mirabelli announced that he saw the body of Bishop Dr. Jose de Carmago Barros who lost his life in a shipwreck.
"A sweet smell as of roses filled the room. The medium went into trance. A fine mist was seen in the circle. The mist, glowing as if of gold, parted and the bishop materialised, with all the robes and insignia of office. He called his own name. Dr. de Souza stepped to him. He palpated the body, touched his teeth, tested the saliva, listened to the heart-beat, investigated the working of the intestines, nails and eyes, without finding anything amiss. Then the other attending persons convinced themselves of the reality of the apparition. The Bishop smilingly bent over Mirabelli and looked at him silently. Then he slowly
"At the sixth sitting, Mirabelli, tied and sealed, disappeared from the room, and was found in another room still in trance. All seals on doors and windows were found in order, as well as the seals on Mirabelli himself."
Once among fourteen investigators his arms dematerialised. On the photograph only a slight shadow is visible.
E. J. Dingwall ends his review of the documents:
"I must confess that, on a lengthy examination of the documents concerning Mirabelli, I find myself totally at a loss to come to any decision whatever on the case. It would be easy to condemn the man as a monstrous fraud and the sitters as equally monstrous fools. But I do not think that such a supposition will help even him who makes it."
In the November, 1930, issue of
Psychic Research Professor Hans Driesch throws cold water on all these marvels on the basis of a personal investigation in Sao Paolo in 1928. He saw no materialisations, no transportation, heard only Italian and Esthonian which may have been normally known, but he admits to have seen some remarkable telekinetic phenomena which he could not explain: the movement of a small vase and the folding of doors in daylight without any visible cause.
As to the book O Medium Mirabelli, he was unable to find out who had written it, not even an intimate friend of Mirabelli, the overseer of the Town Library of Sao Paolo knew it. He writes: "Might not Mirabelli have written the
book - himself?" Of the investigation by the Academia de Estudos Psychicos there is no mention in Prof. Driesch's article.
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).