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Historical Newspaper Articles

Animal Magnetism, or Mesmerism.

The Nashua Telegraph gives an account of the lectures of Dr. Shattuck in that place, upon Mesmerism, and say, the illustrations were quite successful, even in clairvoyance. The paper does not state whether the subjects operated upon were taken from the inhabitants of Nashua or were brought with the doctor.* It is the opinion of the editor, that persons in clairvoyance do not describe things at a distance as they actually exist, but only as they exist in the mind of the person with whom they are put into communication; but at the same time he asserts that the friends of the science claim for it a much higher power. If one of the experiments detailed, that relating to the examination of a person in ill health, was really satisfactory to the person in this state, which was so declared to be, if the disease was described with something approaching to accuracy, * it would seem to furnish some evidence that the power existed which the friends of Mesmerism claim for it. That the experiments should be so successful as they were, is rather astonishing, if the theory put forth by the editor is true, as the success in every instance must depend wholly upon the clearness, and command of the mind of the Mesmerizer; and when we consider that the illustrations were given at a public lecture, where a large portion of the spectators probably believed the whole business a humbug, it my readily be supposed that a consciousness of this feeling would affect the mind of the magnetizer, and thereby influence that of his subject.

It is but recently we saw an account in a Vermont paper, of the attempt of some quack to impose upon the people of Castleton, by pretending to a knowledge of Mesmerism, when it turned out to be a sheer imposition. It is from the fact that many worthless fellows have been strolling over the country, and have imposed upon the public, that has brought Mesmerism into disrepute. Some of these, with just enough knowledge of the subject to make them enthusiasts, and others with none at all, have of course united in their influence upon the grave and calculating, and in a great measure drove them away from an investigation of the matter at all. Considering in whose keeping the knowledge of Mesmerism has for the most part been confined, it ceases to be wonderful that it has made so little progress into public favor.

Recently many people of this village have enjoyed an opportunity of seeing something upon this subject, much more satisfactory than ever before. We accidentally met with a gentleman who pretended to no wonderful gifts, but still firmly maintained that he could actually mesmerize, and proposed, if would find a subject, to try his powers before a private family.

The first subject was a good sized girl, strong and healthy, ten years of age. After obtaining the consent of the little girl, he succeeded in putting her to sleep in about five minutes. Her answers to his questions were low, but her attachment to him was manifestly strong. Though he sat her down in a chair, her eyes tightly closed, let him move ever so cautiously away, she would instantly follow him, and without his expressing himself as to his requirements of her, she would readily obey his secret wishes. This was tested by her going to her mother, and some other one, and kissing them; and if we might take the word of the magnetizer, after the act was done, these were the identical things which he wished her to do. When this girl was magnetized again, quite a large company were present, when she manifested the same attachment, and did many acts, of which she had not the least recollection when awake. Her whole appearance and actions showed that the magnetizer had the most perfect control of her. To get away from her seemed to be impossible.

The next case was that of a young lady who has had for two or three years very poor health. She was persuaded to have a trial upon her, but she felt that it would be an utter failure. Without believing it possible that any such mysterious influence could be brought upon her, she consented to a trail. It might have been ten minutes after she sat down, before she was in a sound sleep. When awake she is remarkably cautious in her statements, and when under the magnetizer’s power, she showed the same quality. With her back toward the door, she could tell whenever any one came in or went out of the room, and who they were, if acquainted with them. When asked, after a young lady had gone out, if any one had gone out, she said a lady had done so. She was then pressed to know who it was, and while tasking herself, apparently, to think who it was, the same lady returned lightly behind her chair, when she answered, that it seemed as if some person went out, and it seemed as though she was still there. She was very accurate, and knew persons who came in after she was put asleep.

The third subject was a child six years old, who exhibited much the same phenomena as the first.

The fourth put under the mesmeric influence, was a young lady who had for a long period had poor health. We saw her several times under the influence, but she usually remembered, after waking, all that she saw or did while asleep. With her eyes closed and bandaged, she would read and translate French, with as much apparent ease as when awake. She would promise her magnetizer the exact time when she would awake, and invariably she would awake at the time set, unless her mind was fixed upon some subject by the person under whose control she was. Under such circumstances she would awake as soon as she was left to herself, after the time had elapsed. At one time an apple was handed to the magnetizer, so that she could not see it by the common methods of vision, even had she been awake, and was asked what he had in his right hand. She as readily told, as though it was placed before her open eyes. He then ate of it, and to all appearance she enjoyed the flavor as much as the person who was actually eating it. So strongly was this impressed upon her sense of tasting, that after she awake, and someone gave her an apple, she declined eating but a small part of it, saying that it was not half equal to the one she had before; and this was said without any one mentioning to her how she tasted of the first. The fact was that both apples were undoubtedly of the same flavor, and perhaps the magnetizer loved them much better than she did. Not much of an attempt was made at clairvoyance. She did describe a part of what was going on in another room, very accurately, and some things she did not. If the theory advanced by some is correct, the failure is to be attributed to the wavering mind of the magnetizer. The wonder is, not that she could not tell all correctly, but that she could tell any thing correctly; for instance, she told that an individual was reading a certain book, describing the kind—what the book was. The magnetizer did suppose that person was reading another book, but not the one which she told him. She was right, and he was wrong. From some of the experiments, it appeared that she saw only what he did, and from other, that her mind acted entirely independent of his. At one time he asked her the time of day by the town clock, which was more than thirty rods distant. His eye not being directed towards it, she said she could not see it, but when he moved so as to bring his eye upon the dial, she answered correctly. In tasting she appeared to be governed by his taste, and sometimes in seeing, to be guided by his eyes; but some experiments proved that she could read without his eyes, as she did read that which he knew nothing about: for instance, taking up a paper and reading items from it, without his seeing them at all. These experiments of seeing were exhibited, for the most part, not only with the eyes firmly set together, but she could do better with a bandage over them then without it. There was a great difference in her power of seeing and doing things at different times. Whether this was owing to the state of the patient, in magnetism, is more then we know. The experiments in Phreno—Magnetism were limited, owing to the magnetizer’s ignorance of the location of most of the organs. He however excited that of Tune, so that she sang readily, and he would change the air from sad to lively, as he touched the organs of Reverence, and Mirthfulness. The illustrations were convincing, as the mesmerizees were all taken from among us and the operator divested the matter of all the mystery it was possible. No one felt imposed upon who witnessed the experiments, and many of the most respectable inhabitants of this place were eye—witnesses.

[There are two handwritten notations running along side of the article:
“* This is an error they can describe at a distance P.P.Q.
* That is not so”—Ron Hughes]
[“Sept 22 1842” is also handwritten below this article.—RH]

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