The Mediumship of Willi and Rudi Schneider


















Review of Harry Price's Rudi Schneider - A Scientific Examination of His Mediumship by Dr. V.J. Woolley   Reproduced from Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 26, 1930, pp. 125-6.

HARRY PRICE, Rudi Schneider: a Scientific Examination of his Mediumship. 8vo, pp. xv. 239, 12 diagrams and ill. London: Methuen and Co., Ltd., 1930. Price 10s. 6d. net.  This book consists of a detailed account by Mr Price of the results obtained in the course of two visits of Rudi Schneider to Mr Price's laboratory in the spring and autumn of 1929.  The descriptions are clear and the illustrations well reproduced.  Mr Price is convinced of the supernormal character of the phenomena observed, and advances strong arguments in support of his belief.  A good deal of his argument is devoted to showing the superiority of the electrical method of control first applied to the medium by Krall, and extended to the sitters by Mr Price, over what he calls the "obsolete" method of hand control on which we are accustomed to rely.  The control of the sitters becomes of especial importance in the Schneider sittings because the unusually complete restrictions to which both the brothers readily submit makes the exclusion of a confederate sitter particularly desirable, since there is thus a chance of a really conclusive test.  It is therefore worth while to consider in some detail whether the electrical method ought really to supersede the older one.  It has so far as I can see two advantages.  It is a check on a sitter letting go of his neighbour's hand unconsciously through excitement or fatigue, and it informs the whole circle that the sitter's metallic gloves (not their hands as Mr Price claims) are in proper contact.  Apart from these two points, it seems to give no greater security against fraud than the older method.  If two adjacent sitters wish to free a hand, it is only necessary for one of them to pull the glove off the hand which he is holding.  As long as he grasps this glove the hand which ought to be in it will be free and no one will be the wiser, and I do not think there would be any change in the tell-tale light.  One sitter alone can free his feet by connecting his metal floor plates by a piece of wire.

 The electrical control has in addition certain disadvantages.  In the first place it is liable to go wrong and to cause an interruption of the sitting through a broken wire or some similar mishap.  In the second place, the more apparatus and mechanical appliances are introduced, the more sources of error there must be, and the more opportunities for misdirection by anyone who aims at deception.  I have of course no reason to suppose that any deception took place in these sittings, but I do not feel that the electrical control excludes it any better than the older methods which Mr Price describes as

The phenomena obtained were similar to those which Rudi Schneider has given elsewhere.  They included the movement of objects, the apparent materialisation of a hand and the usual cold breezes.  Mr Price's recording thermograph also enabled him to note the same inexplicable fall of temperature that occurred in some of the Stella C. sittings.  The plan of the séance room in Plate 2 would have been increased in value if it had been drawn to scale throughout.

 V. J. W.

Reply to Dr. Woolley's review by Harry Price   Reproduced from Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 26, 1930, pp. 139-141.

 To the Editor of THE JOURNAL.

SIR, - In his criticism of my book, Rudi Schneider (October Journal, p. 125), Dr Woolley omitted to state that all the points he raised were thrashed out in the work itself and discussed from every angle.

It is playing with words when Dr Woolley states that the "metallic gloves, not the hands" were in contact; he might as well argue that when we shake hands, we "shake gloves" if we happen to be wearing hand coverings.

Dr Woolley's "metallic gloves" are in fact cotton or leather (the former very difficult to get off, once they are on) with metallic palms which have to be in firm contact in order to keep the indicator control light burning.  The slightest relaxation of grip puts the light out, so that it would be absolutely impossible (it has been tried experimentally many times) for a sitter to remove his gloves without the light failing.

No one who had properly studied the details of our electrical method of controlling a medium could possibly make the remark: "One sitter alone can free his feet by connecting his metal floor plates by a piece of wire," and I should be grateful to Dr Woolley if he would show me how it can be done without the rest of the sitters becoming aware of the fact.

As a matter of fact, the floor plates are not in the electrical circuit, as I plainly state in my report (p. 9).  They are there merely for the sitters' convenience instead of their having to keep the feet hard pressed against their neighbours'.  What a sitter must do is to keep his feet in contact with the feet on either side of him.  "Connecting his metal floor plates by a piece of wire" would make no difference to the circuit.

But supposing a sitter wished to tamper with the plates, he would first have to remove one glove (and that would mean two confederates; and the gloves are linked together with insulated wire) in order to untie the securely taped-on metallic socks.  Then he would need both hands (with gloves removed: that means three confederates) in order to fasten "a piece of wire" to the metal floor plates (which are nailed flat to the floor and cannot be moved).  And then he would have his trouble for nothing as the plates are not in the electrical circuit, as I have already stated.  And while our hypothetical three confederates are doing their job of work (for which a tool would be needed) the hand and foot control lights would be out.  In practice, the slightest flicker of any of the six control lights is immediately challenged.

I will not further encroach upon your space by answering all of Dr Woolley's criticisms.  He has never seen our electrical control or its application to sitters and medium, and he has never seen our séance room.  I find it hard to convince myself that he has even read the book properly.

The "two visits of Rudi Schneider to Mr Price's laboratory" (in reality, twenty-six séances held at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, over a period of nine months, and attended by one hundred scientists, doctors, magicians, etc., some of whom have furnished independent reports which are printed in my book), were productive of physical phenomena witnessed under conditions of control never previously imposed upon any medium in any country.  And the phenomena were produced with a constantly changing circle and with twenty-one different controllers.  I think Dr Woolley might have mentioned these vital facts in his criticism of my book.  As regards the utility or otherwise of the electrical control, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we have achieved a brilliant and convincing success.

The plan of the séance room mentioned by Dr Woolley is drawn approximately to scale, and exact measurements and weights, and dimensions of articles used are given at least twice in the text.

In conclusion, I will remark that I have offered the conjurers on both sides of the Atlantic substantial monetary inducements to produce "phenomena" under our system of controlling a medium, but none has had the temerity to try.  Will Dr Woolley give the National Laboratory of Psychical Research a practical demonstration of how it can be done?

Yours, etc.,


Honorary Director,

National Laboratory of Psychical Research.


Dr. Woolley's Response

[Dr Woolley writes: I cannot agree with Mr Price that it is playing with words to emphasise the fact that his electrical control only informs the sitters of the contact of the gloves and not of the hands.  Assuming that two adjacent sitters wish to free a hand, the difficulty of one pulling off the glove from the other's hand without breaking contact depends only on the tightness of the glove, and the other would take care to select a loose one before the sitting.  So long as the first continued to grasp the empty glove the light would continue to glow.

With regard to the foot control and the floor plates I have consulted page 9 to which Mr Price refers, and I find there "[the sitter's] right foot rests on half of the small plate, his neighbour's foot occupying the remainder of the plate, which thus serves as a bridge for the current"  (The italics are mine.)  In view of this, how can it be said that the plates are not in the electrical current?  It seems obvious that if an electrical connection is made between the plate on which a sitter's right foot rests and that on which his left foot rests that sitter could lift one or both feet (without removing the metallic socks) and the lamp would still glow.  Such an electrical connection could be made by a wire weighted at each end so as to rest on and make contact with each plate.  Whether one sitter without a confederate could free his feet in this way is more doubtful and depends on the alertness of his neighbours and the rigidity with which the circle is kept unbroken after the lights are lowered.  I think it might not be difficult for him to make an excuse for a momentary freeing of his hand to adjust the wire, but what I had in mind when I wrote that "one sitter alone can free his feet" was that, if he has once connected the plates in the way I suggest, then he needs no confederate afterwards.  For freeing a hand a confederate is essential.

In reply to Mr Price's concluding question, I should much like to have an opportunity of examining his control system in practice.  On reading his letter I visited his Laboratory for the purpose, but I find that the apparatus is now dismantled.]



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