oscillate wildly

Back in 1923, an English woman by the name of Mrs Travers-Smith claimed to be receiving spirit messages from the late Oscar Wilde.

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Oscar told her that being dead is the most boring experience in life. That is, if one excepts being married or dining with a schoolmaster.

I feel the London of my time has been swallowed up he said; an article of a coarser quality is now in its place. The women of my time were beautiful, from the outside at least. They had a mellifluous flow of language, and they added much to the brilliant pattern of society. Now woman is an excrescence, she protrudes from social life as a wart does from the nose of an inebriate.

Oscar apparently had a low opinion of modern life. Or so Mrs Travers-Smith would have us believe. Psychics have a long history of trying to prove to us unbelievers that they do indeed have special powers. Franek Kluski had many people fooled with his beautiful hand moulds.

When the experiment was carried out, two participants sitting next to Kluski grabbed both his hands, so he could not move or use them. In addition, to identify if different wax or finished wax moulds were brought in and swapped, a very small amount of test reagent had been added to the wax in secret just before the experiment started.

Are there any tricks to make people believe that they were holding the medium’s hands without doubt, while not actually doing so?

The process is as follows: the medium keeps both of his or her hands together. Then pretending to call the spirits, the medium shakes or trembles, and while doing so, shakes off the hands of the bridlers for a moment, as if their hands slipped off.

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In another article, the author hypothesises how the moulds were made.

Leaving aside the accentuated vigilance of the controllers, and the fact that he remained totally immobile, the moulds obtained were visibly distinct from his own in every way, starting with the size : as mentioned, the wax moulds were child-sized. Kluski was not a midget, and there were no midgets attending the sessions. As if it were necessary, Geley sent some moulds and Kluski’s fingerprints to the Criminal Identification Department of Paris and obtained a written statement from the Head of the department that the two did not match. Also annoying, in the context of a fraud hypothesis, is the small foot mould ; we would be rather hard pressed to imagine how Kluski (or anyone else, for that matter) would manage to repeatedly dip his foot in the wax, free it from the fragile wax mould, and then tie his shoes back on, without being noticed.

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A simpler alternative would have been to use a prefabricated soluble cast (e.g., made of sugar). It would considerably lighten the burden of the cheating medium if the original cast could just disappear without a trace. But for this to work, Kluski would need to dip the original cast along with the dripping wax moulds into a bowl of cold water (or some other solvent). The researchers had explicitly decided against using the cold water bowl as a precaution against this possibility.

Regardless of how they were made, the hands have a certain beauty of their own, enhanced by the mystery of their creation. You can try the experiment yourself by following the directions published here

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Published in: on July 13, 2010 at 8:09 am  Comments (46)  
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