Bastian, Harry (nineteenth century)
Nineteenth-century American materialization medium
whose exposure in Vienna on February 11, 1884, led Archduke
John to publish a pamphlet under the title A Glimpse into Spiritualism.
Bastian traveled to Vienna at Baron Hellenbach’s request
expressly for the purpose of sitting for Archduke John and
Crown Prince Rudolph. According to the baron, Bastian’s powers
had waned in 1882 and he had retired from giving séances.
Nevertheless, he felt sufficiently confident of himself to honor
the baron’s request.
In the first séance nothing particular occurred. In the second,
a bell that was pushed out of the circle by one of the sitters
with his foot flew back ringing within the circle on request. Before
the séance, a naval officer had bound Bastian to his chair.
A few minutes later he was free, but his hands were tied in such
a manner that the cords had to be cut.
At the third séance, after the company retired to an adjacent
lighted apartment, phantoms appeared. When the fifth spirit
walked in, the door between the dark room and the figure was,
by a cord arrangement, suddenly shut by Archduke John. The
‘‘spirit’’ was caught and found to be Bastian without his shoes.
The spirit costume, however, disappeared, and no trace of it
was found either on Bastian’s person or in the cabinet. Hellenbach,
responding to the archduke’s accusation of fraud in his
The Logic of Facts, asserts, ‘‘There can scarcely be any doubt that
Bastian would have been acquitted through a closer acquaintance
with these phenomena.’’
However, this was not the first occasion on which Bastian
was accused of fraud. In August 1874, during a séance with Bastian,
a lady caught the medium’s hand where a spirit hand
should have been (see report in Medium, August 14, 1874). At
another séance in Arnhem, an electric lamp was suddenly introduced,
providing a moment’s glimpse of Bastian holding a
guitar in his hand over the heads of the sitters (Medium, January
15, 1875). On this occasion, the editor of the Medium and some
other sitters insisted that this could have been a spirit hand in
the act of dematerializing and sinking back into the medium’s
body