Electric Girls
Girls in whose presence certain phenomena occurred, similar
in nature to the time-honored phenomena of the poltergeist,
but ascribed to the action of some physical force akin to
electricity. The best known of these electric girls was perhaps
Angelique Cottin, a Normandy peasant girl whose phenomena
were first observed about 1846. She was later taken to Paris and
placed under the observation of a Dr. Tanchon and others, who
testified to the actuality of the phenomena. These included the
movement of objects without contact, or at a mere touch from
Cottin’s petticoats, the agitation in her presence of a magnetic
needle, and the blowing of a cold wind. In addition, chairs and
sofas held down by one or more men were violently moved
away when Cottin sat on them. She was also able to distinguish
between the poles of a magnet by touch.
A commission appointed by the Academy of Sciences to examine
Cottin, however, could observe nothing but the violent
movements of her chair, which were possibly caused by muscular
Other electric girls practiced about the same time; even
after the beginning of the Spiritualist movement in the United
States, they were occasionally heard of. They are worthy of note
as a possible link between the poltergeist and the Spiritualist
medium. They include the American stage performers Lulu
Hurst and Angie Abbott, and also Mary Richardson. However,
Lulu Hurst was clearly an illusionist rather than a medium.
For an account of Cottin’s remarkable phenomena, see the
Journal des Debats (Paris, February 1846) and also the account
by George Vale Owen in The Two Worlds (1891, p. 669)