Elongation of the Human Body
A comparatively rare but by no means modern psychical
phenomenon. The Neoplatonists observed it in certain obsessed
men. The Neoplatonist Jamblichus (ca. 363 C.E.) in a
work on divination writes ‘‘The person of the subject has been
known to dilate and tower to supernormal height.’’ J. J. von
Görres, in La Mystique Divine, Naturelle et Diabolique (5 vols.,
Paris, 1854) states that one night while the blessed Ida of Louvain
occupied a bed with a very devout nun, Ida assumed monElliott,
G(raeme) Maurice Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
strous proportions until she was lying in all but a very narrow
strip of the bed. So great was the strain that the skin of one of
her legs burst and she had a scar there from then on. Suddenly,
her body began to diminish until at last it was reduced to an extremely
minute size. The phenomenon was repeated as she returned
from church with her friend.
Among modern mediums it was the famous D. D. Home
(1833–1886) who most often demonstrated it. The expansions
and contractions of his body were witnessed by 50 people at the
very least. He felt exceedingly sick after elongations. His maximum
growth was found by the Master of Lindsay to be 11 inches.
On being questioned by the members of the committee of
the London Dialectical Society, he said
‘‘The top of the hip bone and the short ribs separate. In
Home they are unusually close together. There was no separation
of the vertebrae of the spine; nor were the elongations at
all like those resulting from expanding the chest with air; the
shoulders did not move. Home looked as if he was pulled up
by the neck; the muscles seemed to be in a state of tension.’’
Lord Adare saw a Mr. Jencken, a taller man, standing beside
Home when the phenomenon took place. Home’s feet remained
fairly level on the ground. His unbuttoned coat showed
a space of about four inches between his waistcoat and the
waistband of his trousers. Lord Adare estimated the entire
growth to be six to eight inches. Home appeared to grow also
in breadth and size all over. If an observer placed a hand flat
upon Home’s waist, the observer felt the lower rib pass under
his hand until it was some inches above it, the whole flesh and
muscle apparently moving and stretching. On the contraction
taking place, the lower rib came down until it pressed against
the upper edge of the observer’s hand and moved into its proper
After two elongations—at another time—Home was shortened
to less than his natural height. He could also elongate his
arms. Lord Adare placed himself in front of Home when he
stood against the wall and made a pencil mark at the tip of his
extended arms. First his left, then his right arm was elongated.
When the distance between the pencil marks was measured, it
was ascertained that the total elongation amounted to nine and
one half inches. During this elongation Home’s chest expanded
H. T. Humphreys, a journalist, published in 1868 the following
account ‘‘Mr. Home was seen by all of us to increase in
height to the extent of some eight or ten inches, and then sink
to some six or eight inches below his normal stature. Having
returned to his usual height, he took Lord Adare and the Master
of Lindsay and placing one beside each post of the folding
doors lay down on the floor, touching the feet of one with his
head and the feet of the other with his feet. He was then again
elongated and pushed both Lord Adare and the Master of
Lindsay backward along the floor with his head and feet as he
was stretched out, his arms and hands remaining motionless by
his side.’’ The distance, as measured by Mrs. S. C. Hall, was
more than 7 feet.
H. D. Jencken in his account in Human Nature (1869) also
describes the elongation of Home’s legs
‘‘The right leg of Mr. Home was then elongated about six
inches, then shortened, the foot literally shrinking into the
trousers. I carefully examined the leg from the ankle joint to
the hip. The limb felt shrunk and withered and, gradually elongated,
it felt as if it were being expanded by air being inflated.
Whilst the leg was so shortened he walked about the room,
proving that, though lessened in size, the function of the limb
was unimpaired. The final and most satisfactory test, however,
was the lengthening and shortening of the hand. I caused Mr.
Home to place his hand firmly on a sheet of paper, and then
carefully traced an outline of the hand, causing the pencil point
to be firmly kept at the wrist. I am, I believe, rendering the first
positive measurement of the extension and contraction of the
human organism.’’
Home could also impart the power of elongation to others.
Miss Bertolacci, a medium herself, was once elongated together
with him. The phenomenon was also witnessed in the mediumship
of other individuals.
In an article in Light (May 10, 1902, p. 223), John E. Purdon
writes that
‘‘On one occasion in my quarters at the Sandown Hospital,
Isle of Wight, I held the feet of Miss Florence Cook firmly
against the floor, and can certify that there was no lifting of the
heels, either with or without her boots, and that there was such
an elongation that my brother-in-law, the late assistantsurgeon,
Mark A. Kilroy, whose hands were on her shoulders,
cried out ‘She is dragging me up to the ceiling.’ As he was over
five feet nine inches in height there could have been no posturing
that would account for his experience. Further, I most distinctly
remember Miss Cook coming back with a jerk to her
normal stature. My wife, who was present and heard her brother
make the above remark, fully endorses my statement.’’
Florence Marryat described a séance with Katie Cook in
which the medium’s arm, which she held, was elongated to such
an extent that it reached the sitters on the other side of the
table, where it would have been impossible for her own much
longer arms to follow it. She believed that the limb must have
been stretched to three times its natural length and in sight of
The mediums Frank Herne, J. J. Morse, Eusapia Palladino,
and (in her early career) Rosina Thompson were also
reported to have demonstrated the strange gift of elongation.
In his book Modern Spiritualism (1902), Frank Podmore quotes
Rev. C. J. M. Shaw for an account of the elongation in his house
of a professional clairvoyant named Peters. The arm of the medium
was said to have grown six inches.
Pepito Arriola, the Spanish infant musical prodigy, when
three and a half years old, sounded full octaves on the piano.
His hands did not stretch more than five notes. It seemed to the
onlookers that his hand increased during the time he played.
In the case known as the Great Amherst Mystery (see poltergeist),
Esther Cox’s body repeatedly puffed out to an abnormal
size. She was screaming with pain, but the physicians could do
nothing to relieve her agony. In a short time, however, the
trouble always subsided.
In the case of Rosina Thompson, the elongation was said to
be an attempt to quiet an ‘‘angry nerve,’’ as the medium complained
of violent neuralgic pains. The attempt was successful
and the medium, on coming to herself, found all her pain
There are difficulties in assessing the validity of the phenomenon
of elongation. It is well known that there are variations
in height when the musculature of the vertebrae are relaxed
or tensed. The seventeenth-century British posture
master Joseph Clark could voluntarily dislocate the vertebrae
of his back and other parts of his body, exhibiting apparent deformity
or variation in appearance. Some acrobatic entertainers
can appear to lengthen or shorten their limbs through skillful
manipulation of their muscles and clothing. On the other
hand, one is reluctant to impute such deceptions in the case of
saints of whom the phenomenon was reported, though, of
course, in all cases a question of what the reporters observed remains
In the case of mediums, the evidence is variable. Mediums
like Herne or Palladino have been accused of fraud. On the
other hand, D. D. Home, in spite of his many unusual feats, escaped
any detection in fraud, and the claims of elongation in
his case rest upon various reputable witnesses.
Dunraven, Earl of. Experiences in Spiritualism with D. D. Home.
1969. Reprint (enlarged), Glasgow Society for Psychical Research
and Robert Maclehose, 1924.
Marryat, Florence. There Is No Death. New York John W.
Lovell, 1891. Reprint, New York Causeway Books, 1973.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Elongation of the Human Body
Podmore, Frank. Modern Spiritualism. London Methuen,
1902. Reprinted as Mediums of the Nineteenth Century. New Hyde
Park, N.Y. University Books, 1963.

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