Erto, Pasquale (1895– )
Also known as ‘‘the human rainbow,’’ Erto was an Italian
chemist who claimed to be a medium for unique colored-light
phenomena and other less striking psychical and trance effects.
According to his own story, he attended a séance at age 14 at
the house of an Egyptian woman. She told him that he was a
medium. Shortly afterward he was able to produce direct voice
mediumship and automatic writing.
In 1924 he gave a series of séances at the Institut Métapsychique
International in Paris. Streaks of light resembling electric
flashes lit up the room and luminous spheres zigzagged in
the dark. The phenomena appeared to defy human production.
But, as stated by Gustav Geley in a letter to Le Matin dated
April 7, 1924, one of his colleagues had been able to produce
a minute instrument with which Erto’s lights were reproduced
to perfection. In addition, more direct evidence of fraud was
also discovered 1) A small rectangular block of ferro-cerium,
one centimeter long, was found in the syphon of a sink in which
Erto washed immediately after a séance and before the final
X-ray examination that Erto was to undergo; 2) Analysis of the
workings of the medium revealed the presence of minute but
unmistakable traces of ferro-cerium; 3) At the close of the last
séance Erto refused to allow himself to be examined at the level
of the pelvis by the doctors present; and 4) A circular hole sufficient
to enable a small pencil to be pushed through was found
in Erto’s tights at the pelvic level. Although Erto’s methods
would be easily discerned today, Geley could find no explanation
for the fingerprints that he could produce on photographic
plates in sealed enclosures. They resembled those used as
identification in criminology.
In 1924 Erto was invited once more to Paris by a committee
formed by L’Opinion and Le Matin. The investigation took place
at the Sorbonne and resulted in a complete exposure. Several
pen nibs were found in his clothes and a piece of ferro-cerium
in his shoes. By scratching the ferro-cerium with a pen nib in
the dark, Erto’s light effects could be easily reproduced.
For many years nothing further was heard of Erto’s psychic
adventures. In 1931, however, Emanuele Sorge, a prominent
Italian scientist, requested the National Laboratory of Psychical
Research of London to undertake an investigation. Erto arrived
in London during December and under conditions of increasing
severity gave a series of sittings under the auspices of
psychical researcher Harry Price.
When left to himself, Erto produced brilliant flashes of light
in the dark. Under conditions of strict control, however, beyond
the roaring voice of ‘‘Near,’’ a claimed trance personality,
and whisperings of a female voice, no phenomena came forth.
Erto was investigated by Emilio Servadio in 1932, but although
the sittings were considered more satisfactory, the results were
still ambiguous, and Erto is generally considered a fake medium
on the basis of the damaging evidence from his 1924 sittings
in Paris.
Mackenzie, William. ‘‘Les Experiences de Genes avec le medium
Erto.’’ Revue Métaphysique (November–December 1922).
Price, Harry. Leaves from a Psychist’s Case-Book. London Gollancz,