Eva C. (1886– )
Famous French materialization medium, known also as
‘‘Marthe Béraud.’’ Eva’s real name was Eva Carrière (Waespé
by marriage). She was the daughter of an officer and the fiancée
of Maurice Noel, who died in the Congo before the marriage
could take place. Her psychic powers were discovered by
Noel’s parents, General Noel and his wife.
General and Mrs. Noel were greatly interested in psychical
research and, in the presence of invited mediums at the Villa
Carmen, witnessed the materialization of a helmeted phantom,
‘‘Bien Boa,’’ a Brahman Hindu said to have died some 300
years previously and who styled himself as the spiritual guide
of the Noel family. A ‘‘sister’’ of the phantom, ‘‘Bergoglia,’’ who
also manifested, later hinted that ‘‘Bien Boa’’ was an assumed
name of someone who had figured in Mrs. Noel’s life in an earlier
incarnation. Indeed, Mrs. Noel claimed a share of credit for
Bien Boa’s appearances and said that either by the séance table
or by direct writing Bien Boa always declared that she was the
true medium at early séances.
When the powers of Marthe Béraud were first discovered, a
period of two years of experimentation commenced, and Mrs.
Noel published many notes on the phenomena in Gabriel Delanne’s
Revue Scientifique et Morale du Spiritisme. Then the Noels
and Béraud invited Charles Richet and Delanne to visit Algiers
as their guests.
The séances were held in an isolated building over a stable
behind bolted windows and doors. A curtain was thrown across
one corner of the room to improvise a cabinet. As a rule a
young black woman, Aischa, sat with Béraud behind the curtain,
but Richet has said that in the more effective experiments
Aischa was not present. Béraud was not tied and wore a thin
dress. By making magnetic (i.e., mesmeric) passes to awaken
her from her trance, Richet passed his hand all over her body
and made sure that she had nothing hidden on her. The presence
of Aischa, of which Mrs. Noel made a point, greatly annoyed
the medium, who complained that in the tropical heat
the odor of the woman was unbearable.
The materializations produced were very complete. Bien
Boa appeared five or six times and offered opportunities for
many important observations and experiments. Richet’s report,
published in the April 1906 issue of the Annales des sciences
psychiques, created an immense sensation. He was satisfied that
he had witnessed genuine phenomena and that Marthe Béraud
could not have masqueraded in a helmet and sheet in the guise
of Bien Boa. Besides, he asserts in the report, the medium and
the phantom were also seen together when no stranger could
have entered the room
‘‘I make a point of this, because of the assertions of Areski,
an Arab coachman dismissed by General Noel for theft, who
said that he ‘played the ghost.’ A certain starveling practitioner
of Algiers, Dr. R., was ill-advised enough to entertain this man
and to exhibit him in public at Algiers in a white mantle to play
the ghost before spectators. That is the most that had been said
against the experiments at the Villa Carmen. The general public
blinded by ignoble newspaper tales, imagined that the fraud
had been exposed. All that was really proved was that an Arab
thief could lie impudently, that he could put on a sheet, could
appear thus on a stage, and could get a doctor to endorse his
lies. It is averred also that Marthe confessed fraud to an Algerian
lawyer who took a pseudonym. But even if this anonymous
allegation were true, we know the value to be placed on such
revelations, which only show the mental instability of mediums.’’
Futhermore, according to a Dr. Z., Areski entered the séance
room with the rest of the company, and when their attention
was diverted by the examination of the furniture, he
slipped behind the cabinet and hid behind the curtain. Richet
replied to this specific charge, ‘‘Now, I declare formally and
solemnly that during the séances—twenty in number—at which
I was present, Areski was not once permitted to enter the séance
room.’’ The later ‘‘confession’’ of Marthe Béraud was alleged
to contain a statement about a trapdoor. According to Richet,
Béraud has never wrote or said that there was a trapdoor.
Besides the phantom of Bien Boa, a beautiful Egyptian girl
also materialized and allowed Richet to cut a lock of her hair.
‘‘As I was about to cut a lock high up’’ stated the professor, ‘‘a
firm hand behind the curtain lowered mine so that I cut only
about six inches from the end. As I was rather slow about doing
this, she said in a low voice ‘quick, quick’ and disappeared.’’
The second important phase of Béraud’s mediumship developed
under the care of sculptor Juliette Bisson, to whom
Béraud had been introduced in 1908. It has been suggested
that Bisson and Béraud shared a lesbian relationship following
the death of Bisson’s husband in 1910. In any case, they lived
and worked together.
Between 1909 and 1913 Béraud, by then known as ‘‘Eva C.,’’
centered her mediumship on materializations. Joint experiments
by Richet and Baron Schrenck-Notzing, with Bisson always
present, built upon previous observations and elucidated
several obscure points. The period also afforded an added opportunity
for Richet to check his earlier findings. During her
trances the medium appeared to suffer much, writhing like a
woman in childbirth, and her pulse rose from 90 to 120. The
materializations, under the control of an entity named ‘‘Berthe,’’
were always slow and seemingly difficult. Very few forms
were well developed or remained for a long time. All this was
in striking contrast with the ease of former years. Perhaps the
rigor of the control had to do with this. Eva C. had to put on
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Eva C.
521
special dresses. She was subject, both before and after the séance,
to meticulous medical examination and often sat nude.
A battery of eight photographic cameras, two of them stereoscopic,
were trained on her, and 225 valuable photographs
were secured when it was discovered that the séances could be
held in comparatively good light, provided the medium was
shielded from a sudden flash. At certain times the ectoplasmic
mediumship alternated with remarkable phenomena of the intellectual
type. She read automatically on an imaginary screen
(like that of a cinema) pages of philosophy that greatly exceeded
her normal knowledge and power.
Regarding a séance of April 15, 1912, held in the presence
of Count Cesar de Vesme and Bisson, Richet is quoted as follows
‘‘The manifestations began at once. White substance appeared
on the neck of the medium then a head was formed
which moved from left to right and placed itself on the medium’s
head. A photograph was taken. After the flashlight, the
head reappeared by the side of Eva’s head, about sixteen inches
from it, connected by a long bunch of white substance. It looked
like the head of a man, and made movements like bows. Some
20 appearances and reappearances of this head were counted;
it appeared, retreated into the cabinet, and emerged again. A
woman’s head then appeared on the right, showed itself near
the curtains, and went back into the cabinet, returned several
times and disappeared.’’
Richet adds, ‘‘Marthe was examined and searched before
and after the experiments. I never lost sight of her for a moment
and her hands were always held and visible.’’
To eliminate every possibility of fraud Baron SchrenckNotzing
employed detectives for several months to watch for
any suspicious circumstances in Eva’s life. To answer the charge
that the ectoplasm of Eva C. was regurgitated material, a
strong emetic was administered on November 26, 1913, after
the ectoplasmic flow reentered her mouth. Ten minutes later
the experimenters were satisfied that the medium swallowed
nothing with which the phenomena could have been produced.
Another important series of experiments took place in
1917–18 in the laboratories of Gustav Geley with Bisson’s collaboration.
About 150 representative individuals, including
many scientists, witnessed the phenomena. In his From the Unconscious
to the Conscious (1920), Geley observes
‘‘It is needless to say that the usual precautions were rigorously
observed during the séances in my laboratory. On coming
into the room where the séances were held, and to which I
alone had previous access, the medium was completely undressed
in my presence, and dressed in a tight garment, sewn
up the back and at the wrists; the hair, and the cavity of the
mouth were examined by me and my collaborators before and
after the séances. Eva was walked backwards to the wicker chair
in the dark cabinet; her hands were always held in full sight outside
the curtains and the room was always quite well lit during
the whole time. I do not merely say There was no trickery; I
say there was no possibility of trickery. Further, and I cannot
repeat it too often, nearly always the materializations took
place under my own eyes, and I have observed their genesis
and their whole development.’’
He adds in a footnote
‘‘I am, moreover, glad to testify that Eva has always shown,
in my presence, absolute experimental honesty. The intelligent
and self-sacrificing resignation with which she submitted to all
control and the truly painful tests of her mediumship, deserve
the real and sincere gratitude of all men of science worthy of
that name.’’
The results of these experiments were the subject of a conference
at the College of France, published under the title La
Physiologie dite Supranormale (Bulletin de l’Institut Physiologique,
January–June 1918.
In 1920 Eva C. and Bisson spent two months in London. Of
40 séances given to the Society for Psychical Research, half
were entirely blank, the rest very weak. As a result, the regurgitation
theory was again put forward as a possible explanation.
Of the London work, in his Thirty Years of Psychical Research
(1923), Richet states
‘‘The official reports of the séances lead to very distinct inferences;
it seems that though the external conditions were unfavorable
to success, some results were very clear and that it is
impossible to refer the phenomena to fraud. Nevertheless, our
learned colleagues of the SPR came to no conclusion. They
admit that the only possible trickery is regurgitation. But what
is meant by that How can masses of mobile substance, organized
as hands, faces and drawings, be made to emerge from
the oesophagus or the stomach No physiologist would admit
such power to contract those organs at will in this manner.
How, when the medium’s hands are tied and held, could papers
be unfolded, put away, and made to pass, through a veil
The members of the SPR, when they fail to understand, say ‘It
is difficult to understand how this is produced.’ Mr. Dingwall,
who is an expert in legerdemain, having seen the ectoplasm
emerge as a miniature hand, making signs before disappearing,
says ‘I attach no importance to this.’ We may be permitted
to remark that very great importance attaches to Mr. Dingwall’s
testimony.’’
In 1922, 15 sittings with Eva C. took place at the Sorbonne.
Thirteen sittings were totally blank and the committee returned
a negative report. After the death of Geley in 1924,
there was a whispering campaign that some very suspicious
photographs of Eva C. had been found among his papers, suggesting
the possibility of fraud by the medium and contradicting
Geley’s published laudatory reports. In fact, his unpublished
papers revealed that Bisson had been Eva C.’s active
accomplice in fraud, and his pictures plainly showed wires attached
to her hair that supported the materialized forms. However,
Eva C.’s supporters countered with the published evidence
of the 200 photographs and the careful reports of
Schrenck-Notzing.
On the whole, the mediumship of Eva C. remains a matter
of controversy. The materializations of Bien Boa in 1905 appear
crude and suggest fraud, as do the Geley papers and pictures.
On the other hand, the careful investigations and remarkable
photographs of materialization obtained by
Schrenck-Notzing cannot be so easily dismissed. In the end,
Eva C. seems to be another clever fraud who was able to confound
some of those who observed her séances and lacked the
training or resolve to uncover her methods. The inability of Eva
C. to manifest under tightly controlled conditions, along with
the lack of supporting evidence for the existence of ectoplasm,
make a most damning case against her.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Brandon, R. The Spiritualists. New York Alfred A. Knopf,
1983.
Geley, Gustav. Clairvoyance and Materialisation A Record of
Experiments. London, 1927. Reprint, New York Arno Press,
1975.
Houdini, Harry. A Magician Among the Spirits. New York
Harper, 1924. Reprinted as Houdini A Magician Among the Spirits.
New York Arno Press, 1972.
Lambert, Rudolf. ‘‘Dr. Geley’s Report on the Medium Eva
C.’’
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 37, no. 682
(November 1954).
Richet, Charles. Thirty Years of Psychical Research. London,
1923. Reprint, New York Arno Press, 1975.
Schrenck-Notzing, Baron A. von. Phenomena of Materialisation
A Contribution to the Investigation of Mediumistic Teleplastics.
London and New York, 1920. Reprint, New York Arno Press,
1975.

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