Guzyk, Jan (1875–1928)
Polish materialization medium, the son of a weaver, whose
fraudulent production of phenomena fooled several prominent
psychical researchers into the conclusion that he possessed
strange powers. He first began to show his mediumistic
tendencies during his years of apprenticeship in the tanning
trade at Warsaw. There were raps, blows on the walls, and a stirring
of objects as soon as evening approached. At age 15, under
the tutelage of a Mr. Chlopicki, a Spiritualist, he became a professional
medium. Russian Spiritualist and psychical researcher
Alexander N. Aksakof took him to St. Petersburg, where he
achieved great success although he did not impress Julien
A systematic study of Guzyk’s mediumship, however, did not
take place until Gustav Geley had a series of 50 sittings with
him in Warsaw in September 1921. Geley became convinced of
the reality of the phenomena. He witnessed the perfect materialization
of a human face, alive and speaking, and the displacement
of heavy objects. He took Guzyk to Paris for further experiments
at the Institut Métapsychique International. Since
Guzyk’s phenomena only took place in complete darkness, the
measures to avoid fraud were very strict. He was disrobed and
medically examined before the séance, put into a pajama suit
without pockets, and his wrists were joined to those of the controllers
by sealed ribbons.
After a series of séances during 1922 and 1923 a very cautious
report was issued. Among its 34 signatories were Geley,
Eugèn Osty, Roux, Moutier, Charles Richet, Rocco Santoliquido,
Camille Flammarion, René Sudre, and Sir Oliver
Lodge. Only those facts are mentioned that were positively observed
by all present and the report concluded, ‘‘We simply affirm
our conviction that the phenomena obtained with Jan
Guzyk are not explicable by individual or collective illusion or
hallucination, nor by trickery.’’ Altogether more than 80 highly
placed persons attended the séances and, with the exception of
three or four, declared themselves convinced of the genuine
nature of the occurrences.
Footsteps were heard passing around the circle when everyone’s
position was accounted for and no confederate could
have entered the room. Psychic lights were seen near the sitters;
they formed couples and became two eyes, with expressive
and mobile pupils that regarded the sitter fixedly. A mass of
cloudy matter formed around the eyes and finally took a
human shape.
The most noteworthy and convincing, at least to the sitters,
were manifestations that occurred toward the end of the séances,
at the moment when Guzyk awoke from the trance. René
Sudre writes in Psychic Research (1928, p. 605) ‘‘At such a moment
as he mumbled some unintelligible words, Guzyk brought
my hand into contact with a hairy creature, just as somebody
turned on the red light. Between the medium and myself I saw
a sort of dark nebulous mass, which disappeared rapidly like a
melting fog.’’ The apparition was what Geley termed the ‘‘Pithecanthropus,’’
an ape-man with a hairy, tough skin who often
licked the hands of the sitters. At other times sounds were
heard as if of a materialized dog. Sudre further observes,
‘‘These phenomena of animal materialisation may appear incredible
to those who have not experienced the proof of them,
but in all honesty of conscience and in all scientific equanimity
it is impossible for me to make any reservation whatever against
their actuality.’’
Sudre was once embraced by a human figure of which he
hardly saw anything more than the eyes and lips. The lips were
quite cold. His wife, similarly embraced, perceived an odor of
alcohol. Guzyk always drank brandy before the séances, but it
appeared impossible for him to produce the phenomenon
under the conditions of control.
It appears that Guzyk had fooled Geley, Sudre, and their
colleagues at the Institut. In November 1923 a series of ten séances
was held with Guzyk at the Sorbonne in Paris. The report,
signed by four investigators, stated that their conviction of
fraud was ‘‘complete and without reserve.’’ The phenomena—
touches and displacement of objects—were produced by
Guzyk’s elbows and liberated leg. Yet it does not appear from
the report that he was actually caught in fraud, and some observations
cannot be explained by the liberation of a leg.
It is well known that Guzyk was often caught in fraud. His
powers were highly commercialized, and he gave as many as
five séances a day. Harry Price sat with him in August 1923 in
Warsaw and found the phenomena childishly fraudulent. Max
Dessoir wrote in Von Jenseits der Seele (1920) that he and a colleague
repeatedly caught Guzyk using his foot for psychic
touches and sounds. At Cracow in December 1924 the Metapsychical
Society took a flashlight photograph at an unexpected
moment. The picture showed Guzyk with his left hand raised
to the height of the curtain, which he seemed to be grasping.
Following these séances M. Szczepansky wrote an article in
Psychische Studien (June 1925), ‘‘The Career and Exposure of
Guzyk.’’ He drew a sharp reply from Baron Schrenck-Notzing
who defended him by pointing out that Guzyk’s frauds had
been well known for years and did not detract from his genuine
faculties. In 1927 Walter Franklin Prince sat with Guzyk in
Warsaw. In Bulletin VII of the Boston Society for Psychical Research
he gave an entirely negative report.