O’Key Sisters, Jane and Elizabeth (ca. 1838)
Two somnambules or hypnotized subjects of John Elliotson,
an early British experimenter in animal magnetism. The two
girls were supposedly put into a trance by passes on the part
of Elliotson and two different states induced a condition of
coma with insensibility and lack of consciousness, and ecstatic
delirium in which they spoke, sometimes making clairvoyant
predictions and also being subject to the operator’s suggestions.
In the ecstatic condition, which occasionally lasted for
days, one of the girls claimed to be able to see with the back of
her hand.
After many ‘‘successful’’ demonstrations, Elliotson one day
met with a complete failure, which excited his opponents to accusations
of imposture on the part of the girls. Elliotson was
stigmatized as a weak and credulous man. Eventually he was
obliged to resign his position as physician at University College
Hospital, London. However, Elliotson persisted with his experiments
and published his conclusions in an appendix to his
textbook Human Physiology (1840) in which he detailed his further
experiments with the O’Key sisters.

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