Reese, Bert (1851–1926)
American-Polish medium with whom remarkable experiments
in clairvoyance were conducted by Baron von SchrenckNotzing,
Thomas A. Edison, Hereward Carrington, and Felix
Hollaender. Reese was said to have manifested extraordinary
psychic faculties at the age of six. According to Felix Hollaender,
writing in the Annals of Psychic Science (September
1913), these abilities so terrified the people of the little town
where he was born that they deserted the shop where his father
sold miscellaneous goods, and to avoid ruin he had to send his
son away to Posen. The people of the country town were filled
with horror. They considered the child a wizard and possessed
by the devil.
In America, Reese was arrested and condemned for disorderly
conduct. Appealing against his sentence he appeared before
Judge Rosalsky and proved his powers to him. He asked
the Judge to write something on three different pieces of
paper, to fold them up and place them in three different pockets,
mixing them in such a way that they could not be recognized.
Then Judge Rosalsky took one of the pellets and pressed it
against Reese’s forehead. He immediately answered ‘‘You
have fifteen dollars in the bank mentioned in your question.’’
He continued by reading the second paper, which contained
the name of a Miss O’Connor, a former governess to Judge
Rosalsky’s children. He also read the third paper, whereupon
Judge Rosalsky acquitted him.
Schrenck-Notzing considered him one of the most extraordinary
men of the time. Thought reading could not sufficiently
account for his performances as the experimenters mostly took
care that they themselves should not know which piece of paper
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Reese, Bert
1295
contained which question. In certain performances, ‘‘X-ray
clairvoyance’’ also fell short as an explanation; his success must
have been due to psychometry. According to the account of
Felix Hollaender, he indicated to a commercial firm the pages
on which there was a fraudulent entry. He was given five percent
of the amount of the fraud.
However, Harry Houdini claimed Reese was a fraud, and
that he knew his methods. In a letter to Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, Houdini wrote ‘‘I have no hesitancy in telling you that
I set a snare at the séance I had with Reese, and caught him
cold-blooded. He was startled when it was over, as he knew that
I had bowled him over. So much so that he claimed I was the
only one that had ever detected him.’’
Reese was at one time an assistant to Thomas A. Edison, who
held séances with him. In his later years, Edison worked on apparatus
to communicate with the dead. Reese also had a reputation
for dowsing and was said to have discovered valuable oil
deposits for the Rockefeller company.
Sources
Ernst, B. M. L., and Hereward Carrington. Houdini and
Conan Doyle. New York A & C Boni, 1932.