Schrenck-Notzing, Baron Albert von
(1862–1929)
German pioneer of psychical research, a physician of Münich
who specialized in psychiatry, which eventually led him
into psychical research. He was born May 18, 1862, at Oldenburg,
Germany, and educated at the University of Münich. He
investigated the mysteries of somnambulism while a student,
when, in hypnotic experiments, he succeeded in obtaining duplications
of personality. He soon realized that there was a new
realm of science awaiting discovery.
With a young woman of Münich, Lina M., he made experiments
in thought-transference. They were described by Baron
Carl du Prel in his books. Lina M. also presented the curious
phenomenon of the transposition of the senses, when senses
blocked from normal activity reappear and operate from another
place on the body.
Magdeleine C., a musical medium, gave Schrenck-Notzing
opportunity to study hypnotic alterations of personality. She
was a dancer who, in trance, interpreted the feelings and reproduced
the actions of various personalities and played any piece
of music suggested mentally by a committee on the stage.
These cases, the study of which was described in SchrenckNotzing’s
monograph Die Traumtanzerin Magdeleine C. (1904)
marked the transition between his research on hypnosis and
metapsychics. He resigned from the Gesellschaft für Wiessenschaftliche
Psychologie, a Spiritualist society which Carl du Prel
founded, established himself as an authority in sexual anomalies
and criminal psychopathy, published essays upon the importance
of suggestion in medico-legal practice, and wrote
many other remarkable books.
By his marriage to Gabrielle Siegle in 1892, he suddenly became
financially independent, and he surrendered his medical
practice and devoted himself exclusively to research. With the
awakening of his interest in metapsychics he founded the Gesellschaft
für Metapsychische Forshung and began the study of
telekinesis and teleplastics (or ectoplasm) that rendered him
famous. Up to the time of his death, there was no important
medium in Europe with whom he did not conduct personal experiments.
He commenced with Eusapia Palladino, at whose séances
in Rome he was present as early as 1894. He followed her all
over Europe and invited her twice to Münich as his guest. But
he did not declare his belief in the reality of her phenomena
until 1914 and only published his Rome and Münich séance records
in Physikalische Phenomena des Mediumismus in 1920.
For many years he studied the phenomena of materialization
of Eva C. (Marthe Béraud), in Munich and at Juliette Bisson’s
house in Paris. His book, Materialisations-Phenomene, pubEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Schrenck-Notzing, Baron Albert von
1359
lished in Germany in 1914, at the same time as Bisson’s work
in France, is amply illustrated with photographs. He discussed
the phenomena, concluding, ‘‘I am of the opinion that the hypothesis
of spirits not only fails to explain the least detail of
these processes, but in every way it obstructs and shackles serious
scientific research.’’ However, he put forward the equally
vague theory of teleplasmic (ectoplasmic) phenomena. (In recent
years Eva C. has been shown to have been a clever fraud
who seems, with Bisson’s help, to have completely fooled
Schrenck-Notzing.) The book evoked much public criticism.
The pros and cons were summed up by Schrenck-Notzing in a
later book, Der Kampf um die Materialisations Phenomene (Battle
for the Phenomena of Materialization). The two main works
appeared in English translation under the title Phenomena of
Materialisation (London, 1920, 1923; New York, 1975).
A supplementary volume to the original book was published
in 1922. In it the cases of Willi Schneider, Stanislava P., Maria
Silbert and Einer Nielsen were presented. Schrenck-Notzing
also sat with Stanislawa Tomczyk, Franek Kluski, Linda Gazzera,
Lucia Sordi, and many other mediums. Their cases were
reviewed in his book Physikalische Phenomene des Mediumismus
(1920). He expressed his conclusions as follows
‘‘The telekinetic and teleplasmic phenomena are not only
different degrees of the same animistic process, they depend
in the end upon physical manifestations in the subconscious
sphere of the medium. The soi-disant occult intelligences which
manifest and materialize themselves in the séance, never display
any higher spiritual faculty than is owned by the medium
and the sitters; they are wholly of oneiric type, dream personifications
that correspond to detached memories, to beliefs, to all
the miscellaneous things that lie dormant in the minds of the
participants. It is not on a foundation of extra-corporeal beings
that one will find the secret of the psycho-dynamical phenomena
of these subjects, but rather through consideration of hitherto
unknown transformations of the biopsychical forces of the
medium’s organism.’’
When he discovered the mediumistic gifts of the Schneider
children, he trained Willi Schneider so that the same phenomenon
could be repeated under similar conditions at specified
times and before varying observers. The conditions of these experiments
were very strict and the records considered unimpeachable.
An electrical system of control made the phenomena
apparently fraud-proof. Schrenk-Notzing’s work was
criticized by Harry Price, but supported by a group of scientists
who witnessed the phenomena in 1922 and declared themselves
completely convinced of the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasm.
The book, Experimente der Fernbewegung, Stugggart,
1924, in which he summed up the story of these researches, is
one of the most important works on telekinesis.
In Der Betrug des Mediums Ladislaus László, published in the
same year in Leipzig, he described his experiences in Budapest
with a pseudo-medium, László. At the conclusion of a series of
four sittings he advised the sponsor of the medium, a Mr. Torday,
of his uncertainties. Soon after László confessed to gross
fraud. When Willi Schneider ‘‘lost’’ much of his power, the
Baron trained his brother, Rudi. He discovered another subject,
Karl Weber (Karl Kraus), a young man who produced levitations
at will and while awake. He reported on him at the Paris
Congress.
However, Malcolm Bird in Psychic Research (July 1930) accused
Schrenk-Notzing of ‘‘extraordinary improprieties in the
way of suppressing unfavorable evidence,’’ and cited as one instance
that Schrenk-Notzing had completely concealed at the
Paris Congress that ‘‘Karl Weber’’ was identical to the notorious
Karl Kraus.
In his last years, Schrenck-Notzing devoted much attention
to the phenomena of haunting. He left behind a posthumous
book, Gefälschte Wunder Kraus-László-Schlag, in manuscript. In
1929, his widow published his collected articles; Gesammelte Aufsätze
zur Parapsichologie devoted 47 pages to intellectual and
more than 300 to experimental physical phenomena.
Another posthumous volume (Die Phenomene des Mediums
Rudi Schneider) was published in December 1932. As René
Sudre pointed out in his memorial article in Psychic Research
(May 1929), Schrenck-Notzing never made any attempt at an
inner interpretation of the phenomena he observed. ‘‘He
lacked the spirit of the philosopher. With him there existed no
urgent need for construction; he felt only the urge of accumulating
material.’’
He died February 12, 1929, at Münich, Germany.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Schrenck-Notzing, Albert von. Materialisations-Phenomene.
Munich Ernst Reinhardt, 1914.
———. Phenomena of Materialisation. London, 1920. Reprint,
New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Press, 1975.
———. Die Traumtanzerin Magdeleine C. Stuttgart, 1904.
Sudre, Rene. ‘‘The Life and Works of Schrenck-Notzing.’’
Psychic Research 23 (1929).
Tabori, Paul. Pioneers of the Unseen. London Souvenir Press,
1972.

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