Silbert, Maria (d. 1936)
Austrian physical medium of Waltendorf, near Graz, mainly
known for telekinesis, stigmata, apport, and trance phenomena.
As a child she reportedly could predict future events, but
her later physical powers were developed at the expense of her
clairvoyant abilities.
Her apports were preceded by remarkable lights resembling
lightning strokes. A deceased doctor, calling himself ‘‘Franciscus
Nell,’’ was her chief control. One of his curious demonstrations
was engraving cigarette cases with his name when they
were held under the table. However, such a feat is more reminiscent
of conjuring than paranormal phenomena. Paul Sünner
recorded in Psychic Science (January 1931) some sittings in
which, while the medium’s hands were visible above the table,
the engraving feat was demonstrated five times in succession,
additions being scratched on the same cigarette case on his request.
Silbert’s standing on the Continent was high. But except for
her three visits to the British College of Psychic Science in
London, she did not have the good fortune to sit with sympathetic
British investigators. Walter Franklin Prince, of the
Boston Society for Psychical Research, published a negative
report after two sittings in Graz in 1927. Theodore Besterman,
in an account of a personal investigation in November 1928
(Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 38), admitted
some interesting phenomena that he could not explain
but nevertheless concluded fraud.
During 1925, the British psychical researcher Harry Price
was in Graz, and on November 3 he attended a sitting with Silbert.
Various objects, including Price’s gold cigarette lighter,
were placed under the table. The lighter suddenly appeared on
top of the table with the word ‘‘well’’ engraved on it.
Price obtained permission to look under the table to see the
movement of the objects. After 30 minutes he saw Silbert’s right
foot outside her shoe with her toes visible where the end of a
stocking had been cut off. Price was satisfied that the medium
used her toes to handle objects. He did not accuse the medium
of fraud because he was hoping to make further investigations
later, and because he learned that five other individuals who
had publicly criticized Silbert had suffered inexplicable misfortunes.
(Price believed that Silbert actually possessed some paranormal
powers, especially in regard to the raps she produced.)
Silbert died in September 1936.