Zancig, Julius (1857–1929) and Agnes
Famous Danish thought-reading couple, whose mentalist
demonstrations at the London Alhambra in Britain fooled
many people, caused much public excitement, and led to a
minor scientific controversy. Mrs. Zancig could correctly name
any article, number, or word at which her husband cast a
glance. The Daily Mail arranged a series of tests in their offices
on November 30, 1906, and published the conclusion that the
performance was the result of true telepathy. The Daily Chronicle
differed and considered a clever code system sufficient explanation.
The questions and answers were registered by a phonograph
record. Nothing was discovered.
The psychical researcher W. W. Baggally conducted some
experiments. He concluded that although the alleged transmission
of thought might possibly depend on a code or codes
that he was unable to unravel, the performance was of such a
nature that it was worthy of serious scientific examination.
The Society for Psychical Research, London, investigated
on January 18, 1907. The result was not published. However,
it appeared sufficiently favorable for some of the members
present to subsequently form an official committee to carry on
further tests. The report stated
‘‘While we are of opinion that the records of experiments in
telepathy made by the SPR and others raise a presumption for
the existence of such a faculty at least strong enough to entitle
it to serious scientific attention, the most hopeful results hitherto
obtained have not been in any way comparable as regards accuracy
and precision with those produced by Mr. and Madame
Zancig. . . . Those who have only witnessed the public theatre
performances, clever and perplexing as these are, will not appreciate
how hard it is to offer any plausible explanation of
their modus operandi.’’
The Zancigs claimed telepathy as an explanation, and Mrs.
Zancig had well-developed clairvoyant faculties. At the Spiritualist
British College of Psychic Science, London, she successfully
passed book-reading tests.
Magician Will Goldston was among the first to publicize the
Zancigs’ method of operation. His book Sensational Tales of Mystery
Men (1929) spoke of their mentalism from the inside knowledge
of a practitioner of stage magic
‘‘The pair worked on a very complicated and intricate code.
There was never any question of thought transference in the
act. By framing his question in a certain manner Julius was able
to convey to his wife exactly what sort of object or design had
been handed to him. Long and continual practice had brought
their scheme as near perfection as is humanly possible. On several
occasions confederates were placed in the audience and at
such times the effects seemed nothing short of miraculous. All
their various tests were cunningly faked and their methods
were so thorough that detection was an absolute impossibility
to the layman.’’
In his book Rudi Schneider (1930), the psychical researcher
Harry Price expanded upon Goldston’s observations ‘‘The
Zancigs’ performance took years of study to perfect, and several
hours practice daily were needed to keep the performers in
good form. I have the Zancigs’ codes in my library and know
the hard work that both Mr. Julius Zancig and his wife put into
their ‘act,’ a matter which I have discussed with Mr. Zancig himself.’’
Just when the Zancigs were at the pinnacle of their career
Agnes died in 1916. Julius tried to continue the act with several
other people, but never to the same effect.

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