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Absurd, If a Truth can be Absurd ~ Michael Tymn

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Absurd, If a Truth Can Be Absurd

Posted on 13 March 2021, 19:26

As discussed in Chapter 12 of my current book, No One Really Dies, the “Paraffin Hands Case” has gone down in the annals of psychical research as one of the most, if not the most, convincing case offering objective evidence of spirit life. “It is very absurd, if a truth can be absurd,” Professor Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, said, referring to the results of the experiments that he and Dr. Gustave Geley, the director of the International Metaphysical Institute in Paris, had carried out with Franek Kluski, a Polish medium, during November and December 1920.

The two scientists succeeded in having “entities,” a more acceptable word to scientists than “spirits,” dip their hands and feet, and even part of the face of one, into some paraffin so that molds could be made of their body parts. They carried out their experiments under very controlled conditions in Geley’s laboratory. In one of the experiments, they added some bluish coloring matter to the paraffin to rule out any skeptical claim that Kluski had somehow smuggled ready-made molds into the laboratory.  The mold was produced with a bluish tinge to it.

Space did not permit me to include the report of Felix W. Pawlowski, professor of aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, in my book chapter, so I will summarize it here. While on sabbatical leave in Europe during 1924, Pawlowski, believed to be the first professor of aeronautical engineering, was invited to sit in on several seances with Kluski in Warsaw.  He reported on his observations in the September 1925 issue of the Journal of The American Society for Psychical Research and also in a 1926 issue of Zeitschrift fuer Parapsychologie (Magazine of Parapsychology). 

Pawlowski (below) reported that he was “rather skeptical” before the experiments, but that he felt there might be “something in it” and was surprised that official science had not given more attention to it. He describes Kluski as “a highly educated and cultured man of a prominent and well-known family, an accomplished poet and a very prominent figure in the big banking business.” He added that Kluski was as anxious to understand his mediumship as anyone else.


The preliminaries, Pawlowski reported, called for an examination of the room and all articles contained therein. Windows and doors were locked after Kluski appeared entirely naked (to confirm he brought nothing into the room). No ladies were allowed. The white light was turned off and the red light turned on as soon as Kluski went into the trance state. “After a few strong and distinct raps in the table or in the walls, bright bluish stars appear and begin to move high above the table, near the ceiling,” Pawlowski recorded, noting that the ceiling was more than 12-feet high. When the stars approached him and were about 16 inches away, “I noticed to my great astonishment that they were human eyes looking at me. Within a few seconds such a pair of eyes develops into a complete human head, and with a hand having a luminous palm illuminating it clearly. The hand will move around the head as if to show itself more clearly to the onlooker, the eyes looking at one intensely and the face smiling most pleasantly.”

Pawlowski added that when questions were put to the apparitions, the facial expression was always perfectly suited to the answer and that an amiable smile played constantly about their lips.  The apparitions came so close to him that he could hear them breathe and feel the breath against his face.  They would occasionally touch his face and hands.

“As the phantoms made their appearance, I saw something resembling luminous smoke or fog floating above the head of the medium like a small cloud,” he continued. “This cloud moved to one side and in a very few seconds became a human head, or else it would be extended vertically and become a complete human figure, which immediately began to walk about.”

He recalled one phantom, appearing as an old man, who was perfectly luminous by its own power. “The old man wore a high, conical headdress, and was clothed in a long robe which hung down from him in deep folds,” he reported. “He approached us with majestic strides, his robe swaying as he walked. His hands were engaged in making motions in the shape of triangles. At the same time he was speaking in a deep, solemn voice. He stopped behind me for about ten seconds, waving his luminous hands above us and speaking continually. He then withdrew to the far end of the room and vanished. His coming was accompanied by a wave of ozonated air which filled the room even after the seances had ended ... His language was rather guttural, and unknown to anyone present’ although between us we commanded twelve different tongues. To date, no one has succeeded in identifying his language, or in discovering who the phantom is. Among the members of the Circle, he is known as the Assyrian priest, a designation which fits his external appearance perfectly.”

Other phantoms belonged to different nationalities and generally spoke their native language, although Polish was most often spoken. “Nevertheless, they readily understand remarks addressed to them in any tongue,” Pawlowski continued. “They seem to have the power of reading the minds of others, for it is not necessary to utter any given wish or question; merely to think it sufficient. It is necessary only to form the wish that a phantom should do some particular thing, in order to have such a wish granted, or, as the case may be, refused.” He explained that the phantoms sometimes said the particular request was beyond their power. “However, most of them ‘fly’ in the air, across the table and high above the table and the sitters if they wish.’

“Not all apparitions are able to speak,” Pawlowski further explained. “Many prefer to make themselves understood by rappings, a very tedious and lengthy proceeding, since the raps always correspond in number to the place of a letter in the alphabet. The voices are perfectly distinct and of normal strength, sounding like a loud whisper.” Pawlowski noted that he tried to replicate the raps with various experiments, but he failed.

The most astonishing and interesting aspect of these phantoms, according to Pawlowski, was their “absolutely human behavior.” He said they acted like guests at a party. “As they passed around the table, they greeted those persons with whom they were acquainted with a smile of recognition, whereas they studied any new faces attentively. The inquisitive look in their eyes is hard to describe. I could see from their efforts to understand our expression, our smiles, our questions and answers, as well as from their actions, that they were particularly anxious to convince us of the fact that they actually existed and that they were not illusions or hallucinations.”

Moreover, Pawlowski pointed out, they were not always life size. At times, they were only half or two thirds normal size. “When I saw a phantom of this kind for the first time, I thought it was that of a child, until on closer examination, I could tell by the wrinkled face that it was an old man or woman, though much below normal size.” When the leader of the Society would petition the circle to help the medium, the group breathed deeply and regularly, apparently in an attempt to add to the medium’s power, and the phantoms would then regain full size.

Like Richet and Geley, Pawlowski observed paraffin hands being produced. (below) “The apparitions put their hands in the paraffin and drop off the glove-like molds on the table,” he explained the process. “If it is a luminous hand, it is clearly seen splashing in the perfectly transparent liquid, like a goldfish in an aquarium. The gloves are rather carelessly thrown off and on one occasion a couple of them rolled off the table on my lap and from there on the floor ... It takes the apparitions from one-half to three-quarters of a minute to produce the glove. When I tried to do it myself it took me several minutes to cool off the paraffin on my hand, and then, of course, there was no possibility of pulling off the glove unbroken. I could not do it with a single finger, immersed only to the middle of the second link.” (Photo by Pawlowski shows one of the molds.)


Pawlowski also reported seeing apports of small objects, but was told by other members of the circle that rather heavy objects had been transported to the seance room from distant places during prior experiments. He also noted that there was a significant drop in temperature, from six to eight degrees centigrade during the production of the phenomena.

“It is impossible for anyone to reject or to deny these phenomena, and it is impossible to explain them by clever trickery,” Pawlowski concluded. “To accept the possibility of creating in a few minutes live and intelligent human beings, whose bones one can feel through their flesh, and whose heart-beat one can hear and feel, is beyond our comprehension. As much spoiled as we are by the marvels of modern science, we can hardly believe nature revealing to us, in such splendor of beauty, the enigma of universal life, the divine secret so far so jealously guarded from us. To accept them would mean to change entirely our attitude toward life and death, to be obliged to revise entirely our sciences and philosophy.” Thus, he added, he was not prepared to subscribe to the spiritistic theory without more study by other scientists.

Nearly a hundred years later, we are still waiting for those “other scientists” to study the matter. On the other hand, it may be that the spirits have thrown in the towel on trying to convince humans that they exist. People check internet sources which say that Houdini claimed he made similar hand molds, and that’s enough for them to dismiss the reports by esteemed men of science. They don’t ask for evidence that Houdini observed molds made under the same conditions, if he observed them at all. And what about the other phenomena? It’s simply too mind-boggling and therefore it’s easier to believe Houdini than Richet, Geley, Pawlowski and many other credible scientists who carried out controlled experiments and replicated them. Then, there are those who believe the phenomena are real, but it’s easier for them to believe that it is some kind of subconscious manifestation than a production by an “entity” from another dimension of reality.  It appears that “absolute certainty” is not possible and that we can strive only for a high degree of conviction. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow Books.



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