- DR. FODOR GOES HUNTING -
As we noted in RR for May, Dr. Nandor Fodor, of psychic research fame, read a paper called Psychoanalytic Approach to the Problems of Occultism, before the Association for the Advancement of Psychotherapy (March 30, 1945) - and lo and behold! the Journal of Clinical Psychopathology printed it. A truly notable event! Doubt went so far as to call it a mile-stone, and when Doubt proclaims mile-stones we usually go-see for ourselves. Now, thanks to RR friend Philip Rasch of Los Angeles we have a reprint of the paper (22p., Vol. vii, No. 1, July 1945, JCP). §
The triple-distilled essence or 33rd trituration of the matter is that Dr. Fodor got hold of an exceptionally fine poltergeist case and made a psycho-analytical study of the sources off energy being used. Please note the exact wording - sources of energy! The poltergeist itself got off almost scot-free. But very interesting! The subject was one Mrs. Forbes of Thornton Heath (England); she was a hysteric, maybe schizophrenic case ('split personality; multiple personality), a non-responsible, only half-conscious 'fraud', but at the same time one of the finest apport mediums on record.
Dr. Fodor calls this a poltergeist case, and defines a poltergeist (racketing ghost) as the "purported agency" behind such unpleasant business as stone-throwing, crockery smashing and the like. There's a vast variety grouped under this term; Carrington's Bulletin of 1935 lists some 300 cases, and Harry Price has a 400 page book on the subject (Poltergeist Over England). But Dr. Fodor also proclaims that the poltergeist "is not a ghost, it's a bundle of projected repressions" (p.68) "often ascribed to a side-slipping of sexual energies." This little concession to the psychoanalyst is then carefully cancelled; "no one has been able to explain how these forces can be projected outside the body, nor is it true that the poltergeist only functions at pubertal times." (p.69) "The ordinary ghost is said to haunt a house, the poltergeist to haunt a person" (p.70) This seems much too narrow an application of the term poltergeist, just as Harry Price's use of the term is much too broad.
As to actual happenings the way of physical phenomena, two London newspapers sent their news-hawks to the house. "Wine glasses and saucers (were seen) exploding under the impact of an invisible hammer; eggs, sauce pans, fenders, rugs, coal sailing thru the air and thru closed doors." Dr. Fodor's own assistant reported that in "72 hours, 60 tumblers and wine glasses, 20 cups, 4 saucers, 1 salad bowl, 3 electric bulbs, 9 eggs, 2 plates, 1 basin, 2 vases, 2 jugs, 1 pot of face cream were smashed by the poltergeist." The assistants also "saw glasses fly up and explode in the air."
Dr. Fodor deduced from all this that something unusual was going on ("a prima facie case for investigation seemed to be established") and so betook himself for to see and for to learn ("I repaired to the haunted house myself"). All this destructive rumpus centered around the terrified Mrs Forbes, whose pulse rate had gone up to 120 and who shook all over at each explosion. Dr. Fodor concluded that she was  "the victim of a serious mental dissociation," and that the outbreak originated "in grave unconscious conflicts."
This Mrs Forbes was "vivacious, beautiful, and intelligent... had lived an artificial life in suburbia but was trained for the tight-rope, loved to live dangerously, showmanship was in her blood," and had a terrific "repressed aggression complex against her husband." She also had an abscessed kidney, and was confined to bed in the same room with her husband, who was also ill, when the trouble began. Glasses were smashed, eiderdown blew in the husband's face, and cold blasts seemed I to emanate from his wife's left side. So they took Mrs F. off to the institute for observation, and then the investigators found out about the apports.
At her home, these had been 'big and heavy objects'. Two elephant teeth, cut in half and polished, 'came clattering down from the air.' Also a big silver necklace, alleged to have been hot, 'landed' on her neck. Her neck was burned but Dr. Fodor thinks she did it herself with the curling irons. At the Institute the shower of apports included "pottery pieces from Carthage, with labels on them in a neat masculine hand, a Roman lamp and a tear vase, a flint axe, fossils, semi-precious stones, quartz crystals, crosses, lockets, rings, coins, medals, charms." As these objects appeared, the medium showed shock effects; some of the observers also became ill, and could predict by their feelings when the next apport was to be expected. These apports appeared in full daylight, in a very large room, while Mrs. Forbes was sitting or walking around with people who held her by the arm. She had been stripped and searched by women assistants, and was dressed at times in a one-piece or garment with mittens sewn on. Nevertheless, apports appeared inside the mittens, or fell near her. Tea cups flew, cut her hand, saucers split in mid-air, a bird flew up from near the bottom of her skirt, white mice crawled around the place, heavy chairs turned over after she had passed them, claw marks appeared on her arms and back; there was a fetid smell, also "clouds of violet perfume ... one could walk in and out of them," and they did not emanate from her person. (p.86)
Dr. Fodor saw and admitted all these wonders, at the same time he was convinced that some of them were fraudulent and insisted that his women helpers make a genital examination. They objected, urging, with some show of reason that flint axes and Roman lamps (as examples) could not be concealed in such a hiding place. Resourceful Dr. Fodor, still sceptical, gets out his X-ray apparatus, and sure enough, the plate shows three ready-to-deliver apports "suspended on her belt next to her skin." They were not axes or lamps or mice or teacups, true, but sufficient proof that some of the apports, at any rate, arrived by normal means. (Proof enough to us, that the I.Q. of the female search party was not all that it should have been; nevertheless, "two of the greatest living magicians," also present, had likewise been "completely baffled.")
"Scientifically," says Dr. Fodor, "the case was dead." He appears to mean by that, that all psychic research is interested in, is whether phenomena are genuine or not - and seems to believe that all psychic research experts throw all cases out of court if any part whatever of fraud is found in them. We didn't know PR men worked that way; if they really did, there would be precious little evidence. "But psychologically", continues Dr. Fodor, "the case was just beginning." This comes, he thinks, from the superior virtues of psychoanalysis as an  investigation method - the investigator is just as much interested in deception, whether subconscious or intentional, as he is in the "genuine" facts. And he isn't intent on proving survival or the identity of the alleged communicators. So tho Dr. Fodor was much put out by the X-ray revelation, it was not because of the attempted fraud it revealed, but because it almost ruined his true objective, of finding out what really ailed Mrs Forbes.
We can't go on with the details of this study, here. Dr. Fodor dug into the life history of Mrs. Forbes, found much curious and relevant material, and was close on the trail of either an actual case of rape during childhood, or else a rape fantasy, when the Committee of the Institute was seized with moral qualms and shut down on him. This casual sketch, of course, does him less than Justice and is in all ways inadequate but we append a few final comments.
Contemporary psychic research (as we understand it) recognizes as its chief object the psychological analysis of the human personality as a mind-body complex. Until we understand how the minds of here living people are made up, and what they can do, it will be impossible to separate their acts from those of 'spirits.' That amounts to saying, that scientific proof of survival will remain impossible. But in this situation, with this objective, psychoanalysis and psychic research cannot but be in harmony, with a difference of emphasis only. The first requirement of both is a true and workable psychology. At the same time, attempts to prove survival by any and all valid means cannot be ruled out; they are not only contributory but essential.
A primary assumption, or hypothesis, certainly would be that the powers of excarnate persons (spirits), if these exist, would overlap with those of the here-living. Or, that paranormal powers of living persons (spirits incarnate?) can accomplish many of the feats possible to spirits. If you object that this violates the principle of economy, we reply that this principle is too often one of mental indolence only. Take a 'spirit rap' for example. Everyone knows it is easy to produce them fraudulently (toe-joints used to be the stock explanation). Then, there's about a five-foot shelf of evidence indicating that they also occur during certain abnormal states of mind and body (ectoplasmic extrusions and other means). Finally, there's excellent reason to believe that sometimes excarnate beings are involved. But in a single seance one may have raps produced in all three ways. The toe-joint specialist, relying on the principle of parsimony, of course never gets any further. His brother of stage two has learned a few more facts, while the emancipate of the third degree, when threatened by Occam's razor, has no fear of it at all.
It seems to this writer that to designate this whole study by Fodor as a poltergeist case, is to misplace the emphasis. It's a psychoanalytic case of incipient dissociation, with poltergeist phenomena superimposed or incidental. That the energy for poltergeist manifestations is usually drawn from here-living persons, is widely accepted, and what Dr. Fodor has done is to analyze this energy source. But the poltergeist problem remains much as it was. What kind of entity makes use of these forces, and how? And what is the secret of apportations? The most exhaustive analysis imaginable, of the subject or source or focus, may still leave the poltergeist unexplained. Our own amateur notion is, the phenomena are probably complex with regard to  their direction and control. There may be a source in the human organism but we may have to reckon, with elementals, low-grade astral and etheric entities, particularly (perhaps) with some sort of Double projected by the subconsciousness, in trying to explain the hundreds of varying types of poltergeist cases. Such hypotheses are mere gibberish to the psychoanalyst, as yet... An adequate psychology, such as both psychic research and psychoanalysis are in search of, would of course clear up much of the mystery. But at present we venture that no psychoanalysis of the energy source is going to reveal the geist. Rape fantasies are one thing; and elephant teeth from the ceiling are not likely to be explained by them, or by vampires and incubi - which also appear in Dr. Fodor's account... The intelligent control of exteriorized energy is the real problem - and the disintegration and reintegration of solid substances.
Finally, we add that the six pages of discussion by Dr. Fodor's auditors, and his reply to them, are nearly as interesting as the case history itself. Gustave Bychowski, M.D., bears down on the psychoanalytic features, but admits that "some so-called occult manifestations are an object of certain observation." He's referring particularly to telepathy, and thinks some kind of unity of individual existence may underlie that phenomenon. Paul Federn, M.D., says that he is "fascinated" and "impressed". He thinks 'mediumistic power' stems from exceptionally strong urges inhibited by accumulated frustrations; his redeeming grace is that he actually accepts the existence of apports. He also tells us that the poltergeist carrier (Mrs Forbes in this case) exerts unconscious automatism (involuntary hypnosis) over other people, so that they share the carrier's hallucinations - maybe even start throwing things without knowing it. (He's very tentative about this however.) Joseph Wilder, M.D., says if you want to smell like violets, all you have to do is to drink a spoonful of turpentine oil, then go to the w.c. (Even the Roman prostitutes, he says, knew that much). Dr. Fodor, returning for a last word, gains stature as a diplomat. Suggestion and psychic contagion, he says, as mentioned by Drs. B. and F., are indeed "important". For instance, he had expressed a wish for a Roman terra-cotta lamp as an apport, and when he went to the bathroom, there it was on the toilet seat. Probably the original lamp idea came from the medium, he says, and he, Fodor, picked it up, illustrating the point made by his learned colleagues. He, says he was always on the outlook for fraud, but simply because he wanted to see if the poltergeist was still there after all fraud was eliminated. Evidently it was, but "it would be exceedingly difficult for me to try to convince this audience of that which remained as indicating genuinely supernormal causation." We feel that the Doctor is holding back something, but that's likely because he knows his psychoanalysts and M.D.'s - all too well.
Dr. Fodor's last word is a quote of Dr. Treviranus to Coleridge: "I have seen what I would not have believed on your testimony, and what I cannot, therefore, expect you to believe on mine."
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§. Note: Dr. Nandor Fodor, Park Central Hotel, Suite 706. W. 55th St., N.Y. 19. The reprint is by Medical Journal Press, Monticello, N.Y. .25
REPORT ON CASE OF CARCINOMA
(These facts came to the RR Editor thru personal correspondence; he has complete confidence in their genuineness and reports them mainly in the language of the writer.)
"I have one very interesting matter to tell you about. Some three weeks ago my teacher (in occult studies) called me on the phone and said, 'I have had news for you. Doc. is on his way out with cancer.' 'Doc.' is a chiropractor, a brother of my teacher, and also an occultist. He went on to say that his brother had been operated on by a specialist, and that the cancer was in the entire lower bowel spleen, gall bladder, and liver. The liver had ruptured, the doctor stopped the hemorrhage, sewed up the incision, and gave him about 12 hours to live. My teacher and I called as many of our associates as we could, in order to take the case into meditation and try to ease the passing. I was able to feel an easing of the condition; two days later 'Doc.' was not only alive but showing improvement, to the puzzlement of the doctors. But that was three weeks ago, and he is still improving. Nothing was removed in the operation, but Doc. said 'By God I'm going to get it out of my system.' I don't think this should be published since of course we are not assured of a complete cure, but even so it is very remarkable. If a cure is effected it will show the power of group meditation and concentration."
(The foregoing was written on June 11. Two weeks later, June 25, a second letter was received.)
"I have just talked to Mr. R .... on the phone, and have received permission to publish the account of this case if you wish; but names of those concerned must be withheld for the present at least. My doctor friend who had the cancer is getting along splendidly. When Doc came to himself after the operation he discovered that 2-3 inches of the incision had not been sewed, and he insisted that this be closed completely, on the ground that 'they' told him so. Since then he does nothing but what "they" tell him. He hasn't been able to drink milk for years without severe gastric disturbance, but 'they' told him to take it, and it now has no bad effect. 'They' also advise raw egg with a little whisky, also a little lamb, but no beef. He is gaining weight all the time. The doctors gave him morphine at first, then sleeping tablets, but 'they' ordered these discontinued. So far he has not been willing to tell us who 'they' are. Mr R... (the occult teacher) says that Doc. has had some remarkable inner experiences; I shall try to find out something about these and let you know."
(As our correspondent points out, the recovery cannot yet be said to be complete; but a month of steady improvement in so advanced a case of intestinal cancer, taken in connection with the 'occult' aspects and apparent intervention of spirit helpers, is certainly remarkable enough to justify presenting it to RR readers).
- Fodor, Nandor. "Psychoanalytic Approach to the Problems of Occultism." Journal of Clinical Psychopathology 7:65-87. [Reprinted as a chapter in Carrington and Fodor's "Haunted People: Story of the Poltergeiest down the Centuries" (1951), <http://amzn.to/1w0SdzO>.]
- Price, Harry. Poltergeist Over England: Three Centuries of Mischievous Ghosts. London: Country Life Ltd., 1945. Print. <http://amzn.to/1mgjGMS>