Smith, Helene

Smith, Helene (19th century) was a swiss medium who underwent a spirit Possession and was overtaken by the discarnate Count Cagliostro. Smith, whose real name was Catherine Elise Muller, never worked as a paid medium but gave Séances to friends and admirers for entertainment. She earned a living holding a high position in a large store in Geneva, Switzerland.

Smith’s Séances were characterized by trances, automatic writing in Arabic, and glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. She hypnotized herself into a trance and allowed her control, Leopold, to speak and write through her. Smith claimed she had been a Hindu princess and Marie Antoinette in previous lives. Her present humble life was repayment of a karmic debt for her transgressions as Antoinette. One of the spirits she channeled in trances was Cagliostro. When he appeared, Smith exhibited signs of temporary spirit possession. Her appearance changed markedly to drooping eyelids and a double chin. The spirit used her vocal cords, speaking in a deep bass voice. She also underwent marked physical changes when Leopold spoke through her.

Leopold, who controlled a bevy of spirits around Smith, said he had been transported to Mars. The spirits were able to take Smith to Mars while she was in a trance. The results of these journeys were crude pictures of Martian landscapes, including plants, houses, and city streets, and automatic writing of a Martian language. Many spiritualists believed her.

In the late 1890s, Smith was studied by a number of leading investigators, most notably Theodore Flournoy, a Swiss professor of psychology. Flournoy, using psychoanalytic techniques, spent five years sitting in on Séances, researching Smith’s personal history, and corroborating historical information she provided at her Séances. Flournoy described the takeover of Cagliostro as a gradual process. First, Smith felt as though an invisible force seized her arms and she could not move them. Then, pain arose in her neck at the base of her skull. Her eyelids drooped, and her chin dropped and formed what appeared to be a double chin, giving her a resemblance to portraits of Cagliostro. She took on a pompous bearing, made Masonic signs with her hands, and spoke in a slow, deep, masculine bass voice with an Italian accent. Cagliostro addressed everyone as “thou” and acted as though he was “the grand master of secret societies,” according to Flournoy.

Flournoy concluded that Smith had a fantastic imagination, perhaps complemented with telepathy and psychokinesis. The Martian language that she produced was a childish imitation of French; a Sanskrit expert declared that 98 percent of the words could be traced to earthly languages. “Leopold,” who was pompous, dignified, and sensible, was probably her most highly developed secondary personality.

Flournoy published his findings in 1900 in From India to the Planet Mars. Smith’s supporters stood by her, and Flournoy was banished from her life. The exposé served to increase her popularity, and Smith enjoyed comfortable wealth and fame.

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FURTHER READING:

  • Flournoy, Theodore. From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia. New York: Harper & Bros., 1900.
  • Gauld, Alan. Mediumship and Survival. London: William Heinneman, 1982.
  • Myers, F. W. H. Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. Abridged ed. Edited by Susy Smith. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1961.
  • Oesterreich, Traugott K. Possession and Exorcism. Secaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1966.

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