Cottin, Angelique (ca. 1846)

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Cottin, Angelique (ca. 1846)

A French peasant girl from a small village near Montagne, in Normandy, who as a teen exhibited remarkable phenomena of an apparently electric nature for a period of about ten weeks. Her first manifestation took place on the evening of January 15, 1846, while she was engaged in weaving gloves with three other girls. The frame at which they were working began to jump about. The parish priest was the first to investigate, since witchcraft was suspected. Realizing the money-making possibilities in such a mysterious power, Angelique's parents soon took her to Paris.

A Dr. Tanchou accidentally heard of her curious phenomena, investigated, and found them to be of an electrical nature. Balls of pith or feathers hung on a silken thread were alternately attracted or repelled by a force emanating from her body. She could distinguish between the poles of a magnet by touch. A compass was violently agitated in her presence. Chairs and tables leapt away from her touch in bright daylight and against strong counterpressure. A bed rocked and shook beneath her.

Tanchou sometimes noticed a cold wind during the phenomena. He reported to the scientist François Arago, who tested the girl in his laboratory. Their report revealed sudden and violent movements of the chair on which the girl was sitting. They were not satisfied, however, that these movements were not due to muscular force. But Tanchou and many others remained convinced that the phenomena was proof of the existence of a new force. According to Lafontaine, "When she brought her left wrist near a lighted candle the flame bent over horizontally, as if continually blown upon." The power was especially strong in the evening, from seven to nine o'clock. It radiated only from the front part of Cottin's body, especially at her wrist and elbow, but only on the left side. Her left arm was of higher temperature than the other. If she was seated on a chair without her feet touching the floor, made to sit down on her hands, or stood on a wax floor, a piece of oiled silk, or a plate of glass, no phenomena took place.

At every manifestation of the mysterious force Cottin was seized with terror and sought refuge in flight. During the phenomena she was extremely hyperesthetic; her muscles convulsed and her heartrate increased to 120 beats a minute. The force was so excessive that a 60-pound table would rise into the air if her apron merely touched it.

The telekinetic phenomena of Eusapia Palladino seem to have been similarly produced. Frank Podmore in his examination of the facts found this a suspicious circumstance. He also observed that when chairs were thrown about there was a double movement on the part of the girl, first in the direction of the object thrown and then away from it, the first movement being so rapid that it generally escaped attention.


Rochas, Eugene A. A. L'Exteriorisation de la Motricité. 1896. Reprint, N.p., 1899.