Electric Girls

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Electric Girls

Girls in whose presence certain phenomena occurred, similar in nature to the time-honored phenomena of the poltergeist, but ascribed to the action of some physical force akin to electricity. The best known of these electric girls was perhaps Angelique Cottin, a Normandy peasant girl whose phenomena were first observed about 1846. She was later taken to Paris and placed under the observation of a Dr. Tanchon and others, who testified to the actuality of the phenomena. These included the movement of objects without contact, or at a mere touch from Cottin's petticoats, the agitation in her presence of a magnetic needle, and the blowing of a cold wind. In addition, chairs and sofas held down by one or more men were violently moved away when Cottin sat on them. She was also able to distinguish between the poles of a magnet by touch.

A commission appointed by the Academy of Sciences to examine Cottin, however, could observe nothing but the violent movements of her chair, which were possibly caused by muscular force.

Other electric girls practiced about the same time; even after the beginning of the Spiritualist movement in the United States, they were occasionally heard of. They are worthy of note as a possible link between the poltergeist and the Spiritualist medium. They include the American stage performers Lulu Hurst and Angie Abbott, and also Mary Richardson. However, Lulu Hurst was clearly an illusionist rather than a medium.

For an account of Cottin's remarkable phenomena, see the Journal des Debats (Paris, February 1846) and also the account by George Vale Owen in The Two Worlds (1891, p. 669).

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Electric Girls

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