Erto, Pasquale (1895-?)

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Erto, Pasquale (1895-?)

Also known as "the human rainbow," Erto was an Italian chemist who claimed to be a medium for unique colored-light phenomena and other less striking psychical and trance effects. According to his own story, he attended a séance at age 14 at the house of an Egyptian woman. She told him that he was a medium. Shortly afterward he was able to produce direct voice mediumship and automatic writing.

In 1924 he gave a series of séances at the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris. Streaks of light resembling electric flashes lit up the room and luminous spheres zigzagged in the dark. The phenomena appeared to defy human production. But, as stated by Gustav Geley in a letter to Le Matin dated April 7, 1924, one of his colleagues had been able to produce a minute instrument with which Erto's lights were reproduced to perfection. In addition, more direct evidence of fraud was also discovered: 1) A small rectangular block of ferro-cerium, one centimeter long, was found in the syphon of a sink in which Erto washed immediately after a séance and before the final X-ray examination that Erto was to undergo; 2) Analysis of theworkings of the medium revealed the presence of minute but unmistakable traces of ferro-cerium; 3) At the close of the last séance Erto refused to allow himself to be examined at the level of the pelvis by the doctors present; and 4) A circular hole sufficient to enable a small pencil to be pushed through was found in Erto's tights at the pelvic level. Although Erto's methods would be easily discerned today, Geley could find no explanation for the fingerprints that he could produce on photographic plates in sealed enclosures. They resembled those used as identification in criminology.

In 1924 Erto was invited once more to Paris by a committee formed by L'Opinion and Le Matin. The investigation took place at the Sorbonne and resulted in a complete exposure. Several pen nibs were found in his clothes and a piece of ferro-cerium in his shoes. By scratching the ferro-cerium with a pen nib in the dark, Erto's light effects could be easily reproduced.

For many years nothing further was heard of Erto's psychic adventures. In 1931, however, Emanuele Sorge, a prominent Italian scientist, requested the National Laboratory of Psychical Research of London to undertake an investigation. Erto arrived in London during December and under conditions of increasing severity gave a series of sittings under the auspices of psychical researcher Harry Price.

When left to himself, Erto produced brilliant flashes of light in the dark. Under conditions of strict control, however, beyond the roaring voice of "Near," a claimed trance personality, and whisperings of a female voice, no phenomena came forth. Erto was investigated by Emilio Servadio in 1932, but although the sittings were considered more satisfactory, the results were still ambiguous, and Erto is generally considered a fake medium on the basis of the damaging evidence from his 1924 sittings in Paris.


Mackenzie, William. "Les Experiences de Genes avec le medium Erto." Revue Métaphysique (November-December 1922).

Price, Harry. Leaves from a Psychist's Case-Book. London: Gollancz, 1933.

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Erto, Pasquale (1895-?)

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