Mirabelli, (Carmine) Carlos (1889-1951)

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Mirabelli, (Carmine) Carlos (1889-1951)

South American physical medium born on January 2, 1889, in Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil, of Italian immigrant parents. Mirabelli was a Spiritist of the school of Allan Kardec, which had become popular in Brazil after its importation from Europe.

Such extraordinary accounts of his phenomena spread through psychical research circles in England and the United States that, if they could have been proved to the satisfaction of psychical researchers, he would have had to be ranked as the greatest medium of all time. Such phenomena included automatic writing in more than thirty different languages, materialization of persons and objects, levitation, impressions of spirit hands, and paranormal musical performances. He also normally produced phenomena in the light of day.

The first description of Mirabelli's feats was published in a booklet, O Medium Mirabelli, written anonymously by R. H. Mikilasch, general secretary of the Academia de Estudos Psychicos de Cesar Lombroso. Mirabelli had applied to the academy for experiments in trance speaking, automatic writing, and physical phenomena. The booklet was published in 1926. It reported 392 sittings in broad daylight or in a room illuminated by electric light. In 349 cases the sittings were held in the rooms of the academy and were attended by a total of 555 people. The summary was as follows:

"The committee carried out with the first group (trance speaking) 189 positive experiments; with the second group (automatic writing) 85 positive and 8 negative; with the third group (physical phenomena) 63 positive and 47 negative experiments. The medium spoke 26 languages including 7 dialects, wrote in 28 languages, among them 3 dead languages, namely Latin, Chaldaic and Hieroglyphics. Of the 63 physical experiments 40 were made in daylight, 23 in bright artificial light."

A second report, based on the first, appeared in a publication of the Academia de Germany, the Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie, in August 1929. Fearing a hoax, the German periodical made inquiries first from the Brazilian consul at Munich as to the standing and reputation of Mirabelli's witnesses and supporters. The information was verified, and the consul added that 14 persons on the submitted list were his personal acquaintances, to whose veracity he would testify. He said he had no reason to question the statements of other people on the list, known to him not only as scientists but also as men of character. Thereupon the Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie published a summary of the case. (It was later discovered that the Academia de Estudios Psychicos de Cesar Lombroso, named for the famed Italian psychical researcher, was founded and headed by Mira-belli, and hence the objectivity of its report is very much in question.)

The newspapers picked up the story. They wrote of telekinetic movement, of apports, of a miraculous teleportation of the medium from the railroad station of Da Luz to São Vicenti90 kilometers distance in two minutes; of his levitation in the street two meters high for three minutes; of how he caused a skull to float toward an apothecary; of making an invisible hand turn the leaves of a book in the home of Dr. Alberto Seabra in the presence of many scientists; of making glasses and bottles at a banquet play a military march without human touch; of causing the hat of Antonio Canterello to fly off and float ten meters along a public square; of making and quelling fire by will in the home of Alves Lima; of making a cue play billiards without touching it; and finally of having the picture of Christ impressed on plaster in the presence of Dr. Caluby, director of police.

A conjuring magician imitated some of Mirabelli's phenomena, but this did not lessen his reputation as a wonder-worker. Owing to the heated controversy that grew up around him, an arbitration board was instituted for the investigation of the medium. Among the members were Dr. Ganymed de Souza, president of the Republic; a Dr. Brant of the Institute of Technology; and 18 other men of high position and learning.

After the investigation and the testimony of witnesses, the board established that the majority of the manifestations occurred in daylight, that they occurred spontaneously and in public places, that the manifold intellectual phenomena could not easily be based on trickery, and that the statements of persons whose integrity was reputed could not easily be doubted.

Mirabelli's automatic writing was reportedly inspired by the spirits of historical figures. Fifteenth-century reformer John Huss influenced Mirabelli to write a treatise of nine pages on the independence of Czechoslovakia in 20 minutes; French psychical researcher Camille Flammarion inspired him to write about inhabited planets14 pages in 19 minutes in French. "Muri Ka Ksi" delivered 5 pages in 12 minutes on the Russo-Japanese War in Japanese. "Moses" wrote in Hebrew on slandering; "Harun el Raschid" made Mirabelli write 15 pages in Syrian, and an untranslatable writing of three pages came in hieroglyphics in 32 minutes.

The phenomena of materialization were astounding, if real. The figures were not only complete, and photographed, but medical men made minute examinations that lasted for sometimes as long as 15 minutes and stated that the newly constituted human beings had perfect anatomical structure. After the examination was completed, one figure began to dissolve from the feet up, the bust and arms floating in the air. One of the doctors exclaimed, "But this is too much!" He rushed forward and seized the remaining half of the body. The next moment he uttered a shrill cry and sank unconscious to the ground. On returning to consciousness, he only remembered that when he had seized the phantom it had felt as if his fingers were pressing a spongy, flaccid mass. Then, he said, he received a shock and lost consciousness.

Reportedly, for 36 minutes in broad daylight the materialization of the young daughter of Dr. Souza, who died of influenza, was visible to all the sitters. She appeared in her burial clothes. Her pulse was tested. Father and child were photographed. Then the phantom raised itself and floated in the air. At the third sitting, supposedly a skull inside the closet began to beat the doors, came out, and slowly grew to a full skeleton.

In another sitting Mirabelli announced that he saw the body of Bishop Dr. Jose de Carmago Barros, who had lost his life in a shipwreck:

"A sweet smell as of roses filled the room. The medium went into trance. A fine mist was seen in the circle. The mist, glowing as if of gold, parted and the bishop materialized, with all the robes and insignia of office. He called his own name. Dr. de Souza stepped to him. He palpated the body, touched his teeth, tested the saliva, listened to the heart-beat, investigated the working of the intestines, nails and eyes, without finding anything amiss. Then the other attending persons convinced themselves of the reality of the apparition. The Bishop smilingly bent over Mirabelli and looked at him silently. Then he slowly dematerialized."

At the sixth sitting, Mirabelli, tied and sealed, disappeared from the room and was found in another room still in trance. All seals on doors and windows were found in order, as well as the seals on Mirabelli himself. Once, among 14 investigators, his arms dematerialized. On the photograph only a slight shadow is visible.

In 1930 the British psychical researcher Eric J. Dingwall re-viewed and summarized the original Portuguese documents, and stated, "I must confess that, on a lengthy examination of the documents concerning Mirabelli, I find myself totally at a loss to come to any decision whatever on the case."

However, as early as the November 1930 issue of Psychic Research, Hans Driesch threw cold water on all such marvels on the basis of a personal investigation in São Paulo in 1928. He saw no materializations, no transportation, and heard only Italian and Esthonian, which Mirabelli may have normally known. But he admitted seeing some remarkable telekinetic phenomena that he could not explain, involving the movement of a small vase and the folding of doors in daylight without any visible cause.

In 1934 Theodore Besterman, a researcher with the Society for Psychical Research in London attended some of Mirabelli's séances in Brazil. Upon his return he wrote a brief, private report claiming that Mirabelli was a fraud, but that report was never published. In his published report, he stated only that he had seen nothing extraordinary. More recent examination of a picture of Mirabelli levitating that the medium gave to Besterman has been shown to be a fraud.

Reports of mediumistic phenomena continued throughout Mirabelli's life. Given the general opinion today that apports and materializations do not occur except as magic tricks, it is difficult to believe that Mirabelli can escape broad charges of practicing legerdemain, however extraordinary some of his mental feats may have seemed. Unfortunately, all of the positive reports came from people closely associated with him. Possibly because of the negative nature of the early reports, especially that of Besterman, no conclusive study was ever made.

Mirabelli died April 30, 1951, in an auto accident. For a modern discussion of Mirabelli see Gordon Stein's insightful article from Fate and the chapter "Mirabelli!!" in Guy Play-fair 's study. The former had the opportunity to examine the Mirabelli records in England, and the latter met and interviewed individuals who had known Mirabelli, including living relatives.


Playfair, Guy Leon. The Unknown Power. Reprinted as The Flying Cow. New York: Pocket Books, 1975.

Stein, Gordon. "The Amazing Medium Mirabelli." Fate 44, 3 (March 1991): 86-95.