Rothe, Frau Anna (1850-1907)
Rothe, Frau Anna (1850-1907)
German working woman who, after the death of her daughter's fiancé in about 1892, developed mediumship. She constantly saw the deceased seated on the sofa in his accustomed attitude. She saw visions as a child, too, but soon physical phenomena also developed and Rothe soon specialized in apports of flowers and fruits in quantity. Her mediumistic career, however, was a stormy one and finally her fraud led to a sensational trial and a prison sentence.
Camille Flammarion held a séance with Rothe in May 1901, at his own apartment. He wrote:
"During its continuance, bouquets of flowers of all sizes did, in truth, make their appearance, but always from a quarter in the room opposite to that to which our attention was drawn by Frau Rothe and her manager, Max Jentsch.
"Being well-nigh convinced that all was fraud, but not having the time to devote to such sittings, I begged M. Cail to be present, as often as he could, at the meetings which were to be held in different Parisian salons. He gladly consented, and got invited to a séance at the Clément Marot house. Having taken his station a little in the rear of the flower-scattering medium, he saw her adroitly slip one hand beneath her skirt and draw out branches which she tossed into the air."
He also saw her take oranges from her corsage, and ascertained that they were warm.
"The imposture was a glaring one, and he immediately unmasked her, to the great scandal of the assistants, who heaped insults upon him. A final séance had been planned, to be held in my salon on the following Tuesday. But Frau Rothe and her two accomplices took the train at the Eastern Railway station that very morning and we saw them no more."
Charles Richet stated in his book Thirty Years of Psychical Research (1923):
"The first time that I saw the surprising performances of Anna Roth, The 'Blumen-medium,' I was dazzled; at a second sitting I was perplexed; at the third I was convinced that the thing was a fraud. I asked Anna Roth to allow a more complete control which would have settled the question. She refused."
The fact on which Richet based his belief in the imposture of Rothe was that he weighed her before the séance and after. The difference was two pounds, exactly the weight of the "apported" flowers. Therefore, he concludes, they must have been secreted about her person.
A serious exposure took place in Germany in 1902, as a result of which Rothe was kept in prison for over a year before the trial and was afterward sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment and a fine of 500 marks. Detectives posing as inquirers found 150 flowers and several oranges and apples in a series of bag-like folds in her petticoat.
At the trial, Judge Georges Sulzer, President of the Zurich High Court of Appeal, stated on oath that Rothe put him in communication with the spirits of his wife and father, who gave information unknown to any mortal. He also declared that the medium produced flowers in quantity in a room flooded with light. They came down slowly from above, and he saw four nebulous points on the hand of the medium condense into bonbons. Altogether forty witnesses, mostly doctors and professors, gave evidence on behalf of the medium. But the presiding judge stated in the sentence:
"The Court cannot allow itself to criticize the spiritistic theory, for it must be acknowledged that science, with the generality of men of culture, declares supernatural manifestations to be impossible."
In Die Zukunft (April 4, 1903), journalist Maxmilian Harden criticized the sentence,
"Before the conclusion of the testimony one could not but ask: Does this Rothe case, taken as a whole, show the proofmarks of fraud? This question was answered by us in the negative; but the court answered it affirmatively after a short deliberation. The flower medium was condemned to imprisonment for a year and half—a strange transaction, an incomprehensible sentence. The court summons witnesses for the defence— dozens—although the proof-notes show that almost all testify to the same effect. They come, are sworn, and declare almost without exception 'we feel ourselves in no way injured.' The most say 'we are convinced that no false representations were worked off on us by the Rothe woman.' … But the sentence has been pronounced on Frau Rothe in the name of justice."
Bohn, Erich. Der Fall Rothe. Breslau, 1901.