Silbert, Maria (d. 1936)

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Silbert, Maria (d. 1936)

Austrian physical medium of Waltendorf, near Graz, mainly known for telekinesis, stigmata, apport, and trance phenomena. As a child she reportedly could predict future events, but her later physical powers were developed at the expense of her clairvoyant abilities.

Her apports were preceded by remarkable lights resembling lightning strokes. A deceased doctor, calling himself "Franciscus Nell," was her chief control. One of his curious demonstrations was engraving cigarette cases with his name when they were held under the table. However, such a feat is more reminiscent of conjuring than paranormal phenomena. Paul Sünner recorded in Psychic Science (January 1931) some sittings in which, while the medium's hands were visible above the table, the engraving feat was demonstrated five times in succession, additions being scratched on the same cigarette case on his request.

Silbert's standing on the Continent was high. But except for her three visits to the British College of Psychic Science in London, she did not have the good fortune to sit with sympathetic British investigators. Walter Franklin Prince, of the Boston Society for Psychical Research, published a negative report after two sittings in Graz in 1927. Theodore Besterman, in an account of a personal investigation in November 1928 (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 38), admitted some interesting phenomena that he could not explain but nevertheless concluded fraud.

During 1925, the British psychical researcher Harry Price was in Graz, and on November 3 he attended a sitting with Silbert. Various objects, including Price's gold cigarette lighter, were placed under the table. The lighter suddenly appeared on top of the table with the word "well" engraved on it.

Price obtained permission to look under the table to see the movement of the objects. After 30 minutes he saw Silbert's right foot outside her shoe with her toes visible where the end of a stocking had been cut off. Price was satisfied that the medium used her toes to handle objects. He did not accuse the medium of fraud because he was hoping to make further investigations later, and because he learned that five other individuals who had publicly criticized Silbert had suffered inexplicable misfortunes. (Price believed that Silbert actually possessed some paranormal powers, especially in regard to the raps she produced.)

Silbert died in September 1936.