Tactile sensations represent an allied phenomenon to the paranormal movement of objects. Spiritualists claim such touches are intentional, just as the movement of objects is characterized by perfect localization; the touch is invariably meant for the one who receives it.
While the objects by which the sitters are touched may be recognized, in psychic contacts the case is different, as there is no apparent material means for their production. If the touches are produced by rods of ectoplasm, they may cause an immense variety of sensations according to the manipulation of this substance. The tactile sensation is often announced in advance, affected by psychic lights or luminous structures, and is visible to others.
The effect of the sensation may be as though coming from a soft object, for example, a rubber ball, an animal's paw feathers, gloves, fur, powderpuff, cobwebs, flowers, or fingers. The touch itself may be sharp, soft, dry, wet, clammy, or cold. It may be a tap, a caress, a stroke, a slap, a kick, a prick, a push, a punch, or a kiss. The invisible operator may pull or rumple your hair, she may rub your legs and search your pockets.
In 1905, in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, psychical researcher Charles Richet translated a Latin chronicle from 1656 dealing with the phenomena that happened to a young girl named Regina Fischerin of Presbourg, Hungary. The chronicle, which is still part of the records of the Venerable Chapter in the Archbishopric of Pest, gave report on the apparitions of Jean Clement of Presbourg, who led an evil life. The chronicle contained the following dramatic passages:
"Therefore, fearing that she might be the victim of an illusion, Regina asked of the spirit, if it were truly a spirit, to touch her with its finger. Immediately it touched her right arm and she felt the contact instantly. There appeared immediately a blister, giving her the same sensation of pain as though it had been a burn; moreover, fully to attest the phenomenon, the blister remained upon the skin a long time, and all the servants of the house saw it. Thereafter, desirous to be sure that this was not the work of an evil spirit, Regina demanded as proof that the visitor was a good spirit to make the sign of the cross. 'Here then,' said the phantom 'what you ask!' At once a flaming cross appeared outside the cloak which enveloped the figure, and with this it burned deeply the hand of the young girl, leaving thereon a branded cross which everyone could see….
"A little later this spirit of Jean Clement recalled with remorse a crime which he had committed during his life, declaring that the money which had been secured from this crime was not all spent [this proved afterwards to be true]; that part of it had been used for his subsistence, another part had been otherwise spent, but that some still remained and that this should be restored from the possessions which he had left.
"Regina demanded yet other proofs. Surely the proof of the cross burned on her hand, and on her mantle was sufficiently strong, but it did not suffice for the young woman, who, in order to be absolutely sure that the strange visitant was truly a good spirit, insisted that it should make the same Sign of the Cross on a piece of money. The spirit obeyed, took a coin, threw it on the ground, and snatching a piece of cloth from the girl's hands, threw this upon the coin; then, taking Regina's hand violently in his grasp, scorching her deeply as before, burned thereon through the hand and the linen cloth upon the coin the character of a triple cross. 'Here is a further sign,' said he, and launched forth a flame with so much force that it reached the heart of the young woman, while another jet of flame crossed the entire room and struck the opposite wall. Whereupon Regina fell unconscious….
"This affair seems extraordinary to us; firstly because a cross and an exact form of the hand have been marked in every detail; secondly, because this brand of burning did not extend beyond limits of the marks, though, upon linen material, fire has a tendency to spread. Finally, the right hand which was thus branded in on flesh and cloth, was an exact replica of the right hand of Clement, just as though he had been operating by his own dead physical hand. And the proof of this is that, during life, the tip phalange of Clement's forefinger had been amputated by a surgeon for a disease which was then known as 'Worms' and the absence of the finger-tip is clearly indicated upon the branded hand." (This account can also be found in the English edition of Annals of Psychical Science, No. 4, April 1905).
Other chronicles contained similar accounts. In 1908 and 1910 Mrs. Zingarapoli, a Naples lawyer, published a dozen such cases in Luce e Ombra. One was recorded from the seventeenth century and the brands or scorch marks of the hands of fire preserved at the Convent St. Claire at Todi. The exhibits in Father V. Jouet's Other World Museum at Rome comprised photographic records of the marks. In another instance in 1853, a spirit left an imprint as if by an iron hand heated redhot on the door of the convent of the Franciscan nuns of Saint Anne at Foligno. When the grave of the deceased was reopened, the hand was found to fit the scorch marks to perfection.
In William Howitt 's History of the Supernatural (2 vols., 1863), a story was told of an apparition that appeared to the grandfather and father of a fellow student of Johann H. Jung. It stated in part:
"Yet there were circumstances which made the father and son believe that he was far from his purification, for fire streamed from every finger when he became angry at their resistance to his wishes. Still more, when he touched the Bible it smoked, and the marks of his thumb and finger shrivelled up the leather of the binding where he held it, and also the paper where he pointed out the place in the hymn 'From guilt of blood deliver me' was black and singed. The Bible with these marks is preserved in the family, and many creditable persons have seen it and may still see it."
"The fiery touch of the spirit which induced the father and son to believe it a bad one, modern spiritualists can testify to belong to many spirits. How often have we seen fire streaming even from the finger of a medium? How often have spirits, before shaking hands with you, desired you, at Mr. Home's, to lay your handkerchief over your hand first? How often have you felt the touch of spirit fingers prick as from the sparks of electricity?"
Under the mediumship of the Rev. William Stainton Moses there are two instances of somewhat similar character. According to his note dated April 18, 1874, a psychic light touched his fingers, which resulted in the skin being broken up and the joint swollen. Mrs. Speer stated in her account in Light that a spirit of low order was responsible for the injury.
In the second instance, W. B., a friend of Stainton Moses, figured he had committed suicide. His portrait appeared on a plate on May 16, 1876, when Moses sat for spirit photography. On May 20, Moses woke up in the night and saw the spirit trying to reach him; it struggled with two other spirits. He was inspired with horror and revulsion. The spirit got nearer and stretched out his hand. Moses did not remember any more. In the morning, he found on his forehead an oblong dull red mark in the exact place where his friend wounded himself. The mark was a red discoloration and faded in two or three days.
The psychical researcher Frank Podmore quoted a similar case in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 10, p. 204). A Miss M. P. was awakened in the night with a jump with a horrible feeling that there was someone in the room. An icy hand pressed against her face. The next moment her sister cried out and complained of a violent burn on her cheek. "The gas having been turned up higher, we saw on one side of her face, a very vivid red mark, which rapidly took the form of a hand, with fingers open."
The psychical researcher Ernesto Bozzano analyzed this and many similar cases in the journal The Seer (1931) under the title 'Spirit Hands of Flame,' and drew attention to the fact that the elder sister felt an icy sensation and a minute later, apparently by the same hand, her sister was burned. Bozzano asked whether the opposed sensation felt by the two percipients might not be explained by "a rapid change in the ectoplasmic condensation of the phantom hand resulting from a sudden modification of the vibratory tonality. This vibratory tonality, under certain circumstances, seems to be very much more intense either on living or inanimate matter, and as a result, like fire, it would destroy living animal or vegetable tissue."
In a séance with Heinrich Melzer, the Dresden apport medium, as reported in the June 1906 issue of Die Ünbersinnliche Welt, a plant was apported. The sitter, at the very same instant that he received the plant, felt the sensation of burning on the thumb. When the light was switched on, the mark of a burn was clearly seen and a blister formed immediately.
Emma Hardinge Britten in her book Modern American Spiritualism (1870), vouched for the following occurrences in the family of a well-known merchant of San Francisco in a séance with the eldest daughter:
"Instantly, and while every eye was fixed upon her, she sank back in her chair in a swoon and there, in the broad glare of the sunlight, appeared on her face, which the moment before was perfectly white and colorless, a large patch of wet, reeking blood, one of her cheeks being marked exactly as if struck with a bloody hand. On approaching the swooning figure, a second patch appeared on the other cheek; and as she stretched out her hand as if to ward off an invisible foe, another wet and reeking stain instantaneously became manifest on its palm.
"The ladies present procured a washbowl and removed the stains from the young woman's face and hand; but though they replaced her in the chair, restored her to consciousness and never for one moment lost sight of her, nor suffered a single movement to escape them, this terrible phenomena was repeated five times in less than an hour."
The house in which this occurred was haunted, and the scene of frightful disturbances at night. The younger children always insisted that these frightful marks were made "by a Spanish girl" who followed their sister about. She had her throat cut. Another apparition who helped to make the marks was their mother whom they represented as reproaching her daughter with an infamous life. The fluid was several times analyzed and found to be human blood. The phenomena lasted for many months. Finally the police interfered and the circles were terminated.
The issue of psychic touches has actually been discussed but it is such an allusive phenomena that little can be concluded from its occurrence. It has been noted that records of such occurrences in modern séances have usually be in conjunction with other fraudulent phenomena such as apports and materializations; the mundane action of a sitter or accomplice in a darkened room could account for the overwhelming psychic touches. A variety of body sensations, from the ordinary to the spectacular, can also be ascribed to actions completely internal to the person him/herself. It can even be argued that some cases of burns and bleeding might be ascribed to autosuggestion (or hypnotism ).