Zancig, Julius (1857-1929) and Agnes

views updated

Zancig, Julius (1857-1929) and Agnes

Famous Danish thought-reading couple, whose mentalist demonstrations at the London Alhambra in Britain fooled many people, caused much public excitement, and led to a minor scientific controversy. Mrs. Zancig could correctly name any article, number, or word at which her husband cast a glance. The Daily Mail arranged a series of tests in their offices on November 30, 1906, and published the conclusion that the performance was the result of true telepathy. The Daily Chronicle differed and considered a clever code system sufficient explanation. The questions and answers were registered by a phonograph record. Nothing was discovered.

The psychical researcher W. W. Baggally conducted some experiments. He concluded that although the alleged transmission of thought might possibly depend on a code or codes that he was unable to unravel, the performance was of such a nature that it was worthy of serious scientific examination.

The Society for Psychical Research, London, investigated on January 18, 1907. The result was not published. However, it appeared sufficiently favorable for some of the members present to subsequently form an official committee to carry on further tests. The report stated:

"While we are of opinion that the records of experiments in telepathy made by the SPR and others raise a presumption for the existence of such a faculty at least strong enough to entitle it to serious scientific attention, the most hopeful results hitherto obtained have not been in any way comparable as regards accuracy and precision with those produced by Mr. and Madame Zancig. Those who have only witnessed the public theatre performances, clever and perplexing as these are, will not appreciate how hard it is to offer any plausible explanation of their modus operandi. "

The Zancigs claimed telepathy as an explanation, and Mrs. Zancig had well-developed clairvoyant faculties. At the Spiritualist British College of Psychic Science, London, she successfully passed book-reading tests.

Magician Will Goldston was among the first to publicize the Zancigs' method of operation. His book Sensational Tales of Mystery Men (1929) spoke of their mentalism from the inside knowledge of a practitioner of stage magic:

"The pair worked on a very complicated and intricate code. There was never any question of thought transference in the act. By framing his question in a certain manner Julius was able to convey to his wife exactly what sort of object or design had been handed to him. Long and continual practice had brought their scheme as near perfection as is humanly possible. On several occasions confederates were placed in the audience and at such times the effects seemed nothing short of miraculous. All their various tests were cunningly faked and their methods were so thorough that detection was an absolute impossibility to the layman."

In his book Rudi Schneider (1930), the psychical researcher Harry Price expanded upon Goldston's observations: "The Zancigs' performance took years of study to perfect, and several hours practice daily were needed to keep the performers in good form. I have the Zancigs' codes in my library and know the hard work that both Mr. Julius Zancig and his wife put into their 'act,' a matter which I have discussed with Mr. Zancig himself."

Just when the Zancigs were at the pinnacle of their career Agnes died in 1916. Julius tried to continue the act with several other people, but never to the same effect.

About this article

Zancig, Julius (1857-1929) and Agnes

Updated About content Print Article Share Article