Poltergeist girl

Eleonore Zugun - Poltergeist Girl

Part 1 | Part 2

More Psychical Research 

On 30 April 1926, Harry Price, the well known and controversial English psychical researcher, arrived in Vienna. He was much interested in thirteen-year-old  Eleonore's case and visited the Countess's flat on three occasions. While there he witnessed object-movements such as a steel letter-opener fly across the room, a small mirror float over the partition of a room, and a cushion move off a chair whilst he had both the Countess and Eleonore in view. He also observed bite and scratch marks appear on Eleonore's arm and chest, and a large black cloth dog appear from nowhere.

Countess WASSILKO (photo)  [? Peter MULACZ]Price was impressed and convinced that some of the telekinetic phenomena (i.e. object-movements) he witnessed could not be explained by normal means. He decided to bring the Countess and Eleanore to London for study at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, an institution largely created and run by himself.

They arrived in London on 30 September 1926, and stayed until 14 October. Eleonore's visit produced great interest in the British Press and large headlines, innumerable articles, photographs, and cartoons were dedicated to Harry Price's new 'discovery'.   

The National Laboratory of Psychical Research

Eleonore spent many hours at the Laboratory sometimes alone and sometimes with the Countess. Physical lacerations in the form of bite and scratch marks occurred in ordinary daylight when Eleonore was under close observation and some of these 'stigmatic' markings were photographed by Price. However, Price was more impressed by the object-movements which occurred in the vicinity of the young Rumanian girl.  Though two possible attempts at cheating were noticed, telekinetic phenomena were convincingly demonstrated, and their authenticity was attested by various prominent observers. The most amazing of these incidents was when a small metallic letter C, from the spare stock used for a notice board in the Laboratory, disappeared from a securely locked cupboard. 

Eleven days later the letter was found by Professor Tillyard F.R.S. - in the strangest of places. It was fastened tightly around the metal rim of his pocket knife case, sealing it shut. Professor Tillyard had used the knife more than once that day and the metallic letter had not been there when he did. Trickery was not possible as close control of Eleonore and the Countess was operated in the Laboratory at all times. This incident helped to convince many of the scientists and doctors invited by Price to observe the little Rumanian girl that they had witnessed authentic paranormal phenomena.

Price and the Laboratory Council concluded that with Eleanore they had indeed shown 'that under scientific test conditions movements of small objects without physical contact undoubtedly took place'. Late in October Eleonore and the Countess left London for Berlin. After she returned from England Eleonore's telekinetic ability began to fade, but the biting and scratching continued, with one important and unpleasant new element - the appearance on her skin of large amounts of saliva.

There are other cases of biting and scratching poltergeists and one - that which occurred in Bristol in1761-2 - where foul-smelling spittle was found in some of the bite-wounds of the young female victims.

Samples of this spittle taken from Eleonore's arm and face were analyzed and found to be full of micro-organisms, whereas that taken from Eleonore was relatively free of micro-organisms. Obviously the saliva was not Zugun's. To test whether the marks on Eleonore's body were caused from outside of her body, a Dr Walther Kr?ner smeared her face and arms with greasepaint; on examination it was discovered that that when scratches appeared, the greasepaint had been pushed aside - showing that they were externally created.

Sittings in Munich

In January 1927 Eleonore and the Countess left Berlin and spent a fortnight in Munich, as the guest of Baron von Schrenck-Notzing. A cine-film of the 'friend of Dracu', as she was dubbed, in action was made at one of the sittings there by the Emelka-Kultur-Gesellschaft ('Eku' company), a copy of which is held by the British Society for Psychical Research. One of the things shown in the film is Eleonore's arms being held by researchers whilst she cringes in apparent pain.; close-up shots show bite marks which had seemingly just appeared.

Dr. Hans Rosenbusch, a Munich doctor who had been present at two of the sittings, invited Eleonore and the Countess to give a sitting in his own home. Shortly afterwards, he announced that he had found Eleonore cheating with the help of the Countess, and declared the girl a fake. Harry Price replied that, though the girl would probably cheat if allowed, all of his test experiments with her were tightly controlled and the Countess was not present at any of them, and still unexplained phenomena occurred.

Many prominent Viennese scientists and doctors also declared themselves convinced of the psychic phenomena they had witnessed for six months in the presence of Eleonore. The Countess came to her own and Eleonore's defence, saying that she told Rosenbusch that Eleonore would probably fake the phenomena if she could. She sued Rosenbusch for libel, but the case was eventually dismissed on technical grounds. Though Rosenbusch's case remains unproven, the fact that Zugun seems to have been discovered cheating must cast serious doubts on the genuineness of her 'psychic' abilities. However, it must also be noted that Rosenbusch completely ignored unusual phenomena which occurred when no trace of fraud was detected, and that later analysis of the documentary film taken in Munich showed no indication of fraud.

Loss of Psychic Abilities

Poltergeist Girl. Eleonore Zugun in her native village of Talpa [? Peter MULACZ]The controversy became irrelevant when, in the early summer of 1927, around the time of her fourteenth birthday and the onset of menstruation, Eleonore's phenomena ceased for good.  When last heard of, in the 1930s, she was running a successful hairdressing business in Czernowitz, Rumania.

As far as explanations for the Eleonore Zugun case are concerned, the Countess Wassiliko-Serecki herself was convinced that Eleonore's unconscious mind was responsible for the attacks. Obviously influenced by Freud, she believed that Eleanore had strongly developed sexual urges, partly centered on her father, and the 'attacks' were a kind of self-punishment for these feelings. Harry Price agreed and compared the bites and scratches to the 'stigmata' found on some religious people. However, as Colin Wilson points out, carrying this form of self punishment on for two years, much of this spent in comfortable security with the Countess, seems unlikely to say the least. 

The threats of her grandmother and the peasants of her village regarding 'Dracu' and what he would do to her must certainly be born in mind when thinking of the subconscious origins of Eleonore's poltergeist. But even if this is taken as probable, where did the power come from to throw objects around and make them disappear in one room and re-appear in another? Or to generate scratch and bite marks that contained saliva that was not her own? Was it an independent mischievous entity, or some unsuspected and bizarre part of the human personality of which we know practically nothing? 

Although no convincing explanation has ever been offered for the case of Eleonore Zugun, the fact that she was caught cheating in Munich is enough for sceptics to label her a fraud. Her involvement with the controversial Harry Price has also caused many researchers to have their doubts about the case.

[NOTE: The photos of Eleonore Zugun in her native village and of Countess Wassiliko are ? Peter Mulacz and are used with his kind permission. They may not be reproduced without his express permission.]

Sources and Further Reading

Gauld, Alan, Cornell, A.D. Poltergeists. London, Boston and Henley, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1979, pp127-142, 327-8

Michell, J, & Rickard, B. Unexplained Phenomena. London. Rough Guides Ltd., 2000, pp74-5. 

Mulacz, Prof. Peter.  'Eleonore Zugun ? the re-evaluation of an historic RSPK case'
The Parapsychological Association http://www.parapsych.org 41st Annual Convention (1998), Proceedings of Presented Papers: 94-96.

Mulacz, Prof. Peter. Eleonore Zugun ? the Re-evaluation of a Historic RSPK Case
The Journal of Parapsychology Vol. 63/1 (March 1999): 15-45.

Spencer, John & Anne. The Poltergeist Phenomenon. London, Headline. 1997, pp131, 258, 266.

Tabori, Paul. Harry Price - Ghost-Hunter. London, Sphere Books 1974. (1950), pp225-229.

Thurston, H.  Ghosts and Poltergeists  London, Burns Oates, 1953, pp14-16.

Wilson, Colin.  Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting. Sevenoaks, Kent, New English Library. 1982, pp 279-281.

Copyright 2003 by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.


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