The Vampires of Superstition
The "world's most successful clairvoyant"
Erik Jan Hanussen (pseudonym)
Copyright © 1998 translation by Mel
Gordon and Eberhard Schieffle
Published with permission.
The original German version of this work was written by a known Nazi
sympathizer. Therefore, take this into consideration when reading the piece.
While so far we mentioned some publicly
known exploiters of the belief in supernatural phenomena, we will now turn to
a charlatan whose mean spirit and unscrupulousness tops everything known so
His years of public performances were one
big betrayal of the gullible, uncritical, and naive people, a limitless
overpowering of those never ending audiences.
And this betrayer of the masses, this "big
time charlatan", as a newspaper once literally called him, was no one other
than the Czech citizen Herschmann Steinschneider (Jew.)
It was in 1923 that I came to know him. This
is how it happened:
Big posters and huge advertisements in the
newspapers of the city Memel, now the capital of the Memel region which became
part of Litauen, announced the performance of Erik Jan Hanussen together with
his "medium" Martha Farra.
"Memel has its biggest sensation", read
those thrill-seeking, slimy, pathetic announcements.
"The big master and his mysterious Martha
Farra" one could read, "will perform experiments which will make even an
overexposed big-city audience breathless."
"Erik Jan Hanussen has shown that through
occult forces it is possible to transfer not only impulses of the will, but
also unbelievable amounts of physical force onto others. This too, the good
people of Memel will be amazed to see with their own eyes."
Yes, but even more abilities were reported
of the alleged wonder-man. One could read on the posters and in the
"Erik Han Hanussen has captured hundreds of
criminals for the royal Greek police, the Osmanic state police in
Constantinople and the Arabic police."
"Martha Farra will carry a weight of 1000
kilograms without any support."
"Martha Farra will have cars and trucks
drive over her body back and forth twice, without using any protection."
"Martha Farra, this tender and fragile girl
of only 19, will drag 10 athletes across the stage with a rope."
"Martha Farra will tear chains brought by
the audience as if they were paper."
"Martha Farra will separate an ox-chain with
her bare teeth."
And all these phenomenal achievements are
supposedly accomplished, because "Master Hanussen" has the ability, "to
transfer physical force onto his medium through telepathy."
The otherwise quiet and eventless city now
had indeed its "sensation", as illustrated by the fact that the house in which
Hanussen performed was sold out all three nights.
But still, this guest-appearance by Hanussen
came to a tragic conclusion. At least, for the alleged master-telepath and his
"medium", who lowered themselves to offer something "super-natural" to the
people of Memel.
Already after the first performance one
could hear voices claiming that there must be foul play, that Mr. Hanussen
must be using certain tricks to accomplish his presentations, which were
evidently obscured by an occult cloak.
This is how it happened that Hanussen became
acquainted with the police, who now was watching him with a critical eye.
His presentations were observed at close
distance, and it was soon clearly established that there were no supernatural
forces involved, and in particular that there was no transference of physical
All of the performed experiments were rather
achievements of the kind which had been previously observed from other
artists, and they were accomplished by Martha Farra through her own
well-developed physical strength.
Besides, not everything that was announced
in big letters was actually performed.
The people waited in vain for the 1000
kilograms to be carried without support. Instead Martha Farra carried stones
which weighed a few hundred kilograms by lying on a structure and having
stones placed on her chest and knees; admittedly a great artistic
accomplishment for the young lady.
Of course there was also no car driving over
Nor did anyone see her carrying any athletes
on a rope across the stage.
She also omitted the tearing apart of iron
She only performed some much simpler
artistic tricks, while her "master" took over the task of speaking. And that
he did very well indeed; no one would want to deny that.
But now Ms. Farra, again "under the
telepathic influence of her master", performed another experiment which we
will have to take a closer look at; namely, the aforementioned "separation of
a chain with bare teeth".
For this purpose Hanussen brought along a
rather strong iron chain, a so-called Victoria-chain or cow-chain.
Following Hanussen's direction, a commission
was formed with audience members and they stepped on the stage in order to
establish that everything was in order; they observed that the chain was in
perfect condition. The high commission went back to their seats. Now the
highlight of the evening was performed.
At first it did not seem suspicious that the
"medium" stood up on a chair, even though from where she stood on stage she
could already be seen well by everyone. It was simply assumed that this
happened to give everyone in the audience an opportunity to observe the
"medium" even more clearly.
But evidently Hanussen had a special reason
in mind--more about that later.
Now the "master-telepath" stood before
Martha Farra, with the chain in his hands, and in such a manner that sometimes
his back faced the audience and for a few moments it was impossible to see
what Hanussen did with the chain, before he handed it to Martha Farra and she
took it in her mouth.
Ms. Farra's face became tense. The color of
her skin turned more and more red. But one could see, or better, one thought
that one could see, that the young lady forcefully bit into the chain. When
after a few moments she took the chain out of her mouth and then presented a
link of the "bitten chain", the enraptured audience was amazed.
The "control-commission" now went on the
stage again and investigated the chain once more--especially the link that was
supposedly bitten in two by Martha Farra--and then came to their "expert
opinion". It was as follows: Clearly bitten in two, one can still see the
marks of the teeth on the bitten link!!
The excited and enraptured audience did not
notice that the leading "expert" had a little too much to drink. His judgment
apparently misled by too much liquor, he mistook the marks on the links of the
chain that stem from its production for imprints of teeth.
Because of the way in which Hanussen
conducted the experiment with his alleged medium and especially because of how
the performer was a master at catching the audience's attention and at
distracting everyone, no one recognized the trick that was used.
Up to this day I can see Hanussen's face
when a police officer asked him to show him a piece of the chain that he used
in the experiment. With a superior smile Hanussen obeyed the demand and he had
someone use a hammer and a chisel--they first had to spend some time finding
these tools--to break away a piece of the chain that was about 1 meter long
(instead of using his trick which would have cost less effort).
Further attempts now would soon reveal the
secret of the chain-biting.
Indeed, if one takes adjacent links of such
a chain in one's hand in such a way that the links form a lever and then
begins to turn forcefully, then the middle link will burst at the point of
highest tension. The artist calls this "strangulation of a link in the chain".
Hanussen was quite astounded when I showed
him the trick and when he was interrogated by the police he had to stick to
the truth; he confessed to having applied this little trick and thereby faked
This also answered the question of why the
"medium" had to stand on a chair, even though, as said before, she could be
seen very well on the stage. The only reason for this was to further lead the
attention of the audience to the "medium" and away from its "master", who
while he kept with his speech, at the moment when he turned away from the
audience, "strangulated" the chain in the described manner, before he handed
it to his assistant for the "biting".
Of course, it became further apparent during
the thorough police investigation that all the claims that Hanussen threw
cold-blooded at the good people of Memel belonged to the realm of fantasy.
Thus the pseudo-telepath had to concede that he never worked for any police
department and hence never captured any criminals.
Hanussen, alias Steinschneider, was forced
by this result of the police investigation to leave the Memel area the next
day together with his accomplice and he decided never to return.
But all this by no means kept him from again
performing the same bluff, now in Germany, where he gave the purely artistic
abilities of his accomplice a super-natural appearance. Moral reservations are
completely foreign to this unscrupulous man. He knew only one concept, and
that was: money and more money.
Soon afterwards Hanussen became active as a
"clairvoyant". As such, he traveled for years through Germany's regions, until
he chose Berlin as his permanent home and performed his lectures and
experiments mainly there, but also still in cities in the province.
These lectures, which were supported by
expensive advertising, were not so much performed to make a profit from the
comparably high entrance fees. Rather, they took place almost always as a way
to get the stupid and superstitious masses excited and to point them towards
visiting Hanussen's during "office hours". It goes without saying that these
"office hours" outside of Berlin always took place in one of the first hotels
in the towns visited.
The people stood in line and could not wait
to get rid of their money.
Fairly soon Hanussen enjoyed not only
private secretaries, a mansion, a number of offices near the Kurfürstendamm,
and luxury cars, but also a motor-yacht with which he later went on a tour of
the East Sea where he only stopped in beach towns.
Everything up to the last piece stolen!
Hanussen had poor earnings when he traveled
as a "telepath" through his home-land Czechoslovakia - it was 1925/26.
Then he happened to go to Karlsbad. At the
same time a "colleague" of his performed in the town house, a "clairvoyant"
named Dagma (pseudonym). She was very popular, since clairvoyance started to
become a kind of fashion.
Right away Hanussen decided together with
his impresario to attend a performance of this "clairvoyant." With their
trained eye they saw immediately that the productions were based on the most
naive and primitive deception of the audience. Whatever Frau Dagma
accomplished couldn't be very difficult for him, Hanussen thought, and put
"clairvoyance" right away on his program.
It has been proven that in August 1927 the
very first performance of clairvoyance by Erik Jan Hanussen took place at the
civic theatre in Karlsbad.
It resulted in a terrible embarrassment,
since the impresario, who was supposed to give signals, made mistakes and
Hanussen as a terrible beginner had no experience with the combinations.
The date is important since Hanussen always
claimed that he was the start of this occult profession, and he acted and
wrote as if he invented the art of clairvoyance.
Immediately after this failed opening night
Hanussen worked hard to perfect his clairvoyance and after only a few weeks he
How did he accomplish this?
At the end of the first part of his lecture
Hanussen mentioned his clairvoyance performances and he asked everyone to
write a note during the following break, with important dates of some special
event in their life and to hand the paper to his secretary. Hanussen
emphasized that "naturally" from the moment his secretary holds the first of
the papers with the dates in his hands, Hanussen will not have any contact
with the secretary whatsoever.
So what was the role of the secretary?
During the breaks he walked slowly and
deliberately through the rows of spectators and gave them instructions on how
to fill out the notes with the dates. Officially he was never curious at all
about the nature of the events on the contrary, he categorically refused to be
told details. For example, when someone asked: "How am I supposed to fill this
out, it is about the suicide of my brother?" The secretary answered: "Sir, it
doesn't matter what kind of event it is, you simply write the exact date and
the exact place of the event on the note and hand it to me, I don't want to
know any details!"
But the secretary put this note with the
few--all in all about five or six--that were chosen for the "clairvoyance
without any contact". His memory kept the knowledge: "March 5, 1925, Leipzig,
Hotel Sächsischer Hof, brother's suicide!" If the secretary wanted more
details in this case, he would approach the man with the brother's suicide
during the break and ask him simply: "Excuse me, but there is missing the room
number and the floor!" If he was lucky the man answered: "I forgot the room
number, but the floor I remember only too well: second floor!" Right away the
secretary knew that the suicide was accomplished by jumping out the window.
Or a man, who had a young lady sitting next
to him, gave him a note with a smile. The secretary estimated the age of the
young lady. Then he read the note. He estimated the age of the lady to be
mid-twenties. On the note was written: "June 4, 1909, Sanitarium Purkersdorf
near Vienna." Right away the secretary guessed it was the birthday of the
girl, but he asked her simply: "You don't remember the exact hour, the more
precise the better for the master!" The lady is embarrassed and doesn't know
the hour, but the man next to her answers: "I know the hour. Please write 1
am!" Now everything is clear. The note is taken. The information represents a
Furthermore, there was the eagerness of the
people to become the center of attention, and there were always some who
surrounded the collector: "Here, doctor, an extremely interesting armed
robbery!" Another one whispered secretly: "Take this note: the train collision
near Göding!" Some didn't ask at all and naively wrote what they liked to know
on the note: "December 7, 1923, castle Freiberg near Bistritz. Did my uncle
leave a last will?" Right away the secretary returned the note and said, "You
can't do this, Sir! You wrote too much down! We can't allow that. Please make
a new note containing only place and date!"
In this fashion it was easy to collect a
small number of "cases of clairvoyance", of which (for now) only the secretary
knew what events they pertain to.
Note the primitiveness and the ridiculous
simplicity of this system which enabled Hanussen "without being in contact
with his secretary" to precisely know the cases of clairvoyance, before the
clairvoyant clown listened to the reading of the notes, impressing the
audience with his covered eyes and shaking hands. So let us repeat: Hanussen's
lectures, whose last part--note that it was always without exception that the
last part was the clairvoyance--had two intermissions.
Already during the first intermission the
conscientious secretary collected cases of clairvoyance, i.e. notes containing
nothing else but date and place of an event and the name of the person asking.
The secretary was still among the audience, when Hanussen started the second
part of the program, usually graphological experiments of the most meaningless
kind but even there he used primitive trickery.
Now the secretary left the auditorium and
looked for a quiet place, where he copied the selected notes. Furthermore, he
wrote on each one an expression which formed the key to the event. A concrete
example: On the note of the man who's brother committed suicide he wrote:
brother's suicide, jumps from window. On the note of the man to whom he
returned the note protesting that it contains "too much", namely the words:
"Did my uncle leave a last will?" he wrote laconically: "Uncle dies. Last
will?" On the note of the man with the young lady he scribbled: "Birth. Girl."
Now the secretary went unnoticed to the
dressing room of Hanussen, who in the meanwhile stood on the stage, thus
indeed having no direct contact with his secretary. The secretary managed to
put the copied notes into a pocket of the "master's" cloth.
Long before Hanussen finished the second
part of the program, the secretary again took his quiet place among the
audience where everybody could see him. And during the next intermission the
busy man collected new notes while Hanussen, supposedly tired, nervous, and of
course not available to anyone, locked himself into his dressing room and
concentrated on memorizing the notes. This was indeed the most difficult part
of the "clairvoyance"!
But why would the secretary collect new
notes? He won't have another opportunity to give his master any hints!
Now came hoax system number 2!
The secretary took all notes that were
handed to him and tried in the same manner as during the first
intermission--without showing any interest or curiosity--to get as much
information as possible by asking questions which appeared to be directed to
the formality of filling out the notes. Now it only mattered to collect one or
two especially sensational events.
Hanussen then proceeded as follows:
The second intermission was now over. The
clairvoyance was up next.
Hanussen held a short, forceful introductory
speech, in which he emphasized the huge efforts involved in his clairvoyance.
He demanded absolute silence. It is clear--and he never forgot to add this,
since modesty suits even a great man--that he could also fail. The required
psychic engagement is so enormous, that the smallest indisposition could lead
to drastic mistakes.
And then Hanussen put himself into a trance,
into a somnambulist state.
How does he accomplish this?
In one hand he was holding a pendulum with a
sphere, in the other a black blindfold. A chair stood in the middle of the
podium. During the uncanny, breathtaking silence of the audience, Hanussen put
on the blindfold with sincerity and solemnity, while also feigning great
excitement (Hanussen used to be a barnstormer). Then he sat down and turned
the rope with the pendulum. His breath became more and more heavy, his hands
started to tremble feverishly. His secretary meanwhile urged the audience to
even greater silence, even though no one dared to make a sound. The point is
to create the right atmosphere.
Hanussen's only real excitement was the
worry about whether he had everything memorized correctly and whether the
swindle would work. But finally he thought the trembling was enough, his hands
fall down on his knees, and his head falls on his shoulder.
Now the dark and careful voice of the
secretary can be heard, while he holds up the first selected note: "Herr Franz
Schulze, please!" This is the man with the daughter beside him, who did not
remember her hour of birth. The secretary calls him: "Herr Franz Schulze,
please!" The "please" is part of the swindle language and contains in any case
the hint about a birth.
As good as Hanussen's memory might be it is
better to exclude any possibility of mistake.
"Herr Franz Schulze, please raise your
hand!" This he does and the secretary continues:
"June 4, 1909, 1 a.m., Sanitarium
Purkersdorf near Vienna!"
And Hanussen repeats in a slow and
stuttering voice, which is tuned as if it came directly out of the fourth
dimension: "Fourth-of-June one-a-m Sa-ni-ta-ri-um Pur-kers-dorf-near-Vienna-!"
Then he pauses for two seconds, since the
faces need some time to form themselves for the march in review. But then the
"I - see - a - white - room - a young lady -
lies in - bed - she - screams - she cries - in - pain - why does the woman
scream? Why are -men standing - next to her - men in white robes - they - are
- doctors -they - want - to - help - the - woman - but - the pain - increases
- the poor - woman sighs - she whines - there - what is this - there - lies a
little baby - a living being - a daughter was born!! - - - -."
Hanussen's fight with the strange force of
revealed past is finished, his head falls back heavily. The secretary asks
short and simply: "Is this correct, Herr Schulze?" Despite all his skepticism
Herr Schulze becomes excited and is very impressed by the dramatic description
of his daughter's birth, which was really no different than millions of other
births every day. Clearly taken he mumbles: "Yes, it is correct!" The
secretary repeats loudly for all to hear: "It is correct!"
Now he picks out a note which he received
just during the last intermission. Through unnoticed listening and
unsuspecting questions he has found out that the "clairvoyance" should be
about a robbery with large loot. Hanussen did not memorize this case. Instead
he has to be signaled with the swindle language.
How is this accomplished?
The secretary takes the note and calls:
"Herr Milner!" Herr Milner answers. The secretary hands him the note and says:
"Read the note out loud!" The "read the note" means robbery! But before Herr
Milner reads, the secretary urges the audience: "It has to be much more
silent!" Now the signal is complete. Hanussen now knows already, that it is a
robbery with "much more" loot. Thus he starts his dramatic story with a dark
night, with people who have evil intentions and slowly he approaches the
essence of the matter, supported by his secretary's "Is this correct?"
questions. Small discrepancies do not matter. The most beautiful cases are
saved for the end, such as a "beautiful" recent armed robbery, which the
newspapers have brought into the public's discourse and which is still
unsolved. The story is told with drama--why else has Hanussen been an actor
before?--and pathos, and whatever is unclear is hidden behind obscure words
and secrecy--never any details or only such details that can no longer be
verified, e.g. "Here lies the - corpse - and twenty meters away - in the
bushes - sleeps a - bum - he has - red hair - and - beautiful teeth - but he
knows nothing - of the murder - he -awakens - and walks - in the - other
direction- away ---." One will look for the bum, but never find him. But in
the auditorium this story is well received.
These two systems were primitive and simple,
but never failed. If it ever happened that Hanussen's memory failed, or that
his secretary's conclusions were wrong, then they quietly moved on to the next
case, - it did not matter, on the contrary, every now and then a mistake, that
just shows the genuineness of Hanussen's "clairvoyance".
After Hanussen finished a certain number of
cases, he suddenly awoke from his "trance", tore his blindfold away, bowed
strangely and confused, and left, totally exhausted.
What are the circumstances that helped
Hanussen and his accomplice, he could not have done it without him--besides
his clever questioning and the very talkative audience; especially the fact
that in towns of the same region the same important events were repeatedly
written down on the notes collected on different evenings--such as a murder or
a flood. Here the success depended on the good memory of the secretary.
Some concrete examples: In North-Bohmen the
break of the dam near Dessendorf appeared no less than eight times in
Hanussen's dramatic comedy of clairvoyance! One can easily imagine what great
showcases these made.
A murder in the Iser mountains gave the
clairvoyant five opportunities to exploit lost human blood and unimaginable
The explosion of the Skoda factory in
Bollowitz was described by the magician Steinschneider--for the second
time--in such a realistic manner, that the questioners were speechless and in
The second source of support was to be found
in the exploitation of the office visitors. On days where there was an evening
of "experimental lectures" by Hanussen, but someone came to the announced and
expensive regular office hours, and told the secretary that he came to solve a
big mystery, the "loyal servant of his master" let the man take time to
describe the whole case in detail. When this man entered Hanussen's office,
the "master" declared that he was too tired to consider another case. The
customer was told not to say anything right now and simply to write the date
on a note at the lecture that evening. Of course he will have his fee
refunded. On the stage the "clairvoyant" treated all cases without fee. Thus
he naturally collected some magnificent cases, and the concerned persons would
swear to God that they never revealed one word to the man with the blindfold.
So it was in August of 1927 that the career
of Hanussen the clairvoyant started. At the time the posters read
"clairvoyance on the kuperic (?) sphere!" This mysterious kuperic sphere was
the end-sphere of a glassblower from a store opposite the restaurant "Lyon" in
Karlsbad. In it he wanted to see the clairvoyant pictures emerging in front of
his super-magical eyes, i.e. he decided to talk the audience into this idea.
Now something about Hanussen's first
clairvoyance evening in the city theatre in Karlsbad:
The house was half-empty. The secretary, a
beginner in questioning as much as Hanussen was a beginner in clairvoyance,
had gotten from theatre secretary Sommer's wife, the information that she
wrote the date of their wedding on her note.
At that time there was only one intermission
before the clairvoyance, Hanussen had to hear the signals directly, and he was
not trained yet.
Code-word for wedding: "You're welcome!"
The secretary shouts, very nervously,
"Fraulein Sommer, you're welcome!" and repeats: "You're welcome, Fraulein
By accident there were two men from the same
profession among the audience: the husband of the "clairvoyant" Karoly
(pseudonym) and the magician Sealtiel. They know right away what is happening
and repeat mockingly and sarcastically: "You're welcome!, you're welcome!"
On this opening night almost everything was
The kuperic sphere was soon removed.
Hanussen found it to be much more effective to act with a black blindfold,
after putting himself with bravura and grimaces into a trance. It is worth
emphasizing that from the first day of this dark clairvoyance career until the
date that Hanussen ended his professional life, this five year long
clairvoyance routine allowed him to appear in a theatre like the Berlin
"Scala"; not as an artist, but as an ingenious spirit phenomenon. And from the
beginning, no one ever tried (in any way) to have this false "trance" tested
by medical doctors!
Hanussen not even once called this dream
state a "trance". On the contrary, he always had to be very much awake, in
order not to mix up the memorized "cases". There is no doubt whatsoever about
his accomplishments as an actor.
So Hanussen was a fraud all year long, lived
off the stupidity of his fellow men, and was greedy wherever he could
gain--until February 1928.
In Teplitz-Schönau a grotesque interlude
A police-officer did not trust the
"clairvoyance miracle" and set a clever trap for the secretary and the master,
into which they promptly walked. It is basically because of this policeman
that Hanussen was later allowed to pillage Berlin--or one could say all of
Germany--as a "judicially licensed" magician and acquitted swindler. He had
forgotten one small detail, a detail that would have fulfilled his dream of
exposing Hanussen's fraud and would have put Mr. Steinschneider in jail.
This police officer asked a well-known
factory manager before one evening of clairvoyance in the Hotel "Monopol" in
Teplitz, to hand in a note with the date of a real burglary.
This was the role of the factory manager.
But the police officer let himself be introduced to Hanussen and his
secretary--the two were always glad to be on good terms with the law--and
while chatting with the secretary during the intermission, he told him about
the burglary, but added that there was a big exchange of gunfire. Note: the
burglary actually happened, but the shootout was invented. Invented in order
to determine how much of Hanussen's clairvoyance was genuine. The man
concluded: If Hanussen only describes the burglary, the clairvoyance is
genuine. If he describes a burglary and shootout, it is clearly established
that there must be a connection between the secretary and the master.
And now the police officer made an
unfortunate mistake, which was mainly due to the fact that the officer was not
very knowledgeable about the common tricks.
He told the secretary his story and then
waited for the clairvoyance. He forgot, however, to do what would have ended
Steinschneider's swindle right there forever: he did not watch the secretary
during the intermission. The secretary meanwhile wandered into the second
floor of the hotel, sneaking through a dark corridor over all kinds of stuff
in order to reach the back door of the dressing room. There he hid a match-box
in Hermann Steinschneider's coat pocket. In the matchbox he carefully placed
the note with the dates to be memorized for the evening's clairvoyance! Had
the police officer followed the secretary, the swindle could have been proven.
So what happened?
Hanussen describes a burglary and a
shootout. Hanussen was arrested. His secretary was held in detention too. The
matchbox and its contents were never brought up. No one knew about it.
What did Hanussen say? Swindle? Not at all!
In this case three men, the officer, the factory manager, and the secretary,
were thinking about "shootout" so intensely, that he was influenced
This was the prelude to a sensational trial
that Hanussen was subjected to in the court of Leitmeritz, Czechoslovakia.
Because of the basic mistake of the trap by
the police officer, the connection could not be proven. And when it came to
speeches, Hanussen was already a master. The secretary had all the more reason
to be silent and to support everything his master said. Both talked so much
about telepathy, transmission of thoughts, waves of thoughts, sensitive trance
and unpredictable interferences that the judges heads were burning.
They were released from jail, but the trial
continued. Hanussen, however, had to pay a very high bail, since after the
arrest became public all of a sudden about 30 people sued Hanussen for fraud.
And now a look at the "Leitmeritz
Clairvoyant Trial" itself.
This trial--a strange cultural curiosity
that certainly was the high point of anything that was ever brought about
unintentionally--was, according to the prosecution, supposed to lead to the
guilty verdict of the swindler who faked "clairvoyance" with fraudulent
manipulations. In reality, the result was that a clairvoyant who was
celebrated by the stupid masses, and nearly confirmed by the court, now was
able to again reach the fooled people as a magician whose supernatural
abilities are officially confirmed.
If some artist were to pay for the publicity
that would amount to only one tenth of what was given to Hanussen through this
clumsy and naive trial, he would have to pay a minimum of one million marks.
How could this ridiculous acquittal happen?
Hanussen and his first secretary began,
right after their release from jail-- thus long before the beginning of the
trial--with more clairvoyance.
Of course they were at first more careful,
but soon they were as bold as ever. They conquered Prague. Hanussen stayed at
the Hotel Ambassador. He drove a Bugatti and gave séances for the press.
Hanussen was in fashion.
When officials tried to prohibit his
lectures, because he (imagine that this even exists!) had no appropriate
permit, his secretary found a drinking Czech telepath and hypnotizer with
correct permits. This man, who called himself "Svengali", joined Hanussen's
team for a while.
During that same time, Hanussen engaged the
"bleeding mountain-man Diebel", whom he called in Germany and hired on a fixed
salary for his tour. Hanussen, of course, knew exactly how clever his swindle
was. He even ordered and helped with some small improvements to his
performance--but later he wrote coldly that he fell for the swindler Diebel in
the belief that the bloody tears were authentic.
By the way, this mountain man Diebel also
performed in the Wintergarten in Berlin. The crying of bloody tears was
accomplished through smearing red chalk in the eyes and then touching the eyes
with a wet handkerchief. Diebel was also hiding a razor-blade in his belt,
which he used to cut his skin at certain places, in order to supposedly
experience "the stigmata of Therese von Konnersreuth" through auto-suggestion
in his own body. And all this happened thanks to Hanussen's instructions.
Hanussen also eventually fell out with his
private secretary, the man who helped him with clairvoyance.
The trial was approaching soon. Hanussen
asked to have the partner who shared the knowledge of the big secret of
clairvoyance testify in the trial as witness for the defense, because--a major
point in the events--the court did not consider the secretary as possibly
guilty and he was not on trial. The prosecutor did not call him as a witness,
since it was assumed that he would be a witness for the defense. The only
person who would have been able to degrade the half-god of the stupid masses
to a criminal; the only real expert on Steinschneider's clairvoyance was not
even present at the trial, which finally ended with a verdict against all
The Leitmeritz trial was ridiculous since
the prosecution was so naive as to accuse Steinschneider of fraud, while
completely excluding the possibility of a fraudulent communication between him
and the secretary.
The experts of the prosecution claimed, with
a sincerity typical only for experts, that Hanussen was not a clairvoyant, but
he was able to telepathically read thoughts and draw valid conclusions.
Educated stupidity was all over the room. The experts of the defense were paid
much money to act as if Steinschneider was the owner of the fourth dimension.
One witness, a dentist, explained with great
affirming words that Steinschneider, in a lecture, was able to read his dental
profession "psychographologically"--merely from his signature! What was the
deal with Steinschneider's graphology? Right after the start of the
performances the secretary had the task to mingle unsuspiciously among the
ushers and find out about all the well-known people present. Later, local
celebrities were asked on stage to write down their signature on a board. The
secretary then gave his signals according to the following system: crossing
arms means physician, fixing his tie means a judge, hand in pockets means
merchant, hand playing with hair means artist, and so on.
But such simple tricks did not occur to the
The accused was even allowed to demonstrate
his usual program during the trial to a curious and sensationalist audience:
First telepathy, then graphology, and then clairvoyance.
Steinschneider started with his "telepathic"
tricks. The same ones described in a postwar book he published to educate the
people in Vienna titled: Mind-reading, publisher Waldheim and Eberle. It
explained the silly little tricks that could be performed by beginners to
Then finally came "looking for a hidden
object". A professor and a doctor were ordered by the court to hide a key
outside the court-room. The two left the courtroom and returned after a few
seconds. Who would have guessed that the key could not be far? Steinschneider
found the key. How this could have happened is most clear from the testimony
of the medium, the above mentioned professor:
"I was hiding the key in a window of the
hall-way next to the courtroom, near the exit. I opened the window and put the
key in the left corner, so that it lay in the shadow. The accused took me by
the hand and asked me to concentrate on the location of the key. I only
thought once "right". He found the key right away without hesitation. First he
looked right at the window, then left, where he found the key."
It's not enough to shake heads in
astonishment at the naiveté of a court that was impressed by this success.
Steinschneider found the key, the court was surprised, and the always present
Hanussen audience applauded--no one kept them from doing so--as if
Steinschneider did not find the key in the window of the hallway, but fished
it out of the waters of the Brahmaputra.
Next was the graphology.
Two people whose writing Steinschneider was
to interpret through "clairvoyance" were chosen by the court. A third person
was chosen by Steinschneider himself. No one kept him from doing so, despite
the obvious possibility that he knew that third person's life story by heart.
This third person was a superior state attorney.
With the first two people Steinschneider's
clairvoyance was silent, unless someone is of the opinion that the following
nonsense counts as clairvoyance. Steinschneider looked at the writing of the
first person and uttered:
"If your nature were so impulsively
outwardly directed as it is inwardly directed, you could have avoided much
distress. But I am not talking about temperament. Your writing shows three
phases of your life. You are already in the second phase. You are one of those
people who cannot be completely satisfied within their profession. Your
handwriting shows your desire to talk to others, but I also see something
else, your inability to completely open up to others. You are one of those
people who like to build things, who have many diverse interests within their
field. The writing reveals your talent for teaching without being pedantic.
You don't make friends easily. You are an idealist. Your life is consumed by
your search for truth. You are a deep thinker and you are passionate about
art. In the year 1922/23 a change in your existence took place, in the year
1927 a change in your situation. Right now you are not at the place where you
would like to settle down permanently."
Whenever Steinschneider mentioned the number
of a specific year, he embarrassed himself. The rest however was more or less
correct. Which person would not agree to it? Passion for art? Everyone has
that in some sense. For Smith, bowling is art, for Jones, the throwing of
knives. In this sense we all love art. Hence, so did the man whose handwriting
Steinschneider was interpreting.
Steinschneider knew a lot about the state
attorney. When the accused suggested that the judge was a collector, he shook
his head and denied being a collector. But soon the gullible attorney lighted
up and declared that his father was raising bees! There was of course a
special applause for Steinschneider.
Next was the clairvoyance, this time without
secretary. No one shouted: "You're welcome!" or "Silence!" But Hanussen was in
good spirits, since so far everything went well. In case of a failure there
was the word of the judge: "Success or failure in this test is of no
importance for the outcome of this trial."
Steinschneider took 8 minutes for his
"trance". A record! The first note is being read: "May 17, 1927, 4 p.m.,
Boreslauer Street, about 200 meters before the next town."
Steinschneider hesitates. Finally he comes
to the realization that on this damned street something must have happened. He
describes--slowly and in between asking careful questions--that he sees an
automobile approaching, it is raining and the street is slippery, and near a
restaurant the car starts sliding and falls over!
The court declares that the test was a
success. Restaurant, there was none nearby, and it didn't rain either, nor was
the road slippery, but a motor-bike crashed into a truck. Thus
Steinschneider's clairvoyance was correct about the kind of accident. The
audience went wild with excitement.
Second note: "February 26, 1927, 11:30 a.m.,
Prague, Karolinum." Karolinum is the university in Prague. From his previous
experience with his private practice, Steinschneider knows that most such
cases have to do with the award of the doctorate. But he is afraid of a trap
and hesitates. He begins: "Is it Saturday or Sunday...(no one answers)...no,
it is Monday..." Then he describes, hesitating, that he sees students and
teachers--indeed a common occurrence at universities--that they have students
and teachers and classrooms, a laboratory. Suddenly he claims that there is an
explosion in the laboratory. Nobody agrees, so he adds slowly: "... but that
was a long time ago...that was a year ago..."
This experiment was considered only partly
successful. The court declared that Steinschneider was correct in the
beginning, but later he was distracted by the explosion. Whether there was
such an explosion could not be established. The event in question was an award
of a doctorate.
The only thing that could be established was
forgotten by the court. They never asked whether it was indeed a Monday. They
could have gotten a calendar and checked. The day was after all a Tuesday.
The third experiment was made with a state
attorney. The experiment was successful, just like the graphology done with
the same person earlier. Steinschneider's former secretary stated about this
case in absolute clarity: "Steinschneider was always well-informed about
The court declared Steinschneider absolutely
not guilty. He excelled at the clairvoyance exam. The "innocent and persecuted
occult martyr" was promoted with the help of superstitious idiots to be the
prophet of the state capital Berlin. The gullible, dull masses of idiots who
wanted Gods of any kind and who fell for anything mystical looked up
faithfully to Hanussen and let him later predict the winner in derbys,
elections, and battles. If it was wrong, it was turned around with infamous
lies, without any shame or scruple.
Hanussen continued to make lots of money
with the "occult" and took advantage of his "customers". He soon established
his own press and published a paper, it was called "Hanussen's B.W., the
clairvoyant paper", and finally "made it" in nothing other than National
Socialism, apparently with the purpose of saving himself into the Third Reich.
The facts were turned upside down. So the
fact that the judge of the above mentioned clairvoyant trial in Leitmeritz
clearly declared in his verdict:
"These experiments--the ones Hanussen
performed for the court--are not to be taken for exact, scientific
experiments. The court was not at all able to establish that Hanussen has
Nevertheless, Steinschneider was not only
able to refer at every opportunity to the confirmation of his clairvoyant
abilities by the court of Leitmeritz, but he even appeared once as expert of
the court. Even though, before the beginning of his fraudulent career, he made
the mistake of chatting about his abilities. In the New Vienna Journal and
revealed on February 22, 1922 the following:
"I overwhelm my medium (during his
experiments with "clairvoyance" and "telepathy".--The editor) with a pile of
statements that allow the confused brain not a second to be critical. The
arguments that I throw out with great skill at a person, whose thinking and
feeling is totally concentrated on the matter at hand, have the effect on the
brain--which is inherently lazy in every individual--of tiring them to the
point of not being able to critically investigate my words, and because of my
preconditioning, offers no resistance."
But something else needs to be said about
the activities of this foreign mass-cheater, who, despite the great suffering
in our home country, did nothing but elicit the last penny out of the pockets
of the stupid people.
During his described past, which was mostly
spent perfecting the art of fooling his fellow men, Steinschneider also
accomplished the following "heroic acts", that were presented as mystical
secrets and caused at least as much damage as Weigenberg's putting cheese in
front of blind mice.
Steinschneider traveled through Germany and
took a "hypnotized" poor fool with him, who supposedly was able to have his
stomach pumped full of gasoline, in order to heat an oven with the gas. In
reality the poor fellow had a sponge with gasoline put in his mouth.
Steinschneider--who envied the success of
the "starvation artist" Jolly--hired an unemployed girl from Berlin to starve
and performed a proper hunger comedy in Chemnitz. He convinced the girl that
she would eventually get something to eat. The enterprise was so successful,
however, that there was no time to feed the girl, who was not prepared for
real starvation. Steinschneider "earned" very well. But the "hunger artist",
nearly mad, smashed the glass walls of her cage.
Mundus vult decipi--the world wants to be
cheated. This was also known to Steinschneider-Hanussen.
We see with our mental eyes, clearly
painted, the portrait of one single criminal and public fraud.