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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Mesmer, Dr. Franz Anton (1734-1815) This Viennese medical doctor, who had written his dissertation on the effects of the planets on the health of the human body, after seeing a healing demonstration by a priest named Hell, formed the belief that a magnet could induce healing powers in those who held them. He displayed the procedure, which he called animal magnetism, during popular sessions that he held for French society, beginning in 1778. The phenomenon soon was dubbed Mesmerism.


Anton Mesmer, the man who started all the fuss about “hypnotism” and “trances.”

      His soirées were theatrical rather than therapeutic, and the crème of French aristocracy elbowed one another aside for the privilege of seeing customers sitting around a huge vat of acid (called a baquet), holding on to iron devices immersed in the solution, while the master, dressed in a trailing lilac-colored robe of gold-flowered silk, gestured with his ivory wand at entranced socialites who gurgled, sighed, and moaned when they weren't screaming in ecstasy at their latest expensive diversion.
      An investigation of Mesmer in 1784 by the French Academy of Sciences, in the company of U.S. ambassador Benjamin Franklin, brought the conclusion that Mesmer was merely using suggestion and that the clients were the usual silly segment of the populace who endorse and support such fads.



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