In order to make sure [says the account from which I quote] that she had not made the wounds herself and had done nothing to re-open them, the foot was tightly bandaged, the bandage being sewn up in such a way that she could not have removed it without betraying the fact. Further, an unconsecrated host [a communion wafer] was placed under the bandage to prevent her stabbing the wound undetected by means of a pin or needle, but on the Friday evening it was found that blood had flowed from the wound, that the bandage had not been moved or interfered with, and that the host was quite intact just as it had been placed there.Obviously in this case everything points to imposture, and the precautions adopted to detect it were probably quite inadequate.
This girl [the chaplain goes on] is not a Saint, she a appears to be half-witted, but of that I have my doubts. There is reason to think her both spiteful and sly.
Thurston's opinion that "everything points to imposture" appears to be based on his "gut reaction", but is it true? Let us examine the case more closely.
The girl experienced some of the stigmata. In his chapter on the subject, Thurston concluded, correctly in my opinion, that this sort of thing is psychosomatic ie it is the effect of the mind on the body. After all, if a savage can will himself to die because a witchdoctor points a bone at him, a "civilised" person should be able will herself to bleed.
Secondly, the sugar apports appeared during what Thurston calls a "trance", and the chaplain somnabulisme ie sleepwalking. In other words, an altered state of consciousness, probably without much awareness of her surroundings. This does not, of course, rule out imposture. She might, literally, have not known what she was doing.
However, for imposture to work, three conditions must have been present: she must have been adept at sleight of hand, she must have first hidden the objects on her person, and she must have obtained them in the first place.
Sleight of hand is a difficult skill, and requires considerable practice - but perhaps she learned it early in life. Hiding the sugar cubes on her person would not have been easy, considering that her clothing and effects were searched. Also, remember that she alternated between normal consciousness and the "trance". If the imposture occurred during a trance state, then presumably so did the hiding. Wouldn't you expect the girl to find the sugar herself and wonder about it?
As far as obtaining the sugar goes, remember that she lived in a hospice under supervision. She could only obtain it herself from the pantry, or some confederate was in on the act. In the latter case, the confederate would have to deliver it to her during her normal state of consciousness so that she could consume it during a trance. I'm sure you can see some of the complications involved. In any case, one would expect the staff to notice the diminution of the sugar store. Also, when they moved her to a new hospice, she would have to learn where the sugar was kept and find a new method of obtaining it or find a new confederate. Yet the phenomenon actually increased when she was transferred.
No, it appears we still have a serious mystery on our hands. Also, as mentioned before, similar apports have occurred during poltergeist infestations, and poltergeists are often thought to be the outworkings of the subconscious mind.
I intend, at a later date, to deal with another aspect of Thurston's book, namely levitation. Indeed, I originally intended to discuss a lot of his examples. However, it became obvious that this would require paraphrasing large sections of his work, because he is at pains to establish the accuracy of the reports studied, as well as citing similar apparently paranormal phenomena in completely secular settings, thus reducing the likelihood that they are "miraculous".
I would suggest, therefore, that you read the book yourself. It can be downloaded for free. (Don't confuse it with a book of the same title by Montague Summers.) Some of the phenomena are truly extraordinary, although fully documented, so as:
- faces glowing, such as reported for Moses in the Bible,
- bodies producing perfume,
- people, both religious and secular, apparently immune to fire or molten metal,
- corpses which do not decay, and which even bleed when cut,
- seeing without eyes,
- living without eating (again, with both religious and secular examples), and
- most extraordinary of all: the multiplication of food, as with the Biblical feeding of the five thousand, but which nevertheless is better attested than you might think.