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Sunday 4 June 2017

A "Jinn" in Transylvania

     Transylvania. Money out of nowhere. A playful spirit. A map for buried treasure. What more do you need for an entertaining Gothic novel? Yet this was the adventure in which the Hon. Everard Feilding found himself during five weeks in 1914. And before you start scoffing, you should be aware that he was the Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research and, with his cautious and sceptical attitude, was considered the best psychic researcher they ever had.
     It turns out that late in 1913, the Society received a letter from a Hungarian lawyer requesting a researcher to come and investigate the amazing things taking place in his household. At the time, Feilding was ill, but in January he found himself in Warsaw, and decided he would be able to make the journey. He did, however, feel a bit like Jonathan Harker heading off to meet Count Dracula.
     A few words about nationality at this point. Transylvania is now the largest section of Romania. Although most of its inhabitants are Romanians ie they speak Romanian as their first language, it does possess a sizable Hungarian minority. However, the reason the lawyer is referred to as Hungarian was probably that, at the time, Transylvania was part of the Hungarian half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Feilding does not inform us as to the language of communication between himself and the lawyer; I suspect German. Also, for what it is worth, the real Dracula was Prince (not Count) of Wallachia, which is east of Transylvania, across the Carpathian Mountains.
     The investigator found the lawyer to be
an excitable, very middle-class person, formerly much addicted to wine, gambling, and women, good-hearted, hospitable, a spendthrift, hopelessly unbusiness-like, and absolutely staggered by the goings-on of his imp.
      He labelled this attendant spirit a Jinn, by which I presume he meant a jinnee. (Like most people, he was not aware that "jinn" is a collective plural.) However, psychical researchers will immediately recognize the characteristics of a poltergeist.
     Poltergeist phenomena have a strong tendency to latch onto people undergoing emotional turmoil. Children, particularly adolescents, are prime targets, with women coming in second. Adult males are least likely to be a focus. Nevertheless, it all started when the said lawyer was contemplating suicide on the grounds of being flat broke.
He suddenly found money in his pocket which he knew wasn't there before. He thought he must have stolen it in a fit of aberration. Then money began to drop on to the table, and he thought he was mad. Then stones fell beside him as he walked out, and then gradually all sorts of things were chucked into his room at all hours of the day and night. Bromide tables fell on his bed when he couldn't sleep; bottles of Schnapps in his carriage of a cold night; cigarettes out the air when he had run out of them, and cigars bearing the Emperor's monogram!
     Readers of this blog will be aware that apports of this nature are a not infrequent manifestation of poltergeist activity. But before you say, "I wish this would happen to me!", remember that all of these must have been stolen by the "Jinn" from their rightful owners. I'm particularly interested in the cigars. Presumably the Emperor's monogram meant an insignia that the company was the official supplier to the Emperor. If they really were the Emperor's private property, then the Jinn must have travelled to Vienna and invaded the palace.
     By the time Feilding arrived, however, the family's finances had improved, and the Jinn had left off leaving presents and moved on to the normal poltergeist business of just being a nuisance. All sorts of things would be hurled into a room at unexpected moments: bottletops, knives, pincers, screws, even an elderly pump 4 feet long [1.2 m] and weighing 50 pounds [23 kg]. Feilding himself witnessed a lot of this, under circumstances where fraud would be next to impossible, even when the lawyer and his wife were nowhere around. Long poles were thrown around, cigarettes fell out of the air, a glass fell lightly at his feet, and the dinner table was constantly on the move at meal times.
     The family used to communicate with the Jinn by means of a ouija board. Now, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: ouija boards are proven devices for getting your subconscious mind to make up stories for your entertainment. The presence of a spirit in the same room does not change the fact. Automatic writing will also do the trick just as well.
In addition to this is a romantic story, in writing [automatic writing?], of a former incarnation [of the lawyer, or the Jinn?], when he was a German Baron called Schindtreffer, who lived in Mindelheim, Bavaria - a place he says he never heard of - in 1700.
     Mindelheim is a real place. I have not been able to confirm the existence of a Baron Schindtreffer. In any case, the Baron claimed to have sent nine cases of money, jewels, and papers with his son to Brittany in 1713, and had them buried to keep them out of the hands of robbers. A map was provided, and when compared to the latest ordinance maps, was found to be accurate. The alleged Baron also provided a whole lot of details about his family, along with an apport of a photograph of a painting of his then wife, said to be in a Munich gallery. Another lawyer put up money for the journey to Brittany, and although Feilding had severe doubts about it, he agreed to accompany them, as he was the only one who could speak French. (Besides, how could anybody not get involved in such an escapade?)
     The journey was not without incident. The poltergeist phenomena accompanied them, though not on the same scale as in Hungary. Because it happened at unexpected moments, there was no way he could control for it, and he admitted that it could all, theoretically, have been performed by the wife - albeit sometimes with extreme difficulty.
     One thing which bothered them was the appearance of a snipe on the dinner lamp, apparently in London. This snipe turned out to have been purchased by the wife without the knowledge of the others. The wife, a small, frail woman, was easily put into a trance. In fact, she used to regularly go into a trance when the piano was being played. Feilding therefore decided to hypnotize her. Under hypnosis, she told of meeting her sister while seated in a park, and how her sister insisted on her accompanying her as she made the purchase, then took it away after returning to the park. When her husband insisted he had never heard of a sister, least of all in London, his wife proclaimed that she was in the room with her, and she began following the phantom around the room. After coming out of the trance, she explained that she had in fact had an elder sister, who had died ten years before.
     The lawyer was most dismayed about what he believed was his wife's "unconscious fraud". Feilding himself found himself up in the air with respect to a complete explanation - except that they seemed clearly to be sincere, and that the paranormal activity he had witnessed in Transylvania was genuine. It apparently ceased once the couple returned home. He never saw them again, for reasons which should be obvious to anyone who knows the history of 1914.
     And the buried treasure? Of course, they never found it! You can't believe everything the spirits tell you.

Reference: Everard Feilding's experiences were covered in two letters to fellow researcher, Hereward Carrington, and published in chapter 4 of Haunted People by Hereward Carrington and Nandor Fodor (1951).

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