the Re-evaluation of a Historic RSPK Case
Peter MULACZ, Austrian Society for Parapsychology
The Zugun case, world famous and much disputed in its day, is unique in several aspects, primarily
In other aspects, however, the Zugun case fits well into the general character of RSPK cases, e.g. in respect of the age of the focus person at the onset of the poltergeist phenomena, the bandwidth of categories of phenomena observed, etc.
With regard to the sociology of science (i.e. of Psychical Research), the impact of this case may be seen as dialectic as the above: on one hand one is tempted to say: as usual an eventual exposure of the focus person with an ensuing endless discussion between the two camps, and on the other hand the unique fact that this case ultimately was to become the cradle of the later Austrian Society for Psychical Research (now Austrian Society for Parapsychology and Border Areas of Science).
The events in short: the case commenced mid-February, 1925 in the Bukowina (Romania), three months before Eleonore Zuguns 12th birthday, and it lasted for some two years. (In comparison to the material of some RSPK databases, the focus person may be called rather young when the phenomena started, and the duration of the phenomena which terminated shortly after her first menstruation, may be called rather long.)
The poltergeist phenomena started with inexplicable movements of various objects, throwing of rocks as well as locomotion of household items. These were attributed by the superstitious peasant populace to the devil, in Romanian "Dracu", based on an alleged remark made by Eleonore Zuguns grandmother early in this case who might have induced a devil complex in the girl by that malediction.
When the case came to the knowledge of the regional media, the then eminent German Psychic Researcher, Fritz Grunewald was dispatched to the scene where he was able to establish the occurrence of "genuine paranormal phenomena". As Grunewald happened to die but short time later, the Countess Wassilko whose family used to live for centuries in the Bukowina (the easternmost province of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy before WW I) firstly visited the girl in her native environment and subsequently took her to Vienna into her own household some time afterwards (end-January, 1926). After a period of some eight months there, she took her for another five months on an extended tour through several European countries, thus enabling many Psychic Researchers as well as interested lay-persons (several hundred people altogether) to witness the Zugun phenomena which had at that time actually changed from the locomotion of small objects, mainly interpreted as apports, to dermographic phenomena (scratches and bites all over her face and her arms). Thus, the Zugun case shows several distinct phases. The case ended practically with the girl's first menstruation, after which there was a quick decline in the number of phenomena. Following that the "case" being no more a case, only a biography the girl spent a few more months in Vienna, finishing her training as a hairdresser before eventually returning home in 1928, where she started working, later became married (with no children), widowed, etc., living a "normal" life.
My own research in the Zugun case the support of which by a grant provided by the "Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene" (Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Psychic Hygiene), Freiburg i. Br., Germany, is gratefully acknowledged concentrated on the two phases, the period in Vienna (= Phase I) and the tour (= Phase II), with emphasis on the former, and focussed on addressing i.a. the following problems:
After all, this extraordinary case offers the feasibility to discuss all the above on two (or even more) levels, i.e. the case as such, and the case as a prime methodological example for applying quantitative methods on a hitherto apparent qualitative case, thus combining proof-oriented and process-oriented aspects. This approach to historic cases is different from mere reception studies. It demonstrates that the existing abundance of historic cases in parapsychology is a most valuable "treasure" that needs to be re-evaluated periodically a permanent process , and that the gap between idiographic and nomothetic approaches can indeed be bridged.
© Peter MULACZ
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