Wolf Messing: The Man Who Mesmerised Stalin. Clairvoyant or Conjurer?

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‘The future shapes itself from the past and the present, and there are certain models or bonds between.’

Adolf Hitler placed a 200,000 Reichsmark bounty upon his head, Josef Stalin was mesmerised by his extraordinary talents, and Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were baffled by his telepathic abilities. He gained an international reputation as a psychic entertainer par excellence and enjoyed celebrity status in the former Soviet Union. The legend of Wolf Messing continues to mystify and astound, but why are so few people in the West aware of this incredible individual?

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Messing’s performances were legendary in both pre-war Europe and Soviet Russia

Messing was born in Poland in 1899 into a respectable middle class Jewish family, and from an early age he exhibited extraordinary talents: an uncanny ability to predict future events, divine the thoughts of others, and find concealed items. But it was Messing’s curious capability to inexplicably influence the actions of friends, relatives and neighbours which caused the most amazement. The eccentric young man eventually defied his parent’s wishes to become a rabbi and travelled west to Berlin to seek his fortune.

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Messing is said to have amazed both Einstein and Freud with telepathy.

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, Messing toured extensively with a circus and quickly established himself as a sensational showman. Audiences throughout Europe marvelled at what appeared to be genuine feats of telepathy, psychic ability and clairvoyance. His act was unique and clearly very different from that of a classic conjurer or illusionist. Indeed, Messing’s famous meeting with Freud and Einstein illustrates this fact. Both men were extremely curious about his purported ability to read minds and they set him a task. Freud would attempt to transmit a thought to Messing and he would then have to reveal this. The Polish man of mystery successfully completed the task by leaving the room, collecting a pair of tweezers, and returning to pluck a hair from Einstein’s moustache – which was exactly what Freud had ‘willed’ him to do! However, as Messing’s star was rising, so too was the tyranny of the Third Reich, and he was forced to return to his homeland.

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Hitler was said to be wary of Messing and the Nazis placed a bounty upon his head.

 ‘If Hitler declares war in the east, his death awaits him.’

Messing’s potent prediction did not endear him to the Fuhrer and, after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, he was hunted down by the Gestapo. Nonetheless, sanctuary would be found to the east and, after crossing the Russian border, Messing received a summons from the Man of Steel himself. Having escaped the brutality of Hitler, he was now faced with the prospect of a precarious meeting in Moscow with Josef Stalin. Mercifully, the Russian leader was deeply impressed and intrigued by his now legendary status – not to mention his captivating performances. He decided to set the Pole a task to prove he truly had the ability to influence the thoughts of others…

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Stalin was amazed by Messing’s extraordinary feats and apparent psychic abilities.

On a typically bitter Moscow morning, Messing answered a brusque knock on his apartment door to be greeted by the ominous figures of two secret police officers. He was then tersely ordered to rob 100,000 roubles from a bank using only his powers of suggestion and influence. Stalin had devised a seemingly impossible test. Nonetheless, never a man to shirk from a challenge, Messing accepted the task and promptly proceeded to relieve the bank of this massive sum. Somehow he managed to convince the teller that the blank piece of paper he presented was in fact an ‘official document’ which authorised the gargantuan transaction. Stalin was amazed and invited Messing to visit him at his dacha (country retreat) on the outskirts of Moscow.

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Stalin’s dacha was heavily fortified but Messing defied the odds and mysteriously appeared in the Soviet leader’s study.

One of the most heavily fortified places on the face of the planet during this period, and until his death in 1953 – Stalin’s dacha was an impregnable citadel. A perimeter fence was manned constantly, and no fewer than 300 agents of the NKVD (later to be the KGB) prowled the compound ensuring maximum safety for their leader. Indeed, Stalin seldom left his office in the heart of the complex and was profoundly bewildered when Wolf Messing mysteriously materialised in his study unannounced. The Soviet leader was in awe of the Polish wizard and demanded to know how he had achieved the unachievable. Messing calmly explained how he had used his powers of suggestion to convince Stalin’s guards that he was in fact Bera (the head of the secret police). Clearly they had believed him and some accounts state that this sensational feat would earn Messing a commission working for the NKVD. However, he would refute this claim in his biography in later life. Legend has it that he taught the officers of the Soviet secret police the dark arts of telepathy, mind-reading and psychological influence, but Messing dismissed this forcefully as nonsense to his biographer Tatiana Lungin.

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Messing had visions of Russian tanks entering Berlin during the early years of conflict and successfully predicted the date the war ended.

 ‘The war will end on 9th May 1945’

Messing was famous for his predictions, but the one he made in Novosibirsk on 7th March 1944 would cement this reputation. The war did indeed end on the day he said after the cessation of German military operations at 23.01 on 8th May 1945. He had also spoken of having visions of Russian tanks in Berlin throughout the early years of Operation Barbarossa. Messing was now celebrated as a national icon, and would also gain a reputation beyond the Iron Curtain, proudly claiming prominent post-war admirers such as Mahatma Ghandi and Marilyn Monroe. Stalin’s favourite psychic continued to tour and amaze audiences until his death in 1974.

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Wolf Messing claimed to have the ability to see the future and that science could not currently explain this.

Messing’s phenomenal life-story is surely just as astonishing as the incredible feats he is reported to have performed on-stage. There are many Russians today who still believe that he was a true mystic who was blessed with some sort of preternatural power. However, sceptics would argue that his act consisted of effects which are very much the stock-in-trade of mentalists and magicians. Indeed, contemporary entertainers readily convince audiences that they can predict future events, read minds and influence actions. Was Wolf Messing genuinely a man with a wonderful psychic capability? Or was he merely a highly talented magician/mentalist who managed to dupe one of the most powerful dictators the world has ever known? To this day much of his life remains a mystery and there are said to be secret KGB files concerning his famous talents which have yet to be disclosed to the public…

For a documentary click the link: Wolf Messing Psychically Robs a Bank.

The author of the article is David Fox. A professional magician and freelance writer who is based in the UK. For more details, visit his website at: http://www.magician-midlands.co.uk

‘Wolf Messing: The True Story of Russia’s Greatest Psychic’ by Tatiana Lungin is available from Glagoslav Publications

Harry Price: Dweller on the Threshold

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‘Harry fought a long, lone battle against, on the one hand, the Victorian educated scientists who derided the occult and, on the other, fanatical believers in spiritualism whose favourite mediums he exposed as frauds.’

Dennis Wheatley

Harry Price (1881 to 1948) is remembered today as perhaps the most famous ghost hunter and psychical investigator of all time. The intrepid scientist’s study of Borley Rectory in Suffolk, purported to be ‘The Most Haunted House in England’, from 1929 until his death brought him international recognition and cemented his reputation as a colossus within the field of occult research. Nonetheless, this extraordinary figure became an object of both acclaim and disdain during his lifetime. Some commentators viewed Price merely as a sensationalist who sought publicity by courting the supernatural, whilst others championed him as a genuine truth seeker – selflessly dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of the universe.

Indeed, Price’s commitment and dedication to the investigation of preternatural phenomena cannot be understated. He founded The National Laboratory for Psychical Research, compiled one of the largest libraries of the occult in the world, and was one of the first scientists to apply a rigorous and methodical approach when testing the authenticity of psychics and hauntings. Price utilised state-of-the-art technologies such as pressure sensors and infra red photography in his quest into the unpredictable and inhospitable shadow realm of spirits, poltergeists and demons. His capacity and appetite for conducting painstaking research – in often freezing and isolated locations in the dead of night – has set the bench mark exceptionally high for all psychical explorers. In Borley Rectory alone Price recorded no fewer than sixty different types of supernatural occurrence.

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Borley Rectory in Suffolk – The Most Haunted House in England.

 

Contemporary ‘ghost hunters’ frequently pay homage to Price’s considerable influence and achievements, but few are actually aware of his background in the art of conjuring and legerdemain. A lifelong member of the prestigious Magic Circle, his interest in this amazing art form began at an early age when he witnessed a performance of The Great Sequah in Shrewsbury market place. The young Price was mesmerised by the magician and this profound experience clearly catalysed an inner yearning for the mysterious.

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‘The Conjurer’ by Bosch. Magic and the Occult have always been closely linked.

 

Thus, like the great Harry Houdini (who successfully debunked numerous fraudulent psychics in the US), an understanding of the art of magic allowed Price to deduce what secret artifices or methods, if any, were being deployed by supposed soothsayers and mediums during his research. The story of the famous ‘spirit photographer’ William Hope is well documented and is an example of one of Price’s many skirmishes with Spiritualists who normally felt threatened by his research. The scientist was more than aware of how accomplished magicians can surreptitiously ‘switch’ objects, undetected by audiences, in order to achieve startling outcomes. This was precisely what Hope was doing with the photographic plates, and Price quickly concluded that his ‘spirit images’ were actually frauds. Indeed, this damning revelation set the tone for most of Price’s investigations into Spiritualists and clairvoyants. He attended hundreds of séances and was rarely convinced by the authenticity of the spectacle. Lifelong friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes – but himself an ardent Spiritualist) frequently expressed his anger at Price’s findings and urged him to be more sympathetic towards individuals of a psychical disposition.

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Like the Great Houdini, Price’s knowledge of magic helped him ‘debunk’ fraudulent mediums.

Nonetheless, in the midst of a seemingly incessant tide of fraudulence and deceit, Price did encounter some incredible individuals who genuinely appeared to possess exceptional extra sensory talents. The most notable is perhaps Ms Stella C who, unlike the majority of clairvoyants and mediums, did not accept money for conducting séances and was not interested in forging a career in this field. Price and others observed the occurrence of genuine telekinetic phenomena in her presence, and she also incredibly predicted (with an uncanny accuracy which startled even Price) what would appear on the front page of The Daily Mail several weeks in advance.

Price was further led to speculate that it may be ‘highly probable’ that some individuals actually can communicate with the deceased. A séance in 1930 with the clairvoyant Mrs Eileen Garrett, who was not a Spiritualist, provided some of the most extraordinary results ever obtained in the field of psychical exploration. Garrett claimed to be in communion with Flight-Lieutenant H Carmichael Irwin, the captain of the doomed R101 Airship which had tragically crashed in France two days earlier. All the crew and passengers had been killed, but the psychic was accurately able to relay intricate details about the sequence of events which led to the fatal accident. Specialised technological information about the airship itself, of which Garrett could not possibly have known, were also provided. Price contacted the RAF with his findings and they concluded that 70% of Eileen Garrett’s account was exactly precise, 20% was ‘most likely’ and the remainder was rather confused.

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The medium Eileen Garrett recounted intricate details of the R101 disaster.

Such examples of Price’s work reveal that as well as earning a reputation as a sceptical man of science, he did have a sensitivity towards psychics and was prepared to reveal instances of what appeared to be genuine ‘supernatural’ phenomena. Indeed, his feud with fellow magicians the Maskelynes would reveal how he was often prepared to defend psychics who he believed were genuine. Nevil Maskelyne had long claimed that his brother Clive could duplicate all types of ‘supposed spiritual phenomena’ a medium could create in a séance. However, Price challenged this statement and alleged that he had witnessed events in séance rooms which even the most accomplished of conjurers would struggle to produce.

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Magicians can amaze audiences with seemingly ‘psychical phenomena’.

Enigmatic and complex, the life of Harry Price is arguably even more perplexing than the mediums, spirits and poltergeists he documented along the way. It is intensely intriguing when a talented and highly intelligent individual is drawn to devote his entire life to the study of a fringe subject such as the occult. They run the risk of being ostracised, condemned and ridiculed by their peers. So why did Harry Price decide to embark upon such an atypical and arduous journey which would ultimately lead him to the bowels of desolate dilapidated mansions, the icy spectral solitude of cemeteries, and the sinister sultry environs of fraudulent medium’s séance parlours? Was he merely a deluded moonstruck eccentric shying away from the harsh realities of life? Or should we celebrate him as a heroic pioneer who conducted invaluable research into an area which has been largely ignored or overlooked by many of the greatest minds over the centuries?

 

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Psychical researchers can easily become objects of ridicule. Why did Price choose this path?

For an interview with Harry Price click the link: Harry Price Interview YouTube.

A radio production about Price’s life: Are You There Harry Price?

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional magician and freelance writer.

www.magician-midlands.co.uk

Rasputin: The Holy Devil

David Fox examines this fascinating figure…

Title: ‘Rasputin and The Fall of the Romanovs’  Author: Colin Wilson  Year of Publication: 1964

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‘Grigory Rasputin had one curious characteristic that distinguished him from the other village boys; he possessed a degree of the second sight.’

Since his appearance in pre-revoulutionary St Petersburg, Grigory Rasputin has remained an object of intrigue, speculation and rumour throughout the world. The incredible story of the peasant from the obscure village of Pokrovskoe, Siberia, who would meteorically rise to become (albeit briefly) one of the most powerful figures on the world stage, continues to captivate and amaze modern historians. It is said that this mysterious monk held seemingly Biblical powers such as the ability to heal the sick, foresee future events, and demonstrate startling feats of telepathy. Wherever Rasputin wandered, his influence and reputation grew, some venerated him as a true holy man of God, whilst others dismissed him as a confidence trickster and charlatan. This was chiefly due to Rasputin’s well documented affection for the temporal aspects of existence, which is of course at odds with mainstream Christian ideology. How did this shadowy figure of eccentricity and dubious character manage to win over the trust and affection of the Tsar and Tsarina prior to the abrupt and brutal culmination of the Romanov dynasty? In essence it could be readily argued that prior to his assassination in 1916, Rasputin was effectively operating as the last Tsar of Russia. Colin Wilson provides a fascinating analysis and insight into the life story of one of modern history’s exceptional characters.

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‘Rasputin preached that all religions are of equal worth and constitute different means of reaching God.’

Wilson’s analysis of Rasputin’s early development and wanderings does reveal a genuinely spiritual character who was clearly motivated by an inner impulse for higher truth, understanding and communion with God. The monk’s charisma, magnetism and uncanny ability to predict future events and demonstrate acts of thaumaturgy, quickly earned him acclaim throughout his home village and beyond. Indeed, on his arrival in St Petersburg in 1905 an Okhrana spy reported that ‘crowds assemble at Rasputin’s, and people wait two or three days before being able to approach the monk.’ Naturally such adoration will be met with jealousy and suspicion, particularly from those with vested interests such as Rasputin’s local priest and the political establishment of the time. This pattern would continue to develop throughout the monk’s eventful life and his enemies did not have to look far for ammunition to slander.

‘From childhood on, Rasputin took his freedom, and the benevolence of the universe for granted.’

 The monk’s nocturnal indulgences became well known around St Petersbourg, and Rasputin rapidly gained an unsavoury reputation as an arch-seducer. Indeed, his indiscretions merely provided his political opponents with an angle to promote him as a negative influence upon the royal household. However, Wilson notes that Rasputin exhibited a perennial naivety and there is evidence to suggest that he was influenced by the mysterious Khltsy sect which do not subscribe to orthodox church doctrine. His spirituality was more akin to that of Zarathustra as opposed to St Francis of Assisi. Rasputin refused to deny the temporal and appeared not to differentiate between the spiritual and the material. Wilson appreciates that the ancient notion of finding enlightenment, and ultimately God, through the celebration of life itself, in all its forms, continues to resonate among sects such as the Khltsy which do not conform to the established dualistic views of the church. Nonetheless, such an ambivalent nature would have been considered abhorrent by the majority of his contemporaries. For a high-ranking man of the cloth to have been so openly promiscuous and debauched was an affront to church and state.

‘the speed with which he acquired followers and disciples was amazing… They clung to him like flies to a honey pot.’

Many have speculated about how Rasputin quickly gained such a powerful influence over the Tsar and Tsarina. Wilson does offer considerable detail regarding his thaumaturgical prowess, and cites various accounts from several sources concerning his almost God-like ability. Tsarevich Alexei suffered from the unfortunate condition of haemophilia. Seemingly the only person who could ever stop the bleeding whenever young Alexei had an accident was Rasputin. This was clearly the major factor in maintaining his bizarre influence over the royal household. Political opponents viewed the monk as a menace who had evidently bewitched the Tsarina and was surely conspiring against the national interest. A wave of vitriol directed towards the monk, compounded by the ever-increasing hardships of the first world war upon the Russian people, culminated in the assassination of the Tsarina’s favourite in the early hours of 30th November 1916.

‘Whatever else may be said against Rasputin, he certainly possessed this intuitive optimism and trust, an awareness of the power of the spirit.’

Colin Wilson provides an excellent portrayal of one of the most complex and intriguing figures of the twentieth century. He neither sensationalises nor apologises. Wilson merely provides the reader with a highly engaging, informative and objective view-point of the life and times of Grigory Rasputin. This is masterfully presented along with a concise and enlightening historical context, which the author presents very well to the reader. Indeed, students with little or no knowledge of Russian history could appreciate this text as much as experts, and this highlights the genius of Colin Wilson. Clearly the popularised image of Rasputin needs to be revised and Wilson has gone some way to doing this. The victors will always write history to serve their own agenda, and it was in the Bolshevik interest to demonise, defile and distort the final chapter of Tsarist Russia.

To find out more about David Fox, visit his website: David Fox Magic

Colin Wilson – The Outsider

Magician David Fox pays tribute to a genuis.

‘From a fairly early age, I developed the conviction that most people waste their lives because they see the world falsely… such a person accepts a set of social values without question, like a sheep that never feels curious about what lies on the other side of the hedge.’

Colin Wilson

The great Oscar Wilde once stated that ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’. Such a profound aphorism readily defines the intriguing personality of one of Britain’s most prolific writers: Colin Wilson. A man who dedicated his life to the pursuit of greater understanding and knowledge; Wilson sought to push the boundaries and venture into areas of study which many (even in the 21st century) would view with scepticism, disdain, and even disgust. Wilson addressed a variety of subjects, from the 1950s onwards, which resided on the hinterland of modern rational twentieth century society. These included: the occult, true crime, sexuality and the psychology of serial killers. Indeed, Wilson seemed naturally motivated to venture into hitherto unexplored realms of  the human psyche, and articulated his findings masterfully and insightfully to his readership.

The publication of ‘The Outsider’ in 1956 quickly brought Wilson much acclaim. His analysis of  famous individuals throughout history who had been predisposed to rebel in one way or another against the prevailing social axioms of their ages, clearly tapped into the prevailing post-second world war zeitgeist. Wilson identified a tremendous sense of social alienation in all of these outsiders, from Vincent Van Gough to Albert Camus, and throughout his life he would remain a champion of existentialist thought and philosophy.

‘Civilisation cannot evolve further until ‘the occult’ is taken for granted on the same level as atomic energy.’

However, it was when Wilson was commissioned to produce an in-depth study of the occult that the focus of his work shifted onto what some would describe as ‘supernatural’. An extensive period of research spawned three seminal works in this area: ‘The Occult’ (1971), ‘Mysteries’ (1978) and ‘Beyond the Occult’  (1988). What is intriguing is that Wilson initially approached this vast subject as a sceptic, but quickly realised that it warranted serious consideration and analysis. The so-called ‘Occult Explosion’ of the 1960s demonstrated the perpetual human urge for deeper self-awareness and spiritual development. The Occident may have created the first nuclear weapons and sent rockets into space, but there appeared to be a spiritual void in the lives of many. Modern science and technology had without doubt alleviated much of life’s immediate problems, but the curious spirit of man knows no boundaries.

‘I believe that the human mind has reached a point in evolution where it is about to develop new powers – powers that would once have been considered magical.’

‘The Occult’ is a wonderful analysis of what some would define as the ‘magical arts’ through the ages. From the ancient Egyptians, to the Kabbalists and modern magicians such as Crowley and Gurdieff, Wilson provides an engaging thesis on an alternative viewpoint of human evolution. He clearly appreciates that from the late 17th Century onwards, cold rationalism began to stifle much of Western man’s potentialities: ‘The science of men like Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus may have been crude and defective but it was based on this instinctive recognition of the psychic links between man and nature. The science of Newton, Huygens and Priestley was incomparably more accurate, but it had lost belief in the invisible links.’ Indeed, much of the evidence that Wilson presents in his studies on the occult surely demonstrates that modern science simply cannot provide satisfactory solutions for much of the phenomena we experience throughout our mortal existence.

‘Magic was not the ‘science’ of the past. It is the science of the future.’

Wilson essentially understood that a human being is far more complex (and potentially infinitely more powerful) than is fully appreciated in the modern technological era. We live most of our lives effectively ensconced within a bubble of accepted ‘facts’, rules, regulations, prejudices and misconceptions about our very existence and place in the universe. If only there was a way out? If only human beings could learn how to emancipate themselves from the often painful existence of mundane life? Wilson defines our largely latent potentialities as ‘Faculty X’ and appreciates that the human mind ‘has always possessed greater powers than we now realise: of telepathy, premonition of danger, second sight, thaumaturgy (the power to heal).’

‘…it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that the human mind is a vaster and stranger realm than we ever supposed.’

Wilson explored a myriad of fascinating subjects within the domain of the occult, these include: poltergeist activity, dowsing, spiritualism, ritual magic, life after death and astrology, to name but a few. His written style is highly engaging and he did confess that he saw himself as an author as opposed to a researcher (he was also a prolific novelist). Nonetheless, they do raise serious questions about modern science’s current uneasy relationship with these matters. Wilson has collected a wealth of data from a variety of sources throughout the world which does suggest that there are truly ‘more things in heaven and earth’. Approaching Wilson’s work with an open mind will most certainly provide the inquirer with much food for thought.