Mirabelli was born in Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil, of Italian parents. He studied Spiritism at an early age and was introduced to the writings of Allan Kardec. As a teenager he worked in a shoe shop and claimed to have experienced poltergeist activity where shoe boxes would literally fly off the shelves. He was placed in an lunatic asylum for observation and psychologists said there was something wrong with him, but he was not physically sick. Mirabelli later became a medium and claimed to produce automatic handwriting, materializations of objects and people (ectoplasm) and levitations.
In the 1920s Miravelli was tested by the Academia de Estudos Psychicos Cesare Lombroso in São Paulo and a report published in 1926 wrote that in more than 300 sittings genuine materializations had been observed. When the report was published in English, it was challenged by various psychical researchers. In 1928 the German scientist Hans Driesch investigated Mirabelli and found that some objects had been moved in the séance room but there there was no evidence for his supposed abilities of materialization or apportation. Mirabelli later began giving public mediumship demonstrations which were described as theatrical displays. Throughout his life Mirabelli had been involved with 15 lawsuits for the illegal practice of witchcraft. He was caught utilising conjurer tricks on occasion.
In 1990, Dr. Gordon Stein found a levitation photograph of Mirabelli in the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) collection at the Cambridge University Library. The levitation in the photograph was discovered to be a trick as there were signs of chemical retouching under Mirabelli's feet. The retouching showed that Mirabelli was not levitating but was standing on a ladder which was erased from the photograph.
- Raymond Buckland. (2005). The Spirit Book: The Encyclopedia of Clairvoyance, Channeling, and Spirit Communication. Visible Ink Press. p. 259. ISBN 978-1578592135
- Peter H. Aykroyd, Angela Narth and Dan Aykroyd. (2009). A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters. Rodale Books. pp. 92-95. ISBN 978-1605298757
- Joe Nickell. (2005). Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 178. ISBN 978-0813191249
- Guy Lyon Playfair. Mirabelli and the Phantom Ladder. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 58, 1992. p. 202
- Gordon Stein. Famous Levitation Photo Is a Fake. Skeptical Inquirer, 15, 1991. pp. 119-20