|Born||27 July 1908
|Died||1957 (aged 48–49)|
Rudi Schneider (27 July 1908 – 1957), son of Josef Schneider and brother of Willi Schneider, was an Austrian spiritualist and physical medium. His career was covered extensively by the journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, and he took part in a number of notable experiments conducted by paranormal researchers/debunkers, including Harry Price, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Eric Dingwall. Some of which declared him to be a fraud, and others of which were unable to find evidence of trickery.
Schneider began participating in séances with his elder brother Willi Schneider at age 11. Both Rudi and Willi claimed to channel a spirit entity called "Olga" who in the séance room claimed to be "Lola Montez" the nickname of Eliza Eosanna Gilbert (1821-1861) the mistress of Ludwig I of Bavaria. Rudi held his first solo séance in 1919 and is said to have been able to summon the ghostly image of a human hand, as well as a number of other manifestations that are traditionally associated with séances.
Schneider began giving demonstrations to the Vienna Institut fur Radiumforschung der Academic der Wissenschaffen in 1923. In an investigation into the mediumship of Rudi in 1924 the physicists Stefan Meyer and Karl Przibram caught Rudi freeing his arm in a series of séances. After Meyer and Przibram's accusations, the institute concluded that the abilities that Schneider's had demonstrated up to that point were all, based on the balance of probability, the result of trickery and that he was no-longer of interest to them. In 1926, the psychical researcher Warren Vinton sat with Rudi in several sittings and came to the conclusion that the movement of objects were fraudulently produced by other members of the Schneider family concealed in the room. In April 1927, Vinton published an article in Psyche which accused Schneider of being a fraud and using a hidden accomplice. Another researcher, Malcolm Bird, also supported Vinton's accusations.
The parapsychologist Walter Franklin Prince attended a series of sittings with Rudi and no paranormal phenomena was observed. In his notes in the Bulletin VII of the Boston SPR published under Experiments with Physical Mediums in Europe (1928) he wrote "despite my studied and unremitting complaisance, no phenomena have occurred when I had any part in the control, save curtain movement which were capable of the simplest explanation."
In 1929 Schneider took part in a number of experiments conducted by notable investigator/debunker Harry Price at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research. Price conducted a series of experiments in which Schneider was connected to a series of pressure switches that would alert observers if his moved his hands, feet or limbs in any significant way. Schneider was also physically restrained during some of the experiments. Price recorded that during his experiments various phenomena were observed; including the movement of objects placed around the room and the apparent manifestation of mysterious hands and shapes.
Rudi claimed he could levitate objects but according Price a photograph taken on April 28, 1932 showed that Rudi had managed to free his arm to move a handkerchief from the table. After this, many scientists considered Rudi to be exposed as a fraud. Price wrote that the findings of the other experiments should be revised due to the evidence showing how Rudi could free himself from the controls.
After Price had exposed Rudi, various scientists such Karl Przibram and the magician Henry Evans wrote to Price telling him that they agreed that Rudi would evade control during his séances and congratulated Price on the success of unmasking the fraud. In opposition, SPR members who were highly critical of Price, supported Rudi's mediumship and promoted a conspiracy theory that Price had hoaxed the photograph. SPR member Anita Gregory claimed Price had deliberately faked the photograph to discredit SPR research and ruin Rudi's reputation. However, a photographic expert testified that the photograph was genuine. SPR member John L. Randall reviewed the Price and Schneider case and came to the conclusion the photograph was genuine, Price had caught Rudi in fraud.
In 1930, Schneider began working with French paranormal investigator Dr. Eugene Osty at the Institut Metapsychique. Osty placed an object in the room with Schneider and targeted it with a camera that had an infrared trigger designed to take a picture if it detected movement around the object. The alarm was triggered several times though the photographs showed no evidence of Schneider having interfered with it. Osty concluded that he was recording the passage of an ectoplasm like substance that was indicative of telekinetic movement. He wrote that the substance registered on sound recording equipment when it moved, and that it could pass through objects put in place to impede it. However, a photograph taken during one of the penultimate sessions revealed that one of Schneider's arms, which were supposed to have been restrained, was free. Harry Price concluded that Schneider was utilizing trickery rather than demonstrating telekinesis, and that Osty's experiments could no longer be viewed as scientifically sound.
In a series of mediumship sessions in 1932 which included the researchers and scientists Dr. William Brown, C. E. M. Joad, Professor H. F. Fraser-Harris, Professor J. Alexander Gun and Julian Huxley, no paranormal phenomena was observed in the séance room with Rudi. The zoologist Solly Zuckerman also attended some séance sittings and wrote that the mediumship of Rudi had not passed any scientific tests.
Between October 1933 and March 1934 Rudi was investigated by the Society for Psychical Research in fifty-five sittings and not a single paranormal phenomenon was observed. Infrared ray apparatus was installed by Oliver Gatty working with Theodore Besterman. The experiments proved negative, no telekinetic phenomena of any kind was observed or any absorption of the infrared rays. Every chance was given to Rudi to prove his paranormal abilities but nothing paranormal occurred. Another researcher, Whately Carington had proven by tests that the spirit "Olga" which Rudi channeled in reality was indistinguishable in psychological make-up from himself.
Oliver Gatty and Theodore Besterman who had examined the mediumship of Rudi published a paper in 1934 which concluded there is "no good evidence that Rudi Schneider possesses supernormal powers". There were no more investigations as in his later years Rudi gave up mediumship to become an auto mechanic.
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