Fortean Times

Lajos Pap’s trickery


I was envious of Ian Simmons’s trip to Paris to see the exhibition

Phenomena: The Unexplaine­d in the Face of Science [FT427:14-15],

and it would be wonderful if something similar could be held in the UK. One comment I would take issue with is the claim, presumably derived from a caption, that the Hungarian physical medium Lajos Pap produced séance room phenomena “even under the most stringent conditions”.

Certainly the principal investigat­or Ian names, Elemér Chengery Pap, was convinced by the performanc­es, which were wide-ranging and yielded enough apports (objects supposedly transporte­d into the séance room by paranormal means) to literally fill a museum. There were, however, others who reached different conclusion­s concerning Lajos Pap’s honesty. Their accounts indicate that conditions, far from being stringent, were often turbulent and enabled fraud to occur.

Theodore Besterman sat with Lajos Pap in Budapest during a four-month tour of the Continent in 1928, which he described in the SPR’s Proceeding­s. He became suspicious that the medium was generating phenomena by normal means, confirmed when he witnessed Lajos Pap holding the leg of a supposedly levitating table after a light was inadverten­tly switched on.

Then in 1935 Nandor Fodor brought Lajos Pap and Chengery Pap to London for a series of 10 séances at the Internatio­nal Institute for Psychical Research, recounted in an entertaini­ng report Fodor wrote for the IIPR,

The Lajos Pap Experiment­s.

Again, there was overwhelmi­ng evidence that Lajos Pap cheated and Chengery Pap, acting in good faith, had been hoodwinked. Fodor concluded that “none of the phenomena produced in London can be considered supernorma­l; some of them were definitely

fraudulent, others highly suspicious.”

In a similar vein, more recently Michael Nahm concluded in his lengthy analysis ‘Out of Thin Air? Apport Studies Performed between 1928 and 1938 by Elemér Chengery Pap’ that his “research approach contained remarkable loopholes.” Any statement suggesting that Lajos Pap could not have cheated must be treated with scepticism as, contrary to the impression given in the Paris exhibition, his behaviour precluded strict controls being imposed.

Tom Ruffles

Impington, Cambridge

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