What was the healing touch of a magical wand?

The physician claimed to be curing people of illness and conditions by the study of stars and the use of magnets.

A mysterious event happened in France in the last quarter of the 1700s. When our own Benjamin Franklin was American ambassador to France, he was called upon to lead a blue ribbon panel of unusual purpose. An offshoot of the existing French Academy of Sciences, the special panel was set up at the instigation of King Louis XVI who wanted to get to the bottom of a craze that was sweeping the country. Louis was convinced something was squirrelly was going on.

A Viennese physician, Franz Anton Mesmer claimed to be curing people of illness and conditions by the study of stars and the use of magnets. He even devised a battery that consisted of a huge metallic container, with rods protruding it. The patients of Dr. Mesmer were wealthy and some notable. They paid handsomely for the cures. When Mesmer moved some of his practice to Paris in 1779 to get a wider audience, they included: Marie Antoinette, the Marquis de Lafayette, the Duc de Bourbon, and a long list of aristocrats.

His healings involved some theatre. He wore a lilac cape, waved a wand. His early treatments involved passing magnets over the afflicted as he had learned from an Austrian royal astronomer and Jesuit priest, Maximillian Hell. As his methods advanced, he required his patients to sit around the large tub, a homemade battery and grasp the rods protruding from it.

To make the charges coming from the tub more effective, beautiful piano music was produced by a player in the corner of the room. The pianist must have gotten a good show as the patients cried, laughed, and had little trembling fits as Mesmer touched them again with his magical wand and stared into their eyes with spellbinding effectiveness.

His practice of Animal Magnetism was copied by wily practitioners all over Europe, and clients continued to pay their money for what may have been the placebo effect.

The blue-ribbon panel denounced his cures as pure imagination. This firm denouncement did not deter the popularity of his treatments and séances but the French Revolution interrupted them. A wise Mesmer fled to England. His shaky reputation had preceded him and his treatments not tolerated there. He fled once again to his old haunts in Vienna where he eventually died of old age in 1815.

His medical treatments were forgotten, but his name was not. To mesmerize no longer has any kind of medical attachment, it instead means to hypnotize, which he seemed to be able to do quite well.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Dark Continent Continental. Please click HERE to find the mystery on Amazon.

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