Schneider, Willi and Rudi

Schneider, Willi (1903–1971) and Rudi (1908–1957)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Willi and Rudi Schneider were from Braunau in Upper Austria. Their father was a linotype compositor. They were physical mediums discovered by Baron Albert von Schrenk-Notzing, who tested them under stringent conditions and in the presence of a number of scientists. They had two brothers, Hans and Karl, who also had some slight psychic ability, and two other brothers who had none.

Willi was born in 1903. His spirit guide was named Olga Lintner. His mediumship began when he was sixteen, while the family was working a planchette. When Willi’s hand was simply held over the planchette without actually touching it, the little platform moved by itself and spelled out words. In response to the question “Who is there?” it wrote, “Olga.” Initially the spirit said she was also Lola Montez (Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert), the celebrated mistress of King Ludwig of Bavaria. She had died in 1861. However, after this initial contact there was no further mention of that personality and Olga continued.

At various family séances, Willi would fall into a trance and various phenomena were observed.

Olga would speak through him, objects moved without being physically touched, and ectoplasmic formations were observed. A retired Austrian warship commander named Fritz Kogelnik learned of Willi’s abilities and, becoming convinced that they were genuine, introduced the boy to Dr. Albert von Schrenck-Notzing. Notzing in turn brought Willi to the Psychological Institute of the University of Munich, where he was tested by a group of doctors and scientists. All were favorably impressed. They worked with Willi between December 3, 1921, and July 1, 1922. Before a séance, the room would be carefully searched. Then Willi would be examined, sometimes being dressed in new clothes and sewn into the garments. Luminous bracelets were placed around his wrists and a number of luminous pins were attached to various points on his clothes, so that any movement could be seen, even in the dark. He sat outside a cabinet with a person on each side holding his hands and a third person immediately in front of him keeping Willi’s legs firmly between his own. Objects to be moved psychokinetically were placed in a mesh cage. Despite these precautions, the results were positive, with many objects moved and with ectoplasm taking form. Von Schrenck-Notzing published the results in his book Experimente der Fernbewegung (1924).

In 1922, at Notzing’s invitation, Harry Price and Dr. Eric John Dingwall (then research officer for the Society for Psychical Research in London) attended some sittings with Willi. Tables were moved, a handbell was rung, and a handkerchief and a bracelet were levitated. However, there was no ectoplasm. But both men signed statements attesting to the genuineness of the phenomena.

Willi wanted to become a dentist and moved to Vienna to study. There he lived with Dr. E. Holub, a psychiatrist and head of a large mental hospital in Stienhof. On Dr. Holub’s death in 1924, séances were begun again, witnessed by university professors. Later in the year Willi and Dr. Holub’s widow traveled to London at the invitation of the Society for Psychical Research and gave twelve sittings, from November 12 to December 13, 1924, on the society’s premises. In Dingwall’s report in the society’s Proceedings he said, “The only phenomena clearly observed were telekinetic … the only reasonable hypothesis which covers the facts is that some supernormal agency produced the results.”

Willi’s abilities gradually diminished until one day Olga stated that his brother Rudi was a much more powerful medium and she wished to work with him from then on. The boys’ mother protested that Rudi was too young but, at that moment, the door opened and Rudi walked in as though sleepwalking. Olga spoke through him and Willi then developed another personality named Mina. Olga remained with Rudi for the rest of his life.

Anita Gregory wrote in Man, Myth & Magic (1970),

Rudi was one of the most exhaustively investigated and carefully controlled mediums of all time. Apart from giving hundreds of sittings under more or less informal conditions in and about his home town of Braunau, Rudi was investigated over a number of years and with increasingly strict controls by Schrenck-Notzing in Munich. He trained him from boyhood as a “scientific medium,” that is, one willing to accept any and every control and whatever test conditions the experimenters demanded. Rudi, according to the evidence of his investigators, never refused any condition imposed by researchers. The phenomena were similar to those reported in connection with Willi: the most frequent and best attested were movements of objects, whilst among the earlier phenomena, not often subsequently observed, were visible materializations. Levitations of the whole body of the medium were also reported, principally in the home circle, but also by Schrenck-Notzing and some of his medical and scientific collaborators.

Rudi was born July 27, 1908. His first independent séance was held in November, 1919, at Braunau, where the materialization of a small hand was observed. Rudi’s career was checkered; he was charged with fraud on several occasions, yet on other occasions produced unusual interference of a complex system of infrared radiation. This infrared was intended to detect any physical interference. But the interference detected turned out to be produced by the spirit Olga, who would state that she was going to “go into the rays” and then would set off the alarm bells, flashlights, and other paraphernalia that had been carefully arranged as an anti-fraud precaution. These invisible intrusions by Olga were recorded in experiments in Paris, with Dr. Eugene Osty in 1930 and 1931, and in London, at the University of London Observatory and the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in 1932. However, a number of charges of fraud were brought against Rudi, though none of them proven. One such was published in Psyche, the German Spiritualist monthly magazine, in April, 1927. In the article, Warren Jay Vinton charged Rudi with fraud through confederacy. The article made a stir and Baron von Schrenck-Notzing decided to investigate and settle the matter. He arranged an elaborate investigation that was to take place in 1929, in Herr Krall’s laboratory, using a system of partly electrical and partly tactual control. Unfortunately, early in 1929 both Krall and Schrenck-Notzing died.

Harry Price made arrangements for Rudi to visit the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in London in 1929. Karl Amereller, an electrician, installed a special indicator for the investigation. A number of electrical contacts were made so that if there was any movement of the medium’s arms or legs, colored lights that were illuminated would go out. In the experiments, Harry Price himself controlled Rudi’s hands and feet. The first séances were held April 12–22, 1929, with a second series lasting from November 14 until January 20, 1930. Harry Price described the results in his book Rudi Schneider: A Scientific Examination of His Mediumship (1930), “The fact remains that Rudi has been subjected to the most merciless triple control ever imposed upon a medium in this or any other country and has come through the ordeal with flying colors. The genuineness of the phenomena produced in his London séances has impressed nearly one hundred persons, including scientists, doctors, business men, professional magicians, journalists, etc.” A wide variety of phenomena were experienced with much of it taking place inside the cabinet while Rudi was sitting outside. Well known stage magician Will Goldston said that a whole group of prestidigitators working under the same conditions could not have produced the same phenomena.

After the experiments, Harry Price, on behalf of the Council of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, presented Rudi Schneider with a certificate attesting to his mediumship. Price said, “If the Laboratory issued a gold medal or a diploma for genuine mediumship under our own scientific conditions, we should have no hesitation in awarding it to Rudi.” In October and November, 1930, Rudi sat at the French Institut Métapsychique with similar results and reactions: at the end of ninety sittings the Institut presented him with a gift of 5,000 francs in recognition of his mediumship.

In later years, Rudi’s mediumship diminished. He eventually became an auto mechanic and married Mitzi Mangl. He died of a stroke on April 28, 1957, at Wyer, Austria.

Sources:

Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Gregory, Anita: Man, Myth & Magic: Schneider Brothers. London: BPC Publishing, 1970
Gregory, Anita: The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1985
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992
Price, Harry: Rudi Schneider. London: Methuen, 1930
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