In the pretty little hall of the Boulevard des Italiens, at Paris, a striking exhibition of simulated hypnotism is given every evening.

This entertainment, which has met with much success, was devised by Mr. Melies, director of the establishment, which was founded many years ago by the celebrated prestidigitator whose popular name (Robert Houdin) it still bears. This performance carries instruction with it, for it shows how easily the most surprising phenomena of the pathologic state can be imitated. To this effect, several exhibitions are given every evening.

Mr. Harmington, a convinced disciple of Mesmer, asks for a subject, and finds one in the hall. A young artist named Marius presents himself. Mr. Harmington makes him perform all sorts of extravagant acts, accompanied with a continuous round of pantomimes that are rendered the more striking by the supposed state of somnipathy of the subject. At the moment at which Marius is finishing his most extraordinary exercises, a policeman suddenly breaks in upon the stage in order to execute the recent orders relative to hypnotism. But he himself is subjugated by Mr. Harmington and thrown down by the vibrations of which the encephalus of this terrible magnetizer is the center. When the curtain falls, the representative of authority is struggling against the catalepsy that is overcoming him.

All the phenomena of induced sleep are successively simulated with much naturalness by Mr. Jules David, who plays the part of Marius in this pleasing little performance.

At a certain moment, after skillfully simulated passes made by the magnetizer, Mr. David suddenly becomes as rigid as a stick of wood, and falls in pivoting on his heels (Fig. 1). Did not Mr. Harmington run to his assistance, he would inevitably crack his skull upon the floor, but the magnetizer stands just behind him in order to receive him in his arms. Then he lifts him, and places him upon two chairs just as he would do with a simple board. He places the head of the subject upon the seat of one of the chairs and the heels upon that of the other. Mr. David then remains in a state of perfect immobility. Not a muscle is seen to relax, and not a motion betrays the persistence of life in him. The simulation is perfect.


In order to complete the astonishment of the spectators, Mr. Harmington seats himself triumphantly upon the abdomen of the subject and slowly raises his feet and holds them suspended in the air to show that it is the subject only that supports him, without the need of any other point of support than the two chairs (Fig. 2).


Usually, there are plenty of persons ingenuous enough to think that Mr. David is actually in a cataleptic sleep, one of the characters of which is cadaveric rigidity.

As Mr. David's neck is entirely bare, it is not possible to suppose that the simulator of catalepsy wears an iron corset concealed beneath his clothing. He has performed a feat of strength and skill rendered easy by the exercise that he has given to the muscles occupying the colliciae of his vertebral column. This part of the muscular system is greatly developed in the weakest and least hardy persons. In fact, in order that man may keep a vertical position and execute an infinite multitude of motions in which stability is involved, nature has had to give him a large number of different organs. The muscles of the back are arranged upon several superposed layers, the vertebral column is doubly recurved in order that it may have more strength, and, finally, rachidion nerves issue from each vertebra in order to regulate the contraction of each muscular fasciculus according to the requirements of equilibrium. The trick is so easy that we have seen youths belonging to the Ligue d'Education Physique immediately imitate Mr. David after seeing him operate but once.

For the sake of those who would like to perform it, we shall add that Mr. David takes care to bend his body in the form of an arch in such a way that the convexity shall be beneath. As Mr. Harmington never fails to place himself in the center of the line that joins Mr. David's head and heels, his weight is divided into two parts, that is to say, 88 pounds on each side of the point of support. The result is that the stress necessary is less than that of a strong man of the Halle lifting a bag of wheat to his shoulder or of an athlete supporting a human pyramid. The force of contraction of the muscular fibers brought into play in this experiment is much greater than is commonly believed. In his lectures on physiology, Milne-Edwards cites some facts that prove that it may exceed 600 pounds per square inch of section.


The experiment on cadaveric rigidity is followed by others in insensibility. Mr. David, without wincing, allows a poignard to be thrust into his arm, which Mr. Harmington has previously "cataleptized" (Fig. 3). This trick is performed by means of a blade divided into two parts that are connected by a semicircle. This process is well known to prestidigitators, but it might be executed in a genuine manner. In fact, on replacing the poignard by one of the gold needles used by physicians for acupuncture, it would be possible to dispense with prestidigitation. Under such conditions it is possible to transpierce a person's arm. The pain is supportable, and consists in the sensation of a prick produced in the passage of the needle through the skin. As for the muscular flesh, that is of itself perfectly insensible. The needle, upon the necessary antiseptic precautions being taken, may traverse the veins and arteries with impunity, provided that it is not allowed to remain long enough to bring about the formation of a clot of coagulated blood (Fig. 4).


We think it of interest to add that it is necessary that the experiment be performed by a practitioner if one desires to demonstrate upon himself a very curious physiological fact that has been known from the remotest antiquity. It has been employed for several thousand years in Chinese medicine, for opening a passage for the bad spirits that produce diseases. For some years past a much more serious use has been made of it in European medicine for introducing electric currents into the interior of the organism. In this case the perimeter of the needle is insulated, and the electricity flows into the organism through the point. We have several times had these operations performed upon ourselves, and this permits us to assert that the above mentioned facts are absolutely true. - La Nature.