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Monday, November 11, 2013

Florizel von Reuter's "Additor" & "Hesperus"

I'm fortunate to have my pal Marc covering my ass. 

There's no one more passionate about not only the preservation of data, but the sharing of that data than Mr. Demarest, and it is one of my great joys in life to receive snippets and hints from him in my inbox that lead me toward incredibly fruitful chases. No wild geese here--only golden, egg-laying ones. 

The Direct Voice, August, 1930

Marc's endless hunt for obscure esoterica to add to our ever-increasing digital library of occult knowledge brought a couple of exceedingly rare issues of The Direct Voice into his brief possession for digitizing, and the result is another previously-unknown contribution to the world of talking boards. 

I saw the inside cover of the September issue first, and there, in all its glory, was evidence of a new, hitherto unknown artifact: the "Additor," offered by the Direct Voice's publisher, Sunshine Publishing Company, which is most likely the enterprise of Dr. Henry J. Smythe, and not to be confused with the later Sunshine Publishing Company of "Solaire Universelle Nudisme (SUN)"--a magazine for nudists--fame, who's right-to-distribute Supreme Court decision paved the way for High Hefner's Playboy, Larry Flynt's Hustler, and countless other purveyors of pornography and, errrr...articles. 


An immediate frustration appeared right there in the September issue: it tantalizingly says, right there, that there's an article "last issue" regarding the device. I frantically switched windows to see what the only other surviving issue sent to me was. August! YES!

Unfortunately, the August issue contains the exact same ad (only in a baby-shit green cover--nice!) with the exact same promise of an article in the preceding issue, so, unless more issues came to light that finally cover the period that von Reuter's article actually does appear (not likely, warned Marc), I was afraid he would have to stay silent on the matter for the time being.

Boy, was I wrong. Turns out Florizel has a LOT to say on the Additor. About 3 novels worth, in fact.

Any readers who are fans of classical music may already know Florizel von Reuter. He was a child prodigy violinist, born in America, raised there as well as in London and Switzerland, and graduated from Europe's venerable and famed music conservatory, the Conservatoire de musique de Genève, at the ripe old age of 11 (though he later claimed 9). He was an acclaimed performer in his day (take a listen), and toured America and Europe extensively in his teenage years and beyond, though his early career was interrupted by the Great War. His talent as a performer and composer was widely recognized, and Sir Conan Doyle said of his concerts in Great Britain: "He appeared unsupported twenty times in the largest halls of London, and he gave eighty-five concerts in the provinces: He also appeared three times in Buckingham Palace before Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII."

Florizel in 1901, aged 11, and an advertisement for a tour stop at Boston's Chickering Hall  the following year.
In June 1925, von Reuter became interested in spirit communication after attending his first séance. By his own account, this interest was sparked with a visit to the San Diego home of Lyman Gage--President McKinley's former Secretary of Treasure--who occasionally hosted séances in his home. Gage was an accomodating host to the famous musician, but apparently much less so to the mediums whom he hired to lead his family's sessions: Florizel reports such fraud-busting tests as Gage filling the palms of the medium's hands with flour, her mouth with purple grape juice, draping her in fishnet, and the requisite arm and leg binding. 

Gage spared Florizel's witness of such controls for his first séance, however, and the attending trumpet medium, Mrs. Stella White, "simply sat on a stool in the middle of the room. with two aluminium trumpets on the floor before her" before producing "spirit-voices," "spirit-lights," "spirit-hands," along with the expected trumpet manifestations and personal revelations of the 10 people assembled.

Von Reuter--his mother's faced obscured by spirits--and a few extra "friends."
Von Reutuer remained somewhat dubious of the produced phenomenon, though was struck with the personal knowledge the medium displayed regarding both he and his mother, particularly when the voice of the spirit of the great violinist Paganini--whose musical heir Florizel was largely thought to be--issued forth from the trumpet in fluent Italian. 

Florizel then began investigations into the psychic sciences, seeking out mediums and clairvoyants wherever he traveled, where he was always impressed with the knowledge the spirits exhibited of him, particularly when he assumed he was incognito, famous violinist though he be. He also posed for numerous spirit photographs with good results. But soon, he returned to Europe and his explorations went briefly dormant.

Florizel's beloved mother and medium, Grace von Reuter.
But while staying at the castle of an anonymous Count in northern Germany, "in the heart of a great pine and beech forest," Florizel and his mother encountered the device that would change his life. He visited the apothecary at the nearby village, and happened upon "herr apotheker" poring over a book on the occult. The two struck up a conversation on topics esoteric, and the pharmacist revealed his "wife had recently became the possessor of a psychical apparatus that gives such remarkable messages that I feel impelled to study the subject."

His wife was soon called in, revealing the device to Florizel. It is described as:

"a board of polished wood about twelve inches long by five wide. Along the upper half of the long side of this board the alphabet was printed, [other passages describe "Ja" and "Nein" as the printed affirmative and negative] in addition to numerals up to ten, and the German phrase, ''Gott zum Gruss '' (Greeting in the name of God). With this simple board went a peculiar little round hollow box with a pointer protruding from it. According to the apothecary, if one put this box, hollow side down, on the lower half of the board, turning the [little black] pointer towards the letters, and then placed the tips of one's fingers on the smooth top, the box would soon begin to move automatically and messages of the most complicated character would be forthcoming. ''Oh, yes," thought I skeptically,''just another kind of ouija-board or planchette.""

If the last sentence is not indication enough, Florizel had no small amount of disdain for the Ouija, and he stated his distaste explicitly: "I have never been interested, even superficially, in the ouija-board. Its little easily moved three-legged table that jumps about over the big board encircling latter after letter has always seemed to me much more likely to be guided unintentionally by the operator than by any spirit force."

That's a burn.

According to his further descriptions (for our sharp-eyed readers to discover, of course, and come running back to me!), the device's instructions were pasted around the outer perimeter of the "hollow box." The indicator is what fascinated von Reuter more than anything. The explanatory text indicated "it had a much
deeper significance than anything connected with the well-known ouija-board, the box being, in fact, an "Od-collector,"
" with "Od," of course, referring to
Reichenbach's vital life energy later harvested by George Lucas for his Force.

Despite his distaste for the Ouija, Florizel was incredibly smitten by this take on the talking board. The hollow box operated under the same theories as mediums' cabinets, concentrating the Odic force and ectoplasm necessary for spirit manifestation. "This Hesperus idea appealed to me. The fingertips pressing lightly on top of the receiver; the electro-magnetic force flowing into the vacuum of the hollow box; the concentrated force propelling the box: there was something logical, scientific, about this consequential result that gripped my common sense." This indicator had its own name: "Hesperus" (Evening Star), while the board was dubbed the "Additor" (Italian for "indicating with the finger"). The pasted instructions dubbed it the "most authentic bridge between the Earth and the Hereafter," and Florizel immediately sought out the device's inventor.

As it turns out, the inventor, a "poor old scientist," lived in a village just an hour's drive from the castle where Florizel was then residing. His name was Paul Schwenke, and as von Reuter specifically mentions that he had "invented other things and been awarded several gold medals in different countries for his inventions," it is very likely it is the same Schwenke, "a subject of the Duke of Anhalt, residing at Zerbst, in the Dukedom of Anhalt, German Empire" responsible for the 1889 electric lock patent in the US

Revealed at last: Florizel transcribes his blindfolded mother's Additor communications, 1926.
Florizel purchased a set of the communication devices and returned to his mother, where they initially obtained few and disappointing results. "It seemed as if our bodies were entirely devoid of the mysterious force from which mediumistic phenomenon emanate, so that we could not charge the little box. We were almost ready to throw the whole apparatus away when suddenly things began to happen." 

Additor detail
Indeed, things certainly happened. With his mother acting as the medium,  the "Hesperus floated from one end of the board to the other, stopping at different letters en route, my mother became conscious of a peculiar impelling force which caused the box to glide and stop, although her fingertips were barely touching it." The communications were varied, and oftentimes came in reverse script, and in various languages. As hurriedly scribbled by Florizel, the very first communique read:

h c i e z t u h c s h c i e n o h
c s h c i e t h c a  b o e b h c i e n r a
w h c i e t a r h c i e h c a w n e b e i
s n e t h c i l f p e b a h h c i...etc, etc

The inverted German would read: "Ich habe pflichten sieben wache ich
rate ich warne ich beobachte ich schone ich schutze ich
" or, translated: ''I guard, I protect, I observe, I warn, I advise, I watch. Seven duties have I." Eventually, the board's primary guiding spirit would reveal itself, a formerly "Latin and Catholic" entity called Euphrosyne--the saint, the couple surmised. 

A solicitation for von Reuter's 1931 book of spirit communications: A Musician's Talks with Unseen Friends
Thus began the communications that would not only conjure messages from a who's who of famously dead classical musicians, including Paganini and Pablo de Sarasate, the late Professor Heinrich Barth of Berlin, and Joseph Joachim, among many, many others. In fact, over three novels worth of communications followed, the first published with a foreword by Sir Conan Doyle (with whom Florizel corresponded and visited frequently) as The Psychic Experiences of a Musician (in Search of Truth) in 1928, its shorter predecessor The Hesperus Additor: Planchette Experiences in 1927, its sequel The Consoling Angel following in 1930, and A Musician's Talks with Unseen Friends in 1931, as well as assorted other essays. He also participated in some of Baron von Schrenck-Notzing's investigations of the Austrian mediums, the brothers Rudi and Willi Schneider, in the late 1920s. Eventually, Florizel gave up his psychic investigations and refocused full-time on music, dying after a decade's worth of "farewell" concerts in 1985 after a long and fruitful life.

Investigating the Schneider Brothers at Baron von Schrenck-Notzing's estate. Von Reuter not pictured.
Florizel von Reuter's records of the spirit communications received by his mother and transcribed by him make fascinating reading, if nothing more for the dedication and enthusiasm the pair had for their experiments with the Hesperus and Additor. The writings have become the gift-that-keeps-on-giving for a device researcher such as myself, and include an account of another device previously-unknown device we'll be investigating in an upcoming post.

It's actually kind of funny we didn't know all about this before. While digital editions of von Reuter's work aren't available (God bless the HRC!), there was already ample evidence in the public eye of this board's existence. There's a shot of the device in use on the youtube video posted above, for example, and Florizel's wikipedia page even mentions the Additor and his work with it, for crying out loud. Sometimes, these things are just hiding there, right in front of you, eluding discovery by the right researcher concealed in plain sight.  

As for the Additor and its Hesperus indicator, we know some reached American shores. The Sunshine Publishing Company advertised that they imported "only a few sets" from Germany, if the ad's claims are correct, and likely at the insistence of the Additor's biggest fan and Direct Voice contributor, Florizel himself. No known specimens have appeared, but we do know what to look for, between von Reuter's detailed descriptions and the picture that gives us some indication. Unfortunately, the little village where my research indicates inventor Paul Schwenke lived was flattened by Allied bombs in WWII, so it seems the possibility of finding one at the source is highly unlikely, and it is unknown how popular the device was in its homeland. As always, eyes open, true believers!

1 comment:

  1. Bravo bravo misimo..brillant excursion..many thank yous..the additor will appear if we summons it in the proper spirit