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The Poltergeist Girl Who Amazed the World With Her Powers

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Elenora Zugun had been studied by specialists all around the world, but none were able to give an explanation for her powers

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Photo of Elenora Zugun when she was 7 years old (circa. the 1920s) (Source: Author’s collection)

he early 20th century is mostly remembered for times of war, but there have been so many other events taking place that history books are overseeing today. One of the reasons for this is because there aren’t enough texts written about such stories or events and those who lived to see them have sadly passed away. If you type Elenora Zugun on the web you might not get that much information and this is because this information is presented only in a couple of books, only one of which is written in English.

Elenora Zugun was a girl that came from a small village in Romania known as Talpa from the county of Botosani, the same county I was born in. I was always told stories by my great grandfather about Elenora and how her powers scared the whole village, but later on, when I grew up I thought that this was only a local children’s fairytale. Until one day when I stumbled upon a book entitled “Poltergeist Over England” written by Harry Price in 1945. Within the book, there are accounts of Elenora Zugun and entries from specialists that had been examining her paranormal behavior.

The author was very interested in Elenora’s story as he had done ample research during the 1930s and 1940s. Throughout his research, he had found many accounts from specialists around the world about Elenora and her powers. He even had published reports from 1929 of specialists who had analyzed Elenora in laboratories for years. This drew me towards doing some research of my own by trying to locate Elenora’s family for more information.

However, before I get into more detail here is the story of Elenora Zugun. Elenora was born on the 24th of May, 1913 in a family of peasants represented by most of the Romanian population at the time. All of the elders from the village of Talpa are afraid to speak of Elenora as they think it will awaken back the devil within her, but her nephew who is now 61 years old is the only person who talks about her past.

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Marcel Zugun was the best source of information about Elenora. When she was still alive, Marcel would always ask about her past and how she traveled the world as a small child, but for the wrong reasons. Elenora didn’t really wanna talk about her past, but her nephew kept insisting until she told him what happened.

When Elenora was 7 years old, paranormal activities would occur around the village. She was too small to see it at the time, but anything she would think in her mind would actually occur in the village. All of the villagers were frightened and their first thought based on cultural belief was that a devil had entered the village.

She told me that when she was little she would walk on the road and the rocks would align. Whilst she was inside the house many objects would randomly appear in the house, including rocks from the lake that would smash the windows as they came into the house. One time a hunter had been called by her grandfather to see what was lurking in the attic. When the hunter went up all of the objects started hitting him. Elenora used to get beaten by her older cousin and one time she told him to stop it otherwise he would run naked around the village. Her cousin hit slapped her across the face and later on that day he was seen by the whole village running around naked. (Quote by Marcel Zugun)

Her family did what any family within that region would do and that was to take her to a priest for an exorcism. She was taken by her family and 40 other villagers to a priest who was well known for his ability to fight the demons within people. As soon as Elenora entered the monastery all the windows had shattered. The priest tried everything, but he did not manage to do anything and this is because there was no demon as far as the accounts of specialists such as Harry Price go.

From the accounts of Harry Price, she was first taken to Vienna in September 1925 where German and Austrian physicists started examining her. At the age of 12, she was placed in a mental asylum within the region. She was rescued from there by the Austrian Countess Zoë Wassiliko van Serecki who had a big interest in poltergeists and the study of parapsychology. Whilst she was studied by specialists in Austria, she lived with the Countess in a place where she was examined most of the time.

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Word started to get around as things started to worse in the village of Talpa. This was not a phenomenon to be heard by news agencies in Romania, but all over the world. Fritz Grunewald, a well-known engineer and psychical researcher from Berlin had huge interests in the girl due to all the controversy that took place in the press.

Here is an account from Grunewald when he started examining Elenora:

“I arrived in Vienna on April 30, 1926, and began my observational periods the next day. I found Eleonore to be an intelligent, well-developed, bright girl with a sunny disposition. She was then nearly thirteen years old. Though physically strong and healthy, she was ‘young’ mentally. In many ways, she was more like a girl of eight: her shyness; her extreme fondness for simple toys; her simple games, and childish ways. But she could read and write well and was even something of an artist. She was five feet tall and weighed 123 pounds.”(Account is taken from “Poltergeist Over England” written by Harry Price page 258)

What is very interesting is the simple, yet smart study that had been performed by physician Groenewald which proved that Elenora was truly in possession of some sort of paranormal powers.

“As I watched my hostess examining the join, a steel stiletto with handle, used for opening letters, the whole about ten inches long, shot across the room from behind me and fell against the closed door. I instantly turned round and a minute investigation revealed nothing — and no one — that could have projected the stiletto, which was normally kept on the writing table behind us, against the wall farthest from where we stood. Let me say at once that no one in that room, and certainly not Eleonore, could have thrown the paper-knife. We were at least ten feet from the table; I had both Eleonore and the Countess in full view. Eleonore had one half of the ball in her right hand, and the gun in her left; the Countess had the other half of the ball in her hand, and I was actually watching both my hostess and the child; the stiletto came from behind and to the right of us, and I was between the missile and the door. It was a brilliant introductory phenomenon.” (Account is taken from “Poltergeist Over England” written by Harry Price page 259)

Austrian Countess Zoë Wassiliko van Serecki with Eleonore Zugun and Harry Price in London in 1926 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

There have been many other similar tests performed by different specialists. During the next following years, Elenora was taken to labs in Germany and then to London for another couple of months. There had even been an old article written around that time by a publication called “Sunday Mail” from Brisbane, Australia. The article mentioned that one day when Elenora was served tea in the lab she dropped the cup of tea and screamed as if she was hurt. Suddenly a bite mark appeared on her hand as if she was viciously bitten by something although everyone was there the whole time.

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Elenora’s face and her hand’s before and after the incident in 1929 (Source: Author’s collection)

The bite marks on her hand disappeared an hour later as if nothing had happened. I must mention that some of the things that have happened could be made up by news agencies as it was quite a hot topic at the time. In 1927 she was moved to London to be examined by specialists over there. They even wrote a journal full of the different examinations that they had done on her.

Within the journal, they even describe in better detail the bite marks which would occur quite often. They believed it was the devil within her trying to maltreat her by inflicting pain through bites.

Proceedings of the Nat. Lab. Of Psy. Research, Vol. I, Part 1, London, Jan. 1927 contents page (Source: HarryPrice)

“The fall of the franc was the first telekinetic phenomenon of Eleonore’s witnessed at the Laboratory, concerning which I was absolutely satisfied. The falling of the coin off a ledge may be a simple movement, but for this movement to take place automatically by mechanical means would require fairly elaborate apparatus which could not be rendered invisible. I could fill many pages with accounts of the phenomena we witnessed, under scientific conditions, during Eleonore’s stay in London. (1) Her visit caused the greatest interest among scientists and others who attended many of the observational periods, and those whom I invited included: Dr. R. J. Tillyard, F.R.S., Mr. W. R. Bousfield, F.R.S., Mr. Edward Heron-Allen, F.R.S., Professor William McDougall, F.R.S., Professor Hans Thirring (who travelled specially from Vienna in order to see our experiments), the Hon. Everard Feilding, Professor A. O. Rankine, F.R.S., Dr. Thea. B. Hyslop, late chief of Bethlehem Hospital, the London mental asylum, and many more. If the ‘Poltergeist’ phenomena were interesting, her stigmata were equally puzzling, and they deserve a chapter to themselves. Eleonore had an idée fixe that Dracu — the Rumanian Devil — used to bite and otherwise maltreat her — an obsession that we tried to eradicate, without success. The painful weals, teethmarks and scarifyings that she experienced were more than a match for our logic.” (Account from Proceedings of the Nat. Lab. Of Psy. Research, Vol. I, Part 1, London, Jan. 1927)

Researchers from around the world, especially in America were interested in studying her, but everyone had to wait their turn. In 1928 when Elenora became 15, her powers disappeared without any sort of treatment or action. She became a normal adolescent and therefore she was sent back home to her village as there was nothing left to examine.

Scientists didn’t want to believe that there was truly a devil controlling her as the Romanian culture kept saying, they wanted a more scientific reason. They tried to analyze her powers from a Parapsychological point of view which combined the psychology of paranormal activity with psychic phenomenons. This is a study that had been invented in the 19th century and is still researched today.

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Academics within the field started re-evaluating Elenora’s examinations in 1999. The re-evaluation is presented in The Journal of Parapsychology (Vol. 63, Issue 1) in which it had been argued by Peter Mulacz that the disappearance of her powers could have been caused by the long period of constant examination. It was also mentioned that this could actually be an RSPK case (recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis) which is used to explain in more scientific terms cases of poltergeists.

The question that is probably in most people’s minds is if this is actually true. Based on the accounts written by reputable institutions and well-respected researchers from their own fields I believe it is, especially seeing the fear within elders from the Talpa village when hearing the name Elenora Zugun. Elenora passed away in 1996 yet the story of her vivid life still lives on.

History

The “Hell on Earth” Discovered by Soldiers at Bergen-Belsan Concentration Camp

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Rare photos depict the true atrocities of death camps from World War II

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A young survivor walks along a road lined by the corpses of hundreds of prisoners who died at the Bergen-Belsen camp, in May 1945 (Source: George Rodger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image)
Lieutenant John Randall (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
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Location of Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz on the Western Front
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A young survivor walks along a road lined by the corpses of hundreds of prisoners who died at the Bergen-Belsen camp, in May 1945 (Source: George Rodger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image)
Ian Forsyth joined the army in 1942 as part of the 1st reconnaissance Regiment at Lockerbie (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Allied soldiers were greeted with a sea of bodies and mass graves as they arrived to liberate the camp in 1945 (Source: Imperial War Museum)
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A bulldozer pushing bodies into the grave at Bergen-Belsen on 17/04/1945 (Source: Imperial War Museum)
More emaciated bodies are piled in one of the many shallow graves that surrounded the camp, located in northern Germany at Bergen-Belsan in 1945 (Source: SWNS)
Horrifying: Some of the dead were piled up in rows in the forest on the outskirts of the camp (Source: SWNS)
As a crowd of people watch on, British troops burn the buildings to the ground. These never-before-seen images were captured by Reverend Charles Martin King Parsons in 1945 (Source: SWNS)
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History

The Short, Strange Saga of American Colonies in Cuba

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Or: what happens when a bunch of Minnesota Swedes move to the tropics?

An American “pineapple patch” in La Gloria, Cuba, circa 1900 (public domain)

The United States has, of course, had a long history of meddling in Cuban affairs. At various points, Americans flirted with annexing the island as a slave state, invaded it in 1898, retained the Guantanamo military base as American soil, manipulated Cuban politics, launched an invasion at the Bay of Pigs, almost started World War III over Soviet missiles, repeatedly tried to assassinate Fidel Castro, and imposed a crippling economic embargo on the island that has outlasted the actual Cold War by three decades.

In the middle of all this, just after the Spanish-American War, thousands of Americans settled in Cuba. They formed over 80 colonies on the island, turning parts of the tropical Caribbean into little outposts of Nebraska or New Hampshire.

Americans got the opportunity to snap up land in Cuba in the early twentieth century largely because of their country’s invasion of the country in 1898. Though the U.S. had ostensibly fought the Spanish-American War to help Cuba become independent from Spain, the war created conditions that made Cuba ripe for American involvement after the fighting was over.

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The American invasion had disrupted the Cuban economy, and land records were a mess when the Americans took charge on the island (the U.S. occupied Cuba between 1898 and 1902, and then again between 1906 and 1909). Many landowners had sunk so deep into debt that they were willing to sell their land at any price. Americans surveyed the island and threw out any claims to land that they felt were spurious. American businessmen constructed a new railroad that stretched from east to west on the island, which made newly-available land seem like an excellent investment to Americans, who envisioned growing produce and shipping it back to the States. Many of the Americans who moved there expected that the United States would soon annex Cuba.

The Cuba Railroad Company and other large landowners on the island advertised the idea of living in paradise to Americans. A steamship company that ferried passengers from New York to eastern Cuba promised,

Cuba is an ‘all-the-year-round’ country. There is no unproductive season. There is no snow, no frost, no time when vegetation refuses to grow or to bear fruit, no month when livestock must be housed and cared for.

It sounded like paradise, and pitches like this attracted tens of thousands of Americans.

Americans on their front porch in the town of McKinley on the Isle of Pines (public domain)

Americans especially flooded to the Isle of Pines (now known as Isla de la Juventud), a large island to the south of Havana. The initial treaties at the end of the Spanish-American War left it unclear whether the island would become part of Cuba or end up under American jurisdiction. Opportunistic Americans rushed to occupy the island in order to create facts on the ground.

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Within a few years of the war, Americans owned at least 95% of the island. The Americans later lobbied the American government to formally acquire the island, publishing a 1916 pamphlet called “Isle of Pines: American or What?” The pamphlet extolled the island’s

magnificent climate, its modern businesses and financial institutions, schools, churches, &c; its thousands of acres of citrous(sic) fruit, pineapples, and vegetables… And still we must plead for recognition by the United States, our parent Government.

The Isle of Pines eventually housed at least 2,000 American residents, a number at least equal to the number of pinieros, the island’s Cuban inhabitants. These settlers established English-speaking schools, towns, and newspapers.

These settlers were disappointed when the United States finally ratified the Hay-Quesada Treaty in 1925, which gave the island back to Cuba. Though the treaty had been negotiated in 1903, pressure from the Isle of Pines’ American residents slowed the Senate’s ratification processes, as settlers made pleas like this 1924 letter:

American settlers have been subject to an unlawful, most humiliating and unbearable de facto Cuban Government for over 20 years. Many have lost faith and left; some died in despair, and a great majority are holding on to their property in the firm belief and faith that our Government will live up to its representations that the ‘Isle of Pines is United States Territory.’

After the treaty’s ratification, the number of American settlers on the Isle of Pines declined to a few hundred. Some settlers left because they weren’t as economically successful as they had expected; large hurricanes in 1917 and 1926 hastened their economic problems. Others left because they didn’t want to live under a Cuban government. The Isle of Pines subsequently became best known for housing Cuba’s most notorious prison.

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The remains of the American Methodist church in Omaja (public domain)

Americans didn’t just flock to the disputed territory of the Isle of Pines. As many as 44,000 Americans emigrated to Cuba between 1903 and 1919. Many came and went quickly, but between 10,000 and 20,000 Americans seem to have put down roots on the island. Many of these Americans formed colonies where they could speak English and maintain a version of American culture.

The biggest of the American settlements, La Gloria, a town of 1,000 residents, was built on a lie. Just after the Spanish-American War, the Cuba Land and Steamship Company advertised and sold plots in a neatly-laid-out town called La Gloria. When settlers got to the island, they found nothing of the sort; their “town” was a mangrove swamp. Many of them simply turned around and went home, but enough stayed to create a real town, surrounded by sugarcane and citrus farms in La Gloria. La Gloria eventually became a thriving small town.

A group of Swedish-Americans from Minnesota fled the cold climate of the upper midwest to establish the town of Bayate in southeastern Cuba. The Swedish Land and Colonization Company advertised cheap trips ($45!) to Cuba, hoping to convince Minnesotans to establish permanent residence on the island. Many of the Swedish-American settlers were people who had become dissatisfied with life in the upper midwest, which they had discovered to their horror was even more unpleasant than the frigid nation they had emigrated from.

Another of the colonies, Omaja (pronounced like the city in Nebraska, get it?), involved similarly big dreams that didn’t come true. Chicago’s Cuba Land, Loan, and Title Guarantee Company bought and deforested 12,000 acres, starting in 1903. They hoped to get 1,400 families to live in the town — in homes modeled on those in the midwest — with many others occupying small farms and large citrus plantations around it.

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Omaja never quite reached the heights that its founders dreamed of, but it did house over 250 Americans by 1915 or so. It eventually had a number of churches, stores, a barbershop, a school, and social clubs for the American men and women. The surrounding plantations were more successful, becoming major producers of grapefruits and oranges.

The American colonies in Cuba were briefly successful, but almost all of them were in steep decline by the end of the 1920s. Several factors caused the American colonies to decline in the years after World War I.

As we saw on the Isle of Pines, a number of hurricanes devastated American farms. La Gloria, for example, was home a thousand Americans until a 1932 hurricane destroyed much of the area, causing many of the Americans to return back to the states.

American tariffs, along with periodic bans of Cuban fruit because of invasive fruit flies, squeezed the American farmers in Cuba. Many of those who had dreamed of easy riches farming tropical plants in paradise, had to return to America disappointed and broke.

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The American colonies also got caught up in the political turmoil of early twentieth-century Cuba. When a political faction called the Liberals rose up to oppose an election they had deemed fraudulent in 1917, they clashed with government troops. One of their major battles happened in Omaja. Several plantations were burned, and the railroad that serviced the area was damaged, meaning that farmers couldn’t export their fruit for a year. Liberal soldiers also attacked La Gloria as part of the same conflict. An earlier episode of civil unrest, this one along racial lines, led to the death of one of the Swedish-American settlers in 1912. Investment from the U.S. dried up because the area was deemed “unsafe,” and many of the Minnesotans went back home.

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