An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies
Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z
Zancig, Julius & Agnes (J. Jörgensen & A. Claussen, 1857-1929 & ?-1916; also, Ada) The Zancigs were a married Danish couple who performed a two-person act which was basically an advanced development of the “second sight” act. Agnes was a hunchback with black, piercing eyes and Julius was tall and darkly handsome. They billed the act as “Two Minds with but One Single Thought,” which was a clever dodge that did not, strictly speaking, claim telepathy.
In their time, the Zancigs caused as much excitement and controversy with the press, scientists, and the public as any claimed psychic matter has ever enjoyed. A major British newspaper publisher, Lord Northcliffe, used the power of the Daily Mail to influence opinion in favor of telepathy that he believed took place between Julius and Agnes. He was totally convinced that they possessed mysterious psychic powers.
As with most such two-person acts, the “receiver” (Agnes) would sit on the stage blindfolded, while the “sender” (Julius) wandered about the audience accepting objects, written words, and small documents from members of the audience. Agnes would describe, apparently by telepathy, the appearance of the objects and details from the written material handled by Julius. A great deal of training, study, and practice was necessary in order to do this act, which had nothing to do with ESP of any sort.
Sir Oliver Lodge, the very prominent British scientist, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the equally famous creator of the fictional Sherlock Holmes, witnessed the Zancig team in operation and declared them genuine because they had no idea of how the trick might have been worked. These two gentlemen also believed in the popular spirit mediums of their day, for essentially the same reason.
Just as the Zancigs were at the top of their form, Agnes died. Julius was genuinely attached to her, and his grief at losing the mate who had spent so many long years developing the very difficult and sophisticated methods by which they communicated was profound. He eventually remarried, this time to a Brooklyn schoolteacher named Ada. She was a confirmed spiritualist, and though she managed to learn the rudiments of the act, she was extremely shy and ashamed to face the audience with a blatantly fake act. For that reason, she performed with her head down and in a barely audible voice.
Seeing that Ada was unsuitable as a partner, Julius sought for another, and found Paul Vucci, a young man who was to eventually become an outstanding sleight-of-hand nightclub performer under the name Paul Rosini. Though Paul (who was called Henry in the act) was very proficient as a partner, the problem was that he was just draft age in 1917 and was about to become Uncle Sam's involuntary partner. Julius was fortunate enough to happen upon a thirteen-year-old youth named David Bamberg, who dropped into the position neatly for a while. (Bamberg went on to become a famous conjuror, touring with an oriental act in South America as Fu Manchu.)
Eventually Ada went back into service with Julius, but in his later years he, too, apparently began to accept spiritualism and spent much time at séances. The public enthusiasm for the Zancigs faded, and the act was soon working at carnivals and in cheap tent shows. To the dismay of his colleagues, Julius dedicated more and more of his time to belief in “real” psychic claims, and finally died in very impoverished circumstances in 1929.
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Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.
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