Edison’s Secret Powerhouse: A Buried Medium


Electrifying charges against Thomas Edison by a German pastor in 1907, but with some surprisingly modern conspiracy theory elements:

Power From Buried Woman

German Savant, in Note to President, Makes Queer Charges Against Thomas A. Edison

[Boston Herald.]

An astounding protest against universal “electrification and magnetization,” as practiced by “Edison and the men behind him,” with the aid of a woman medium buried alive, to the immediate injury of the United States and the eventual ruin of the world, has just been addressed to President Roosevelt by Paul Schultze, a Prussian “pastor emeritus,” who lives in the town of Putbus, Island of Ruegen [Rügen], on the Baltic, and who seems to have taken himself seriously.

The writer sends his communication in the form of an “open letter,” some 3,000 or 4,000 words in length. The text is German and the pages are of large folio size.

Addressing the head of the republic as “President Rooseveld,” Pastor Schultze starts off by saying that as he has himself been “telepathically electro magnetized” by the Edison people, he is in a position to claim that the recent destructive roburite explosion at Annan, in Westphalia, was electro-magnetically produced for a purpose by the “wizard of the north.” “I maintain also,” he goes on to say, “that Edison is responsible for the recent catastrophe at San Francisco [the great earthquake], his object being to gain possession of the treasures beneath the city, in the interest of the financiers who are hand-in-glove with him. I could easily expand the list of accidents, shipwrecks, collisions, railway holocausts, &c., which Edison has brought about, but for the present I mention only the storms and inundations which have visited the cotton-growing and sugar-raising regions of the earth.”

The American wizard, according to Pastor Schultze, has been for years engaged in the nefarious business of electrically hypnotizing individuals, controlling Governments, setting races by the ears, complicating politics and turning finance everywhere topsy-turvy. The influence wielded by Edison against individuals would, of itself, justify the most urgent philanthropic representations at the White House.

“This influence,” says the seer of Putbus,” can be exerted from America as far as Europe. It is possible, by these electro-magnetic currents, to destroy clear thinking men’s business sense, and their peace of mind—to cripple temporarily or permanently every intellectual power or physical function—stop the activity of brain or heart, and even cause death.

“And these currents have been at work not only in Europe, but also in America. The number of their victims is enormous. Heart failure and asphyxiation are usually assigned as the causes of death, but both are produced by electricity. A whole series of cases of heart failure and sudden death during the last few years sufficiently reveal to those au fait with the method the political and politico-financial plans of men who, by such means, are in the habit of ridding themselves of their opponents.

“In these days it is possible to electro-magnetically communicate to people injurious bacilli and poisonous substances. Murder en masse is actually contrived for the purpose of removing everybody who stands in the way of Edison and his collaborators, or of the plans of the ‘Brand’ enterprise in Germany.”

In Pastor Schultze’s nightmare there is, naturally, a sleeping Princess.

“The superiority of Edison’s system over many others,” he says, “results from the fact that Edison works through the magnetism of a sleeping medium, a certain Miss Wilhelmina Stahl. About 19 years ago Miss Stahl, then 20 years old, emigrated from Putbus, on the island of Ruegen, to Chicago. She was there interred as a corpse. But the woman is not dead. She remains in the magnetic sleep into which she was put in order to serve as medium for Edison and the Brand people. And as relatives of Miss Stahl are still living in Chicago, it should not be difficult either to find Miss Stahl’s ‘grave’ or to dehypnotize the buried woman.

“The revolutionary movements in Russia,” he writes, “the unrest of the Poles, the sharpness of the antagonism between Austria and Hungary, the conditions in Servia, the antitheses between Greece and Roumania and the other Balkan lands, the illness of the Sultan, the artificial concentration of the interests of the Italian people against the Austrian frontier, the continual difficulties of the Spanish Government, the mutiny at Portsmouth the Boer insurrection, the strikes in England—all these were produced from America by electro-magnetism.

“There isn’t a country in Europe in which the schemers have not worked for the same results. The plan is to prepare difficulties for the European governments, to create opposition between the different classes, to sow bitterness and hate, to set up conflicts of interest between peoples, to extend those already present and to bring new conflicts into existence.

“They would like to rouse the peoples to war against each other in order to weaken them and then bring about the revolution. The ruling houses of Europe are to disappear, the leaders are to be got rid of, the healthy races are to undergo degeneration. It will then be time to reap the harvest.

“The soul of this perversion,” continues Pastor Schultze, “is the man Edison. His very existence, in spite of the genius in his make-up, or rather, because of it, is a danger to mankind. Should the American people not recognize the peril that threatens them from Edison, who is seeking to hypnotize not only mankind, but also the earth and the universe, then war might be unavoidable.

“There might not only be war between the United States and some other Power—the people of the whole earth would be in arms. It wouldn’t’ be difficult to bring about a coalition of the peoples of Europe against the United States.

“A struggle between the two hemispheres might put back the progress for centuries. It would be a decisive conflict, in which entire fleets would be destroyed. The future of the whole Aryan race might be thrown into the scales. And it wouldn’t be any gain for Americans, even if they came out successful, to have everything monopolized as a result of the war. But it would be a great gain for them if they could have this magnetization business stopped, and could get the new misused powers of electricity diverted to beneficent uses in the interest of the people.” In finally appealing to President Roosevelt for his co-operation, the Putbus pastor says:

“I have already petitioned the German Reichstag for laws to punish crimes committed by electro-magnetic means, and to allow magnetization only with state approval. A task worthy of ideally-minded men, in these times of excitement and hidden conflict, is to take energetic and decisive part in the development of the future. The question is whether the world is to become ‘red’ or ‘white’—whether there is to be war, revolution and reaction, or world peace and progress.

“The leaders of the present, with power to enlighten the people and direct them aright, have the decision in their own hands.”

The Washington [DC] Post 14 July 1907:  p. 1

Who knew the Wizard of Menlo Park was so all-powerful?

Roburite was a new “safety explosive” that did not easily detonate–a great improvement on unstable dynamite. A factory near Annen, Germany blew up on 30 November, 1906, killing at least 40 people. The shockwaves were felt 40 miles away.

Does anyone know what “Brand” enterprises refers to? The engineering firm of Brandt & Brandau? Maximilian Brandt, one of Krupp’s Berlin agents, eventually tried for securing military secrets about the German army’s artillery?

Pastor Schultze made his way into print again in February, 1929 with Open Letter to the People of the United States in which he rails against the Treaty of Versailles, which he called “juridically null and void” and “the biggest hoax known in history” and asks the good people of the United States to lessen the financial burden of reparations crushing Germany. (He had a point.) He also repudiates the “lie” that Germany was responsible for the War.

So Pastor Schultze had his lucid and his not-so-lucid moments. But what about that sleeping medium? She was no figment of his magnetized imagination. Her story was practically a cliché in the literature of suspended animation and received a fair amount of news coverage in May of 1899. Given that the Pastor says she came from his own town (I have not been able to verify this), he must have either heard the story from relatives or notices appeared in the German papers because of her family connection. Here’s the gist:


Remarkable Case of Suspended Animation in a Little Illinois Town.

A Young Woman’s Funeral Stopped Because Her Friends See No Signs of Dissolution.

Chicago, April. 29. Much excitement exists among the people of Jefferson Park, a suburb of Chicago, regarding the strange case of handsome young Miss Wilhelmina Stahl, who, it is said, was to have been married in July to a United States army physician stationed at Fort Sheridan. The Stahl family is among the newcomers in the village, and consists of a mother and two daughters. One of the latter came from Germany years ago, and by clerking in one of the commercial houses in Chicago, gained sufficient means to bring her mother and sister across the ocean about a year ago. This sister, Wilhelmina Stahl, has been likewise engaged in business in the city during the past year, until about three weeks ago, when she became somewhat indisposed. A physician’s services were not deemed necessary until about ten days before her death, when Drs. Fonda and Moore were summoned. Dr. Moore pronounced the girl beyond medical aid. The ailment appeared to be rheumatism of the heart. Thursday the end came. Arrangements for the funeral were perfected, to take place on Sunday, at 1 p.m. Many of the neighbors assembled at that hour in the residence. The body of the deceased had been placed in the coffin. Just before the services began the mother and sister expressed doubts as to whether death had actually ensued. The appearance of the body seems to give them some warrant for their conclusion. There was no evidence of decomposition, and none of the usual rigor and stiffness were apparent. Besides this, there appeared color in the face and a contour to the body that raised in the family a serious doubt as to the extinction of all life. The ceremonies were suspended for a considerable time, until the physicians could make an examination, not to verify their own conclusions, but to satisfy the friends and relatives. The several tests were made as prescribed by medical science, all of which seemed conclusive, save as to one, which the physicians are frank is saying is very unusual, although not indicating the existence of life. An examination of the body showed to some of the witnesses what is called evidences of the “rigor mortis”—a slight movement of the muscles, which usually ceases within about twelve hours after death. Upon the physicians’ advice, though still firm in their own convictions of the correctness of their tests and conclusions, the funeral ceremonies were suspended and the body taken from the coffin and placed upon the couch. Not time has as yet been fixed for the funeral service, and the relatives are caring for the body with every appliance at hand to resuscitate it.

To-day the watch was still kept up, and no change had been manifest in the appearance of the corpse. All sorts of rumors are current as coming from the attendants—that indications of returning life have been noticed, etc.—but they can not be verified. The girl’s husband that was to have been was in attendance at the bier during all this strange sad period. The Courier-Journal [Louisville, KY] 30 April 1889: p. 3

A Chicago dispatch says that the remains of Miss Wilhelmina Stahl, the young woman pronounced dead by the physicians who attended her, but believed by her mother to be still alive, still remain unburied. Dr. Moore made a careful examination of the body and reports that is condition is gradually changing—not in the direction of decomposition, but into a state which the doctor describes as “mummification.” If this process continues the body may be indefinitely preserved. No arrangements have been made for the burial, though the family are at last convinced the girl is dead beyond a doubt. It is feared by the relatives now that so much interest has been excited in the case that it would not be safe to deposit the body in the burial grounds selected, and it will probably be placed in a vault. Evening Star [Washington DC] 3 May 1889: p. 7

Buried at Last.

Chicago, Ill., May 4. The burial of the remains of Miss Wilhelmina Stahl, whose phenomenal condition since death has excited so much wonder, took place yesterday at Norwood cemetery. The medical examination of Thursday having revealed nothing new and indubitable proofs of extinction of life being present, her mother and sister yielded up their last hopes. The Galveston [TX] Daily News 5 May 1889: p. 17

The burial of Miss Stahl excited critical remark from “the famous faster” [the 19th-century had starving competitions–another post another day] Dr. Henry S. Tanner.  Perhaps he felt his near-death experiences made him an expert on suspended animation.


Dr. Tanner Cites Some Cases of Suspended Animation.

Decomposition the Only Sure Test.

Dr. Tanner, the famous faster, was in Chicago recently. He is interested in the question of suspended animation, and he talked interestingly of the case of the young woman, Wilhelmina Stahl, of Jefferson Park, whose body showed no signs of decomposition when buried, though, according to scientific tests, she had been dead ten days.

“There is positively only one sure test of death,” said Dr. Tanner, “and that is decomposition, and an advanced stage of that. Any other test applied by a physician is absolutely useless and proves nothing. I see that the doctors who had been waiting on Miss Stahl cut the tibial artery to show the relatives that circulation had stopped and to prove conclusively, as they supposed, the death of the patient. Well, now, if that girl happened to be in a trance—as we say, suffering from suspended animation—why, then so soon as she revived, she would bleed to death in a few minutes and the doctors, who perpetrated the fiendish outrage, would be virtually murderers.

“I take it that what I may say on this subject would have little weight, because the enlightened public is aware of the utter unreliability of the doctors’ decisions that a person is dead. The cases or suspended animation, in which the facts were discovered too late, are entirely too numerous. They speak for themselves.” Kansas City [KS] Daily Gazette 4 May 1889: p. 1

But back to Pastor Schultz. Questions have been raised—and not all by tin-foil-topped cranks–about how wi-fi and electro-magnetic energy might cloud the brain or make people ill. So-called electromagnetic hypersensitivity remains a mystery. It almost sounds like Pastor Schultze had personal experience of the dreaded hypnotic powers of electricity he reports. Perhaps the effects of electrical fields on gas-lit populations were stronger than most of us would notice–like  newly-introduced diseases decimate  unexposed peoples.

But perhaps the biggest mystery here is how Pastor Schultze came to connect Edison and his universal “electrification and magnetization” with a young woman who died 18 years previously. Edison certainly had many enemies. Did he have any actual link to Wilhelmina Stahl?  I cannot see that her story was revived in 1907 although there were the usual handful of sensational tales about rosy, pliable corpses reported that year.  Why choose Miss Stahl as an underground power-house?

Other examples of psychic troubles attributed to Edison? Or to a buried medium? Electrify me with the facts at chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

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