A mysterious Brooklyn woman known as “Mad” Mollie Fancher may provide some controversial clues.
By Sean Casteel
For those in the UFO community who have made the leaps of faith that started with Erich von Daniken and Zechariah Sitchin, namely that the gods of our religions were in fact aliens who led mankind to varying degrees of civilization and technological development, it logically follows that some forms of religious fanaticism would spring from that same alien source. There has always been a thin line between religious experience and simple madness, and there is likely also a thin line between alien-inspired fanaticism and mere human-generated religious delusion.
This is all said by way of introduction to a new book from Timothy Green Beckley’s Global Communications publishing house. The book is called “‘Mad’ Mollie: Brooklyn’s Supernatural ‘Saint,'” and, for the sake of complete disclosure, I wrote some of its chapters. The new release includes the complete text of a rare and hard-to-find book about Mollie Fancher from the early 20th century, as well as new material that helps set the stage for one of the strangest stories in the history of the paranormal. It is also the first in a new series from Global Communications devoted to “Very Strange People.” A second book in the series, “The Bell Witch Project,” is already available for purchase as well.
WHO WAS “MAD” MOLLIE?
Mollie Fancher was born in Massachusetts in 1848. Her parents moved the family to Brooklyn, New York, in 1850, and Mollie began her education in a private school there a few years later. Mollie’s mother died in 1855, and her father remarried and abandoned Mollie and her siblings to be raised by their aunt, Susan Crosby.
Mollie did well in school and was considered very attractive by the standards of her day. Two months prior to her graduation, she fell ill, suffering from nervous indigestion, generalized weakness and fainting spells. Her doctor prescribed horseback riding to cure her, which was for centuries thought to be a solution for “hysteria” in women. While riding, Mollie was thrown from her horse, hit her head on a curbstone, knocking her unconscious, and broke several ribs.
She might have recovered from the horse accident and led a normal life, but a little over a year later, in 1865, she suffered another traumatic accident. Mollie was engaged to be married and was out shopping for wedding-related items. When she stepped off a streetcar near her home, her dress got caught on the rear of the car and she was dragged a city block before anyone noticed her.
Her suitor broke off their marriage plans, and she was put to bed to heal. She never left her bed, spending the remaining 51 years of her life there as she suffered varied and strange ailments that baffled observers and physicians alike.
THE SUPERNATURAL TAKING HOLD?
As she lay in her bed of trauma and misery, Mollie began to experience trances and spells and violent spasms. She also, quite famously, began to refuse food, claiming to go months, even years, without swallowing a single morsel of anything. In Victorian times, this was a commonly claimed miracle, and many “fasting girls” were celebrated in the news media for their fanatic devotion to Christ as expressed through self-starvation.
The doctors of Mollie’s time again called her condition “hysteria,” which was a catch-all term for women whose behavior was deemed inappropriate or “unladylike.” Some of the strangest stories about Mollie occurred in the nine years from 1866 to 1875. It is claimed that she lay with her arm drawn up over her head, her legs twisted and her eyes closed, yet still managed to write 6,500 letters, sew fine embroidery, keep a diary and make wax flowers – quite an achievement for a bedridden woman with one functioning hand.
Mollie was also said to read writing from great distances, read minds and have the gift of prophecy. In a country obsessed with spirit communication, ghosts and the supernatural, Mollie became something of a celebrity.
But which Mollie would that be? Along with all her other mysterious maladies, Mollie is thought to have been a bona fide case of Multiple Personality Disorder. In 1875, she fell into unconsciousness for a month and then awakened with no memory of the last nine years. None of the works of art she had done looked familiar to her, and she resumed conversations where they had left off nine years before. She began to splinter into several “selves,” some cheery and bright, while others were jealous and vindictive. The personalities would write letters to each other – in different handwriting.
Mollie died on February 15, 1916, at age 67, taking her selves and her secrets with her.
A FEMINIST STATEMENT IN MALE-DOMINATED TIMES
Most people are familiar with the term “anorexia nervosa,” an eating disorder in which a person is usually struggling with body image conflicts and/or uses self-starvation as a means of gaining control over their lives. But one may be surprised to learn that there exists a term for what was claimed about Mollie Fancher – “anorexia mirabilis,” or “miraculous loss of appetite.”
The term comes from the Middle Ages, when women and girls would starve themselves, sometimes to the point of death, in the name of God. Anorexia mirabilis was often combined with other ascetic forms of self-denial, like lifelong virginity, self-flagellation, wearing hair shirts, sleeping on beds of thorns and other assorted penitential practices.
Caroline Walker Bynum, the author of “Holy Feast, Holy Fast,” believes that anorexia mirabilis was not simply misdiagnosed anorexia nervosa but was instead a legitimate form of self-expression that existed outside the modern disease paradigm. Anorexia mirabilis should be understood as a distinct medieval form of female religious piety and placed within its proper historical context.
Many women of medieval times refused to ingest anything but the Communion host, which was intended to signify not only their devotion to God and Jesus but also to make a point about the separation of body and spirit. The idea that the body could endure for long periods of time without nourishment demonstrated how much stronger and important the spirit was. Popular opinion was unconcerned that the women claimed to go without food for months or even years; the “impossible” length of their fasting only added to the allure of this specifically female achievement.
Saint Catherine (1347-1380), of Siena, Italy, rose to become a rare female player in 14th century papal politics. She was also a determined “fasting girl” and would forcibly self-regurgitate when compelled to eat food at all. Her local priest suspected she might have been secretly fed by demons when he observed how bright, energetic and strong she remained even after fasting for unnaturally long periods of time.
“Mad” Mollie’s similar claim to defying nature by living without sustenance of any kind can thus be seen as part of a long tradition dating back several centuries. Demonic possession was sometimes suspected in Mollie’s case as well, especially because of her multiple personalities and the strange trances that sometimes overcame her.
STIGMATA AND AN ALIEN CONNECTION
Another phenomenon claimed by both Mollie and Saint Catherine was stigmata, or mysteriously appearing wounds that replicate the physical injuries Jesus Christ endured on the cross. The stigmata wounds occur spontaneously in some unknown way and are not self-inflicted. The stigmata phenomenon was first reported by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century and is seen most commonly among priests and nuns. The strange signs on the flesh are said to be confirmation of the sufferer’s saintly devotion to Christ.
An Italian named Giorgio Bongiovanni’s first experience as a stigmatic happened in 1989 in Portugal when he was given a message for humanity and received the first stigmatic piercings in his hands. During this encounter, a luminous being explained to Giorgio that the universe is abundant with intelligent life and that beings are visiting the Earth with highly advanced disc-shaped craft. Since that time, Giorgio has had frequent recurrences of stigmata, sometimes on his left side, where Christ was said to have been pierced by a Roman sword, and on his forehead, in reference to Christ’s crown of thorns.
The purpose of his stigmata, Giorgio says, is so the faithful can have a sign to believe in during the traumatic Earth changes to come. The sacred, interdimensional flying saucer entities have told him that mankind will face a period of darkness but those who have obeyed Christ’s teachings will be saved.
Which begs the question that began this article: Are certain forms of religious fanaticism divinely inspired by the UFO occupants? Do the aliens send us religious messages by way of miracles like Mollie Fancher’s prodigious fasting or Giorgio Bongiovanni’s stigmata?
DID THE ALIENS LEAD THE SPIRITUALIST MOVEMENT?
In his introduction to “‘Mad’ Mollie: Brooklyn’s Supernatural ‘Saint,'” Tim Beckley writes about the Spiritualist Movement that
is said to begin with the Fox sisters in 1848, the year Mollie was born.
The two young girls, fifteen-year-old Maggie and eleven-year-old Katy, huddled under their blankets in raw fear as they
were encircled by hellish sounds coming from the darkness of their small rural home in Rochester, New York. They felt the sounds were coming from an intelligent source, so the sisters played a kind of game in an attempt to communicate with whomever or whatever was creating the noises. Snapping their fingers and clapping their hands loudly, they asked the entity to respond accordingly. It replied with a series of knocking sounds that came from the wall just above their beds.
Mrs. Fox, their mother, believed the entity to be a ghost and she decided to test it herself by asking questions. The spirit responded accurately, again by making knocking sounds. After the neighbors were able to confirm that the knocking sounds were indeed intelligent, word soon spread that the Fox sisters could converse with the dead, drawing enormous crowds from all over the country. Soon the Spiritualist Movement was in full swing and mediums in a deep trance were levitating tables and issuing ectoplasm from their bodily orifices. Supernatural manifestations became “as American as apple pie,” Beckley writes.
The Fox sisters soon took a backseat to the Bangs sisters, Lizzie and May, who could produce a spirit painting on canvas
without touching it. A bucket of paint would rest on the floor near the sisters, and, over the next hour, an image would start to appear on the canvas. They each gripped the canvas in both their hands, making it impossible for them to use any sort of brush or hidden device. In spiritualist jargon, these are called “Precipitated Spirit Paintings.”
Spiritualism is its own kind of religious fanaticism, and it is possible to link it to the alien abduction phenomenon. Abductees sometimes report seeing a deceased relative during an alien encounter, such as seeing the face of one’s late grandmother at the foot of one’s bed as the standard gray aliens go about their work. “Communion” author Whitley Strieber feels that the alien Visitors walk between the worlds of the living and the dead as easily as we mortals cross a street and that someday all mankind may progress to the point where they have that same privilege. (Some believe the Visitors may reside in what has been referred to as a “Goblin Universe,” according to Beckley.) Whatever the afterlife is, it is something the aliens are familiar with, and it would follow that leading certain souls to perform and “speak” at a séance would be within their abilities.
Beckley also writes about a “goblin” stove said to have begun speaking to residents of a home in Zaragoza, Spain, in 1934. The Palazon family at one time blamed their housemaid for the voice, thinking she had some sort of talent for ventriloquism, in spite of the maid’s protests of innocence. The stove began to draw curious crowds, and some felt the devil himself had found a home in the Palazons’ kitchen. The voice spoke in “demonic curses” and was able to see and hear what was going on around it.
When the police were called in, the voice spoke to them directly. The voice became angry when it realized the block had been evacuated in response to its presence. The army was called in and a team of architects examined the building from top to bottom, but no explanation was ever found. In a final attempt to eradicate the voice, the building was demolished and a new building now stands on the plot.
WAS MOLLIE AN ALIEN “MIRACLE”?
Nearly a hundred years after her death, Mollie Fancher remains a mystery sleeping covered in a patchwork quilt of unknowns. Did she live for 51 years without eating? Did she possess clairvoyance and other paranormal gifts? Was she possessed by demons whose evil personalities warred against her own with fierce determination? Was she making a feminist statement in the repressed Victorian era by stubbornly – and miraculously – refusing sustenance of any kind?
And, if there were genuine supernatural events taking place, were the UFO occupants somehow behind them? Is the strangeness surrounding Mollie Fancher so hard to comprehend because it involves so many elements that are simply “not of this world”?
UFOlogy is a field where it is best that no stone be left unturned, and the study of “Mad” Mollie is a good case in point.