Wolf Messing - Stalin's Psychic
Most psychics' stories are not very creditable. Especially in this day and age, anyone who claims to have psychic ability is either suspected of watching too many episodes of Heroes, or having spent too much time around the same people. Wolf Messing's legacy in this sense is a bit different. His witnesses/references include the likes of Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin.
Wolf Messing's story mainly took place during the first half of the 20th century. Whether or not his psychic powers were real or merely wartime propaganda is therefore up for debate. It is very possible that Stalin allowed the rumours about Messing to spread, in an attempt to make Hitler question whether or not Stalin had an ace up his sleeve. After reading Wolf Messing's story you will probably be able to make up your own mind on the subject.
Messing's first psychic experience
Wolf Messing was born a Polish Jew near Warsaw on the 10th of September, 1899. At the time Russia was being ruled by its last czar, Nicholas II. Messing ran away from school when he was 11, and without having purchased a ticked, boarded a train heading to Berlin. Legend has it that on the train he was caught by a brutal ticket collector who repeatedly asked him to show his ticket. Messing ended up handing the collector a peace of paper from his pocket, willing the collector to mistake it for a ticket. And surely enough the iron jaws of the collector's ticket punch snapped and Messing was handed back his "ticket". The collector apparently even asked Messing why he had been sleeping under a seat when he had a perfectly valid ticket on him.
How Messing established himself as a psychic in Berlin
Once in Berlin Messing suffered from chronic malnutrition. Over time he did however manage to establish himself as a mind-reader in city theatres. Thanks to his ability he earned the grand sum of five marks a day. He claimed that by setting himself into a light trance he could concentrate on the thoughts at the top of a person's mind. His success wasn't to go unnoticed. Soon enough he would find himself in company of some truly great men of his time: Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.
Both Einstein and Freud were highly interested in the 17 year old Messing's abilities. And when tested, Messing did not disappoint. As the story goes Freud told Einstein that he would think of a command for Messing to interpret and carry out. One day when all three were seated in Freud's salon in Vienna, Messing went into a trance, upon which he sat up, walked across the room to a pair of scissors lying on a desk, and then proceeded to clip exactly three hairs from Einstein's moustache. Apparently he had carried out the exact command that Freud had been thinking off. Accounts of this story do wary somewhat. Some say instead of cutting three hairs he plucked them using a pair of tweezers.
The years between World War I and II
During World War I messing toured South Africa and the Far East, and afterwards returned to his birthplace, which had become an independent Poland. After more years of compulsory Military service he started travelling throughout Europe again. He never struggled to make a living, showcasing his mind reading talents to amazed audiences. His most famous trick was to drive a car whilst blindfolded, receiving all the information that he required from the passenger.
The rise of Hitler and the coming of World War II
As the Second World War was approaching Messing fled to Moscow. Hitler's non-fondness of Polish Jews who happened to be capable of extra-sensory perception and psychic arts was not really a secret. However, Stalin was just as wary as Hitler in regards to people with special powers, leaving Messing in a quandary as to how he should make a living. When he did find work as a last act in various nightclubs, he often found himself as a guest of either the police or worse, the KGB.
The accuracy of his antics did not go unnoticed by the KGB. This explains how one day, after being arrested, he was told that he was soon to expect a visitor with immense authority. This was no exaggeration. The visitor was Stalin himself. Stalin began to question Messing about his life in Poland and the situation there. A few days later, after being released, the KGB again rounded Messing up, informing him that Stalin had a few special tests in mind, to determine the true extent of his abilities.
The first test was more or less the same scenario as when Messing handed the scrap of paper to the brutal ticket conductor when he was 11. Only this time the stakes were higher. He was to walk into an official state bank and ask an official to hand over 100'000 roubles while presenting a blank piece of paper at the same time.
After successfully completing this test Messing often found himself in Stalin's presence. Messing spoke of his foreboding that Hitler was planning to invade the USSR. He claimed that he had a vision of the war coming to Russia in the June of 1941. So did Messing's abilities include those of a prophet as well as mind reading? Or did he merely gather some information of the top of some German military official's minds? Either way, on June 22 of that year Hitler's armies invaded the USSR.
Throughout the war Messing's ability was used by Stalin to raise public spirits. At one point Messing was summoned to the Kremlin by Stalin, who was curious if he himself could be made a fool of by Messing. He was to display his powers by exiting the building without a pass, while Stalin's private secretary was to follow 10 steps behind him. Several minutes later, after having gone into his deepest trans yet, Messing found himself outside the gates, looking up at the window of Stalin's study.
This stunt promoted Messing to the position of Stalin's personal seer. He was forever being invited to Stalin's private apartments in the Kremlin. For what ever reason however, Stalin did not seem to heed Messing's advice regarding the war.
Messing's life after World War II
In the 1950s Stalin ordered Messing to undergo extensive testing at the hands of Soviet scientists. They decided that electrical impulses in Messing's brain were acting as radar signals. These signals would bounce of similar strong thought patterns from his targets' minds, allowing him an insight into their thoughts. Messing himself was not too curious about the workings of his gift.
He would spend the next 20 year touring the USSR, performing in small villages. Along the way he also gained a reputation as a faith healer. In 1972 he tragically died from a heart attack. He had gained such a high status in the USSR that he was giving a hero's burial.
What to make of Messing's story?
Even if Wolf Messing was merely a skilled trickster, he still lived a remarkable life. Being able to fool the likes of Joseph Stalin is no easy task. Often the stakes for him were not merely his reputation, but instead his life.
A few areas of his legacy have without a doubt become exaggerated. To go from mere mind reader to prophet and then to also become a faith healer does sound rather unrealistic. In my opinion he might have been the David Blain/ David Copperfield of his day and age, employed by Stalin to both raise public spirits and as a war time propaganda tool. What makes his story so special is his association with three highly recognised figures of his time, and that even the biggest doubter (like myself) cannot say with 100% certainty that he was a fake.
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