By Ash Pryce
Hallowe’en, as I’m sure many know, is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve, leading into All Saint’s Day another example, along with Christmas and Easter, of a Pagan celebration being high-jacked by Christianity. The original Pagan celebration of Samhain marked the new year in certain Pagan cultures and also signified a time of year when the veil between this world and the next was at it’s lowest, allowing the spirits to make their way through. But of course, Hallowe’en is rarely thought of nowadays as an actual religious event and instead has been taken over by ghosts and ghouls, scares, tricks and treats. If you’re having a Hallowe’en party why not use a bit of science and scepticism? Here:
Ouija Boards and Glass Divination
A staple of all teenage sleepovers, and something that even today, despite it’s constant debunking, still frightens people and I have sadly met many “grown ups” who are convinced the Ouija can communicate with the dead. The Board is only around 150 years old and was originally marketed as a board game not as a genuine tool for contacting the deceased. A planchette (small piece of wood or glass) or movable indicator is used to indicate the spirit’s message by spelling it out on the board.
Ouija boards work via the Ideomotor response a very well documented effect that can lead you to think the planchette is moving itself when you are actually subconsciously moving it with your own tiny movements. A simple way to show that it is in fact you moving the object is to put something like plastecine on the section of the planchette you are going to rest your fingers on which will then shown indentations if you are indeed pushing it (Hint: You are).
The same principle applies to Glass Divination which would be used without a board and simply assign “yes” and “no” to opposite sides of the table, eventually the glass will start to move and answer your questions. The only real downside to the Ouija Board and Glass Divination is it can take a while to work through the ideomotor response, as much as 40 minutes in some cases.
Telekinesis is the ability to move objects with just the power of your mind. These can include metal bending, psi wheels or pages of a bible. Back in the late 70s a man by the name of James Hydrick shot to mediocrity by dressing in a set of pyjamas and moving phone book pages and pencils. Even today people still claim to be able to recreate Hydricks psychic ability. In fact Hydrick was just blowing on both the page and the pencil.
To try this for yourself at your Hallowe’en party tell your guests about your amazing psychic powers and give them a demonstration that will blow them away.
Start by setting a pencil upon the edge of a table or other flat object, have the pencil balancing at about the half way mark. Now, do a little bit of magical hand waving and carefully blow at an area a few inches in front of the pencil resting on the table, the breath should then hit the table and travel along, hitting the pencil and moving it. It will take some practice to blow without appearing to blow but it can be done and always gets a great reaction.
You can also do this with a bible page. Turn to around the half way mark, or just after, and make sure the pages aren’t clinging together. Another well aimed puff of breath will cause the page to turn over- the power of Christ or the power of the lungs?
If you want to move up a gear why not damage some of the host’s cutlery? Find a teasp, on and prepare it before hand– physically bend the spoon head back and forth until a small crack appears. This will weaken the spoon enough to do this trick but not enough so you can tap it on the table to show that it is indeed a real spoon without the head falling off.
Have a volunteer hold the spoon gentle between their thumb and first finger from both ends. Now tell them you are going to make the head of the spoon melt off simply by rubbing it, as you rub the crack of the spoon it will heat up and weaken further and combined with moving your fingers will cause the spoon to break. Simply ask your volunteer to release their grip and continue to rub the now broken spoon in such a way that the head will lop over. Release the spoon and allow it in two parts to fall to the table. You might want to encourage your audience to chant or insult the spoon to encourage it to bend “You’re just a crap spork” is recommended.
Demonstrate your PSI ability
Next, demonstrate your psi ability. You will need: A rubber, a large needle and a square of tin foil about 2 inches by 2 inches. Fold the tin foil along each diagonal to create an umbrella, then stick the needle in the rubber and balance the psi wheel on the exposed end of the needle. Now place your hands either side of the “umbrella” and sure enough after a few seconds the “umbrella” will start to spin. This one isn’t achieved by blowing, instead it uses the heat of your hands, the tin foil is so light and balanced on such a fine tip tat as the heat of your hands rises it causes the Psi Wheel to spin.
A popular little trick you can combine with the Ouija Board. To stage this little performance you will need a ping pong ball and some tape. When I do a séance I always like to get possessed and then do some automatic writing (Also caused by the ideomotor effect if you want it authentic, or caused by you intentionally writing if you simply want the effect). Tape the ping pong ball underneath your left arm pit, then tell a volunteer to take your pulse. Ask then to use their hand to count out each beat they feel, slowly their hand will stop moving to the beat entirely as your pulse appears to stop. This is achieved by simply squeezing on the ping pong ball cutting off the blood flow to your left arm temporarily. This trick was used by “Carlos” the fake medium back in the 1980s as he became possessed by his spirit guide. In reality it was a set up by James Randi to trick Australian press.
Once your pulse stops allow yourself to lul slightly, eyes closed and then either give a performance as Carlos did, pretending to be possessed, or do a bit of automatic writing. What you write is up to you, but remember, this is for fun so don’t write anything too revealing about people or anything designed to offend.
Table Tipping and Floating
Table tipping works exactly the same way as the Ouija Board, participants place their fingers on the table edge lightly and soon the table begins to tip and dance around. It has been used as a way of bringing the spirit through and to those unaware of the ideomotor effect it can be both impressive and frightening. Then we have table floating. There are several ways in which this can be achieved, and as they are still used by practicing magicians forgive me if I don’t reveal the most common way- I would hate GOB Bluth and the Alliance to come down on me for revealing such trickery!
But one way I decided to try a bit of table floating was to get a light small table and one volunteer. You will also need a set of gloves with a hole in the palm and the thumb stuff to make it appear there is a thumb in there. As you put the gloves on, slide your thumb through the hole and place you palm, fingers and “thumb” on the table and ask your volunteer to do the same pointing out they need to have their fingers and “thumb” placed exactly as you have. In reality you’ve slipped your real thumbs underneath the table allowing you to simply pick up the table. Once the demo is over, remove the gloves and put them away so no one can check them out. Your reason for wearing gloves can be up to you, maybe suggest the volunteer also wears gloves for “Health and Safety” reasons. If your volunteer is a daily Mail reader they will believe this instantly.
You can use these tricks in your own Halloween party but remember though as skeptics you shouldn’t leave your audience believing you have any genuine psychic ability, point out to them either before or at the end that these are tricks to entertain and nothing more.
However, if you do decided to use your new found psychic powers for evil, make sure I get a fair cut!