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Table Tipping – Trick or Paranormal Treat?

Table Tipping – Trick or Paranormal Treat?

Well, if those sceptical of the phenomena are to be believed, these are the attributes required of the sitters in order to produce the desired results when attempting this favourite Victorian pastime.

Table tipping or table tilting could fairly be described as one of the most baffling phenomena of our time! With the rise of modern Spiritualism in the mid-1850s coming into England & Europe from America, more and more people with an interest in the paranormal were turning to spiritualist mediums and psychics in the search to make contact with the ‘other side’. This fashionable diversion was practiced throughout the Country and for those who believed, it satisfied that basic human nature – the need for answers.

The basic principle of table tipping is that the sitters would place themselves around a small table (often 3 legged) and place their hands flat upon the surface with a very light touch. The session would be led by a medium who would begin calling forward the spirits, asking for acknowledgment of their presence via knocks and movement on the table. Questions would be asked and the table would tip in response to letters of the alphabet being called out and this method of spirit communication became a competition amongst mediums to provide the most dramatic show. In 1924, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (Sherlock Holmes author) visited the famous medium Albert Macey and was witness to such incredible table tipping that it completely affirmed his belief in the spirit world. However, Macey was later revealed as a fraud and was one of the few ‘mediums’ to be imprisoned for fakery.

UK Illusionist Derren Brown famously portrayed table tipping as a simple conjuring trick in his stage show ‘Evening of Wonders’ and attributed the phenomena to the Ideomotor effect – an involuntary muscular action where the participant’s subconscious mind may influence their bodies without the conscious mind being aware; Parapsychologists and sceptics also attribute this to glass moving, automatic writing and Ouija board. It seems that the desire to believe can completely override the conscious mind. Is belief truly stronger than willpower?

What I personally find hard to accept with this theory is that on a public ghost hunt, we often encounter guests who are complete sceptics, for whom only a full apparition or personal demonic possession with projectile vomit and 360°head turning will suffice as proof of the paranormal. In his show, Derren used pendulums to test the hypnotic suggestibility of his participants, safe in the knowledge that they would then easily succumb to the ‘trick’. I do not doubt that the combined energy created by a group of people intent on a single purpose can produce an amazing result, but to expect the same result from a group of strangers (some of whom do not believe in the paranormal and are absolutely convinced that it will not move) would surely produce a less desirable result. I have personally seen tables lift, twist and spin on a single leg with more than one sceptical mind involved, where the sitters have found themselves chasing around a room, trying to keep up with the object. If the statement that ‘belief is stronger than willpower’ is a valued argument to support the Ideomotor effect then surely this is a contradiction, as any sceptical mind surely ‘believes’ that the object will not move?

Whatever your thoughts on this subject, it cannot be denied that it is a visually spectacular part of any Ghost Hunter’s investigation and will probably baffle the minds of sceptics and believers alike for many Centuries to come.