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Table Tipping Paranormal or Fake?

Have you ever tried table tipping? If not you should….

Humans have been attempting to contact the dead since the earliest of times. It was so much of a concern, that God forbade people to seek out mediums as recorded in the book of Leviticus.

table tipping seance

Fox Sisters

However, throughout the years, humans continued to seek out ways to contact the spirit world. In the 19th century, Kate and Margaret Fox announced that they were going to contact the spirit world. The two young Fox sisters began demonstrating their skills for an audience and within a few months, Spiritualism emerged.

Table tipping in the early days was predominantly considered a parlor game. The basic technique behind table tipping or table turning is simple. Have the participants sit comfortably around the table and have everyone put their hands on the table, palms down. One participant should perform a ritual of protection. Select a leader for the group and have this person address any possible spirits in the room. Ask the spirits to communicate with you by giving them instructions for how you would like them to communicate using the table. After some time, the table should start to move. Participants have reported tables sliding, swaying, turning, tipping and occasionally it has been reported that knocks have been heard in response to the questions.

Table tipping phenomena became the subject of scientific investigation (Heap, 2002). In 1852, the term Ideomotor was first used in a scientific paper discussing the means through which the spiritualistic phenomena produced effect. In the paper, William Carpenter explained his theory that muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires or emotions (Carpenter, 1852). Chemist and physicist Michael Faraday also took an interest in the phenomena and began some scientific testing of his own.

At some point, several other respected researchers took an interest in the table tipping phenomena. Among these notable men was surgeon James Braid, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and American psychologists’ William James and Ray Hyman. The general consensus among these men was the belief that the phenomenon that was attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious “energies,” was actually due to ideomotor action. Hyman reported that these tests demonstrate that “honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations.” He also implied that verbal suggestion can guide behavior after being given subtle clues (Hyman 1977).

In 1853, John Prichard wrote “A Few Sober Words of Table-Talk.” Prichard agreed that the table movement is the result of some physical phenomenon, not a supernatural force. While Prichard

table tipping tilting

Suspected Table Inspected

agrees with Faraday in principle, he did not agree with Faraday’s explanation. Prichard explains that there is an interaction between atoms, nerves, and electricity that creates a force “antagonistic to the force of gravity.” According to Prichard, he discovered a completely new physical law, boldly declaring that not only will the theory of gravity need to be revisited, but the very movement of the cosmos must be reconsidered (Prichard, 1853).

Raymond Buckland reported that table tipping phenomena is not phenomena of levitation, but most likely a demonstration of parakinesis. Parakinesis is the movement of objects with physical

contact that is not considered sufficient enough to explain the movement of the object (Buckland, 2006). Many reports have documented claims that tables have tipped and also lifted into the air and galloped about. There are even reports of tables moving with all participants sitting on top of them. Despite numerous documented experiments, table tipping phenomena remains a mystery to most people.

Scientists and Spiritualists continue to disagree on the methods and results from table tipping phenomena experiments. Most skeptics dismiss all table tipping as either fraud or a result of the ideomotor effect as they do not typically believe in telekinesis, parakinesis, or paranormal phenomenon. Either way, the power of the human mind is fascinating. It has been found that the average person utilizes only ten percent or less of their brain capacity. That leaves a lot of possibilities for researchers to explore. Regardless of whether or not table tipping is a result of some physical or psychic phenomenon or a supernatural force, it is worthy of further research and investigation.

References:

Aykroyd, Peter H (2009). A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters.

Anderson, John Henry (1885). The Fashionable Science of Parlour Magic.

Buckland, Raymond (2006). The Spirit Book: The Encyclopedia of Clairvoyance, Channeling, and Spirit Communication.

Carpenter, William Benjamin (1852). “On the influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition”

Heap, Michael (2002). “Ideomotor Effect (the Ouija Board Effect).”

Hyman, Ray (1999). “The Mischief-Making of Ideomotor Action.” The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (Fall-Winter).

Prichard, J. (1853) A Few Sober Words of Table-Talk About Table-Spirits, and the Rev. N.S. Godfrey’s Incantations. 2nd ed.

Roberts Brothers (1869) “Planchette; or, The Despair of Science.”

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5 Comments »

  • Jacqueline J says:

    Heay Cindie! Interesting peace of writing! I liked very much reading it.
    What is your personal opinion about this subject. I watched the investigation at the Sallie House last March and what I saw was really convincingly. Greetz Jacqueline

    • Cindie Harper says:

      Hi Jacqueline! I believe that it can be a very real phenomena and I think you have to make sure that you are working with people who are trustworthy so that you know that nothing is being faked. I’ve witnessed real table tipping and participated in it (as you saw at the Sallie House). I think it is a very real phenomena but like anything else, can be faked by people who choose to deceive others. I recommend that if you’re given the opportunity to do it with people you trust, you should definitely give it a shot. It’s actually a very cool thing to be part of.

  • gmbjtaz4ever says:

    hmm.. this one is a head scratcher indeed. I myself have always wondered about this particular subject. I believe anything is possible so I’m not sure either way. It would have to boil down to the person(s) involved and trust. There would not only need to be participants, but also observers with the ability to film at every angle to document every move by all parties at the table. I would give my eye-teeth to witness any such true events firsthand. But this is just my opinion

  • Cindie Harper says:

    GMJBTaz- I agree. Working with reputable people that you can trust is key. I have witnessed and participated first hand in many cool sessions but I know that there are always people out there who fake things as well. Working with people you can trust is paramount in this field. I hope you give it a try if ever given the opportunity.

  • Cindie Harper says:

    Thank you all for taking the time to read my article and comment. I appreciate it very much.

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