During the 1800’s a new movement took root in Europe and America…a movement called Spiritualism. Spiritualism is still practiced today with entire communities such as Lily Dale, New York, that are based around this religious practice. What is spiritualism? In short, it’s a religious movement (some Christian, some not) with a focus on mediumship and spirit communication and the development of those abilities. Through the use of séances, channeling, spirit boards (aka Ouija boards), and table tipping (to just name a few) spiritualists claim they can communicate with our dearly departed who reside on the other side. Séances, channeling and ouija boards are old hat to most of you…but what the hell is table tipping? Well, I’m going to give you a brief history of this questionable means of communicating with the other side.
Table tipping, sometimes known as table-turning, is…well…describing the process might be easier. Table tipping is a form of séance wherein a group of people sit around a table (how very appropriate), gently place their hands on the edges of the table (like you would a planchette on a ouija board) and wait for spirits to move the table in reaction to questions asked by the sitters. A picture’s worth a thousand words so here are some videos of live table tipping sessions being conducted.*
Fact or Fake?
While I’m a firm believer in spirits and the ability to communicate with them due to my own personal experiences, I’m always skeptical of communication that involves the movement of a physical object that is in direct contact with a living person. There are far too many ways for people to tamper with the item in question, be it Ouija board or table tipping. That being said I have never tried table tipping so my opinion is merely that of an observer, but in my youth I used many a ouija board and I imagine the experience to be much the same. Could table tipping be real? In some instances I believe it could be a genuine paranormal phenomena, but in most I would be inclined to chalk it up to trickery, be it intentional or the work of the subconscious. I would, however, have to try it before I could give a 100% solid opinion on the matter. But what did the “professionals” of the time think?
Several “studies” were conducted by many scientists during the height of the spiritualist movement and several very different conclusions were drawn:
- The table’s movement was caused by the collective psychic energy of the sitters, or participants, in the session. The term attributed to this was ectenic force.
- The power of suggestion was the root cause. Some believed that the mere suggestion of the table moving or stopping caused the sitters to subconsciously act according to the expected outcome…like a form of post-hypnotic suggestion.
- A host of more off the wall explanations such as: the earth’s rotation, electricity, galvanism, or even odic force…none of which proved to be viable explanations.
- Let’s not forget the good old fashioned, plain and simple explanation (and the most obvious) – that someone is consciously and intentionally moving the table with their own two hands.
So OBVIOUSLY table tipping is fake, right? I mean the amazing mentalist Derren Brown can successfully reproduce the same phenomena using the power of suggestion and slight of hand in front of hundreds of people, one of which (in case you failed to notice) was using binoculars in an attempt to catch him in the act, so to speak. So clearly it’s a con. Well…not so fast.
The one thing, the one catch, the one flaw with saying all table tipping is flagrant fakery is this: in some instances the information acquired during a table tipping session has provided information that NO ONE would have been privy to prior to the séance. We’re talking intensely personal and private information that you can’t just pull out of a hat or are a matter of public record. How very perplexing. Add to the fact that some truly brilliant minds and powerful people (like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Todd Lincoln and Noble-laureate physiologist Charles Richet) were believers in the spiritualist movement and it does give one pause.
So what do you think? Fact or fake? Have any of you ever tried table tipping? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Do tell, do tell! Inquiring minds want to know.
Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick
*email subscribers, please note: for some reason unbeknownst to me but known by feedburner (the service that delivers these posts to your inbox), videos will NOT show up in your email. You’ll need to visit Kisses & Chaos to watch. Sorry for the inconvenience.
image credits: a séance courtesy of national media museum * source unknown