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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

table tipping (also, table tilting or table turning) Known as a form of “dactylomancy,” along with the Ouija board and other notions which make use of the ideomotor effect.
      This phenomenon takes place with one or more persons seated about a table, often a light card table. Placing their hands flat upon the surface, they “will” the table to move. In response, it either rises, tilts, or rotates. It can be found by experimentation that drawing back or pushing forward, horizontally, will cause the table to tilt up on two legs. Two persons seated at adjacent or opposite sides doing this together can cause the table to move even more dramatically.
      The scientist/inventor Michael Faraday devised an elegant system for demonstrating that table tipping was often an ideomotor effect. Unknown to the sitters, he placed a second wooden tabletop over the first one, separated from it by thin, round wooden rods the ends of which passed behind an adjacent curtain and were equipped with pointers. When the sitters attempted to make the table move, those pointers turned, showing that, unconsciously, horizontal pressure was being applied by the sitters, though they denied that they did so.
      A simple control method consists of placing pieces of smooth paper beneath the hands of the sitters. Since no grip can be obtained on the surface, the table does not move.
      Of course, other methods can be used, as when Palladino did her effective table tipping. In her case, she wore custom-made boots with wide soles that protruded beyond the edges of the boots. The edge could have been hooked beneath a leg of the table, the hand located over the leg pressing down, forming what is known in the trade as the “human clamp.” This is a means for lifting straight up on a table, a seemingly impossible maneuver.
      There are other methods, too, for moving and lifting a table, even a heavy one. Some are one-person methods, and some require a confederate.



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