I am always open yet skeptical when it comes to investigating the paranormal. One element I have been learning a lot about lately is more spiritual methods made popular during the Victorian Era such as Table Tipping. With my good friend Chris Morris from Paranormal Friends from the UK in town who specializes in these sorts of methods, I had to get him to show us what it was all about during our last investigation at Black Rock House. I have quite often thought about doing a special night at Black Rock House where we ditch the equipment completely and have a Victorian night full of spiritualists and old school methods just to show people you don't need equipment and also to embrace our paranormal history. Whether you believe these methods work or not, they have been around for over a century so they are certainly worth exploring just to see what it is all about. Before I tell you what happened, let’s look at the history and concept of table tipping or table-turning as it is also known.
During the 18th century, there was a spiritualist movement wherein mediumship and spirit communication became quite popular. Séances, spirit boards, and table tipping started to become quite popular. The popularity peaked in the early 19th century. The era in time is affectionately referred to as the Victorian Era. A lot of advancement in the paranormal field was made during this time, so much more back then than what we have ever achieved or discovered now. Notable figures during the Victorian Era include Sarah Winchester, Nikola Tesla, Harry Houdini, Aleister Crowley, and Harry Price just to name a few. Table turning or table tipping was a hugely popular concept during this movement. While professional mediums who were very popular at the time would use this method, essentially anyone could do table-turning (or rapping) all you needed was people and a table. These were the sorts of things that people did on Saturday nights. I recently found out myself that my Nan in her younger days back in the early to mid 1900s would participate in séances and use spirit boards etc as it was the thing to do back then. It was thought of as a parlour game.
In the 19th century, well-known scientist Michael Faraday was suspicious of table-turning and set to prove out that it was not spirit that was manipulating the table but the person themselves. He felt it was an unconscious involuntary muscle contraction (much like the ideomotor effect we talk about with Ouija boards). To prove this he created a table that had 2 tops on it divided by a layer of ball bearings and rubber bands. When the sitters were using this table, the first layer would move only showing that it was the fingers of the sitters moving the table and not ‘spirit’. Once they were aware of their actions, there was no movement whatsoever. He felt that this adequately proved that it was the person in fact moving the table and not ‘spirit’. Much like the Ouija board, some believe that the spirit needs to use the human body to move the table while others claim they have seen tables move across a room and even levitate with no one touching it. With so many questions, I couldn’t wait to see it in person.
Before our investigation, Chris had told us to try and get our hands on an old lightweight card table. This turned out to be a lot harder than we thought. After days of searching, we gave up and thought that if there wasn’t something that couldn’t be used at Black Rock House then it wasn’t meant to be. Luckily the tables in the ballroom although not ideal could potentially work. They were hopefully light enough and even though they had iron legs instead of wooden legs, it was hoped that it wasn’t too heavy to get the table moving. We decided the best space for this vigil was the dining room. It is a highly active room and more importantly, the floor surface was wooden which would potentially allow the table to slide. Doing this on the carpet we are told simply doesn’t work.
The table was in the middle of its designated area and Chris invited 7 of our guests to stand around the table putting their fingertips on the table and slightly touching the person next to you. He asked that none of our team members were involved only guests so that they could not be tricked into thinking that we were trying to manipulate the table ourselves. Chris started by introducing himself and politely inviting spirit to come forward and move the table. After a while, one of the guests said that she felt like she was being pushed into the table and was stopping herself from moving the table and should she just let it move. Chris told her that he believes sometimes this does happen and to just go with it. Almost immediately the table started moving forward. To me, it seemed that this lady was pushing the table and she had just said she felt like something was trying to make her push the table. It went all the way to the other side of the room. Knowing this as well, Chris wanted to show us that he thought it was more than just her pushing the table so he asked for it to be pushed back in the other direction where it was impossible for her to move it as she would have to pull it to make it move. Back and forward it went until Chris asked if spirit could try and ‘tip’ the table onto 2 legs. Suddenly the table went forward onto 2 legs. We took readings with the Mel Meter while this was happening and to our surprise, we were getting energy spikes in the middle of the table, some over 5Mg
The vigil ended and Chris was quite pleased. So much so that he asked if everyone wanted to try it again. So they did. This time instead of moving back and forward, the table was moving in a circular motion. Suspecting we were dealing with one of our well known resident spirits, Chris asked if it was Thomas we were talking with and if it was could he flip the table over. The table started moving in aggressive motions and went up on two legs and then over onto the floor. Chris in his words was ‘ecstatic’ as he didn’t know if that kind of table would work and if the process would work as it has never been done at Black Rock and our guests had never done or seen it before either.
It was an interesting experiment to watch. The skeptical side of me is not convinced of course. It was difficult for me to see amongst the people if anyone was manipulating the table and I was not one of the people on the table to see or feel what was going on. The big test for me would be on a table with people I have carefully selected that I know for a fact would not move the table. Then if it happened, my interest would definitely be peaked. Like a lot of older school methods, anything with a ‘human’ element has the opportunity for manipulation and whether or not it is a conscious movement or not, one can always argue that it is dismissible due to the human element. I would definitely be interested in building a table similar to what Michael Faraday used to eliminate that human element and perhaps there are other ways to do this too. I am not a ‘spiritual’ style investigator but I do look at all forms of communication. There is a lot I could experiment with and some concepts I could use from table tipping for future investigation so there are a few things I will definitely be trying. Is this proof that we were communicating with spirit? No, it isn’t but what is exactly? This is a method that has been around for over a century so regardless of whether it is showmanship, a bit of fun, or completely paranormal, it is certainly worth a try for any paranormal investigator just to see what it is all about and making your own judgements.
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