The art of table tipping

12th November 2017. Reading Time: 7 minutes General, Paranormal Investigation. 9126 page views. 7 comments.

After witnessing table tipping for the first time this weekend, I look at the history behind it, how a scientist debunked it back in the early 19th century and tell you all about what happened on the night.

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.

The history of table tipping or table-turning as it was 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.

When a scientist debunked table-turning ...

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.

What happened when we tried table tipping at Black Rock House?

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.

Conclusion ...

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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  • Olena Babyliss 2 years ago

    Read about the experiments with Ariel Farias at the Argentinian laboratory of psychokinetics. Videos are also very representative. The person alone can demonstrate his ability to influence the table with the touch of his hands.

  • Ann 5 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this, my grandmother taught my parents this trick and we could only remember part of the process. You filled on the blanks and made us feel close to her again. You are quite right, humans still have so much to learn. Thanks again.

  • Ann 5 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this, my grandmother taught my parents this trick and we could only remember part of the process. You filled on the blanks and made us feel close to her again. You are quite right, humans still have so much to learn. Thanks again.

  • Kirk Lawson 6 years ago

    I am glad to see recent interest in this phenomena. I just suddenly remembered yesterday this game,for no reason. I am 41 yrs old and a scientist. And the reasons behind this still elude me. Faraday’s experiment does not disprove this. How would you explain the heavy tables moving?and with children only at the table? My grandmother taught us this game in the 80’s. Other relatives had taught her in the 20’s when she was a girl. We thought about the “pulling effect” of the person at the head of the table,and realized even as kids that it could be subconscious, so to control this we’d remove that position after the table had risen and it would remain the air. We would also place just our fingertips on the table and it would work.We’d rub our hands together to get them warm and and think positive thoughts and envoke a loving kind warm vibration in the room and sit around 3 sides of a card table, heavy or light weight, metal or wooden legs, although my favorite was the old heavy wooden one with wooden fold up legs and wooden top, but the cardboard with metal legs one worked too. And we would chant “up table up” until the 2 or sometimes 3 legs would begin to float. We would ask it yes and no questions and counting questions. I wish we would have recorded all this.
    But now I want a scientific explanation to this.
    I believe their may be subtle energies we don’t yet understand and all the Wikipedia stuff about this being “de-bunked” as trickery and at is utterly opposite of my experience. No one was fooling anyone when we did these experiments as children.
    I have not tried to do this in 25 yrs but guess what I’m going to bust out at my next get together!
    And I’ve seen the pictures and heard people talk about putting people all the way around the table in a full circle and it will totally levitate. How the f does that happen if it’s not hocus pocus as Carl Sagan and Randi propose. I’m not saying I don’t believe but I’d love to see a video of this close up or be there in person.
    I can almost see it being a physical thing with the warming hands and flow of energy and stuff somehow and the unconsciously pulling towards the anchor side of the table but to see all 4 legs come up?
    And I’m interested in the chanting aspect of it too. The chanting of the Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, and the songs of the other religions all claim that there is power behind chanting. Perhaps this could be proof of that “power”.

  • Daniel Payton 6 years ago

    My family has been tipping tables since I was a child. We often used heavy oak tables. I’ve also used a card table alone and have had the table rise up on 3 legs. The grounded leg being opposite my chair. I don’t believe the ideomotor theory as from what I personally have experienced, a great deal of force would be required and certainly noticeable. I cannot always vouch for the vericity of the table’s responses, but they are fascinating

    • Kirk Lawson 6 years ago

      That’s really interesting, I’ve never done it before by myself. I tried once as a teenager, nothing happened. We used to do it with 3of us though, or more.
      My experiences also don’t jibe with the ideomotor idea, although it is the closest thing to an explanation I can come up with. I am extremely super skeptical these days and this has got my attention. It’s something I can’t explain.

  • rebecca guynn 6 years ago

    This "game" actually works. We used to play it as one maniulated the would tip up on two legs, and also we could get it to slide around in a circular pattern. It would answer questions if someone at the table knew the answer, and we would move that person from one side of the table to another to be sure that person was not tipping. I would love to know the science behind this. This was back in the 40s and early 50s. Kids today have other things to entertain themselves. We were all kids with no adults bothering to watch us. Some day this will be understood, but probably not in my lifetime. i am 78. If i tell people about it they don't believe me, but it is true and it does happen. And we were never into the occult.....and i still am not. Humans haven't figured out everything yet.