This Glass Contains Spirits

David recruits some brave volunteers from the audience to help in the experiments, about twenty in number, and they join him on stage. Also on stage is a spirit cabinet made up




of curtains hanging from a frame, a trolley full of books and a round wooden table.

One of the volunteers is handed a write-on/wipe-off board and asked to think of the name of someone no longer living. She writes it down and holds the board close to her chest so that no one can see it. As she does this, four other volunteers join David at the table. They can see that it has been prepared for a séance. Twenty-six cards bearing letters of the alphabet are arranged around its perimeter. Two more cards, symbolising "Yes" and "No" lie within the circle and an inverted glass tumbler stands at the centre of all. David explains how, during a traditional séance, the glass would move mysteriously from one letter to another spelling out the name of some spirit.

The four volunteers are invited to extend an arm and press a finger lightly to the bottom of the inverted glass. David looks at the lady with the board and asks her to concentrate on the name she is thinking of. He warns the people at the table not to push the glass but just to try and pick up the lady's thoughts. Should anything happen, another volunteer is given another board and asked to note down which letters the spirits indicate.

David walks to the other side of the stage, microphone in hand. The lights dim, a green spotlight illuminates the people around the table and strange music starts to play. The audience feels the tension in the air. Slowly the glass starts to move. It moves from the centre of the table towards one of the letters at its edge, then across to a second letter, a third, a fourth. The man with the board hurriedly writes each letter down and the volunteers smile nervously as paranormal forces seem to guide their hands. Then the glass stops.

The lights come up. "What did it spell?" asks David. The man turns around his board. Written across it is the name "Joan." David looks at the lady, "Is that the name you're thinking of?" Surprisingly, she says no.

"Well it would have been surprising if it had worked but let's try again." He looks at one of the volunteers and says, "I think you were probably pushing too hard." She admits that might have been the case. "Let's try four more people," says David.

A second group of volunteers gather around the table and place their forefingers on the glass. David tells them to relax and not try to push the glass around consciously. He walks away from them and the lights dim once more and with the darkness come the spirits. The glass moves across the table, from one side to the other, once again picking out different letters while someone notes them down. Finally it stops.

"What did it spell this time?" asks David. "Martin," comes the reply. The lady holding the board is clearly astonished. Martin was the very name she was thinking of.

Revelations: A name is thought of and revealed during the Ouija session. How was it done? The deception began before the volunteers stepped on stage. One of them was a confederate and their job was to secretly push the glass around the table so that it revealed the thought of name. But how did he know what name the lady had written on the board?

David has many methods for conveying the information to the secret assistant but first he had to find out himself what the name was. He did this not by relying on clipboards or billet switches or pre-show work but by the bold expedient of looking at the board and seeing which name the lady had written.

When David asked the lady to think of a name and write it down on the board she had no reason to think that David must not see it. He hadn't told her what was going to happen with the name. Just that she should be careful not to show it to the other volunteers on stage. When she had written the name down he went over to her and asked her to stand at the opposite end of the stage from the other volunteers. He almost physically moved her and it was at this moment that David glimpsed the name on the board.

It sounds bold, it was bold, but it was also the most direct way of getting the information David required and he is not adverse to simple methods if no more effective method can be found. David had many opportunities to glimpse the board while the lady was on stage. He was in command and the volunteers obeyed his directions. He could casually adjust the position of the lady on stage several times if necessary. Once was usually enough.

As he talked to the volunteers and the audience about the nature of the experiment he casually placed his right hand into his trouser pocket. There he had a small pad of writing paper and a pencil stub. He printed the name on the paper, folded it in half and then tore it from the pad. Concealing the paper in his fingers he brought his hand out of his pocket and secretly folded the paper again.

All this was done as he stood casually talking to the audience. He then asked the volunteers to stand on the right side of the stage, behind the wooden table. As he arranged them into some kind of orderly group he dropped the note into the confederate's pocket. The confederate was standing at the rear of the group and had plenty of time to dip into his pocket, read the note and memorise the name.

David meanwhile asked four of the volunteers to step forward and put their fingers on the glass. Encouraged by David they made the glass move about the table, spelling out a name. It wouldn't be the thought-of name, how could it be? But with the right atmosphere the glass was sure to move either by natural ideo motor action (of the type that makes dowsing pendulums swing) or the fact that someone was sneakily pushing the glass.

It would usually be the wrong name and sometimes no more than a random jumble of letters. An incorrect name provided an opportunity for David to ask if anyone else either on stage or in the audience could relate to it. If they did, and it happened more often than not, he made the most of the coincidence. David next dismissed the group at the table and asked for four more people. This time the confederate was among them. Everyone had been warned not to try too hard and not to push the glass, which gave the confederate the perfect opportunity to guide the glass unhindered to the correct letters.

Now you might think that the use of a confederate in this situation required careful rehearsal. You couldn't be further from the truth. David doesn't like to rehearse confederates. Unless they are fully trained or experienced actors they will always give themselves away. When David press-ganged his assistant into the show his instructions were brief. He told him to push the glass during the Ouija session and that he would find the name of the person on a piece of paper in his pocket. The confederate's immediate reaction was one of panic. When would he be able to read the paper? Would people catch him?

He was worrying needlessly. At the back of the group he could have done almost anything. Even if someone saw him read a piece of paper, they could not possibly connect the action with the effect. But the fact that he was briefed only on the details that concerned him ensured that his own reactions to the routine, and everything else that happened on stage, were spontaneous. Which takes us to...

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