It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).



Sep 16, 2014

The Beatles and the Ouija board prank


When Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon held a séance using an Ouija board in the early 1960s, they were contacted by the ghost of McCartney's late mother.



The Beatles Séance

Sir Paul McCartney has recalled how he, Harrison, and John Lennon held a séance in the early 1960s and admits he was stunned when they were apparently contacted by the ghost of his late mother.


The trio watched in amazement as an upturned tumbler on the Ouija board moved beneath their fingertips to spell out a message congratulating the Fab Four on a recent number one single - but they realized it was a prank when Harrison burst out laughing.

McCartney tells NME, "We once did a Ouija board thing when we were kids, it was just me, George... and John, I think... So we weren't really into all that, but somebody just said, 'Let's do it.'

Says McCartney:

"So we're touching the glass, you know, saying 'OK, nobody push it, OK?' So then, suddenly... whoa, it's moving! Now, my mum had died a couple of years before and it says, 'Congratulations... son...' And we're going, 'NO!' 'Congratulations... son... number one... In NME!' And so we were all, 'Oh, f**k off! There's no way she would know what NME was'. And there's George, you know (laughing). He'd been pushing it all the time! Bad boy!"



("NME" is New Musical Express, a UK music magazine that published a hit singles chart.)

Are Ouija boards "real" or not?

In February, 1891, the first few advertisements started appearing in papers: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board,” boomed a Pittsburgh toy and novelty shop, describing a magical device that answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” Another advertisement in a New York newspaper declared it “interesting and mysterious” and testified, “as Proven at Patent Office before it was allowed. Price, $1.50.”



So many years after the first advertising appeared, and with the enormous development of the technical progress and education, you may find a simple explanation that to boards work using the ideomotor effect, where participants don't realize that they're unconsciously moving the board.

Ouija boards, sometimes referred to as spirit boards, typically consist of a round board marked with all the letters of the alphabet, the digits one to nine, and the words “yes” and “no”. Sitters place their fingers lightly on a specially constructed heart-shaped piece of wood known as a planchette and proceed to address questions to the spirit world. The technique also works simply by using letters and numbers written on pieces of paper and arranged in a circle on a smooth table, along with an upturned wine glass in place of a planchette.

Amazingly, in response to questions, the planchette (or wine glass) often appears to move around, pointing to various letters and numbers to relay the responses back from the spirits. Once again, we are dealing with an example of the ideomotor effect. Although the illusion that the pointer is being moved by some outside force is extremely strong, the truth is that the sitters are actually moving it without realizing it.

So, it is not real? Well, though truth in advertising is hard to come by, especially in products from the 19th century, the Ouija board was “interesting and mysterious”; it actually had been “proven” to work at the Patent Office before its patent was allowed to proceed; and today, there are still selected psychologists believing that it may offer a link between the known and the unknown.



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