Saturday, April 23, 2005

Telekinesis for Dummies

As promised I here offer a trick that requires no sleight of hand--yet was the major miracle performed by a man once featured on the TV show "That's Incredible" and billed as "the world's top psychic" by the tabloid newspaper The Star. His trick? Making a pencil, balanced precariously on the edge of a table, mysteriously turn by seeming mental powers alone. No hidden threads or wires were used and Hydrick apparently appeared to use some weird martial arts technique to make the pencil move. He also could make telephone book pages mysteriously turn. The secret? He literally blew it. Not metaphorically--literally: he used gusts of breath, not directly at the object, but on the table top, to make the pencil move through seeming mental power. Stephen King would be proud, maybe. Magician James Randi foiled Hydrick, who practiced in jail, by arranging Styrofoam pellets around the pencil so that when Hydrick blew they would move too. On the TV show That's My Line with Bob Barker Hydrick failed to do this simple trick, claiming his mental powers had temporarily departed them. Too bad because there was a check waiting for him for $10,000 if he could make the pages turn. (Although a scientist and electrical engineer from Utah had already concluded that Hydrick's powers were real, Randi was prepared to offer the check because his crew had put a "shotgun" mike, which picks up sound from a very small angle area, in place during the rehearsals, so they knew in the control room what Hydrick was doing, having heard Hydrick's propulsive bursts of air come in loud and clear. But Hydrick detected the mike and wouldn't allow its use of course.) As Randi explains, "What of the pencil and page tricks? Well, my jaundiced eye recognized these as rather tired old tricks...Hydrick was simply blowing the page over, and he spun the pencil around by the same means. Not immediately evident are these facts, however: First, the blast of air from a half-open mouth takes time to get to the props, and Hydrick made sure he turned his head away from the pencil and the page after giving a sharp puff of air, so that he was facing away when the action occurred. Second, one blows not directly at the prop but at the table surface." When Randi did the pencil trick for me it was impressive. You have to keep your mouth from moving, like a ventriloquist or, well, dummy. (It also helps to have a beard, n'est ce pas?) Not exactly savory, Hydrick was an interesting character. "My whole idea behind this in the first place was to see how dumb America was. How dumb the world is....Air currents...from my mouth. But you can't tell it because it took so many years of practicing to get this down pat to where you can't see it. I'm not just puffing out the air because that can be seen. I am taking the air from my inside and making it come out in a way in which it doesn't show. I can direct the air in a way that it hits head on every time. I spent one year and six months in solitary confinement...I had spent hours and hours. I'd hold by breath. Different breathing controls. So many ways. I could make deputies think someone touched them on their neck because I could breath in a certain way on their neck. They would feel something and say 'That's a ghost!' They would piss on the floor and go running out of there! It was something that was fascinating to me and it got me recognition. I mean every deputy in that jail was so frightened of me. 'That guy is possessed!' I remember when I was in the Chaplin's office. He taught me how to read and write. And I would convert people from bad to good. He told me that you had to turn them onto Jesus, the Lord. And he gave me a Bible and I'd read it. Then I got an idea! Now, I've never told Brother Joe this, and I've never told anyone this, but I would convert twenty inmates a day. That was my limit. I would have to convert twenty inmates a day. I'd get up there and start telling them about Jesus and stuff. And when I'd see that they were beginning to get turned off--I'd stop and say 'You don't believe that it exists?--I'd take a Bible and open it up and say, 'If the Lord is here with me make these pages move!' or I'd open the Bible and say 'Hold the Bible. Father in the name of Jesus Christ make these pages move.' And the pages would move! And the guys are going 'Oh my God!!!' Everytime it worked. Then I would say 'It's in you.' Or I take a pencil and put it there and say I've got to call the Lord; but you are going to have the power to do this if you accept the Lord. The next thing you know you would see them with this big cross and handing Bibles out to people!" Hmmm--banking on dumb Americans and God's will--reminds us of a certain administration and their corporate backers!

Politics aside, the use of air currents to make things move at a distance has other applications. An easy trick is to lay a cigarette on the table. You can pretend to polarize your finger with static electricity by vigorously rubbing it on your sleeve. Then leaning down move it above a cigarette on the table--at a certain point you secretly blow and the cigarette rolls. The effect is of an impossible static electricity--not exactly telekinesis but is easier because of the misdirection. And more noble than trying to snooker people into a belief in God or trying to take over the world. (And yet, one wonders, did Jesus do any such tricks? Madame Blavatsky of the theosophists was known to use sleight of hand to apparently produce flowers from the Himalayas--really they came from her palm. Houdini went after spiritualism no less than Randi after Hydrick) Speaking of the invisible powers of air currents, with Columbia paleontologist Jessica H. Whiteside I wrote an article critical of complexity theory and showing that what some people think are ghosts can really be traced to natural gusts of trying to escape through openings in old houses. When such a gust slips by you, literally beneath a window or through a keyhole, it can give the impression of being a live being scurrying past you and into another room!

If you want to get a glimpse at the political wool over our eyes, check out:

and especially: The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions

and The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 two amazingly clear-headed books by a true patriot that will give you "backstage passes" to see how the American body politic is being tricked by the media in much the same way that a spectators are tricked at a magic show. This scam blows worse than Hydrick. But, like the man with the stovepipe hat said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time: but you can't fool all the people all of the time."