A sequel of sorts to Turning the tables from a while back; the Meiji-era Japanese version of contacting the spirit world through the medium of moving furniture and incomprehensible messages. Kokkuri consisted of three bamboo rods connected to make a tripod, with a round tray or lid balanced on top. As with the Western Ouija Board, three or four people would lightly touch the lid. One person chanted “Kokkuri-sama, Kokkuri-sama, please descend, please descend. Come now, please descend quickly.” Note that -sama is the level of honorific politeness above -san, a bit like saying “Mr. Kokkuri, sir” although there isn’t really a direct English equivalent. After about ten minutes of this, the person says “If you have descended, please tilt towards [somebody present].” If all was well, the lid would move and could be used as a way for whoever or whatever had “descended” to answer questions.
As psychic powers or ways of communicating with spirits go, being able to lift living room furniture a few feet off the ground in the dark has to be one of the more useless and absurd. And yet it was a thing that persisted in the repertoire of mediums for several decades. I’ve mainly been enjoying these pictures as exercises in domestic surrealism rather than as documentation of unknown powers. They’re from a (long out of print, 1981) book called Photographs of the Unknown, which seems to be associated– although not by name– with Fortean Times. In the photo above I like the fact that couple on the right are gripping each other’s hand apprehensively while the fellow on the left is still nonchalantly puffing away on his cigarette. The position of his left hand suggests slight annoyance that his ashtray has just been whisked away telekinetically. Continue Reading