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
“THIS IS WHERE YOU BEGIN TO ESTABLISH A NEW AND SUPREMELY IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UNCONSCIOUS LEVELS OF YOUR PSYCHE.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have a library- I wish, I wish, I wish I had the money or the space for a proper library of defiantly non-digital knowledge in printed form- but I do have a lot of books. A sufficient number, in any case, to occasionally wonder WTF some of them are doing on my book shelves and how they got there.
‘The Development of Psychic Powers’ is one of these books. Although I would buy it from a second-hand book shop, I know that I didn’t.
A sticker on the back reveals that it was originally bought from Magis Books in Loughborough (who are still in business) and I’ve definitely never been to Loughborough or to anywhere else in Leicestershire. The copy I have is the ninth (!) printing of a 1981 publication.
The content is fairly laughable and also surfing the fringes of the Trade Descriptions Act, since it’s not really about developing psychic powers. Most of the activities involve Zener cards, pendulums, dowsing and similar activities that might have given stoned teenage girls a giggle in their bedrooms during the late 70s or early 80s. We’re not talking about The Exorcist or any Scanners-type activity here. Continue Reading
I’ve been listening to a set of CDs called Okkulte Stimmen [“Occult Voices”]: Recordings of unseen intelligences 1905-2007. As the name suggests, it collects audio by spirit mediums and paranormal investigators of supposed ghosts, poltergeists and possessions. If you’ve read much on parapsychology or the occult, you’ll probably have seen reference to several of these cases and the fact that recordings exist of them even though they’re rarely heard. Actually listening to them is a revelation. It’s abundantly clear why partisans and believers of the paranormal generally don’t encourage or facilitate anybody hearing with their own ears what should be primary evidence: most of the recordings are absolutely bloody ridiculous. A good number of them document blatant fakery that wouldn’t convince anybody who wasn’t already deluded beyond any capacity for rational assessment, and operating on pure faith. On several of the Okkulte Stimmen recordings people can clearly be heard giggling in the background as the supposed “spirit rapping” or possession takes place. Continue Reading