21 August 

From GDP/52 GF

GF (1901-1982) was a young barrister in London at the time this diary was written. Here, he records a session with a session of ‘table-turning’ similar to a Ouija board when he was on holiday in Axminster.

21 August 1926

I came over here this afternoon to stay for a few days with the C [family]. Bathed in the morning with the V [family] and P who is with them. The sea was roughish & the bathing good. Lazed all the afternoon and then took a bus here. Mrs L is here, but Major L is in town with A. Some people called Y staying. Youngish – and KE. A queer creature she is with a tragic face – must have been beautiful once – wonder what her story is. R’s little girl B here but I haven’t seen her yet. The household is much exercised over a puppy which old Mrs L sent to R via LC. It arrived crawling with various animals & had to be bathed in a special solution. We now take it in turns to comb and brush it – there are plenty more to come out! It is a dear little thing but not very savoury at present.

Rather and amusing thing happened this evening which annoyed everybody considerably (except me!) It was proposed to attempt a species to table turning which is done by writing a letter of the alphabet on a small square of paper about the size of a postage stamp and spreading the alphabet [illegible] round the margins of a polished table. A tumbler is then placed in the centre, upside down and everyone puts a finger on it. Presently it moves about & touches various letters & is alleged to spell out words & answer questions. Unquestionably (to my mind) the force which moves the tumbler is not the muscular force of the people whose fingers are on it – at least not the conscious muscular force. Whether it is an unconscious muscular contraction I cant [sic] say. I think it is a current of some sort of an electrical or magnetic nature which emanates from there via the fingers.

The agent which is supposed to control the force that moves the tumbler is of course something supernatural – preferably somebody who is ‘dead’. Mrs Y was full of stories of queer things tumblers she had known had said and questions they had answered correctly, those answers being beyond the ken of anybody there in the room – also of predictions made which had come true.

We started off and the tumbler talked complete nonsense. It moved incoherently from letter to letter and the words made no sense. Then I thought I would see if I could control it, not of course by muscular effort, but merely by desiring it to go to a particular letter. And I found I could. From that moment the tumbler talked sense. It said everything I wanted it to say. Finally I made it spell out to them that the agency controlling its movements was myself, and there we stopped. Noticeable annoyance! I retired and they continued, but the tumbler talked complete and persistent nonsense for the rest of the evening.

I dont [sic] say it is never controlled by a supernatural agency. But I have established to MY satisfaction that it can be controlled by human agency not operating at any rate consciously by muscular force. I was of course accused of moving it by muscular force but this was not so. I did nothing but allow my fingers to rest on the tumbler, & it simply went to the letters I wished it to go to.