T'eyla Minh (teylaminh) wrote,
T'eyla Minh

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Derren Brown Seance programme

(But first: http://quiz.ravenblack.net/blood.pl?biter=minh - join the bloodsucking fun.  You know you want to. :D)

Anyway.  The Derren Brown thing, if anyone didn't know, was just on Channel Four.  It was advertised as an actual seance (presumably live otherwise it wouldn't work) done in the names of science, Mr. Brown being a psychologist.  In all honesty, I had my doubts about it working at all, since the entire point of a seance is a) to do one in a place that actually has spirit activity and b) to keep the energy flowing around the circle, so, therefore, how can a seance work with detatched audience members?  So, I sat down to watch it (random little powercuts notwithstanding; I swear they knew and did it to terrify gullible students...) out of curiosity, and because, no matter what, it was bound to be at least vaguely entertaining.

I spent the majority of it shouting at the television, "It's a set-up!"  The story went that 12 students that had lived at the hospital had all died because of a suicide pact, so the point was to try and contact one of them.

It started with Random Participant #1 being put into a medium box (a frame with curtains where a medium would usually sit; paranormal activity is then meant to happen beyond the medium's control.)  Derren sat the girl in a chair, and her into a trance in a matter of seconds (how anyone can clear their mind that fast is beyond me; I always find myself wondering if I left the gas on or something...) and set her into a position with her feet flat on the floor and her hands on her knees.  He drew the curtains.  Two seconds later, the tambourine on the table jangled and fell on the floor.  He opened the curtains and she was in the same position.  He asked her - still tranced - if she'd touched it - no, she hadn't.

The process was repeated, and this time the tambourine flew over the curtains and into the audience.  Girl had not moved.  He brought her out of it, and played back some CCTV footage shot from directly above.  Naturally, this showed her moving the tambourine, despite the fact that, on watching it back, she had no memory of it whatsoever.

I'd've been more impressed if that tambourine had moved by itself, but that's probably too much to ask, and I'll have to content myself with the Stratford-upon-Avon Most Haunted spoon footage. ;)

I missed the beginning of the next one, but I know that Random Participant #2 (a bloke, this time) was strapped to the chair.  All I saw was lots of screaming and thrashing coming from behind the curtain, and him screaming to get out.

Next, they sent Random Participant #3 off down a corridor - the students' rooms -  told her to look at all the doors and go to the one she felt most drawn to.  She stopped at one at the end of the corridor and went in, where she sat (in the dark) for the rest of the first half.

Until this point, I was semi-convinced.  Then there was the first participate-at-home section.  He set out twelve photos, one of each of the students, some colour and some black-and-white.  Told them (and us) to pick one they felt drawn to that was colour, then move around following his directions (up or down to a black and white, diagonally to a colour, etc) and concentrate on the one they ended up on.  My result, for the record, was Jane.  As was everyone else's, because it's the same mind-reading trick used on television before by the likes of Uri Gellar and kids' television presenters...

Next was the 'ghost-writing' experiment, whereby Random Participant #4 (another girl) was given a whiteboard and a pen, put into a trance, and asked to focus on the person they thought about, then write down the name of a city that was important to that person, by letting their hand move without them controlling it.  The girl in the darkened room was asked to do the same thing (viewed on a screen that was covered up.)

Both of them wrote down 'London'.  A fairly obvious choice, I suppose.  It wasn't mentioned until later that one of them immediately thought of 'Manchester', but more on that later.  (The only weird thing here was I tried it, too, just out of curiosity to see what I'd end up with, and ended up drawing a very wobbly 'L', but I think that's because I was semi-watching them at the same time...)

Next, the obligatory ouija session.  Naturally, they all spelt out the name 'Jane', none of them claiming to have pushed the glass in the slightest.  Derren mentioned that it would speed up 'if it wanted to'; by the time they got to 'E', it was practically about to fly off the table.  Then her file was taken from the box with all the others in, and some details read out - she lived in London.  There's a surprise.  Her room number was G7.  So, with everyone nicely freaked out from the seance, they tried to re-initiate sound contact with the girl in the room, with no success.  Huge microphone feedback freaked everyone out again, and the girl in the room is a gibbering wreck, but informed them she was in room number 7.  She begged Derren to get her out of there; one of the other participants started praying and crossing himself, which vaguely amused me.  I think some things are beyond that, y'know?

Anyway, after that, they got to the nitty gritty, the seance itself.  One of the girls was randomly selected to be a medium - and of course, the spirit they're trying to contact is female, and we can't be doing with the menfolk being possessed by girls, can we?  Derren prepped everyone, got them breathing in synchronisation, and blew out their three candles one by one.  They were the only ones in the room, the footage being filmed by remote control night vision cameras positioned in strategic places.  There were three objects on the table: a spirit bell (basically a metal frame with a little bell hanging from it), a trophy from the year of the suicides, and a spirit ball made of wicker, supposedly light enough for any spirit presence to move.  All were painted in phosperous paint so they could see them in the dark, but not, it seemed, all over, only on the edges and corners...

The seance started.  Holly, the girl assigned as 'medium', repeated the questions Derren instructed her to.  She asked Jane to make herself known by moving the cup or the ball; all attention was on the cup. Nothing happened.  All attention was on the ball.  Nothing happened.  All attention was about to go to the bell, when the cup fell over with a clang, and everyone - naturally - screamed, with Derren telling them all to stay calm and keep the circle closed.  To their credit, they managed it.  Then there was a lot of screaming and the group looking around and in the air, because the ball was apparently being chucked about.  Note that we, the humble audience, never saw the ball moving, just the cup falling over...

Holly was then talking for Jane, answering questions about her life: her cat was called Harry and her dad was a builder, and she used to get the train to London, all pretty mundane stuff.  She was first talking as Jane aged five, then fifteen - interesting, considering she died when she was a student.  I'm pretty sure spirits are trapped in the body they passed over in, and don't have the ability to age-hop as their will sees fit...  You ask 'em how old they are, they tell you the age they were when they died, or so most of the seances/mediumships on Most Haunted have shown (which isn't the definitive word on these things, of course, but it's as good a source as any.)  Aside from that, it's just common sense...

Anyway, with everyone well and truly freaked out after this - and Holly 'returning', screaming, and making everyone else scream in the process; gotta love the power of suggestion - Derren instructed one of the others to get out Jane's envelope and open it up completely.  There was a letter in there from her brother telling about her life - her cat was called Harry, her dad was a builder, and she did go down to London on the train to visit her grandmother - as well as a DVD that was a copy of some home video footage, which was then played as the letter was read out.  It also transpired she lived in a village in Manchester...

Derren then explained that the whole thing had been set up from the photo-choosing, planting the seed of 'Jane' into their heads, but everything after that had been part of the experiment.  During the ouija board session, he said, they were pushing the glass, but without consciously realising it.  I think we also established that the darkened-room-girl and Holly were probably actresses, or at the very least, Holly was instructed beforehand to remember the basic details (and if not, that's damn weird...)  Then he went out to a remote satellite truck to retrieve the actress playing Jane on the video.

So.  Rather a disappointment, but also quite interesting.  Disappointing, because I was rather hoping it would be an actual seance rather than a psychological experiment.  But I guess the day someone actually proves the existence of ghosts (aforesaid spoon footage aside, and that was very intriguing, as well as completely unexplainable) there'll be pandemonium...  Still, an actual televised seance would be incredibly interesting; I mean, they do them on Most Haunted, but the team have been working together so long now that their own energy might be creating all sorts of things, not necessarily any other presence.

*has random idea, wanders off to make icon*

*returns, an hour later*

There. Icon. If livejournal ever registers the fact that it exists...

Right, where was I?  Yes, seances.  Um.  Disappointing because it wasn't one, indeed.  Also, just how gullible were those participants to fall for the picking-a-photo thing. I'd have twigged right then if I was there, which leads me to believe that most of them probably were actors, or have been living underground for the past few years not to have ever seen that thing before.  It amused me particularly during the ouija board session when they'd got "J" and "A" already, and one of them said "It's gonna be Jane!".  Duh.  Ya think, genius?

Interesting, however, as a psychological experiment, and truly does show what the power of suggestion can do.  I'm still not entirely sure if the people who phoned in (one claiming they wrote down London - the person was from London, which could explain that; another claiming their wardrobe 'jerked', and another saying they did the ouija board test and spelt out Jane without even realising it) were genuine or not; makes it even more intriguing if they are.  Most of it's easily explained away - the name is easy to remember, the selection process done by simple mathematics and pretty much foolproof, the information for the planted 'medium' was simple enough to remember quickly, it's simple enough to move a tambourine and look like you're asleep (besides which, her throwing it over the curtain looked too obviously conscious), if the room was picked at random, well, 7 is a popular number, and I'll hazard a guess that the 'floating' spirit ball and the cup were just set up before the seance started or on a string or something.  If it was truly a proper seance, Derren would have been as freaked as the participants, because he's not a medium, he's a sceptic, and he's not trained for that sort of thing either.  I guarantee if something had actually happened, he'd have called it off right away.

I actually wish they'd contacted a real spirit. That would've made it a heck of a lot more interesting.

The other thing that gets me is the fact that only one of the participants was male; all of the others were female, which clearly says a lot for what he's trying to find out. Women are probably more likely to be susceptible to the power of suggestion, or more likely to freak out faster; the men are likely to try and come to some logical conclusion or try to explain it away, and fail, which makes them freak out as well. A vast over-generalisation, obviously, and everyone reacts weirdly under extreme conditions, but it does bode for questioning...

But then again, it's probably just as well it wasn't a real seance, because everyday people are not prepared for mental strength involved; you can't pick a 'medium' at random from a room and expect something to come of it because not everyone has the ability.  Clearly the participants were curious, but clueless...

I'm clearly entirely too cynical to watch these sorts of things.  See, I'm a believer; always have been.  UFOs and ghosts/whateveryouwanttocallthem are the two most plausible of the various weird phenomena out there, and if I don't believe in Heaven of Hell, I gotta go somewhere, right?  The thing is, I can tell when something's fake; I want the real proof, dammit.  None of this bloody orb business (unless they're really convincing, that is) thank you.  And I still haven't managed to do the Derby ghost walk, and I'm ever more tempted to do the Derby Gaol sleepover, because if I'm slightly ubersensitive to this sort of thing, I want to take that further, if I can.  But in any case, I shouldn't watch annoying set-up television seances.

But I wouldn't mind seeing that thing with Sarah Greene and Craig Charles that they showed one Hallowe'en in the late 80s.  Just, y'know, to see how badly done it really was...

Whoa, that ended up long.  Sorry...
Tags: celebrities: derren brown, reviews: television

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