Jan Willem Nienhuys
They had to detect in which of six boxes a crystal of their
own choice or a very holy Tibetan relic provided by Skepsis was present.
The other boxes were empty, except for the cotton balls present in all
boxes to prevent rattling.
The boxes were filled at random (a die was used) by a person that did
not enter the experimental room, and that had no verbal contact with
the helper that brought the boxes into the experimental room.
The boxes were glued to a piece of wood, to make transport easier, and
prevent subtle clues on the basis of placement.
The results were:
1 person scored 0 out of 10,
3 persons scored 2 out of 10
3 persons scored 3 out of 10.
One of the above did not use a pendulum, but tried to detect the aura.
He complained about the light, and only when the light was almost turned
off, he succeeded (three times in a row). He wanted to repeat the
experiment, but broke off after he managed only one hit in four.
Most participants were very confident to score 8 or more out of 10.
One participant (who had experimented at home) thought she would score
at least 7 out of 10. On average each try took about 5 minutes (including
taking away the boxes, refilling them and bringing them back). That's
still an hour or so per participant, including trials beforehand, and
questions and evaluations.
We had invited 12 people altogether, but only 7 turned up. One
of the ones not coming discovered that we only would refund travel
expenses when he would score more then 5 out out 10. Even though
confident that he had a good chance of passing the first round, he
thought that this conditional refund was too insecure.
The big surprise for me was the answer the participants gave to the
question: "how would someone score who has no paranormal abilities and
who does not know how to use the pendulum".
Most did not understand the question. "No idea". "That depends on so much".
"Anyone can do this". Only after explicitly outlining that such an
unable person would not use a pendulum, but throw dice or so, some
people thought maybe one hit would be possible. One guy (an
automatisation advisor) thought that anyone had a chance of 50%
of scoring the required 5 out of 10. No one said: "The chance expectation
is 10/6, so 1 or 2". Of course, advertising such an experiment attracts
people who only have a vague notion of probability.
During the experiment the subjects became more and more uncertain.
Afterwards they complained about the lack of ambiance (an age old
cellar in a former astronomical observatory, the walls lined with
books on the occult, and mysteriously ticking pipes of the central
heating of the observatory), the confusing colors on the boxes and
so on. Some doubted halfway the experiment whether their stone still
had its powers and so on. One discovered that the relic made his
pendulum heavier and heavier, because it moved very little towards the end.
All of them (except one who had tried it more for fun, and except the
one who had scored 0) thought they had been doing quite well, given
In defense of those who became visibly upset when this experiment
did not yield results expected by them, I must confess that I got
all kinds of strange irrepressable thoughts when one lady scored
3 out the first 5.
Later, when luck ran against her, she looked at me, and said: "You
haven't hidden a magnet under the table, have you?"
Incidentally, most of these pendulum experts look at the direction
the pendulum swings circlewise: a more or less clockwise rotation
means one thing, and anticlockwise means another thing for them.
BTW, the big prize was for those who performed well in three succesive
rounds, i.e. a chance of 1 in a quarter million of losing it by
I would like to know what brings people to rely on such methods,
and what keeps them using these. The lady above used her pendulum
in the supermarket, to determine which food was healthy. Another
used the pendulum to select one of a few Homeopathic remedies when
she had a cold (but when asked whether it worked also at C30, she
apparently didn't know what that meant, so to her "homeopathic"
meant just any herbal preparation labeled as such), and the sofware
advisor used his abilities in dealing with people and when he gave
demonstrations (probably something like which button to press in