Summer Re-run: The Magic Broom
A shameful episode of my past.
Bill was a skeptic. "Show Me" was his motto.
The teen-age gang was hanging out on Ma Lewis' screen porch, playing cards, as was our wont on a summer's day. The banter, by chance, turned to ESP. This was the era of Uri Geller, Kweskin and other quacks. When Bill went home to eat, Rich and I hatched up a plot to confound him (an ever-popular pastime of our youth). We arranged a series of subtle hand signals to tip off what card was being looked at by the "tester" (ie: Big Bill) so that the "subject" (Rich) would know its value and suit. When Bill came back after supper, the trap was set. I suggested that we use cards to see if anyone had ESP. We would keep a tally, and compare results.
I was the first subject, with about 2 "hits" out of twenty (a "hit" was divining either rank or suit - getting both would be a "double hit"). Bill turn as guesser came next with about the same results. Then Rich was the subject. Bill was tester, and I was the impartial "observer" - of course I positioned myself to see Bill's card. Rich got about 8 hits the first round. He leaned back for a second round and the porch broom was knocked over by his chair. He picked up the broom end, and began idly fingering the straws. In the next round he got about 16 hits, and Bill was starting to sweat. In a stroke of inspired mischief, Rich claimed that the grasping at straws improved his odds. He called it his "Magic Broom". We did a third round, and a fourth, and while I would never let Rich get better than about 70 percent, every once in a while he would "get" three or four double hits in a row. We gave up after awhile, but we didn't tell Bill it was a hoax until three days later.
He has never forgiven us.
Originally posted July 17, 2004. Additional material and illustration added..