Series O, Episode 12 - The Occult
- Some members of the audience have written down words and put them in envelopes. Sandi removes her ear piece so that the Elves don't talk to her. She puts one envelope on her head and concentrates and believes it says "potato". One man puts his hand up and Sandi looks inside the envelope, and claims she was right without showing the audience. She also does with an envelope reportedly saying "synchronicity" and "mushroom". Sandi then writes a word down herself, puts it in an envelope and then says she will put it in a box so no-one can change it, but then puts in on top of the box after the panel claim it could be changed without their knowledge.
- Tangent: "Dermo-optical perception" is the idea that people can read through things using something other than their eyes. One man, the mentalist Alexander: the Man Who Knows, whose real name was Claude Conlin, claimed to be able to do this. He married between 8-14 women, many at the same time.
- XL Tangent: During World War I, a German lady's maid was stopped and strip-searched, and secret writing was found on her bottom. The maid was arrested, the bottom was photographed, the photo was sent to German military intelligence, but it turned out that the maid was on a train and was worried the toilet would be dirty, so she put newspaper on the seat and the print got stuck to the bottom.
- XL Tangent: Alan has the poster of Alexander that is shown to illustrate him. He got in Coney Island, which still has all kinds of strange acts. One he came across was a contortionist aged around 23 who could fit himself through the head of a tennis racket by dislocating his shoulder. Alan asked if there were possible long-term implications, and the contortionist said his shoulders would be ruined by the time he reaches 40, but he refuses to stop.
- The panel are given an object that looks like a demonic hand which has wax tips, and are asked how they would use it to burgle a house. A picture behind them shows a real hand from a museum it Whitby, believed to be the only one left in existance. If you take the pickled hand of a hanged man, make a candle from the same man's fat and used his hair to make a wick, you can make a "Hand of Glory". The belief was that you held one of these in someone else's house, they would have a stupefying effect on the occupants, putting them to sleep. The Observer reported on 16th January 1831 that burglars entered a house in County Meath with a Hand of Glory, but they failed.
- Tangent: They are told they can't light the wax because of health and safety, but as they are candles in the studio Noel decides to light his.
- XL Tangent: The term "Hand of Glory" comes from "mandragore", an old word for the mandrake root, which looks a bit like a human. You can protect yourself from the Hand of Glory by rubbing an unguent around the house made of the gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hen and the blood of a screech owl.
- XL Tangent: The Irish were keen on these beliefs. One belief held by Irish butter makers was to stir the milk around nine times with a dead man's hand taken fresh from the graveyard. Aisling insists that this is no longer practiced.
- XL Tangent: Sandi's favourite occult spell comes from "Folklore in Herefordshire", which lists the cure for whooping cough as to make a child eat a slice of bread and butter that had sat in the hand of a corpse.
- XL Tangent: The "Hand of Glory" should always be the left hand, because it is sinister, and the word "sinister" means "left-handed". Aisling's mother was left-handed and when she in school taught by nuns they would beat her left hand so she would be forced to write with the right hand.
- Tangent: There were book curses designed to prevent burglary. One from a 15th century manuscript owned by Count Jean d'Orleans reads: "Whoever steals this book will hang on a gallows in Paris. And, if he isn't hung, he'll drown. And, if he doesn't drown, he'll roast. And, if he doesn't roast, a worse end will befall him."
- XL Tangent: The Writers' Museum in Edinburgh was built in 1622 by William Gray of Pittendrum, who was so worried about burglars that the stairs on his staircase are all different heights, so he could tell if a burglar was walking up them. The building is known as Lady Stair's House.
- The horny member of royalty is illegal from any form of legal prosecution is the Devil. In 1971, an American named Gerlad Mayo tried to sue the Devil in a case called "United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo vs Satan and His Staff", which was heard by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Mayo alleged that Satan had caused him misery, threatened him, put obstacles in his path and caused his downfall. The judge, Gerald J. Webber, said he was unsure if Satan could be sued as he was technically a foreign prince and if sued he might be able to claim immunity. The case was thrown out because nobody had an address to sent Satan the papers. (Forfeit: Andrew)
- XL Tangent: Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers once tried to sue God, seeking a permanent injunction against God's harmful activities, but this too was thrown out of court because no-one could give God the papers. Chambers replied saying that: "His omniscience would surely mean that He knows already." To be fair, Chambers brought up the case to show how some court cases are frivolous.
- Tangent: The Devil's Advocate was someone in the Catholic Church whose job it was to argue against proposed sainthoods. Pope John Paul II got rid of the job in 1983, and as a result the number of people made saints rose sharply.
- XL Tangent: During Pope John Paul II's 27-year tenure there were 482 people who were made saints, compared with 98 for the rest of the 20th century, and more than all his predecessors combined, going back to the 16th century. When Mother Teresa was nominated for a sainthood, Christopher Hitchens was asked by the Roman Catholic Church to be her Devil's Advocate.
- Tangent: The correct way to greet the Devil is the "Kiss of Shame", where you have to kiss his arse.
- XL: A question about "Osterreich": the panel are shown four busts of strained faces by the same sculptor and are asked which one is constipated. The four busters (from left-to-right as shown on the programme) were of "The Yawner", "The Strong Odour", "The Constipated One" and "The Vexed One". There is another bust made by the same man, 18th-century German sculptor Franz Messerschmidt called "The Incapable Bassoonist". There are 43 of these busts that survive today. Messerschmidt suffered from terrible digestive disorders, and to distract himself from the pain he would pinch himself all over, and noticed in the mirror his expressions, and thus made these busts of what he called the 64 canonical grimaces of the human face. It took him 11 years to make them. Messerschmidt also suffered from hallucinations, believed he could see ghosts and was interested in necromancy. After his death the busts were exhibited at the Citizens Hospital in Vienna.
- Sandi performs another mind reading trick. She gives Alan a whiteboard to hold and for Aisling to write on. Sandi gets the audience to say three single figure digits. She gets 827. Aisling then reverses the digits, getting 728, and subtracts the two, getting 99. She puts a zero in front of that, reverses the number, and adds 099 to 990, getting 1089. Sandi then gives Noel a copy of 1,342 QI Facts to Leave You Flabbergasted and tells him to look up the 10th word on page 89. This word is "French". Sandi then takes the envelope containing the word she wrote down earlier, and she wrote down "French".
- The final title in Shakespeare's oeuvre was This Book For Him I Name For Jesus' Sake by William Shakespeare (spirit), written in 1920. According to the book Essential Cataloguing: The Basics, the guide used by the British Library and the US Library of Congress, books written by authors after their death are still catalogued under their own name. It was actually written by Sarah Taylor Shatford who claimed to be channelling his spirit. Other books "written" after the author died include Mark Twain's Jap Herron: A Novel written from the Oujia Board, published seven years after he died; and spiritualist author Arthur Conan Doyle had "written" The Great Mystery of Life Beyond Death in 1983. (Forfeit: The Tempest)
- XL Tangent: Russell says that he and Noel are hungry and asks for bananas. Some people in the audience do havebananas and give them to the panel, and Sandi wonders if there are enough for the whole panel. Alan asks if anyone has toast with a bit of Marmite on it.
- XL Tangent: Sandi once spent a whole day in Stratford-upon-Avon asking people how Shakespeare died, and no-one wanted to say, because he died drunk on his birthday, which was St. George's Day.
- XL Tangent: Thomas Edison tried to invent a spirit telephone to communicate with the dead. He revealed it in 1920, denied it in 1926 saying it was a joke, but then after his death it was discovered in Edison's diary that it says that he tried to use a valve to amplify and capture the voices of spirits.
- XL Tangent: Aisling remembers a blind lady who came to Dublin who claimed she could talk to the dead, and remembers that all the people watching got swept up in the moment, because no true sceptic would be in the room. One Irish medium, Geraldine Cummins, had a book of her automatic writing edited by Sandi's great aunt Signe. The book was called "Swan on a Black Sea". When Signe died she left very clear instructions for the family on how she should be contacted after her death. Sandi's mother did everything that was asked, met a medium. The medium said: "I'm seeing an old lady and she's sitting, she's got her cup of tea in one hand and a piece of cheese in the other." Sandi's mother said that this was her grandmother, to which the medium said: "Oh, isn't it typical? You finally get through and you get the wrong old woman!"
- XL: The thing the yoghurt said to the CIA interrogator was: "That one's getting food, where's mine?" The man who is claimed to have founded the CIA's polygraph programme, Cleve Backster, hooked up a house plant to a lie detector in 1966. He was looking for an anxiety response and got a match, with the levels on the lie detector spiked when he thought of setting fire to the plant. Backster took this as a sign that plants had "primary perception", namely that they were sentient. He expanded his research and hooked his polygraph to lettuce, onions, oranges, bananas, chicken, eggs, sperm and yoghurt. He claimed that: "One sample of yoghurt, for example, will react when another is being fed, as if to say, 'That one's getting food, where's mine?'" Backster's assertions hindered science for years.
- The worst omen you can see on a football pitch depends on what you believe, as they are a lot of superstitions concerning the sport. In the 1990 World Cup, Argentinean goalkeeper Sergio Goycohea was in the quarter final against Yugoslavia, which went to penalties. He needed to go to the toilet but wasn't allowed to leave the field, so his teammates surrounded him so he could relieve himself. He then blocked two penalties, and this was considered such a good omen his coach told him to do it again in the semi-final penalty shoot-out against Italy, and again he blocked two shots. However, they lost the final against Germany as it didn't go to a penalty shoot-out and thus there was no need to urinate, although the only goal in the match was a penalty in normal time. A more common superstition is the players swapping underwear or wearing them inside out.
- Tangent: Barry Fry used to urinate in every corner of the ground when he managed Birmingham City. Sandi mishears and thought they were talking about Barry Cryer.
- XL Tangent: Birmingham City F.C. had a belief for a while that they were cursed by gypsies who were evacuated from the ground in 1906.
- Tommaso, the world's richest cat, has seven lives. This is because he is Italian, and the number of lives a cat has varies from culture to culture. In Turkish and Arabic, it is six lives; in Germany, Greece, Brazil and some Spanish speaking-places it is seven. Tommaso was a stray cat adopted by Marisa Assunta, and when she died she left Tommaso $13million in her will. (Forfeit: Nine)
- XL Tangent: Naval tradition believes that cats protect vessels. This belief even extend to airships. The "America", was a dirigible built in 1906 for newsman Walter Wellman, who tried to reach the North Pole. They had a cat called Kiddo as a mascot, but Kiddo hated being on board. The America was also the very first airborne vessel to be fitted with a radio, which means that the very first air-to-ground radio communication from an aircraft was: "Roy, come and get this goddamn cat!"
- The thing you should use to make a traditional Jack-o'-lantern is a turnip, or a mangle wurzel if a turnip is not available. Halloween originally comes from Ireland, from the Gaelic festival of Samhain. (Forfeit: Pumpkin)
- XL Tangent: In south Somerset, the last Thursday of October is Punkie Night, where the children carry lanterns made out of mangle wurzels called "punkies".
- XL Tangent: In England turnips were carved out and were known as "Hoberdy's Lantern".
- Sandi gives the panel some magic sticks and is asked which of them is an actual wand. Aisling is given a large wand that looks like a typical magicians black wand with white tips; Noel is given a smaller wand; Russell one the longest wand of all; and Alan a tiny one and another about the same size as Noel's. The wand was originally a unit of length, equal to a metre, and the closest one is Aisling's wand. All the wands they are given are of old measurements. No'l's is an "ars", an old Turkish unit meaning "forearm", akin to the cubit; Russell has a Mongolian "ald", which is the length of outstretched arms; Alan has a "pyramid inch", which in the 19th century people believed was the unit of measurement that the Egyptians used to build the pyramids, and a Scandinavian unit called an "alen", which is about 60cm long. None of them are actually magic wands, and Sandi asks what they have to say in order to get one. Russell says, "Please", and Sandi magically produces a wand out of thin air.
Objectionable Object Prize
- Aisling is given a skull which Sandi claims belongs to one of the show's researchers.
- Friday 19th January 2018
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Sandi Toksvig||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|Ed Brooke-Hitching||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Kalpna Patel-Knight||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|