Reports of paranormal human levitation have been reported down the ages. In most cases, the phenomenon is associated with Christian saints, Yoga practitioners, witchcraft, Spiritualist mediums, 'demonic possession', and poltergeist cases. Among the most famous examples are:
- St Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582), reported to have levitated when in states of mystical trance.
- St Joseph of Cupertino (1603–1663), said to have levitated during religious services.
- Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886), Spiritualist medium, reported to have been seen levitating on several occasions, even to the ceiling.
- Sai Baba of Shirdi (d. 1916), Indian Yogi, reported to have levitated during meditation.
- Padre Pio (1887–1968), said to have levitated during Mass and religious ecstasy.
- Enfield Poltergeist Case (1977-1979), in which 11-year old Janet Hodgson is claimed to have been seen levitating.
Also, of course, there are many example of the use of magicians' tricks to present the illusion of human levitation.
The effect described below was popular in Victorian times, but may date back much earlier. Although various explanations have been proposed, this classic demonstration continues to mystify and amuse.
Caution and Disclaimer
When attempting this experiment, sensible precautions should be taken to ensure that the person to be lifted cannot fall or hit anything. Allow plenty of surrounding space.
Do not try this if inebriated. Also none of the participants should have any contraindicative medical condition (e.g., heart or back problems).
Participants attempt this experiment entirely at their own risk. We will not accept any liability for any mishaps that may occur.
- The person to be lifted (choose a fairly heavy person) should sit relaxed but upright on a firm chair. Feet should be on the floor and hands in the lap.
- The four assistants should stand two on each side, one by each shoulder and one by each knee.
- Each assistant should make fists with both hands, then extend the two forefingers and hold them together gently but firmly, edge to edge.
- The two assistants standing by the shoulders place their extended forefingers under the seated person's left or right armpit. The other two assistants place their forefingers under the seated person's left or right knee.
- The person to be lifted thinks "down" and imagines himself or herself sinking into the chair.
- In this position the four assistants should try to lift the person. They will find it impossible.
- The assistants should now place their palms on top of the seated person's knee or shoulder and together extert a steady force downwards.
- While they are doing this, someone counts out loud from one to ten, at the rate of about one call every two seconds.
- On the count of "nine" the four assistants quickly take their former positions with extended forefingers under the armpit or knee.
- Precisely on the count of "ten", the assistants simultaneous try to lift the person. At the same time, the seated person should think "up" and imagine himself or herself rising into the air.
- If these instructions are followed carefully and correctly, the person will often soar straight up into the air on the forefingers of the assistants.
There are several variations to this stunt. For example, sometimes it is suggested that the hands push down on the seated person's head. However, this can be dangerous and should NOT be attempted. Alternatively, the person to be lifted may be standing and is then lifted by the elbows, chin and feet. However, this can also be dangerous and is NOT recommended.