OK, readers, I'll get this out of the way right up front: Peter Loughran & Sean Bogunia are freakin' brilliant!
(I'm doing this week's blog early as I've got a fellow performer friend coming in for out of town tomorrow night.)
Next week, look for a special pre-release special on my TWO new books!
Back to this week's column...as the title would indicate, I'm going to compare and contrast Peter Loughran's Witchboard with Jitters - both of which are designed to enable owners to freak out audiences witnessing a paranormal/seance performance.
Last summer, I visited Peter's house to pick up a couple of props and got a sneak peek at Witchboard and it's inner workings. I also got a chance to check out the Ouija board itself up close as well as all the cool electronics. Recently I ordered Jitters and after experimenting with it over the last 10 days, I'm in a position to compare the two and offer some thoughts for both.
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: With both packages, you receive a gimmicked Ouija board allowing users to cause the planchette to move across the board in a very spooky manner. With Witchboard, you can program the planchette electronically and are able to trigger the program with the remote control.
With Jitters, the Ouija planchette movement is not electronic, instead using Peter's Shockwave principle.
You also receive the Ghost Controller and three modules which allow you to turn on and off plug-in electrical devices in the client's home. You receive the remote control and are able to program everything to trigger a pre-planned program, allowing you to have "hands off" spirit occurances, such as lights turning on and off, radios turning on and so on.
With Witchboard, the Ghost Controller is built into the Ouija board, meaning you have nothing to hide. With Jitters, the Ghost Controller is it's own separate device.
Jitters also comes with Peter's Entity, allowing you to cause objects to move on their own without threads or strings.
In addition to all of that, both packages come with two disks - one is an audio CD you can load into the client's CD player for a cool ghostly effect when the player turns on. The second disk is a DVD allowing you to cause a ghostly image to appear on a static-filled TV screen.
MY BACKGROUND: I've spent years participating in and designing haunted houses and private party seance recreations...in fact, I actually started my performing career in Bizarre magic, then I made my way to closeup, then to kids' magic, and finally to stage, so my career path was a little strange!
When my cohorts and I used to do seances and haunted houses, the technology was very limited. While there were devices available to control lights and appliances, we had to do everything manually. You did not have the option of programming a perfectly timed out program and triggering the entire program with a push of a button, so things have really come a long way!
RATING: Both items are a 10/10, just to get that out of the way!
EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Now we get into the real meet of this blog...which one is better?
First, unlike a magic routine like a levitation or sleight of hand sponge ball routine, both Jitters and Witchboard need to be looked at as a means to an end. Let's face it, while presentation is King, even a boring presentation of the $100 Bill Switch would get solid reactions out of people. Jitters & Witchboard is completely different. If you sit your friends down and say, "Watch this!" And lights go on and off, they'll simply roll their eyes. Witchboard & Jitters are a means to an end and really require a great deal of psychology & atmosphere setting. Both of these packages are used to amplify and enhance a mood...not create it.
With all of that out of the way, I'll compare the Planchette movement. You definitely have more control over the Planchette with Witchboard and you can pre-program movements to spell out words which is REALLY neat! With Jitters, the movement is more limited, which is to be expected as Jitters is nearly $1000 less.
I don't believe there's an advantage over either, however. If you're doing a more theatrical type of event, spelling out words is really cool. If, like me, you want to shock people, a sudden jerky movement of that Planchette is all you need. After working with Jitters for a short time, I'm able to cause the Planchette to suddenly flip over and launch itself completely off of the board! This is all I need. As Eugene Burger says, "Less is More."
While you do have the option of making the Jitters Planchette move slower than that, spelling out complete words will be quite a bit more difficult because of the limited range of movement with the Shockwave principle. But again, for me, less is more, so it does more than I need.:)
Both boards are visually very appealing - both are quite large, made of wood, polished and have that rustic 'old world' look, like an antique. Peter's craftsmanship is amazing.
The Witchboard board can also rock itself via program, like old school table tilting. This is VERY cool and is not offered on the Jitters board.
However, Jitters comes with the extremely cool Enity device, which is not included with Witchboard. I have owned a separate Entity for years and can assure potential buyers that this is REALLY neat - I've used it for adult and kid audiences and it always works reliably and gets a great reaction. In fact, the Jitters version is even smaller, meaning you can hide it more easily without losing any programming features!
Entity allows you to cause more ghostly activity in different parts of the room, with the Ouija board doing it's thing, the Entity doing it's thing, and the Ghost Controller doing stuff elsewhere. Your options really are unlimited.
While the Ghost Controller features (programming up to three things to turn on and off in the room) are identical in Jitters and Witchboard, the major difference in the two is as I said the Controller being built into Witchboard, meaning you don't have to 'hide' the controller.
With Jitters, the controller is separate and is roughly 8" x 5" x 2", so while it's a separate device, it's still easy to hide in the room.
I had a heck of a time trying to decide which package to get, as I liked the more versatile control of the Ouija planchette, but since I travel so much, I ultimately went with Jitters, as It would be extremely easy to get the Ghost Controller into an airline carry-on suitcase, whereas the Witchboard unit would have to be checked...and knowing TSA, ultimately destroyed!
So...which one is better? I'd say neither is better than the other. As a purchaser, you'll have to weigh your needs and go from there.
DIFFICULTY: After only a few minutes, I was able to easily program the electrical appliances in my house to turn on and off and with the ghost DVD, even though I'm expecting it, when it kicks on, it's really spooky! The instructions were very easily understood.
The device is reliable and very user-friendly....plus, you can store two programs, giving you even more options! Consider this scenario: have one program set up to turn the lights off and the TV on...but you get to the house and the client has you set up in a room with out a TV...well, with your second program, you have different delays programmed for those "without a TV" performances.
Additionally, if you have your own seance room, you can have hidden speakers in the walls, behind bookcases, etc and have frightening animal sounds seemingly surround the guests in the dark (because of the stereo speakers hidden in various parts of the room!
Or maybe you're set up in your own theater and don't want to pay a lighting crew...you could have the Ghost Controller set up to trigger some cool lighting effects as you are being introduced. In other words, you don't have to limit yourself to just seance or paranormal shows with the electronics.
For instance, I use an Entity device in my Recycling Magic Show!
As always with anything from Peter Loughran, I am blown away by the quality. I couldn't be happier with my purchase and can't wait to start scaring people!
NEXT WEEK: Butcher's Blade by Tim Wisseman. (I'm building my own seance/paranormal show so I've been busy buying all kinds of goodies!