The two pencil game involves crossing two pens or pencils to create a grid (with sectors labelled “yes” and “no”) and then asking questions to a “supernatural entity” named “Charlie.” The upper pencil is then expected to rotate to indicate the answer to such questions. The first question everyone asks by speaking into the pencils is “can we play?” or “are you here?” or “are you there?
The top pencil is precariously balanced on a central pivot point, meaning that it can easily rotate on the pivot due to slight wind gusts, or the breathing of players expecting the pencil to move.
Psychological suggestion can lead people to expect a particular response, which can result in thoughts and behaviors that will help bring the anticipated outcome to fruition – for instance by breathing more heavily. Chris French, head of the anomalistic psychology research unit at the University of London says that human agent detection leads people to see patterns in random events and perceive an intelligence behind them. He argues that divination games involve magical thinking, saying “Often the ‘answers’ received [in divination games] might be vague and ambiguous, but our inherent ability to find meaning—even when it isn’t there—ensures that we will perceive significance in those responses and be convinced that an intelligence of some kind lay behind them.”
Pastor Carl Gallups told WPTF news radio “I have done some experiments with this, and I think people are being punked. On my desk in front of me, I have the two pencils set up and the one on the top that is balanced is easily moved by just a puff of air. He continued, “I held my phone up to pretend like I was filming it and just started breathing a little heavy, but it’s indiscernible to anybody around, and the pencil just moves so easily.” Fred Clark and Rebecca Watson liken the phenomenon of pencils moving on a desk to James Hydrick’s debunked claim that he could move a pencil on a desk by psychokinesis.