How to hallucinate with ping-pong balls and a radio


The Boston Globe kindly shows us how to hallucinate using ping pong balls and a radio, as well as other fun perceptual tricks. How to hallucinate with ping-pong balls and a radio


  1. The middle row is hilarious.

    Trick your mind into thinking a rubber hand is your own …….AND THEN HIT IT WITH A HAMMER!!!!1

  2. Combining these lab techniques with chemical catalysts of the tryptamine nature enhances them greatly.

  3. Perhaps this is overcautious but you might want to have a sitter unless you are absolutely sure that you are not epileptic. I’m pretty sure two or three of these would be sure-fire PSE inducers.

    I’m almost surprised at the lack of disclaimer ( in this day and age, amazing. Go! ).

  4. @tom hale

    That definitely had its freaky moments, but the ending explains it all. Eraserhead leaves you stunned and confused for days. Maybe even years, because now I can’t get the image of tiny, squealing cooked birds out of my head. I mean, really–wtf?

  5. The ping pong balls are for a uniform field of light. They don’t have to block anything, in fact, the setup usually has the balls illuminated. That might be for a different setup, though. The setup I read has the ping pong balls, diffuse light and no radio and induces a feeling of blindness even if your eyes are open. The color of the balls does not matter, you go ‘blind’ either way.

  6. Simpsons did it! Simpsons did it! (Well, the sensory deprivation tanks, which cost a heck of a lot more than a pingpong ball and a pair of scissors.)

    Warning, tape around the eyes should be of the “easy to remove” variety. Or just find a really dark room in your house.

    Great little chart, tho’. And readers who haven’t listened to Radiolab (on WNYC, or via your favorite podcast listening device) lose 5 points for not hearing of other great neurophisio/psychology experiments and findings.

  7. I’ve been experimenting with auditory hallucination before falling asleep. So far the voices in my head haven’t said much of interest. Pretty much really random stuff like, “the train to Zurich” or “harvesting sunflowers,” in voices of people I know.

  8. RE: Ping pong balls:

    see also:

    The tape “X”s over them actually ruins the effect. The idea is to have a uniform field thus the sacades (small motions) of your eye no longer introduce any change and very quickly, everything becomes a uniform gray. If you try this, and use a strongly colored light (blue for example), it will turn gray until there is a change (like moving your hand in front of the light) which will cause it to pop back to blue. Kinda fun.

    Also, don’t use the half of the ping pong ball that has writing on it – so you actually need two.

  9. Oh yeah, Richard Feynman did some “experiments” in a sensory deprivation tank too, which he wrote about in one of his books. (Surely you’re joking…?)

  10. The sensory deprivation tanks + acid/shrooms were used by Dr. John Lilly in his experiments, read “Center of the Cyclone.” No wonder he later tried to communicate with dolphins and program his own mind. I admired him greatly, until I found out he had been part of COINTELPRO.

    The experiment called Purkinje Lights reminds me of Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine

  11. Back in my college days (early 80s) I had a book from the 70s called something like ‘100 ways to get high without using drugs.’ It was an excellent compendium of different ways to screw with your neurological & perceptual systems without using chemicals. Sadly my cokehead roommate stole it from me, & I can’t seem to track it down anywhere. It really was a pretty cool book.

  12. When I was a kid I used to close my eyes and press my fingers against my eyeballs. After a few seconds of pressure, the darkness would fill with billowing yellow light, made out of rapidly cycling shapes and patterns.

    Eventually I stopped doing it, when I began to fear I might have been doing damage to my vision.

    I still try it out again every few years or so.

  13. The other way to try it is to combine the radio & pingpong balls with a strobe.
    Frequencies in the range from 8-15 Hz or so apparently have interesting effects.

    A while ago I generated some noise for playing with this sort of thing, and I also use it for blocking out sounds with my iPod. I’ve put a copy up at

  14. I cut a ping pong ball in half with a serrated knife, sanded the lettering off and attached them to my eyes with small pieces of masking tape around their edges. I illuminated them evenly to get a fairly uniform field, and played static on my portable AM radio at a volume that blocked the traffic noise that permeates my apartment. I lay on my couch like that for 20 minutes with nothing hallucinatory happening. Possibly because I was ever aware of an annoying floater in my vitreous humor.

  15. I’ve read some of the early papers on sensory deprivation (the researchers used ping-pong balls and white noise, among other things) and they reported that it took many hours for hallucinations to set in. The subjects apparently welcomed them, as they were a relief from the boredom…

    @16 — Yes, same thing as the Dreamachine. And the article should definitely have had a warning about seizures, since this kind of flashing light can induce them, sometimes in people who’ve never manifested epilepsy before. (Anyone remember the infamous Pokemon TV cartoon that induced seizures in a few kids?)

    @18 — Those are called phosphenes. They’re not hallucinations, just your retinal cells misfiring in response to increased pressure.

  16. So I wonder if the CIA use the middle row (or variants thereof) as a “harsh interrogation technique”.

    “Honest, it was all in his head. See, we never touched him.”

    1. I’ve always heard them referred to as hypnagogic (or hypnopompic) hallucinations because they’re not associated with REM, so they don’t get dream status.

    1. Question is, depending on what other body part you mean, it’s a possibility. If you wanna extend your “downstairs” buddy, think of the process. You’d have to sit there and rub yours and someone else’s at the same time. Think you’re up to it? I’m not.

  17. Sadly I can’t remember the name of the effect – but if you let yourself you can often see things with your eyes closed just before you fall asleep – I guess it’s related to what 12 was talking about. Last night it was green and yellow chrysanthemums!
    The thing about pain make me more interested in things like hypnobirthing . . .

  18. “If you happen to have a realistic-looking arm in the closet…” Hey, mine’s not rubber. Will it still work? Cause mine’s pretty realistic, and it just happens to be in my closet.

  19. Another one I learnt as a child is to get someone to lay down on the floor on their chest, with thier arms stretched in front of them and thier eyes closed. Then you pull their arms up behind their head (works best with one person on each arm but pulling at a uniform rate). Their chest will raise up of the ground, pull as far back as they can stand without pain and hold for a few seconds (the higher up and the longer held the better). slowly let thier arms down. Since their arms have been under stress they lose perception of where they are. When thier face contacts the floor again they assume their hands will also. As you kept lowering thier arms they get the sensation of their arms falling through the floor. It is quite freaky if you don’t konw what to expect.

  20. @#27 POSTED BY AGF:
    I actually used to do that all the time in elementary school in 4th grade while my teacher was constantly shoving pound cake into her maw.

    Hallucinating was so much better than watching that happen.

  21. I use audacity – 10 seconds of white noise on loop is plenty. The problem is, I always just fall asleep before anything interesting happens. But it’s great for blocking out roommates, traffic, parties, etc.

  22. Man, I so wish I wasn’t at work right now. Think I might dedicate the whole of Sunday to trippy fun.

  23. “Purkinje Lights” – I had no idea there was an actual name for that. I just always closed my eyes while riding in a car and the sunlight passing through trees while traveling 55+ mph creates a reasonable strobe effect that’s pretty awesome.

  24. My first exposure to ganzfeld was in the book Powers of Mind by George Goodman (under the pen name “Adam Smith”). Goodman wrote a series of financial bestsellers in the 60s and 70s — The Money Game and Supermoney come to mind.

    (This is all IIRC…) Goodman starts the book with stories of how he earned extra cash in college as a psych experiment volunteer; this led to his further interest in — and study of — various social, psychological, and chemical means of altering consciousness. Sensory deprivation tanks, ganzfeld, EST, TM, Rolf, acid; Goodman’s research was far-ranging, entertaining, and accurate (as far as a small midwestern town’s public library and private college could be used for verification in the early 70s ;-).

    I recall being particularly delighted in the recounting of his attempts to track down Carlos Castenada by staking out his publisher’s office in New York…only to be told that the sapient he managed to buttonhole was, in fact, Carlos’ double. Think I might also have learned my first profanity in German from that book, from a conversation Goodman had with Fritz Perls in a hot tub at Esalin ;-)

    Always fun to read these BB posts as a new generation discovers old things!

  25. Hey S2 — I remember that book!

    In re the aural effects I hear just before falling asleep — that may be a hypnogogic state, for all I know, but I’m not sure you can just say that they’re not hallucinations. AFAIK the word “hallucination” is any percept that isn’t due to a real stimulus.

  26. I got the “ping-pong ball” trick to work by using a small towel wrap around my head to block out all light, and then using headphones to listen to white noise loud enough to block out all sound.

    I used the white noise generator here:

    … the key is to stay awake and don’t close your eyes. In about 30 mins, I started to get grey, cloud-like visuals, which evolved into flashes of very real looking scenes (like watching something happen out your window). In was intense, it felt like I was viewing real places. It reminded me of the visuals psychics describe they get, when they do crime scene work. Weird!

    Going to try this some more …

  27. ROFLMAO @ the comments… They really make me LOL, even more after a smoke :) Oh yeah! why use ping pong balls to trip? There are far better ways to get ‘good visuals’ & they don’t involve looking like off the film ‘Total Recall’ with the eyes poppin out & s|-|it.



  28. is there anything else you can use other than pingpong balls?? i wanna try this soo bad but dont really wanna explain to the rents why i want pingpong balls…lol

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