Tuesday, March 07, 2006

(6) Shambolic Wogan’s Winner Pennies

On May 31st 1984, I was playing a fruit machine at the Bedford County Squash Club when an announcement was made over the public radio.
A BBC show of Terry Wogan’s was being broadcast and I believe it was Wogan himself who said "Don’t forget that Wogan’s Winner is Shambolic running in the two o’clock at Brighton".

For four to five days previous to this I had been encountering this word in my thoughts and had already pondered on the way that it kept cropping up.
So, for instance, a heap of papers prompted the thought "This is shambolic!"
Or when watching the rigid man to man marking in the televised final of the European Soccer Cup, which was causing the play to break down after every two to three passes, I thought to myself "This is shambolic!"

I even seemed to hear it as I awoke one morning.
(When  I once recounted this coincidence to Lawrence Benson he reacted with, "That´s Shamballa!")

All this combined to make me spin around and announce to the person nearest to me, who happened to be the assistant manager whom I knew only as "Dave", "That horse is going to win!"

I then hurried into town and went to the Ladbrokes bookmakers where I discovered that the odds on the horse were 10-1. The jockey was Steve Whitcombe.

Not having total faith in my powers of prescience, I put just £7 on it.

This was at 11 a.m. Whilst waiting for the race to be run I recalled how I had read an interview with Terry Wogan
which had appeared in The Sunday Times magazine a few years earlier.
He had mentioned his Radio Two show and his habit of light-heartedly nominating an outsider horse for his listeners to back.
This institution became known as Wogan’s Winner.

He said that he had only once tried willpower.
The horse had been called Miss Penny and it was an 8-1 outsider. During his morning show Wogan had asked all of his listeners to please concentrate and will the horse to win.

And it won.

The next day he received a letter from a woman who said that at the time of the race she had been pushing a shopping trolley when suddenly some tremendous force had impelled her, trolley and all, down the street and into a shop window.

Her surname was Penny.

At ten minutes to two I was back in the bookies. Shambolic’s odds had by then lengthened to 16-1, making it the least fancied horse in the race.
But in fact, after a photo finish, it won.
That was the first time in my life that I had bet on a horse.

In early 1988, I decided for the sake of completeness to check up on the surname of Dave the assistant manager at the squash club. By then he had moved from Bedford, but other staff remembered him well.
His name was David Penny.

The only other instance I know of where a media personality attempted to apply the concerted willpower of his audience to influence the result of an event was in 1996, when the eponymous host of the TV programme Paul McKenna’s World of The Paranormal tried to affect the outcome of the United Kingdom National Lottery. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_McKenna

The format was that, for £1, the punter might select any six numbers from 1 to 49. If his six should match those drawn that week by the lottery machine, then he very probably wins millions of pounds. Another chance of striking it really big was to match just five of your numbers, but also get your remaining number to match with an excess seventh, a "bonus ball", picked by the machine.

Lesser correlations meant less money; five correct numbers perhaps winning several thousands, and a friend, Lawrence Garman,
once got four right and thereby won £80.

An automatic prize of £10 was paid out to anybody getting three of the six numbers right.

McKenna’s show was broadcast midweek and the lottery took place at 8 p.m. on the Saturday.
His psychokinesis experiment involved running his own lottery selection machine to produce six randomly generated balls, and then a seventh to be the bonus.
He then simply asked his viewers to note them, and when the (televised) draw took place on the Saturday, to will them to appear.

My wife and I wrote down the numbers and, even though our initial interest in the National Lottery had waned and for some time we had not been buying tickets, decided to take part in the experiment. Fiona laid out £7 for seven tickets, each of which was a permutation of six of McKenna’s seven numbers.

When the draw took place we willed those seven to appear. Three of them did, an event which ought to occur only twenty-eight times in a thousand. Four of Fiona’s seven selections had three of the lottery numbers. Hence we won £40.

That was the only time we ever won any lottery prize.

The next week the lottery organisers, Camelot (who, incidentally, had heard of McKenna’s intended experiment and
took legal action to try to prevent it
, but since conventional science does not recognise the validity of psychokinesis, found themselves unable to do anything about it) changed the rules so that getting three numbers right did not automatically mean a £10 win.

They said that the fact that this amendment directly followed McKenna’s psychokinesis experiment was "just coincidence".

... ... ...
A further codicil hapened in September 2009.

Derren Brown performed a TV stunt in which he appeared to have predicted the 6 balls drawn in the National Lottery.

See Entry 255.



Scott said...

Utter nonsense. 3 numbers still wins £10. Always has.

Risi said...

Did camalot not really want to stop it because he was suggesting to the public which number (even if only chosing 6 out of a possible 7) this would mean lots of people would then buy the same lottery ticket, and if they did win have to split the winning down so much. This would in effect scew the odds of the number of peopel likely to win, having a knock-on-effect in some way.
I can't see them wanting to stop it on the near impossible chance this crowd-power would have any effect on the actual balls coming out of the machine.

In contrast they wouldn't care for derren browns experiment, as he didn't suggest a bunch of numbers to be picked by the public. Merely suggested they get together in groups and with the "widom" of each crowd magically predict numbers themselves.

James said...

Sorry Scott but my version is accurate, as confirmed by McKenna´s people.

You may think the crowd power would have had a near impossible effect, Risi, but look at what actually happened that week.

And then look at what happened 13 years later when, once again, many minds focused on these events...