by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
October 5, 2006
A DAY AT THE LUCK RESEARCH INSTITUTE
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- I have always wondered how good-luck charms were discovered. Who determined that throwing salt over your shoulder prevented bad luck? Why is a black cat bad luck but a white cat isn't? Why are troll dolls lucky, but my wife thinks my lucky tie-dyed t-shirt should be thrown away?
I decided to investigate the answers to these questions by visiting the Luck Research Institute in Laurel, Delaware.
Dr. Edgar MacCallum, director of the Institute, met me in the lobby. Tall and lanky, he has a habit of running his hand over his balding head while he stares at his clipboard.
"What exactly do you do here, Dr. MacCallum?" I asked. Good journalists ask all sorts of questions, so I figured I should too.
"We investigate the validity of all good luck charms, rituals, and practices. At any one time, we have a couple dozen research projects in the works, testing the efficacy of different luck hypotheses."
He paused. "Efficacy means whether it works or not."
"I'm a journalist, not a moron," I grumbled. "I know what efficacy means."
"Sorry." We walked down a corridor, and stopped in front of a door. "This is Observation Room Alpha. In here, we can watch as many as six different experiments through a series of one-way mirrors."
We stepped up to one dark window, and Dr. MacCallum flicked a switch on the wall. The window became transparent, and we saw three men standing inside, all clutching a small object. The doctor rubbed his head and studied his clipboard.
"This is the rabbit's foot test. Those men are each holding an animal's foot - a rabbit, a deer, and a frog. We're going to test whether the rabbit's foot is truly lucky, compared to other animal feet."
"It wasn't for the rabbit," I quipped.
"Oh, very clever. We've never heard that one before." He rolled his eyes and turned back toward the window. I made faces at him when he wasn't looking.
A man in a lab coat walked into the lab, pointed a paint ball gun at the men, and shot each one in the groin. The paint balls burst painfully on impact, and the men fell to the ground, writhing in pain.
"It doesn't look like any of the feet were lucky, does it?" I asked.
Dr. MacCallum checked his clipboard again. "That's strange. I don't think that was part of the test. This was supposed to be a game of chance, like roulette or poker. Oh well."
He walked to another window and flicked it on. I saw three more men in a similar lab.
"Here we're testing the efficacy of rubbing a bald man's head." He laughed, "You look like you could be a good specimen if this journalism thing doesn't work out."
The look I gave him said he was treading on dangerous ground, so he renewed his interest in his clipboard and continued.
"Er, Subject A is the test subject. He received the luck treatment by rubbing a bald man's head for five minutes. Subject B, who is actually A's brother, broke a mirror for bad luck. Subject C is the control. He didn't receive either the good or bad luck treatment. They have each purchased 10 scratch-off lottery tickets. Let's see what happens."
I watched as the three men scratched away. Subject C was done first.
"Hey, I won five bucks," he said.
Subject A started jumping up and down in excitement. "Wow, I just won a million dollars!"
Just then a beautiful woman burst into the room and stormed over to Subject B.
"James, I'm leaving you for your brother," she said. "We've been having an affair for three years, and now that he's come into some money, he's better able to keep me in a lifestyle I'm accustomed to." She kissed Subject A full on the mouth, and left.
Dr. MacCallum and I stared at the mirror, mouths agape. He flicked the switch and it went dark again, but it didn't mask the shouts and sounds of fighting.
"Well, I think that's all we have time for today." He shoved me out of the observation room and rushed me back to the lobby. "Thank you for visiting today. I hope you learned something that will be valuable to your readers. With some luck, you'll be able to visit us again someday."
"With a lot more luck, I won't," I said, and vigorously rubbed his head.