Recently I was very fortunate and landed an interview with Paul, the “oracle octopus” of the Sea Life Centre aquariumin Oberhausen, Germany. As you may know, Paul correctly predicted the outcome of eight soccer games at the FIFA World Cup, played in South Africa in 2010.
Paul was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, moving later to Germany. His caretakers, German soccer fans, first started Paul picking winners in the 2008 EUFA European Football Championship, where he correctly predicted the outcome of four of six German matches. He correctly predicted all of Germany’s games in 2010, as well as Spain’s final victory over the Netherlands.
Fortunately, I was able to seize an opportunity to sit with Paul on a recent visit to Fanshawe College.
Interrobang: Welcome, Paul, and thank you for being here today. Congratulations on your predictions in the World Cup! Could you tell us about the process of your picking a winner in soccer matches?
Paul: Thank you, and gladly. Usually a day or two before the match, the staff at Sea Life will lower a pair of clear plastic boxes into my habitat, each containing some food, and I’ll pick one and eat it. One thing you should know about an octopus, or Octopus Vulgaris, is that we have these chemoreceptors all over our tentacles that allow us to taste and smell, so when the boxes come in, I use my tentacles to get a feel for them, and then pick.
?!: There are groups discussing potential biases that you might have, what do you say to them?
Paul: I’ve heard a bit of it, but not much — I started receiving death threats after I picked Spain to oust Germany in the semifinals at the World Cup, so I don’t get to hear all my own press anymore. One theory I heard is that I pick the flag that I think is most appealing to me, or whose colours I’m most attracted to, but the individuals who think that are misinformed — Octopus Vulgaris are colour-blind, so that really doesn’t enter in to it.
?!: Do you have a favourite team?
Paul: No, though my caregivers often have German league matches on the radio in the background so technically, I’ve listened in on a lot of Deutscher Fussball-Bund (the German Football Association) games. But I’m not really a fan of any one squad in particular.
?!: Have you heard that “Paul The Octopus” song by Parry Gripp on Youtube?
Paul: Yes! [laughs] “You pick the winner when you pick your dinner,” I think it’s adorable.
?!: Have you received any offers to predict other sports or matches?
Paul: I have, but I don’t think I’ll take advantage of them. Pussonally (that’s octopus humour), I like trying to predict the outcome of Germany’s international matches, but it’s just for fun.
?!: But you could pick other sports if you wanted to? Or lottery numbers?
Paul: Well, I suppose, so…
?!: Like if I asked you how our Fanshawe Falcons will do this coming school year?
Paul: Well, it’s a little more difficult than that, it’s better for me to know a little more and have a clear choice…
?!: Well, they’ll either win or they won’t, right? It doesn’t get much more clear than that.
Paul: Okay, but you’re missing my meaning…
?!: And actually, I have a date tonight, and… you know, I was kind of wondering if it would go well for me…
Paul: All right, you know what? I’m leaving. [gets up to go] Fanshawe College is a lovely place, thanks for having me. [walks out]
?!: I can’t help but notice you’re exiting through the back door, can I take that as a sign?
Paul: Go to hell.
[Author’s note: this conversation may or may not have happened. Except it definitely did not.]