My first experience with a Ouija board was when I was in my first year of high school I sat on the school oval with my new friends. We didn’t have an actual Ouija board with us because well it would just be weird to bring one to school. For some reason, us being 12-13 years old thought that we would absolutely be able to hold a séance/Ouija board session on the school oval at lunch and get ‘real’ responses. So we got our blue pens out and made a makeshift Ouija board using one of our exercise books. We used a 50 cent piece as the planchette and decided to try and communicate with … well whatever we could. There were around 5 of us and each put a finger on the coin. Almost straight away it started moving and spelling out our names. Wow the other girls were thinking. A couple were even getting scared. Me? I called bullshit straight away. I knew it was one of my friends. In fact I knew exactly who it was. Even though she denied it, you couldn’t fool me, not even back then. The smirk on her face said it all. I lost contact with her a couple of years later but I bet she is out there somewhere using ghosts apps trying to pass the photos off as genuine. It is a common thing for young teens and up to have an interest in the paranormal. It isn’t long before they start looking into things like Ouija boards. Just like bloody Mary and other games, it is what kids do. The curiosity gets the better of us and we have to try things for ourselves. The question is, should we be scared of them or are they just a toy?
Ouija boards, also known as talking or spirit boards, date back to the late 1840’s. There was a big spiritualist movement at the time led by mediums. Their claim as we know today is that they could communicate with the dead. They acted as the intermediary between the living and the dead, hence the term medium. There were a few techniques they would use to show their followers that they were in fact communicating with someone who had passed over. The first was table turning or more well known as table tipping. The medium would call out the letters of the alphabet and ask the spirit to knock the table which would make a noise on the floor when they reached the letter that was relevant to the word they were trying to spell out. Another method was that of using a pencil that was attached to the end of a small basket. The medium had to touch the basket which was enough for the spirit to take over and write a message. Eventually they would eliminate the basket which is where automatic writing came from. The basket evolved into a heart shaped planchette and it was soon discovered that it also made a good pointer .
Table tipping was a long process and people would get bored. The basket and pencil technique was difficult to read. Mediums began adapting and creating their own devices including things like dial plates. Somewhere along the line, the alphabet board as it would be referred to at the time was created. Again there were lots of different versions and combinations created. Toy companies who had previously made the planchettes to sell for novelty value in order to capitalise on the spiritualist movement at the time started buzzing about a new talking board craze. There were different incarnations of the board that we now know of today. There was originally the ‘witch board’ and the ‘espiritio talking board’ which were essentially the same concept as the ouija board, but different layouts. These were all marketed as a ‘novelty’ item that could allow people that were not mediums to communicate with the dead. In 1891 Charles Kennard who was one of the toy makers claimed that Elijah J Bond (one of the listed creators of the boards) had his sister in law do a session on the newest board that they had created. She asked the spirits what they should name the board as they had received advice from the spirit world through the boards before and had good results. It spelt out O U I J A. She then looked at her neck chain which had a locket at the end and on the locket was a picture of a woman with the word ‘Ouija’ on it. When they asked the board what the word meant, the reply was ‘good luck’. This is the story according to the founders of the board. It is thought however that the woman on the locket was a popular woman’s rights activist Ouida who the sister in law Helen Peters was a fan of. We will never really know but the rest is history as they say. What is worth noting is that even back in the late 1800’s, this was marketed as a novelty item. It was hugely popular and was almost like it was the thing to do on a Saturday night with all of your friends. Remember they didn’t have Netflix back then so there wasn’t much else to do!
Do the boards actually work? My problem with this as a paranormal investigator is obviously they are very easy to manipulate. Just like when I was teenager, I am very difficult to fool. I am also very difficult to convince as well. The only way I would know if one worked would be to try it out myself. The other problem is, again as a paranormal investigator there are very few people I would trust to do a Ouija board session with me. It is very easy for someone to manipulate the planchette. So I have done the board (several times) with the one person that I know will not fake it. My brother Glenn who is extremely skeptical of the boards. He collects supposedly haunted boards that people send him. If someone tells him they had a bad experience of the board, he takes it off their hands. They want the board out of their house because it has caused them a lot of grief. So much so that many of them even pay for the postage to send it to him! He keeps them under his bed and on his bookshelf. One is used as a placemat. So far, much to his disappointment, no spirits good or evil have popped in to visit him. In fact he has had zero activity. We have done several sessions in different locations to test if the boards actually work. In every single session we have done, the planchette has not moved to a single letter. We even got desperate and tried to test the whole Zozo craze. He didn’t come though. No one did. I ended up getting very sore wrists actually. It is not something I could do for a really long time just because it is so painful. Surely there must be an easier way!
It didn’t work for us, but it seems to work for heaps of people. Why is that? These are general opinions I have picked up over the years when I have discussed this topic with people. Some feel that perhaps we were too skeptical, closed and not open minded enough for it to work. They have said that the spirit is controlling the person moving the planchette so if we were skeptical, of course a spirit cannot make it move. One obvious thing is of course that someone is knowingly moving it just to be a smartass and fool people. Then there is what is called the ‘ideomotor’ effect. In a nutshell, we are not consciously making the planchette move. So while you think that you are not moving it, you really are without being aware of it. This is why it is believed that personal information significant to the individual using the board comes up. It is done subconsciously. The ideometer effect was discovered over 150 years ago, pretty much when the spiritualist movement began and also applies to a lot of areas within the paranormal field. I will elaborate on this more another time. Going on from this, an observation I have made is that from sitting there for a really long time, you start to get tired. Your muscles contract and you find the planchette moves slightly. Not enough to move across the board but it moves. Are we subconsciously picking up where it left off? Quite often to elimate the ideomotor factor, people will do Ouija sessions blindfolded with a control person watching and recording the answers. What is interesting is in the experiments I have seen where people are blindfolded, they are not pointing out letters at all. The planchette is just moving aimlessly around the board. Someone has told me that the reason this would happen in an experiment was if the spirit uses someone’s body to move the planchette, if the person is blindfolded then the spirit cannot see the letters as their ‘vessel’ cannot see. I will let you develop your own opinions here on how and if you think the board works. Regardless of whether the board works or doesn’t work, somewhere along the way, we can all agree that the boards have developed a reputation.
When I first delved in the world of the paranormal, Ouija boards was a topic that would often come up. I was advised not to mess with them because I would be opening a door to evil. At the time it was hugely unpopular for any group to publicly use a Ouija board due to being heavily criticised and accused of being reckless and dangerous. Now people are little more skeptical ask more questions and need more proof which I love, but there are still a lot of people that believe the boards are completely evil and should not be used. I have been told of many stories of how Ouija boards have ruined people’s lives and not to mess with them. Even my Auntie has told me a story where my Nan used to the use a board with her sister and weird things started happening in the house so they buried the board in the backyard. When I was starting out in the field, I listened to the stories and to be honest some of them I did believe at the time. Part of me wanted to fit in to this new world I thought was completely awesome and also I believed because of some weird things that had happened to me on some investigations. I wasn’t necessarily convinced that using a board would bring in some sort of evil spirit, but I also didn’t want to take the risk you know just in case. It didn’t take long for me to start asking questions and start using my logic. The stories always seemed to have a few things in common. The events never seemed to happen to the people I was talking to. It was always a friend or a friend’s sister. It happened 20 or so years ago but they still remember it like it was yesterday. The next line seemed to be ‘they were sitting around drinking one night’. For someone like me who picks apart everything, there were some obvious red flags. There would be only one way I would know if the boards worked and if they were evil. I would have to just use one myself. I eventually got the courage to try it for myself and as you read above, nothing has happened in any session where I have used a board. For that reason I have become quite skeptical of the boards.
I have been criticised in the past for potentially opening that door by using a board, but I don’t know where this has come from. Putting aside the fact that boards have been completely over dramatized by movies, I think the more general complaint people that don’t like the boards have is that they think by using a Ouija board, you are opening that door or that portal of communication. Like with any door, good or bad things can come through and Ouija boards seem to have the reputation to invite evil things in. My question for you though would be is that not like any other piece of equipment? How is using a Ouija board any different to using a spirit box or turning on an evp recorder. Why is it just a ouija board that brings in evil or opens that door? Why doesn’t turning on a k2 meter have the same effect? It is all the same intention and in all instances I am just trying to open up that line of communication. I personally believe that anytime you start an investigation and open yourself up and invite something to come and communicate with you, it is no different to sitting and doing the same at a Ouija board. Either way you are asking it to come forward, I don’t believe it is just a board that opens that door.
Like with anything, it comes down to what you believe. If you believe the boards are evil, that is up to you. If you believe they are just a toy, again that is up to you. If you swear that you have had the most amazing communication sessions on the board, I am not here to tell someone that they didn’t have an experience. I wasn’t there so who am I to judge. It just hasn’t happened for me and for that reason I do not believe that the boards work. Maybe you do need a genuine medium or a sensitive person on the board for it to work. That was the original concept. I also have seen and I know how well our subconscious can play tricks on us so the ideomotor effect for me is a very plausible answer. I am not saying my opinion is the final answer on Ouija boards. This is based on my experiences and research. Maybe one day I will have that experience that will change my mind completely on the Ouija boards. While I wait for that to happen, I will continue to experiment with the boards, and just hope I don’t open up the portal to hell in the mean time :p
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