What is a Ouija Board?

Ouija board

As Halloween approaches and we scare ourselves silly by watching “Ouija: Origin of Evil”, we’re digging out that old Ouija board from the back of the closet. Originally marketed as a fun, family game, how did it get its reputation as a demonic portal? Firstly, what is a ouija board?

What is a ouija board?

An old Ouija board from 1894 Public Domain image

A Ouija board is quite simple: it's a wooden or sturdy cardboard board on which the alphabet is laid out in two semicircular arcs with a row of numbers 1 through 0 below. There are also the words, ‘Yes’ , ‘No’ and ‘Goodbye’. The board comes with a planchette, or pointer.  Each participant rests a finger lightly on the planchette which spells out words when it is moved by an unknown force. It is possible to fashion a temporary Ouija board from a circle of letters and numbers, using an upturned glass as a planchette.

Ouija: A Family Board Game?

As far as researchers can determine the Ouija board has it’s origins in the 19th century, when spiritualism, i.e. contacting the dead was at its height. Lifespans were short due to many factors: war, childbirth, childhood illnesses being the most likely reasons for premature death. People were desperate to hear from their deceased loved ones. Mediums were as fashionable as celebrities today, and people flocked to seances and demonstrations to watch their favorites perform. 

Popular means of contacting the dead were table turning, automatic writing, and knocking on walls. It’s not known who had the idea of writing the alphabet and numbers on a heavy cloth and using some kind of pointing device to receive messages, but the method became popular. Pretty soon the ‘talking board’ came to the attention of a canny businessman, Charles Kennard of Baltimore, Maryland, and the Ouija board, as we know it today, was developed. The Ouija was marketed as a ‘game for all the family’ and it sold by the thousands all over America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

We’ve heard that the first Ouija boards were an excellent example of recycling. To save money, the boards were manufactured from coffins. We think this is a myth, but it sounds spooky enough to whisper to your friends at Halloween.

Scientific Explanation – Ideomotor

Science has delivered an explanation of the talking board phenomenon. It’s caused by ideomotor action, or more plainly, the participants are pushing the planchette around the board, whether they are aware of it or not. In 2013  Dr. Sid Fels of ECE with Dr. Ron Rensink (Computer Science and Psychology) and PostDoc Hélén Gauchou (Psychology) concluded that the non-conscious mind is the source of the information given by the Ouija board. You are free to agree with them or not. The main complaint about this study is that it was approached with the conclusion already in mind. No other explanation was investigated.

A Portal for Demons?

The Ouija board was not considered a ‘tool of the Devil’. In fact, it was thought to be the opposite. With most people of that time being Christian church-goers, spiritualism was akin to talking with angels. That all changed when the “The Exorcist” was released in 1973. People came forward with many tales of perpetrated evil being visited upon them after ‘inviting’ spirits to communicate via the Ouija.

A young boy called Adam, his brother and cousin Jim, were bored one summer evening and, in a somewhat creative mood they made a cardboard talking board. The following night, they were in the basement with some friends and decided to have some fun with the spirits. They were fooling around when all of a sudden the temperature in the room dropped and the pointer moved on the board. The boys asked for a name and the word INCUBUS was spelled out. Jim asked, “Are you an angel or a demon?” The reply came, “DEMON.” The boys were terrified and yelled that they were stopping the game now. “NO” spelled the demon. The candles blew out. When they managed to switch the lights on, the pointer was standing on edge, balancing all by itself.

Jim took the board and threw it into a burn barrel outside. The following morning, Adam’s mother tripped over something outside the kitchen door. It was the board. The boys threw it back into the barrel and set light to it while they recited the Lord’s Prayer. They all swear they heard screams as the board burned.

(Ouija Board Nightmares by John Harker)

ouija board English

An English Ouija Board Public Domain image

Ouija Channeling 

Pearl Lenore Curran was an unassuming St Louis housewife. She was not particularly well-educated and suffered from ‘nervous ailments’. She became fascinated by the Ouija and used it a lot with her friend, Emily Grant Hutchings, however, she dismissed the garbled messages as ‘silly chatter’. Then one evening, July 8th, 1913 to be exact, while their husbands played pinochle in the next room, the women were contacted by a spirit calling herself Patience Worth. 

Pearl and Patience’s partnership went viral and Pearl traveled throughout the United States. Patience claimed to be from the 17th century, born in Dorset, England. It turned out that Patience had literary ambitions and ‘gave’ Pearl seven books, many poems and short stories. They were critically acclaimed, and several are still in print today:     

Patience Worth[’s] messages out of the darkness never sink to the commonplace level, but always show high intelligence and sometimes are even tipped with the flame of genius.”  New York Times

A more modern day Ouija channeler was Jane Roberts. Her contact with Seth began in September 1963, when while quietly working in her study (Jane was a writer), she felt slammed by ‘an avalanche of radical thought’. When she came to, she found herself writing the title, “The Physical Universe as Idea Construction”. A little later in the same year, Roberts and her husband began experimenting with the Ouija board. They received messages from an entity that identified itself as ‘Seth’. 

Her first seven sessions with Seth took place using the board, then Jane began to hear Seth speaking directly to her. The board was used as a starting point for further sessions until Jane was able to contact Seth at will.

Seth’s view on Plant Consciousness which was channeled initially via the Ouija board.

Using the Ouija Board Safely

Should you decide that using the Ouija board is a good way to contact spirits at Halloween, then we recommend that you do so safely.

1. Don’t use the board in your own home. Arrange to meet at an agreed location.

2. Before you begin, ensure that all participants are serious and respectful.

3. All should close their eyes and one person says, “We ask that only good and helpful spirits make contact with us tonight.”

4. While receiving messages, remain calm and respectful. Don’t ask questions like, “What are this week’s lottery numbers?” Or “How did you die?” By all  means, ask for a name and if the spirit has a message for anyone present.

5. When you want to end the session, tell the spirit that it is time to finish. Say goodbye. Don’t move the planchette to ‘Goodbye’, that is the spirit’s choice.

6. Many find that smudging the room with sage and saying a nondominational prayer clears the room of negative energy.

7. Keep in mind that spirits are mischievous and will sometimes lie.

Please share your experiences with the Ouija board in the comments below. If you have a problem with a negative entity, contact one of our gifted psychics for advice.

Happy Halloween!

Featured image: Photo Credit: Droax Flickr via Compfight cc 

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