Secrets Of The Oujia Board!

Why is this method of contacting the dead popular again?

Though it was invented as long ago as 1890 a Ouija board is predicted by latest market research to be one of the best-selling gifts this year.

Sales have apparently risen by 300 per cent since last month following the success of the supernatural horror movie Ouija in which a group of terrified young friends “awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board”.

Traditionalists may welcome the popularity of a game made essentially of cardboard and with not a battery or flat screen in sight but religious purists may be more concerned.

Although viewed by some as a bit of harmless fun and the chance to send a shiver up your spine others regard it with suspicion for its supposed occult associations.

Here we look at its history and ask whether it really is possible to use it to communicate with spirits on the other side? Ouija is not the first horror movie to put a new spin on the game.

The concept reached a vast audience in 1973 when cult horror movie The Exorcist was released. Prior to this Ouija was seen as a harmless offshoot of spiritualism.

But the success of the film, in which 12-year-old Regan is possessed by a demon after playing with a Ouija board by herself, made the suggestion that demonic possession and insanity could result.

NATURALLY it became cool overnight and secondary schools were filled with pupils scaring themselves witless by trying to contact the other side.

The board has an arrangement of letters from A-Z and numbers from 0-9. The corners contain the words “yes” and “no” and at the bottom is printed the word “goodbye”.

In the middle is a plastic tear-shaped device called a planchette that moves freely over the board.

Players place their fingers on the planchette, ask a question – as spooky or prosaic as they wish – and await the reply as the planchette spells out the answer apparently not propelled by any of the participants.

Amazon is selling sets from £17.49. Ouija boards have long been a source of fascination to writers and artists drawn by the inspiration they suggest.

Sylvia Plath wrote a poem on the phenomenon and a novella titled Dialogue Over A Ouija Board, while rock star Alice Cooper is said to have got his stage name from using a Ouija board.

Separately but of note Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, claimed a 15th-century monk named Boniface helped him develop the programme’s famous 12 steps.

The idea of trying to communicate with the dead may be as old as humanity itself but the formalising of this activity into a game that can be played by anyone is a relatively recent one.

Since 1992 historian Robert Murch has been researching the Ouija board. He discovered that in the late 19th-century spiritualism was accepted as a natural activity.

“Communicating with the dead was common. It wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” he explains.

But as spiritualism gained in popularity so did people’s frustration at how long it took to get “input” from the departed.

Calling out the alphabet and waiting for a knock on the table from a group gathered together took time. Enter the Kennard Novelty Company, the first producer of the Ouija board.

In 1886 a newspaper reported on a handmade board that was taking over the spiritualists’ camps in Ohio. Printed with letters it was said to be speeding things up at spiritualist gatherings.

The article was read by Charles Kennard, a businessman in Baltimore, Maryland, who pulled together a group of investors and in 1890 launched the Kennard Novelty Company to make and market these new boards.

Contrary to popular belief Murch says that Ouija is not a combination of the French and German for yes: “oui” and “ja”. Instead it was the result of the sister-in-law of one of the investors asking the board what it was called.

“Ouija” was spelled out and when asked what that meant the board then communicated “good luck”.

Mediums were said to be particularly disturbed by the success of the new game as it experienced a surge in popularity following the First World War as people tried to contact lost loved ones. This had a negative effect on their trade.

So does the spirit move the planchette or do the participants? Scientists explain that the effect is a natural process called “ideomotor response” where suggestions and questions cause unconscious muscular movements.

ANOTHER example of the power of the ideomotor response was the fad of “facilitated communication” when carers believed they could help severely disabled children to communicate by guiding their fingers around a keyboard.

Scientists were able to prove that the carers were actually unconsciously typing the messages themselves rather than interpreting movements from their charges.

However it may not be as cut and dried as all that. According to Albert Einstein the ideomotor response may not be the full story. Einstein said of dowsing – also believed to be an ideomotor response – “I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as a type of ancient superstition.

“According to my conviction this is, however, unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.”

This year three American teenagers got more than they bargained for as they played with a Ouija board. Alexandra Huerta, 22, her brother Sergio, 23, and 18-year-old cousin Fernando Cuevas had to be hospitalised after they began showing signs of “demonic possession”.

Alexandra started growling and thrashing around in a violent, bewildered state while the boys reported hallucinations and sensations of blindness.

They were successfully treated with antistress medication and eye drops. Health worker Victor Demesa said: “It appeared as if they were in a trance-like state after playing with the Ouija board.”

He added that whether the trio were really possessed or had simply convinced themselves that they were was not for him to comment on. Play at your peril this Christmas time…


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).