My first topic for research will be on the infamous Ouija Board. Much has been said of the Ouija board and most of it is not good. Some of the bad press is legitimate, some is hysteria. The board is believed to be anywhere from a simple, harmless parlor game to a portal to hell itself, depending on who is doing the talking. However, some who rail against it are also avid users themselves. I have heard stories that were nothing more than harmless fun to stories that would curl your hair, assuming you have any. There are those who believe that by using a Ouija board, you are opening yourself to an invasion by dark, sometimes demonic forces. I want to state right now that I cannot give you are sure-fire answer to this puzzle. What I can do is discuss the subject and do further research on it in the hopes of coming up with a solid, definitive answer, assuming one can ever be found.
Ouija boards have been popular for centuries. People from all classes, all walks of life have been avowed users of the board. During the age of spiritualism, they were extremely popular. Ouija sessions and sťances were even held in The White House during several administrations. I remember an episode of I Love Lucy where she was asked by a man: ďDo you Ouija?Ē Yes, it was popular back then. Today the board is as popular as ever. In some cases, it is popular for dark reasons.
The idea behind the Ouija board is that it can be used to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Many believe that this is true. Thus, for centuries, people have used it in the hopes of contacting deceased loved ones out of grief or loneliness. Some use it hoping to gain occult knowledge. Others use it to find out where Uncle Joe left his treasure. (Believe it or not, that is true. I once knew someone who was convinced that a recently deceased loved one had hidden money in his house and they were hoping to find it. They didnít.) Still others use is simply for fun, either as a way of passing time or as a part of parties. There are probably as many reasons as there are users.
If the theory holds, spirits move the pointer, or planchette as it is called, through the operator or operators. In that sense, the people touching the planchette are channeling the spirits. That would imply that the spirits enter the operators and that is a frightening thought to many. How they do this remains a mystery. One age old question is why donít the spirits simply move the pointer themselves? The answer might be that they need a human entity to carry out the physical manipulation. How then do they get the operators to move it in accordance with their desires? Do they use just one of the operators or both? This is not meant to be facetious; these are legitimate questions. However, you should not take the lack of an answer to be proof positive that spirits do not communicate in this manner. For all we know, they may be able to communicate with our subconscious telepathically. If that is the case, the number of operators is not important. One, two, three; it makes no difference. Thus, the spirit is not going into the operator; it is merely planting the information it is trying to convey and the operatorís subconscious causes the conscious mind to create the necessary stimuli required to perform the physical manipulation. That is not as frightening as the prospect of the spirit entering the operators.
Of course, there is another school of thought on the subject. That school is called automatism. The theory behind automatism is that the unconscious mind of one or more of the operators is spelling out information that is held in that personís mind. Therefore, there is no actual spirit contact. There is considerable merit to this theory. The operators are likely looking for answers to some question and when nothing is happening, the subconscious mind may decide to take matters into its own handís (sorry) and make something happen. So, one operator may unknowingly answer a question and another operatorís subconscious may pick up the ball and run with it. Before long, you have quite a story being told. Of course, what if there is a disembodied spirit floating around? Could it telepathically send the answer through the operator?
While I know of no one who has shown the ability to ďreadĒ a persons mind at will, there are some, most of us in fact, that have the ability to pick up someone elseís signals in bits and pieces. I have a close friend who is a light trance medium, who has shown the uncanny ability to pick up many of my signals and tell me what I am thinking about at the time. She cannot do this at will but there have been many occasions where she knew exactly what I was thinking when she had no possible way on knowing it. Granted, I can be shallow at times, especially in some areas but she has done it too often and at times where I was discussing one thing with someone else while thinking about something unrelated to the conversation. If you can pick up a signal, shouldnít you be able to transmit one as well? The theory would appear to be the same. Consider too the reports of people who are shopping and buy something they donít usually buy. When they get home, they learn that their spouse had been thinking about that very item all day. Did one spouse transmit that thought to the other or was it a signal one picked up from the other? It sounds like six of one or a half-dozen of the other.
I believe that the likelihood of automatism being the root cause of the movements is more common when one person alone uses the board. In theory, there is less chance of automatism taking place if there are two users, less still if there are three. If you have several people available, you can try rotating users to see if the story being told holds up. If it does, it is unlikely to be automatism, unless of course, the information is coming from the collective unconscious of all of the users. That may be a reach. It is not a foolproof way of telling but it may help to clarify the situation.
Are there dangers inherent in Ouija board usage? To answer that, you have to decide which theory you support. Are disembodied spirits behind the Ouija messages or is it merely automatism? Suppose it is both? That screws things up a bit, right? For the sake of argument, we will take a look at both theories. You will find some that argue that there are no dangers regardless of the mechanism and you will find others who will argue that whatever the mechanism, using a Ouija board is dangerous.
What can possibly be dangerous about using a Ouija board if the subconscious is the cause of the information? Believe it or not, there can be some dangers. When you look at Ouija usage and children, several things can go wrong. The messages that come through can at the very least, be frightening. A child is susceptible to fears that adults would find groundless. The fear of ghosts can have a devastating effect on a child. (Adults too, for that matter.) Imagine the effect on a child, especially one with a vivid imagination if the board says something frightening. Every parent knows how badly children react to fear, be it the monster under the bed or the bogeyman in the closet. Suppose they believe a ghost is out to get them? Every sound will terrify the child. So will every shadow. It can present quite a problem, especially when children see all of the shows on TV that discuss the existence of ghosts. It is not just a faceless, mythical bogeyman they fear. This is something that might be real.
Of course, an argument can be made that being frightened is a part of growing up and I have to agree with that. Campfire stories about hook-armed murderers are a as common as a Mets loss. Ditto for ghost stories. They are all a part of growing up. Still, there has to be some concern, if not for all children, then some. Another problem with Ouija boards is that they often spit out extremely foul language. Granted, children today are exposed to foul language everywhere they turn. However, serious self-esteem issues can be raised regarding the messages that come across on the board. The child who feels ugly may be told by the board that he or she indeed is ugly. That message may be coming from the childís own subconscious but the damage it does is conscious and can be long lasting. There is another fear too. We live in a world where children have less structure than in the past. Sadly, in our time, both parents, when there are two, often have to work. A child who is lonely may turn to the board for amusement. Once messages come through, they may decide they have found a friend. Whether it is a disembodied spirit or automatism makes little difference. The child will turn to his friend often, sometimes at the expense of developing social skills. For this reason, individual use of the board should be discouraged.
Is this extreme? Certainly and it may only apply to a small percentage of children but it does happen. Is there an acceptable percentage? That is an unfair question because it begs to ask whether all children should be prevented from using it because of the few who have bad reactions. Iíll leave that to the sociologists to figure out. However, for the purpose of this article, I am merely mentioning the problems that can occur, not necessarily will. There is another concern and it is not limited to children.
There are those among us who sadly do not feel comfortable with running their own lives. That sounds unbelievable but it is true. Look at elections. The vast majority of voters base their choice on what others and the mass media say. It is as if they place their trust that the newspaper did all the research so their choice is fine with them. Then there are the people who look to the astrology section of the newspaper for guidance with their decision making process. This is not a blanket knock against astrology. I will be perfectly honest and state that I have very little knowledge on the subject. For all I know, there may be something to it. Certainly an argument can be made. We all know that President Nixon and his wife Nancy were big on astrology and actually used the starts to make decisions affecting the country. Again, it would be unfair of me to comment on that, although it does explain a lot. However, I have no problem with saying that reading your local newspaper for advice on your decisions is a guaranteed formula for failure.
The Ouija board plays a role here too. I have personally known people who consulted the board when they were faced with serious decisions. Whether it is a misguide spirit or a misguided unconscious makes little difference. The point is that the person making the decision is not doing so based on rational, logical, conscious thought. That can be a recipe for disaster. Consider the man who was ďtoldĒ by the board to demand a raise from his boss. For added leverage, the board told him it would be wise to state that he would resign if he does not get his raise. Well, he did not get the raise and he lost his job in the process. Bear in mind too that many people are very subjective in interpreting objective questions. One may ask a specific question and when the planchette moves towards YES, he takes that as gospel truth. He may then ask a bunch of questions expecting the board to agree with him and before you know it, he is basing many important decisions on the word YES on the board. He may have gotten no actual message at all.
Obsession can take other forms too. There are those who feel they have to use the board daily. As with children, this can adversely affect normal relationships. Believe me, there are many confused and lonely people out there. Another potential problem is that when automatism does cause the movements, the subconscious may spit out information that has been long buried and mercifully forgotten. It may spit out information the conscious mind cannot handle. On top of that, there are people who believe whatever the board tells them. Suppose the lonely housewife is using the board one night while he husband is at work. Her suspicions about his possible infidelity may be confirmed by the board, whether there is any truth to them or not. Her suspicion may be what is moving the planchette. True or not, spirit or automatism, the results can be devastating.
Suppose spirits are behind the messages that come from the Ouija board? Well, there are any number of dangers. The first is the haunting factor. There are those who believe that by using the Ouija board, you are inviting spirits into your life, in essence, you are giving them permission to interact with you. If you have a nice spirit who knows his place, it is harmless. However, if you contact a nasty spirit, or worse yet, a demonic one, you may be in for a heap of trouble. Your violation of the Law of Invitation may result in a serious haunting. Let me state right off the bat that I have known many people who have used Ouija boards for many years. I cannot say that any of them have experienced a serious haunting although almost all of them have had some type of paranormal experience take place either during or right after a Ouija session. Some have had some problems for days after a session.
The experiences related to me were items such as a candle or light going off during the session, the planchette may move by itself, a cold breeze is felt or the room they are in suddenly becomes noticeable cold and occasionally, an apparition is seen. I have heard of pens and notepads disappearing, anomalies show up on videotape, voices appear on audiotape. I have personally seen a table levitate during a Ouija session. These items are obviously noteworthy but do they necessarily result in an actual haunting? In my experience, the answer is no. However, it must be pointed out that in some of the cases that I have worked and those other investigators have worked, all of the troubling phenomena that took place started after the people involved began using the Ouija board. There were cases where people lived peacefully for several years in a house but after using the board a few times, odd things started happening. Would they have started even if the board had not been used? Possibly, but it would appear that in a number of those cases, there was a direct correlation between the Ouija usage and the ensuing problems.
Why would this happen? The theory is that it is not hard to invite a spirit in but if that spirit wants to stay, you could have a problem. By using the board, you attracted something to you. Perhaps it is a case where there was a spirit looking for a place to haunt, so to speak and by using the board, you sent up a flag. Prior to that, you may have been flying under the radar as far as that spirit was concerned and it passed you by. What are the odds of that? Truthfully, it is impossible to say. Still, there is a risk factor involved. Most of us in the field will admit that there are negative forces out there, whatever you want to call them and they can cause problems. However, there is more to be concerned with than just the possibility of a haunting. Spirits do not suddenly become enlightened after death. For those who stick around, it would seem that how they were in life is pretty much how they are in death. Thus, a practical joker in life would be the same in death. That can result in some funny experiences when it comes to Ouija board sessions.
I recall a time when someone I know pressed the board for an answer regarding a specific race taking place at Belmont park. Several times, the board was asked who was going to win that race. Finally, it answered: A HORSE. And who says Ouija boards are inaccurate? Another time, when asked whether there were any spirits present, the answer was: YES. It went on to say: IN YOUR TOP DRAWER. I laughed at that one. A few hours earlier, I had placed a bottle of Brandy in my dresser. What made this good was that no one was home when I did that and I was not touching the planchette at the time it made that statement. Furthermore, I never put alcohol in my dresser. I had only done so that day because I was putting clothes away at the time and stuck the Brandy in there without really thinking about it.
However, there is a dark side to it also. A nasty SOB in life is likely to be a nasty SOB in death. That spirit may say things to hurt someone in the room or it may say things designed to frighten someone. Threats are common in sessions. These threats may be directed at one of the operators or they may be against a loved one. It may ďforetellĒ of a tragedy or death that will take place. While the event will probably not happen, the person who it is directed at will certainly be affected by it.
Another problem is that you have no idea who or what is communicating with you. It may claim to be your deceased loved one and it may throw you a tidbit or two that will make you believe that you have contacted the person you wanted to. Keep in mind too, when someone is grieving, it does not take much to convince them that they have made contact with their deceased loved one. However, that does not mean it is person it claims to be. The spirit may well be lying. Once it has the operatorís confidence, it may then spit out some terrible, hurtful things. Perhaps the user wants to hear that their loved one is happy where they are. The board may then describe a horror show born from their imagination only. The person looking for an affirmation of love may be told how much they were hated. The person hoping for forgiveness may be told that they will never be forgiven. This can do severe damage to the vulnerable person seeking these answers. One way of looking at using a Ouija board is to say that it is like leaving your door open. You have no idea who will come in. Of course, when dealing with the spirit world, you cannot even see them.
I have listed a lot of negatives concerning the Ouija board. However, to be fair about it, I must point out that millions of people use Ouija boards and by and large, other than a few stories to tell, there have been no real problems. Should everyone stop using it because of the miniscule chance of creating a problem? That has to be left up to the individual, I guess. Certainly, we do things everyday that are far more risky. Smoking and drinking certainly are. You probably have a better chance of getting hurt going to a ballgame than you do playing with a Ouija board. Thus, it must be left up to the individual.
Does anything useful ever come from the board? It would appear so, to some extent anyway although I have never heard of anyone winning the lottery because of numbers provided by the board. (Believe me, Iíve asked!) However, I have received information from the Ouija board that I was able to verify later after some research. In several cases, it was information I had absolutely no way of knowing. Therefore, some of the information that comes out may be useful. Can that be explained? Maybe. There is a theory that we can somehow tap into a pool of knowledge that exists. By using a mechanism such as a Ouija board, we main gain access to that pool of knowledge. It is just a theory.
All of this explains why I want to do research on Ouija boards and that is why I am asking readers to share their stories with me. There is much to learn on the subject. Am I encouraging people to go out and try it themselves? No, I will not do that. I cannot say for certain that Ouija boards are safe or that they are dangerous. In classes I have taught, I have discouraged people from using them because I think that there are certainly legitimate risks involved. However, letís face it, people do use them. To those who do, I would like to hear your stories. I simply ask that they be true, honest stories. Many of those stories will be shared on this site. Together we will learn more about the infamous Ouija board.
NOTE: If you would like to send your stories, please see the contact page. For those of you who would like to see your story in print, either on this site or as part of a book, please download the release of information page or simply send your permission to use the story when you submit it.