Depending on who you ask, the Ouija board is either a tool of spirits and demons or a harmless parlor game suitable for adults and children alike. But where did the board come from, and can it really connect the dead with the living?
The Origins of the Ouija Board
Though automatic writing has existed around the world for thousands of years, the Ouija board as we know it came about in 1890. Spiritualism in America was at its height, and the public eagerly sought new ways to communicate with the dead. Realizing the potential of this niche market, a group of Baltimore businessmen founded the Kennard Novelty Company to sell a ‘talking board’ they dubbed Ouija. The board was a huge hit and has since generated millions of dollars in sales. Hasbro currently owns the rights to Ouija, and various versions of the board are currently available online.
Fun fact: Until the release of The Exorcist in 1973, Ouija boards did not have an evil reputation. People saw the boards as harmless fun, and Ouija even appeared in an episode of I Love Lucy and on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (right).
Do Ouija Boards Really Work?
Many people insist that Ouija boards connect the dead with the living. Some even think that demons reach out through the board. Dozens of movies and books reinforce this creepy image, as do countless tales submitted online. However, scientists say the human psyche, not the paranormal, is behind Ouija claims.
The ideomotor effect is “a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously.” Producing tears is the most obvious example, though scientists say the ideomotor effect is what also drives Ouija planchettes. The argument goes that users ask the Ouija board a question and then unconsciously move the planchette. The answers spelled out reportedly come from a user’s subconscious mind, not demons or spirits.
However, many Ouija users insist the ideomotor theory isn’t true. Believers claim the boards sometime give answers that no user could possibly know. Others argue the boards draw spirits that manifest in physical ways. Religious leaders like Pat Robertson decry Ouija boards, claiming that demons are behind the boards’ movements. If true, tales like those below, which readers have submitted to this blog, show the ideomotor theory can’t explain away everything.
“Ouija Board Evil”
Ouija board fun turns to terror when an evil spirit threatens the users.
One woman’s terrifying encounters with an evil spirit
“The Ouija Board”
A late-night Ouija board session attracts the attention of a noisy spirit
Have you had an eerie experience with a Ouija board? Share you story here or email firstname.lastname@example.org! In the meantime, here’s a trailer for the upcoming Ouija flick.
Sources: “The Unseen Force That Drives Ouija Boards and Fake Bomb Detectors” – The Guardian
“The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board” – Smithsonian Magazine
“Ouija” – Wikipedia