Friday, October 2, 2009

Ouija Board: Conduit of the Devil or Belief?

"Is there anyone here who would like to speak to us? Please tell us your name."

A common first line to many who take the adventure of playing with a Ouija board. First of all, Ouija is a registered trademark of Parker Brothers, a subsidiary of Hasbro, and it's a board game made of plastic and wood. So, what's the fuss?

Many people claim to have had strange and evil things happen while or after using a Ouija board, many groups and individuals (paranormal groups and ghost investigators alike) are against anyone using these devices (much to the dismay of Parker Brothers) since they are "dangerous" and "unpredictable" in how they operate.

(Above left: Sign similar to that which many paranormal groups put on their website despite possibly never dealing directly with a Ouija board or even anyone else who has.)

There is a huge debate in the paranormal investigation field about the use of this board. Many groups will not help a client in need if they find out that a Ouija board has been used. Many groups will not use a Ouija board or any other "old" divining technique for various reasons despite possibly never using any.

Christian-based organizations teach that Ouija boards are inherently evil and are the conduit for demons and the Devil, any Earth-bound "ghost" could just be a guise for the Devil himself (party poopers). Many "regular" people claim to have had bad experiences derived from using a Ouija board; including ghosts following them everywhere, poltergeist-like activity, possession and other unpleasant activity. So, why does Parker Brothers continue to sell this game if it is so bad?

I'll skip the history lesson behind the board, if you want to know more about it you can go here, here, here, here or here.

There exists a logical explanation behind what makes a Ouija board work, or rather, how the planchette (plastic piece you place your fingers on) moves. It's called the ideomotor effect and basically your fingers move the planchette without you really realizing it. You may ask or hear a question and then your fingers move to an answer that seems appropriate all without you thinking about moving to that location. Yep, it's been proven scientifically. So, does this explain all of the accounts of people using Ouija boards? What about all of those people experiencing ghosts and poltergeists and stuff?

This is where the belief part comes in. Who's to say there wasn't a ghost there all along? Maybe the subject's sudden open-mindedness caused them to finally interact, OK, maybe that's a stretch, but it's possible for some cases. Maybe they just believed so hard or were scared witless that every little creak caused them to think a ghost was responsible (jumping to conclusions is a recognizable part of being a ghost investigator- we see it a lot!).

A famous research project from the Toronto Society for Psychical Research proves that they actually "created" poltergeist-like activity in 1972 which ended up tipping a table numerous times, the activity was caused by those involved because of their belief in what was going to happen (See Phillip). Regardless of the events that occur, and if they are really paranormal, is it really the fault of the board? Very doubtful and most people realize it's the people and the way they practice that are responsible.

A major explanation many paranormal investigators give against the use of this board is that they can "open" doorways to uncontrolled spirits, ghosts or other malevolent beings. Asking random ghosts can invite terror that can not be controlled without a psychic.

Let's take another approach into consideration. A ghost group is in a home investigating after thorough interviewing (not just "where did ya see it?, Cool, lights out boys!") and they begin to set up their equipment. They go into the master bedroom and pull out a Ouija board and ask, "Is there anyone here who would like to speak to us? Please tell us your name." Heck no, that's bad! I can hear and feel everyone cringing at the thought. If they continue this approach the family (and even the investigators themselves) can be inundated with evil spirits that can make things much worse, right? OK, so, the board isn't the right tool. Let's have them use an EMF detector and a digital recorder, that's better...

"Is there anyone here who would like to speak to us? Please tell us your name."

Hmm, notice anything familiar? The approach used by a Ouija Board and the "scientific" tools are really the same, does it really matter if you call out "Bob" or just for anyone? Why would an electronic tool be any different than a piece of cardboard? The tools measure the environment and can tell us when ghosts are present you say. I say the tools do measure the environment, which is in constant flux and can be unpredictable and not every unexplained blip is paranormal. A fancy light on your EMF detector does not mean a ghost is present, granted, a EVP at the same time would make a great argument.

The point is, why is it OK to use these tools and not a Ouija Board when you are essentially doing the same thing?

Measurement? OK, nice comeback, but how good are your controls? Did you thoroughly measure the environment with mulitple EMF detectors in the same environment you are investigating in? Fine, the Ouija Board doesn't look cool and yes, it does carry with it the negative connotation and sense of careless pursuit versus fancy lights and expensive gadgetry. Who's fault is that? Why are ghost investigators continuously perpetuating this perception to the public when our methods are the modern day verion of this old game and tool?

(At left: An electronic Ouija Board invented in 2008)

Many paranormal investigators claim to have open minds, but they seem to only be open to their own beliefs (actually something that happens in every field in science, so don't take it personally!). We feel safe with out tools since they come with an on/off switch and a manual, but why do we fear tools that have been used for centuries without any real examples of terror? This is only one example of many that we deal with in the field of paranormal investigation (similar to believing in the full/new moon effect and solar activity despite no documentation, so why do almost all groups display this information? Yes, myself included; I document these and lots of other information for all of my cases, not just when I investigate but when the client experiences events as well and eventually this work will be published, not here, but in a scientific journal).

In a forthcoming blog I will explore the effects of belief in the ghost field in closer detail with some suprsing scientific evidence.


  1. so the over all view of ouija boards according to paranormal investigators is inharently bad. im an aspiring ghost hunt junky who recently aquired such a board. so that answers my question of wether or not a ouija board is an ideal tool for paranormal investigations(i was hoping for somthing cheaper than an EMF detector) but, unfortunately i shall consult my piggy bank. However this begs another question: is there any decent reason at all to use a ouija board or am i just making a life threatening mistake?
    -very concerned

  2. Yes, according to many paranormal investigators they are "evil", "bad", or whatever. The problem is that they were used for talking to ghosts/spirits long before the technology. There are some groups out there that do use Ouija boards for investigations.

    I don't fully understand why groups do not like the old stuff (maybe since they don't have on/off switches or a manual to read. The funny thing is we are really repeating history with the new technology. Ouija boards were thought to be really contacting the dead all the time, they learned about the idiomotor effect that causes the brain to subconsciously move the planchette. Now groups are using techniques to capture EVP that border on paredolia and playing guessing games with ramdom EMF spikes. There are a lot of silly things happening in this field.

    I wouldn't say your life is in jeaopardy. Again, it's the user and they way the board is being used that is the real danger. If you are responsible it is the same thing as using an EMF detector (except that a Ouija board can find loose wires or light up...hmmm...I might have a marketing idea...).

  3. so some might say i'm just talking to myself when i do this...but for the past few years i've made an effort to try and communicate with my deceased uncle to see if maybe he has(wherever he is) any effect on reality so he could maybe help me with certain things. i strongly believe that he has had somewhat of an effect on my reality and i feel like we have some sort of connection. saying that...
    do you think it would be a bad idea to try and contact him directly using a "spirit board" or something similar?

    also i have a theory about where our feelings and emotions come from that ties in with how our spirits and the spirits of the deceased can interact. think of all life "energy" (for lack of a better word) as an enormous pool water. now when we don't have a physical form we are one with this pool. when we have a physical form we are a stream flowing from this pool. now if you're constantly connected with this "life energy" you would also be connected with all other life including life after death? so the mere belief in the connection would make the "spirit board" work essentially. do you think that's a decent theory?

  4. Great Blog, Brian. I definitely an in concurrence with the basic principles put forth here. Eager for the update.

    To Anonymous - September 21, 2010.
    I think its a bad idea to use exterior sources to reach out to spirits. If there does exist a spiritual connection between loved ones then simply remembering him and speaking to him should suffice. You may not get the back and forth communication but you also shouldn't get any malingering spirits that aren't you uncle. My condolences on your loss.

  5. I had one exerience with a Ouija board and that experience led me to believe they are NOT to be played with. I truly believe that they are doorways that open to our world and if you are not prepared or trained, you might not like or be able to control what coms thru. Here is what happened:
    Awhile back, about the early 1990's, I went next door to my friend's house. She was using the board with a few of her other friends. I expressed my concern and she said come on Katie, ask it a question only you will know. I did not have my hands on the planchett. I was standing about 4 feet from it. I asked ok, if you know the name of my grandfather, spell it out. She nor anyone else in the room knew the answer to this. It spelled it out, perfectly. I then replid that Jesus Christ is my Saviour and I denounce you to the board. At this, the planchett flew up in the air toward me and hit the wall. I left...really quickly I might add. She then informed me that they quit and later, had an awful smell in her home thereafter. So, I still will NOT use one of those because I believe that evil can come of it in the form of trickery. I am a sensitive and feel things from people and homes, and that day, the feeling was NOT great. This is just one example I wanted to share with those who question the use of these boards. You can email me at

    Thanks for all the info here!