Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ouija Boards

Growing up, my mother was the one who set the rules of the household. Clean your room. Put your laundry away. Wash the dishes. These are normal requests among most parents. One rule that I always found odd, however, was the one that did not allow Ouija Boards in our house. My mom never had a superstitious personality, horror movies didn’t phase her, and her favorite books were intense crime dramas. Why did she have such a strong notion about simple board game meant for social fun? I never asked her to answer this question. Instead, I just inherited the sense of fear and just did as I was told. The question, now that I am older, has now become, “Are Ouija boards just a fun time, or are they a missing link to the dead?” After some research, I came across two basic concepts that argue this question. The argument becomes that of the Spiritualist Theory v. the Automatism Theory.
The Ouija board was developed in 1890 as a parlor game and was composed of a board listing the letters of the alphabet, the numbers one through ten, and the words “yes” and “no”. The concept was to have one or two people hold on to the planchette, a triangular piece with an opening in the middle, and ask a question to any spirits that may be present. Supernatural forces then guide the player’s hands to the answer, whether it be a number, a “yes” or “no”, or a spelled out answer. In most cases this question-and-answer game turns into an eerie experience and can be, debatably, dangerous if the questioned spirit is violent. There are many people, not just my mother, who warn against tampering with spirits because it can leave long-lasting effects. Those who believe that the board is controlled solely by the supernatural make several assumptions. They assume that spirits exist and that these spirits understand the language they are speaking. They assume that a force outside of their own body is capable of making decisions for them and controlling their motor movements. Users also assume that there is something about the board that has a special link to these spirits and that this can be mass produced by Hasbro. Anyone who believes that supernatural forces are responsible for the Ouija board is said to believe the Spiritualist Theory. There are many videos across the internet that offer an inside look of the Ouija board experience and tons of websites that offer serious warnings.  An example of one Ouija board session is shown below, assuming that it isn’t a dramatization.
Not all people are so quick to believe that supernatural forces control the Ouija board. Others believe in the Automatism Theory, which uses the example of “ideomotor response” to speculate that the planchette is unconsciously moved by the user of the board. This psychological response has been studied and is even used in certain therapies to procure truthful responses from clients. Believers of this theory also make a few assumptions of their own. They assume that there is a subconscious and that it is actively linked to the consciously working mind. They assume that the responses spelled out on the board are predetermined by the user. While this explanation appears to be the most logical, there is still no proof to fully support either theory. It’s difficult to get a participant to admit that the planchette was moved by an unconscious part of their mind, and there’s technically no information completely disproving that spirits exist.
So what am I more inclined to believe now? I can’t infer any real explanation of what actually happens during a Ouija board session, but I can say that I more inclined to a scientific explanation such as the Automatism Theory, rather than a Spiritualist Theory that is proven mostly by home videos that often appear staged. The outcome of any tests on brainwaves during one of these sessions would be interesting to see. By doing this, it can be made apparent which portions of the brain are most active during such an event. Considering that it would be much more difficult to prove the existence of spirits, I feel like this would be the more logical approach. Either way, more evidence is needed to solidify any theory, and until then, I’m still inclined to keep my distance from Ouija boards. It’s better to be safe then sorry.


  1. When I was 8 or so, my grandparents moved out of a house they had lived in for 30 something years. One day we were in their basement while they were packing and my sisters and I found an ancient Ouija board. My grandparents weren't very religious or very superstitious so when my grandmother snatched the Ouija board from us and threw it away my sisters and I were astounded. I mean, the mysticism of a Ouija board to an 8 year old is HUGE. But looking at it now, I find it laughable that adults think that Mattel would put out a product that would connect youth with spirits. I will admit that they are fun, though!

  2. I love this. I've never actually had a Ouija board but I always believed in it. Even at this age I'm still curious and kinda hope it did really work because it's super cool! Awesome post.

  3. I love that you wrote about this. My mom was the exact same way and she still to this day refuses to let a ouija board into our house. She too loves ghost shows and horror movies, but she said she does not like the fact of "waking or disturbing the dead." She said when she was younger, her and her friends used one and something happened but she wouldn't go into detail. Honestly, I think she's overreacting and I like to use them for fun but you never know. Thanks for posting this, it was very interesting to read. :)

  4. I grew up the same way. My mother forbid me to use or bring a Ouija board in the house. My family is very superstitious and have had "problems" with the board. My grandmother owned one in the past and couldn't throw it away. When she was in the house by herself she would put it in the trash and when she came back, it would be on the table. She later found out that you had to burn it to get rid of it. My family refuses to be around them because they are said to be a portal to hell. So I'm defiantly staying away. lol

  5. Ouija boards are fun but only think it is a game and nothing more. I have a friend that still beleives to this day that Ouija boards open a portal to the spiritual world and once it is open it can not be closed. She doesn't mind playing with Ouija board just as long as it's not in her house.