Ouija boards are one of those elements of the world of the paranormal that routinely split the opinions of people. For some they are a useful tool to exploring the spirit world while to others they are dangerous and not to be touched. So are Ouija boards really dangerous?
The Ouija board is also known as a spirit or talking board and is a flat board marked with all the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 0-9. Sometimes words such as yes and no or hello and goodbye are also added to the board and some versions have certain symbols as well. The board is used with a planchette, a small heart-shaped piece of plastic or wood that is moved to indicate the message that the spirit wishes to convey to the user. The board is normally used during a seance and the participants all place their fingers onto the planchette.
The idea of automatic writing dates back to ancient China with a document from 1100AD referring to a technique known as planchette writing where the spirits of the dead and the spirit world were contacted. The process was strictly supervised but in the Qing Dynasty, it was outlawed all together.
The modern Ouija board first surfaced in the form we recognise today as a toy in the late 19th century when a businessman named Elijah Bond decided to patent a planchette sold with a board that had the alphabet printed on it. A later version was made by one of Bond’s employees, William Fuld, who created the name Ouija from the French and German words for yes. He later sold the rights to Parker Brothers who in turn sold it to Hasbro in 1991 and they are one of the ten makers of the boards today.
In the scientific opinion of the Ouija board, the movements are made by something called ideomotor response. This means that in their view, the participants are moving the planchette but are doing so unconsciously – they aren’t trying to deceive and are unaware of the movements they are causing. Further, psychologists see the seance as an example of a dissociative state where consciousness is divided from the normal cognitive or motor functions and people respond without realising what they are doing.
While the actual Ouija board itself cannot cause harm to the participants, there are enough cases to show that the use of a board can cause an adverse reaction and as one researcher put it, ‘the board isn’t dangerous but the form of communication being attempted is.’
For those who believe that the board is able to contact the spirit world, many believe that the spirits contacted are from a lower plane of existence. They tend to be those who have died a sudden or violent death, have been murdered or committed suicide and therefore may be aggressive, frightened and potentially dangerous. Sometimes these spirits take literally the common request for proof of their existence by trying to come into this reality causing accidents and injuries.
For those who believe that the board contacts the subconscious part of our minds, then similar worries can surface. Rarely do the experiences seem to be happy and uplifting, often depressing, saddening or simply terrifying and this may mean that using the board accesses the more negative parts of our minds.
Whether the Ouija board accesses the spirit world, ghosts or a deep, dark part of our minds, there is no doubt that it is not a toy. While experienced mediums can make use of the board to talk to the spirits they sense around them and paranormal researchers can study the responses in controlled environments, people should think long and hard about ‘messing around’ with these boards. Children, especially, should be kept away from them due to their natural susceptibility to all things paranormal.
So while the Ouija board isn’t dangerous as such, it is definitely a piece of equipment to treat with caution and perhaps better safe than sorry is definitely the best idea in this case.