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Legends of the Ouija board

Published July 14. 2012 09:01AM

Is the Ouija board a portal to the unknown, a guidepost to the unconscious or an opening to the supernatural world? The modern Ouija board is a toy manufactured and trademarked by Hasbro and introduced in 1890 by Elijah Bond.

At its beginnings the toy was a harmless diversion according to the website Wikipedia until spiritualist Pearl Curran introduced its use as a divining tool during World War I. As its use became widespread, the urban legends and stories of its alleged demonic, supernatural power also spread. The board today has become reviled by most Christian groups and believers as a source of evil and has been burned throughout the United States at various times.

The urban legends surrounding the Ouija board are several. One seems to be able to find mutual friends who have had unusual or weird experiences with the board. Some folklore accounts state that the board appeared to open a line of communication with some evil entity and out of fear, its owners tried to throw it away only to have it reappear, or they attempt to burn it only to find it won't burn or it unnaturally explodes. Personally I have not encountered anyone who has witnessed these effects in attempting to dispose of it firsthand so to me, they still remain urban legends.

While I do not know of anyone having problems getting rid of a board, I have had friends relate some personal experiences to me. One person I do know claimed that during a session a green face appeared in the corner of the room in which they were experimenting and they hastily put the board away and turned on the lights. Another person has shared with me an experience in which they were toying with the board only to hear a screech, looked up the stairs to see a cat come flying down the staircase through the air as if it was thrown by a shadow seen momentarily at the top of the stairs.

I have attempted to use a board in the past but have found it to be unsuccessful and a momentary diversion. If you are not familiar with the board, it is a flat board that has the alphabet, numbers, a yes and no and some other graphics and symbols on it. A planchette or reading device is placed on the board and the sitters place fingers on it. The idea is the planchette will move around the board spelling words and answering questions. The Hasbro version uses a plastic heart shape with a window in the center. The board is a commercial version of a spirit board or a talking board. They have been used for hundreds of years if not longer and before Hasbro marketed it, they were made using any flat surface that could be written upon and the planchette was "created" by simply using a drinking glass.

The board is in the family of divination tools including the pendulum and spirit writing. For those who grant it supernatural origins, the belief is the board is an opening to the spirit world that allows one to communicate with those who have passed on from the physical realm or entities that have never been human. Originally spirit writing used a similar technique in which the sitter would entrance themselves and the pen they were holding would begin to write. With a spirit board the sitter would have their hands on the planchette and someone would transcribe the messages.

The most famous case involving the dictated writings of a supposed spirit is that of Patience Worth who came through the board and spoke to Pearl Curran dictating poems and novels to her over a 20 year period. Other authors and poets have attributed writings to spirits through the board including Emily Grant Hutchings who claimed Mark Twain's spirit dictated a novel to her through the divining tool.

Detractors of the board claim that it is nothing more than a way of observing the ideo-motor response in people which is the involuntary muscle movements that occur in everyone causing the planchette to move on the board. This response coupled with the subconscious may be allowing a window into the subconscious mind and giving it a platform to speak to the person. Scientists believe that there is nothing spiritual involved. In fact a report in "New Scientist" discusses the research of Helene Gauchou who is using the board to study the subconscious mind.

I think the issue really boils down to one of whether the spirit world exists and if so, does it attempt to communicate with the physical plane. I'm convinced that at the outset the board is nothing more than a device accessing one's subconscious, however I also believe there is a spiritual plane with angels and demons. My belief is that we can lull our minds and our spiritual gates into a submissive state that will allow an opening for these entities to exploit and once they do, it is extremely difficult to close the door. Science is a wonderful thing, but I believe not everything is lab friendly and there is more to the universe than physical laws. There is an innate part of the universe that I believe ties us all together and in the right circumstances the board can be a doorway to that unseen world.

Would I use a board today? Perhaps, but only with some caution and adequate spiritual protection through prayer. I believe for the most part it is a toy, but I'm cautious that it could access more. It's sometimes better to be safe than sorry.

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