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Ouija board: A game or a link to the other side?

Picture this: Five teenagers sitting in a circle with a Ouija board at the centre. Their faces illuminated by the warm glow of candles, engrossed in quizzing the soul they have managed to contact. Amid the sounds of the moving planchette and giggles, one of them demands evidence, “Prove you are real”. A moment later, every object in the basement gravitates towards the ceiling and the candles blow out. Sounds of screaming are followed by dead silence.

Skeptics aside, a major chunk of people swear by the paranormal. “I used to wake up with scratches on my body”, “I used to hear a woman cry late into the night”, “Someone used to whisper my name in my ear”, “I had the feeling of being followed”, and many more tales of the supernatural have echoed through the centuries–mutating and evolving to fit the generation it’s being recited in.

Many of these stories come from people who claim to have unknowingly opened the doorway for the wrong souls via a Ouija Board, which, by the way, is available in stores as a game–a fact that some find extremely disturbing.

A lot of people have been using the Ouija Board to ask questions about their lives or to enquire about the unfinished business of their deceased loved ones.

What is a Ouija Board?

The invention of the board itself is shrouded in mystery. For the uninitiated, Ouija Board or ‘the talking board’, as it is popularly called, is known to have gotten its name from Oui and Ja–the French and German words for yes.

One of the many anecdotes goes, a group of spiritualists created a makeshift board in the 19th century to help spirits communicate the answers through alphabets and numbers. Later, five men, including William Fuld (often referred to as the inventor of the game), got together to patent the board with letters and numbers on it that would allow the spirits to communicate. Now, they needed a name for the board. In stepped Helen Peters, the sister-in-law of Elijah Bond, one of the investors. She conducted a séance that led the planchette to form the word ‘Ouija’ with the alphabets. When asked what it meant, the words ‘good luck’ were spelt out on the board.

At a glance, it is a harmless board–a flat wooden or cardboard plank with alphabets and numbers arrayed in semicircles. A giant YES and NO is printed on the upper corners and a GOODBYE, at the bottom. So, what is it about this board that scares people? Apparently, this harmless wooden plank could be a doorway for evil spirits to enter the physical world.

Why do people use it?

Keeping the morbid stuff aside, a lot of people have been using the Ouija Board to ask questions about their lives or to enquire about the unfinished business of their deceased loved ones. Many even claim to have found peace through the process. However, the authenticity of their claims hangs mid-air due to lack of evidence.

On being asked about this on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Ouija Board expert Robert Murch said, “If you can make contact with the other side, why wouldn’t a Ouija Board work? The real question is–can you make that contact? Because people are so desperate to say goodbye to a loved one, to get closure, or even to prove that there’s something else beyond the few years that we spend here…most people need to believe those things are possible. And Ouija gives us a chance to try.”

Science offers an explanation for the phenomenon. The supposed power of the Ouija Board to communicate with the dead is nothing but people moving the planchette out of reflex. It’s called the Ideomotor effect–involuntary and unconscious behaviour generated by the subconscious mind. For instance, if a group of friends wanted a positive answer for a question they asked, then they could be moving the planchette towards YES without even realising it. This reasoning makes plain that people who use the Ouija Board may not exactly be communicating with the spirits but with the deep recesses of their own minds.

Regardless of how, you are likely to get your answers from the Ouija Board. But ponder this. The answers to all of life’s questions may just be hidden in the depths of the human mind.


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