Should you play with Ouija boards?
- The Ouija board is an American invention, springing out of Chestertown, Maryland, in 1886 and first manufactured in 1890. Its name is a combination of the French and German words for “yes” (“oui” and “ja”) and gained popularity following World War I as it was used in occult practices, like séances, and by spiritualists for supernatural communications.
- “The occult” is defined as “matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers or some secret knowledge of them.”
- To play the Ouija board, participants lightly place their fingers on the smaller heart-shaped board that is mounted on coasters and made to easily slide along the oblong wooden base that has the full alphabet inscribed on it. The smaller board is thought to, in some instances, lead the participants to spell out words or entire sentences.
- IMDb lists over 300 films, often in the horror genre, that have featured the Ouija board.
Belief in the spiritual world or not does not erase the dark history behind Ouija boards. The original intention behind these boards was to communicate with the dead or spiritual beings, so the fact it is considered a harmless game for anyone not looking to dabble in the occult is disturbing. Many chilling crimes are even connected with these boards, making access to something with such a negative reputation even more unsuitable for potential players.
Believing in ghosts or demons makes the idea of playing with an overtly occult item even worse, especially when impressional children are involved, as they can be negatively influenced by a “game” that claims the ability to reach the supernatural. For example, 28 girls were hospitalized after playing with a Ouija board because of the dangerous levels of anxiety it created in the girls. Likewise, many other strange incidents involving these boards cannot be explained, such as a group of 11 teens collapsing and vomiting after using them.
Of course, we cannot discount the spiritual reasons, as many religions warn against using Ouija boards. According to some religions, it is possible they can open doors to demons and spirits, even leading to possessions. Still, even if you are not particularly spiritual or religious, there are psychological danger risks for anyone—but particularly the youngest players, like kids or teens—using the boards. It is particularly risky for children with psychological issues to play with them, as it can worsen their mental condition.
Whether the boards have any special power or not is not the issue to consider. Rather, it is what is associated with the boards—horror themes, occultish activity, spiritual and psychological stress—that can be dangerous. No matter how you spin it, the history behind Ouija boards is 'pure and evil,' and their present use isn't any different.
Whether you're convinced spirits are being channeled or skeptically sure someone's moving the planchette, sitting down with a Ouija board is usually a good time. After all, it's been marketed as a game for over a century. Researchers have studied the phenomena at play when the game piece appears to move on its own mysteriously. Essentially, what takes place is a form of non-verbal communication. Yet, it still has the power to surprise all parties.
Studies have found that in this state, players can tap into a subconscious or 'zombie' mind and even perform better with trivia answers believed to be coming from the board. Such a tool can illuminate different levels of personal and social interactions, like predictive eye movements and our unconscious imposition of structure on random events. These insights also make Ouija boards a potentially useful vehicle for tapping into forgotten memories or unconscious beliefs.
Just knowing people are exploring the unknown—regardless of whether ghosts are at play—encourages us to expand our perspectives, and practicing dealing with uncertainty can ultimately prove to be a transferable life skill in many ways. Ouija boards have inspired many poems, novels, and films, only gaining a stigmatized reputation in the last few decades from horror movies; evil ties or claims are otherwise baseless, and the supposedly paranormal board has never actually caused any real harm to anyone.
It's an accessible parlor game that's stood the test of time and can be manufactured from simple household items. From stunning the patent officer who first approved it and allegedly bestowing its own name to being the basis for a modern genre of captivating horror, it's just downright fun.