Harmless board game? or dangerous tool?
When I was a kid like many of us the mysteries of the unknown really intrigued us. I am a 90’s kid, I grew up during the era of Candyman, stories of Bloody Mary in bathroom mirrors as well as the movie The Craft. Every slumber party wasn’t complete without a game of “light as a feather stiff as a board” where one person lies flat on their back and the others place their hands under her in hopes of levitating off the floor. I will never forget my first time ever experimenting with the idea of a ouija, I was around 9 and at a sleepover where one of the girls (it may have even been me) decided that we should make our own Ouija board. Naturally, we used crayola markers and some poster board, it didn’t work. I must say we were quite clever back then, and It wasn't until much later in Jr. high and Highschool where I began to hear very strange stories surrounding the use of ouija or spirit boards. Things like freak accidents, strange noises from closets at night, and even worse demonic possession. These stories were enough to scare the crap out of me. Perhaps the most chilling of these stories actually happened in my own family.
After the death of my great aunt, my family went to clean out her apartment in Hollywood where they found a very old ouija board hidden at the top of her closet. My great-aunt apparently dabbled in “brujeria” (witchcraft), to what extent remains a mystery. What I do know is that apparently my mother’s younger sister while helping to clean out the place decided to take down the board and play with it. My mother was appalled by this as she is quite religious. When I told her I was writng about this story she cringed, as she recalled her sister mocking the board by making statements like “ooh scary!” and “ so where are all the ghost?” my mother says she wanted no part of the board and ordered her sister to throw it in the garbage. My aunt didn’t throw the board in the garbage, instead she put it in her car’s trunk to take home. Later that evening While driving home her car began to run hot, she opened the hood of the car where the gasket apparently blew open shooting hot water onto her face and body resulting in second and third degrees burns all over her body. My sister was in the car with her and she said that the water literally knocked our aunt out of her shoes. I will never forget that hospital trip, because my mother kept saying “I warned her not to play with that damn thing” and to this day, my family uses that story as a reminder of why you shouldn’t ever mock the dead by touching Ouija boards. Was this merely a coincidence or was this the work of a malevolent spirit?
What exactly ARE ouija boards some of you may ask? The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992; when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”
The ouija board in fact came straight out of 19th century America’s obsession with spiritualism, With the expected life span not exceeding 50 years. Women died in childbirth; children died of disease; and men died in war. Even Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the president, conducted séances in the White House after their 11-year-old son died of a fever in 1862; during the Civil War, spiritualism gained many people desperate to connect with loved ones who’d gone away to war and never come home.
Communicating with the dead was common, it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird.
Spiritualism was a very popular market and Kennard Novelty Company nailed it. Neither of the investors nor the businessmen behind the making of the board were “spiritualist” but they were clever business men and they had found their niche. In 1890, the talking board needed a name, and contrary to belief “Ouija” is not The French “oui” (yes) and German “ja” together. In fact a Ouija Historian says that name was a message spelled through the board, as the story goes a spirit spelled the letters “Ouija” when asked what it should be called. When asked what it meant, the board said “Goodluck” how eerie and cryptic. What was most intriguing was that the sister of said businessman using the board that evening was wearing a pendant with a photo of a woman that had the words “ouija” above her head in the photograph.
At least that’s the story that emerged from the Ouija founders’ letters; it’s very possible that the woman in the locket was famous author and popular women’s rights activist Ouida, whom the founder’s sister admired, and that “Ouija” was just a misreading of that.
120 years later and the ouija is still as mysterious as it’s release in 1890. There are plenty of mixed reviews on the workings of the boards and if you grew up in any type of religious household I am most certain that ouija boards were forbidden. It has been said that after the 1970’s release of The Exorcist that the ouija board almost overnight became the official tool of the devil and, for that reason, a tool of horror writers and movie makers as it began popping up in scary movies, and usually opening the door to evil spirits hell-bent on ripping apart co-eds.
So just how does the ouija board work? well, that’s just it, no one REALLY knows. There are many theories: Spiritualist theory, Automatism theory, autosuggestion, telekinesis, and Satan himself. There are truly so many explanations as to how the pachette may be able to move on it’s own that there is no definitive answer. There are many books as well as websites full of wild stories written by people who have have claimed to experience making contact with otherworldly spirits, most of them malevolent with the exception of a few whom believe with the proper protection ritual and mediumship skills that the ouija boards are quite useful tools. Ouija boards are not, as scientists say, powered by spirits or even demons. Scientist say that they’re powered by us, even when we protest that we’re not doing it. Ghost researcher Dale Kaczmarek, of the Ghost Research Society, in his article, Ouija: Not a Game begs to differ he says: "The board itself is not dangerous, but the form of communication that you are attempting often is. Most often the spirits whom are contacted through the Ouija are those whom reside on 'the lower astral plane.' These spirits are often very confused and may have died a violent or sudden death; murder, suicide, etc. Therefore, many violent, negative and potentially dangerous conditions are present to those using the board. Often times several spirits will attempt to come through at the same time but the real danger lies when you ask for physical proof of their existence! You might say, 'Well, if you're really a spirit, then put out this light or move that object!' What you have just done is simple, you have 'opened a doorway' and allowed them to enter into the physical world and future problems can and often do arise."
At Using a Ouija Board, Linda Johnson, who believes the Ouija is a form of channeling, warns, "Do not choose a place where you suspect earthbound entities are gathered: graveyards, haunted houses, sites of tragedy. Choose a place that feels good - has the right vibrations, a home where loving people live, or a room usually devoted to learning and meditation. Start with a meditation where you concentrate on cleansing your own body, aura and chakras with a visualization of silver rain; filling your bodies with white light; and call upon your guides to protect you and ask them to allow only information and entities through for your highest good."
I believe that the Ouija is what you make of it. Like attracts like, if you are drunk and playing in a haunted house with your friends chances are you’re not going to contact any entities that have your highest good in mind. You are not only being disrespectful but you are opening yourself up to entities that may wish to do harm to you, and will require the experience of a professional for banishing and clearing. Will I personally ever use a Ouija board? probably not. However, if one chooses to use the ouija as a personal tool of mediumship by taking proper protective precautions before use, I believe that should be their decision. We are all our own highest authorities. As with any and all magical practices, educate yourself but more importantly practice the most magical act, common sense.