Ask Psiguy – Ouija Boards

OuijaFor my first column, I'm going against my instincts and goals of addressing purely psi, or parapsychological phenomena, and give a nod to the majority of folks who have written and asked about Ouija boards (exclusively licensed now by Parker Brother's games).

For hundreds of years, oracles and those involved in the occult have used many different methods of divination and “spirit communication.” The first of these was “automatic writing.” The "psychic" or "medium" would simply sit quietly with writing utensil in hand and let the spirit guide his/her hand across the paper, supposedly being guided by an outside force; to divine the future, foretell one's path in life and love or even proffer the future of kingdoms. Over the years, the mechanisms changed, but the methods contained similar elements such as the "trance," the way one is supposed to surround oneself in "white light" for protection, the need for another person as an observer so as to record the messages, etceteras.

The following is taken directly from the alt.folklore.ghost-stories FAQ, put together by Obiwan:

The ancient Egyptians used a device LIKE a Ouija board. They used a ring attached to a strand of thread held over a circular table with symbols on it and the ring would strike the table to spell out answers.

The Ouija board, the kind we see in toy stores today, came about in 1889 when William Fuld of Baltimore, Maryland and his brother Isaac marketed Ouija boards to the American public. They had a small operation and the board was the hottest item they would ever produce. People bought the board not as a game, but as a device with which they would talk to their loved ones killed in battle (note the two World Wars happening; this was where the board's popularity really soared). During this time the fad spread, and so did Ouija's notorious reputation as being more than just a "game."

Finally in about 1960 or thereabouts Parker Brothers approached the two Fuld brothers since they were having trouble making enough boards to satisfy the demand for them. PB then took over the rights to the Ouija board and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ouija came about as kind of a by-product of the whole spiritualist craze that was all the rage in the early 1900's and during Houdini's time as he debunked many “mediums.” Table-tipping was being done back then and a Frenchman who's last name was Planchette produced a device that looked like a small table, like a Ouija pointer, that stood on two small stilts and a pen or pencil at the third point. The operator would sit with his hands as lightly as he could resting on the planchette, this device named after its inventor, and the thing would move; producing writing.

Ouija replaced the messy planchette (the writing was messy cursive scrawls) when a board was used in place of the sheet of paper, and all three stilts on the planchette were covered with felt enabling it to slide in any direction. This made the communications fast, clear and easy. And specifically meant to be done with a partner, "gentleman and lady preferred."

Eugene Orlando adds:

"William Fuld died in 1927, Isaac in 1939. Since Parker Brothers didn't take over the William Fuld company until 1966, it would have been quite a trick to take it over from the brothers. But then it is alt.folklore.ghost-stories isn't it? Actually, Parker Brothers saw a bargain when they saw one and bought the business from William's kids. They had moved the factory into a smaller building and sold out not because there was so much demand for the Ouija, but just the opposite. Ouija sales had never been worse. It took a Parkers advertising blitz to put the popularity back in the Ouija board."

Theories of the Phenomena
1. Spirits are channeled through the mind of operators, bringing messages from "beyond" this life in an attempt to communicate. One must be careful what one asks because many of these Spirits try to deceive the operators and can be very malicious in their messages, causing psychic harm to the vulnerable or the unwary.

2. Ouija is nothing but a device by which the operators, either intentionally or sub-consciously, move the planchette around with no outside control. The messages received reflect only those thoughts or ideas which the participants themselves generate.

3. The Ouija board can be used by inherently intuitive and psychic participants to "reach out" to those around them and channel clairvoyant, precognitive or telepathic energies, manifesting themselves as messages seemingly independent of the control of the participants.

Psiguy Says
I would tend to lean towards the third theory. I've experienced ESP, precognitive dreams and phenomena which defy explanation by traditional theories of physics and psychology, so Theories One and Two are on the extreme ends of the continuum in my opinion. Rather, I see Ouija, Tarot card reading, even Astrology and the reading of Crystals, tea leaves and what-not simply as ways of focusing the inherent psychic abilities of the participants and allowing a medium in which to express these subtle perceptions in a socially acceptable way.

I would also caution that, just as it can be used for light entertainment, so too can it be used wrongly by an individual who has suppressed anger or other issues so that the messages that arise from using the board can be seen as harmful to one or more of the users. The Ouija board is neither Evil, nor is it strictly Good; it all depends on those that use it. I suggest that if you want to use the Ouija board, follow the guidelines that come with it and also follow the links I include below so that you can read what others have to say about its usage. Also, I include the results of a recent survey on Ouija board use conducted by the Institute of Parapsychology, the results of which provide an interesting examination on the experiences of many Ouija board users.

Ouija Board Resources on the Net
1. This is an on-line attempt to have an interactive Ouija board between visitors to this site.

2. The Hallowed Halls of Ouija. Directions for use and pictures of boards through the years.

3. The Museum of Talking Boards.

4. More complete directions for use and other suggestions/cautions/buy boards.

5. Another on-line Ouija board...use your mouse as the planchette

6. Logos Christian Resource alternative view of Ouija board usage.

7. A relatively comprehensive overview of the board and how they should and shouldn't be used.

Survey Results
FINAL RESULTS – OUIJA BOARD SURVEY All the people who returned the survey had some kind of unusual experience with the board, thus our figures are only relevant to that population of folks. It is most likely not of everyone who has used a Ouija board. The majority of our sample responded a news item in Fate Magazine or an announcement on our web page. Most of the rest were those who had participated in research at the Institute for Parapsychology or found out about the survey through some other page on the web. The first column contains a shorthand form of each survey question. The second column is that of persons who gave valid responses to the question. The remaining columns list that of respondents who chose each alternative answer. The totals may not always add up exactly 100% because of rounding errors. Figures in parentheses were only answered by persons who answered at least "once-or-twice" to the relevant preceding item on the survey. In these cases, the percentages are of the sub-sample that answered the item, not of the entire sample. Sample consists of 72.5% females and 27.5% males. The average age of our respondents was 38.4, with a range from 14 to 85. The age at first use ranged from 5 to 61, with an average of 18.9. The age at last use ranged from 7 to 80 with an average of 28.7.






Used Board Alone






Got Involuntary Movements*






Used Board With Others






Got Involuntary Movements**






Sought Communication w/Spirits






Contacted Summoned Spirit






Contacted by Uninvited Spirit






Sought Advice






Obtained Good Advice






Obtained Bad Advice






Obtained Unknown Information






Commanded by Spirit






Followed Command






Used Board in Trance






Used Board with Drugs/Alcohol






Negative Experience w/ Board






Felt Compulsion to Use Board






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