As the title suggests, using a Ouija board could be a gamble, right? After all, by using one you are allowing spirits to open up a line of communication and by doing so, opening yourself up spiritually to whoever or whatever may come forward. Uh, no actually. How can you say that I hear you cry. I've seen the films. Those things are bad news. It's not worth the risk of being spiritually attached by one of Satan's minions. How can you be so sure? Well, let me fight my corner and allow me to explain myself.
But first a little history...
The Ouija board was first unveiled to the American public in 1890, as a humble parlour game for anyone who had a passing interest in spiritualism. It was designed by E.C. Reiche, Elijah Bond, and Charles Kennard and was a much more commercial product than the simple 'talking boards' that went before it. This was a time when spiritualism was becoming increasingly popular and, without need for a medium or full-blown seance, the Ouija board found favour with the general public as a cheap means of contacting the spirits of the dead.
From there on in, I guess you could say the Ouija board has had a PR nightmare. To this day, this humble wooden board is shunned, vilified, misunderstood and portrayed as a direct link to the very depths of Hell itself. Utter utter bollocks. To view the ouija board as such, fails to acknowledge the substantial amount of research and study that has been undertaken which categorically proves that Ouija boards work by unconscious micro-movements of the participants around the board. I'm not talking about studies by a group of amateur ghost hunters here, I'm talking about scientists who know a thing or two about psychology and physiology.
The term 'ideomotor action' was first used by physiologist/psychologist William B. Carpenter in 1852, some 38 years prior to the commercial release of the Ouija board, described as the "influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition." Essentially, moving something without being consciously aware of it.
In the same year, Michael Faraday, inventor of the electric motor, was able to prove that the unconscious movements of people were directly responsible for similar phenomena linked with table turning. If there was any further doubt about how Ouija boards worked, then that surely should have been put to rest by the work of American psychologist Joseph Jastrow.
Jastrow conducted a series of experiments into the Ouija board using, what he called an 'automatograph' - a piece of equipment that was able to record the slightest of movements made by the participants of the Ouija board. Jastrow's work confirmed that simply by thinking about a particular direction, the planchette would move in that direction without the participants realising it.
What I'm saying, is that the Ouija board was pretty much debunked 164 years ago. 164 years! And yet, turn on the TV to watch a paranormal show or watch some teams on Youtube and what do you find....the Ouija board. As popular as ever. If you are interested in the paranormal or even a paranormal investigator you have to ask yourself, are you taking it seriously? If you are, then you wouldn't entertain using a Ouija board on an investigation. You are simply not communicating with spirits but amongst yourselves.
Interestingly, I posted on Twitter a few weeks ago, asking for people's opinions on Ouija boards. The results were very interesting. By and large, people were scared to use them - with the majority saying that Ouija boards were capable of opening up a doorway or 'portal' to the other side. I'm not going to ridicule people for their beliefs. They're perfectly entitled to feel that way about them. It does tell me however, that there is still a stigma around using a Ouija board that continues to prevail. Repeating the conclusions of the previously mentioned studies might go some way to allay fears but I doubt it. People tend to only believe it when they see it so to speak.
So how do we do that in a simple, straightforward way? Well, I turn to suggestions given by Professor Richard Wiseman from his book, Paranormality. In his book, Wiseman offers two possible solutions. The first is to write the letters of the alphabet on pieces of paper, mix them up randomly and turn them upside down on the table.
"...have the group ask the spirit to spell out its name. As the glass touches a piece of paper, turn it face up. If the movements of the glass are due to unconscious movement, the selected letters will be meaningless because the group no longer knows where the glass should be heading.
If any believers in the group complain that perhaps the message is only meaningless because the spirits can't see the letters either, turn the pieces of paper face up and blindfold the group. Once again, the message should be meaningless."
I have used Ouija boards in the past and never have I felt any feelings of fear or apprehension in using them. Feeling the planchette seemingly zipping about the board with clear, decisive movements is an interesting experience. If nothing else, it allows you to see the "ideomotor effect" in action.
Of course, when first using a Ouija board it is perfectly normal to feel that there might actually be some form of spirit communication at play, as you get caught up in the excitement of seeing names and simple details come forth. I can understand how difficult it is for people to believe that the information coming through the board is NOT from some spiritual source. For ghost hunting companies, offering a paranormal 'experience' in a haunted location, the use of a Ouija board is a no-brainer. The general public can see and 'feel' the paranormal at work even when the evidence to the contrary is incontrovertible. Paranormal investigators simply cannot fall into the same trap of using Ouija boards simply because it looks like it might be paranormal. It isn't. It never was and it never will be. In that respect, Ouija boards are no gamble at all.