By Ryan Dube Paranormal Enthusiast and Investigator
The following Ouija board stories are drawn from local tales. In all cases, the identities are changed in order to protect the privacy of the individuals, but the stories are true. The first two of these Ouija board stories took place throughout a small mountainous county in Northern Maine throughout the 1980s and 1990s.It's Just a Hobby
Cindy was only 13. She was the middle child within a large, devoutly Christian family. She had three older sisters, a younger sister, and a younger brother. At some point during the eighth grade, a friend let her borrow a Ouija board one weekend, and that weekend Cindy and her older sisters played with the board. They did so in secret, late at night, because they knew how strongly their parents would disapprove. That weekend, the mysterious talking board mesmerized Cindy. Cindy became obsessed with it. She could think of nothing else and soon had a list of questions that she wanted to ask the board.
Cindy had an hour every day after school where she was alone in the house before her older sisters returned from high school. So Monday afternoon right after getting home from school, she cautiously crept up to her room, set up the Ouija board on her bed, and gently laid her fingertips on top of the pointer. After just ten minutes of sitting quietly, the planchette started to jerk softly across the board. It spelled out, "H-I". Cindy's breath caught in her throat.
"Hi," she answered. "Who are you?"
A shock ran through Cindy. Jake was a friend of hers who had died in a car accident in the fourth grade.
"Jake, is it really you?" Cindy sat up, her arms shaking with excitement. The pointer moved quickly up to "YES."
Over the next hour, Cindy held a conversation with "Jake." Every day after school, Cindy would race up to her room and have a conversation with Jake about her life and about her future. But after a few days, the conversations became darker and angrier. By the second week, Cindy had the impression that she wasn't talking with Jake, but instead with a dark and terrible imposter. Finally, by the end of the second week, the entity revealed itself as a demon and threatened Cindy that if she told anyone about their conversations, she would die. That Friday night, when her sisters got home, they found Cindy curled up in a corner crying. It took a week in a mental facility before Cindy could recover from the emotional damage that the "entity" caused her during those two fateful weeks of her childhood.Can't Hide Secrets From Ouija
One summer, three middle school boys discovered a Ouija board in a trash bin outside a local apartment building. Tom, the oldest, was terribly cruel to the younger boy, Josh. He would often punch Josh jokingly in the arm, but so hard that it would bruise. Other times he would call Josh stupid or a "retard." The third boy, Chris, would avoid the abuse by remaining silent. Secretly Chris and Josh disliked Tom's behavior, but they tolerated it because they had no other friends.
That summer, the three boys took the discovered Ouija board to Tom's house where he was alone most of the time anyway. His father was always working, and his mom had passed away years earlier. As the three boys sat in the middle of the living room with their hands on the planchette, they became bored after twenty minutes of waiting. When they were just about to give up, the planchette budged. Finally it spelled out "G-E-T A-W-A-Y."
"Get away? I live here," Tom barked. The planchette started moving more briskly in a figure eight.
"That's weird. I wonder what it means?" Chris said, glancing at Tom and Josh. He looked back at the board.
"Where should we go?" Chris asked.
"This is stupid," Tom said. He looked at Josh and Chris, "You guys are doing this. let's test it. Josh, let go."
Josh removed his hands from the planchette.
"Now ask it a question that only you will know," Tom ordered.
Josh immediately asked, "Who's the person who keeps hitting me?"
Tom gave Josh a nasty glare, but the planchette was already moving quickly.
"A-S-K T-O-M," it answered.
"This is stupid," Tom said.
"D-A-D," the board spelled.
"Huh?" Chris said, staring at the board. "I think this question is for Tom." He glanced up at Josh and they exchanged confused expressions.
"D-A-D," it spelled again. Tom's breathing started to race, his face turned red and sweat formed on his brow.
"D-A-D," it spelled a third time. Tom jumped up and ran from the room crying. It was the first time Josh and Chris had ever seen or heard Tom cry. They only learned a few days later that Tom's father routinely abused him. Somehow, the Ouija board knew Tom's innermost secret.Whole Town Goes Mad
The news headlines announced the town's descent into madness in March of 1920. In a small town in Southern California, police arrested seven people who had stripped nude and began to act "mad" after dallying with a Ouija board. Over the next several days, the madness spread like a disease throughout the town. One police officer joined the hysteria, stripping off his uniform and running into a local bank while screaming hysterically. A 15-year-old girl described her own nude and wild appearance as a result of her ability to communicate so effectively with spirits.
Terrified of the spreading madness, town hall officials brought in truckloads of mental health specialists to examine all 1,200 members of the populace. While the professionals attributed the madness to a shared hysteria, the city government decided to take no risks. Ouija boards were banned within the town limits (either possession or sale).The Ouija Board Did It
In 1935, a man shot his wife four times in the back. Arrested by police at the time of the incident, the 78-year-old husband described his stressful relationship with his wife following her consultation with a Ouija board. His wife claimed to receive messages during weekly consultations of his infidelity with a neighboring woman. The board allegedly told her that he gave the woman a great deal of money. After each consultation, the wife would give her husband a dark look and announce that she'd caught him in yet another lie. Over the course of several weeks, the wife tied him to the bedposts with wires and whipped his body with knotted ropes. She used a burning poker to wound him and stabbed him in the shins with a knife. Finally, under the brunt of bodily torture, he confessed anything she wanted to hear when she put a gun to his head. Satisfied by his confession, she left the gun on the nightstand. Freed, yet still terrified, the husband seized the gun and shot her in the back before she could inflict any further harm. The courts ruled the murder a justifiable homicide since the husband was reasonably in fear for his life.Beliefs Vary
Most people consider the Ouija board nothing more than a toy. However, the mystery and psychological power that the board can have over people is a serious concern. Some people claim the board has the ability to predict the future accurately, or that it harbors terrible and evil forces. Still others believe that it provides a channel through which the user can communicate with spirits of the dead. Whatever you believe, true Ouija board stories can offer some insight into what it's really like to interact with this mysterious board.Trending in Paranormal
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Sorry, horror fans, ghost hunters, and demon enthusiasts: Despite their long history as hoax spiritualist devices turned hit toys turned tools of the devil. Ouija boards won’t actually put you in contact with demons or spirits. Any scary firsthand reports you might hear or read of real-life Ouija board horror stories are exaggerations, false claims, or a misunderstanding of how Ouija boards actually work.
That might be disappointing news if you’re hosting a Halloween sleepover, but it might also leave you asking, “How do Ouija boards work?” The answer is surprisingly simple.
Related Ouija: Origin of Evil tries its best but fails to spell out a good time at the moviesOuija boards rely on the power of your own body
If you’ve never used a Ouija board, the concept is pretty straightforward. With a group or by yourself, you place your hands lightly on a triangular pointer called a planchette. The planchette rests on the board itself, which has the words “yes” and “no” in its top corners, an alphabet in the center, and the word “goodbye” at the bottom.
The idea is to summon the spirits you want to communicate with, and they’ll move the planchette around the board to spell out answers to the questions you ask — until they or you finally say goodbye and the spirits go back to wherever they came from.
It all sounds pretty harmless, but there’s a long tradition of people believing that Ouija boards are dangerous occult gateways that can lead to demon possession or worse. After all, what happens if it’s a non-friendly spirit that’s moving the planchette without your control?
In fact, there’s a simple scientific explanation: The mysterious mechanism that powers the Ouija board is called the ideomotor effect (pronounced “idio-mo- tor” or “id-ee-aah -meh-ter”), and it’s basically a way for your body to talk to itself.
The ideomotor effect is an example of unconscious, involuntary physical movement — that is, we move when we’re not trying to move. If you’ve ever experienced the sudden feeling of jerking awake from sleep (known as the hypnic jerk ), you’ve experienced a more abrupt version of the ideomotor effect: your brain signaling your body to move without your conscious awareness. The obvious difference is that the ideomotor effect happens when you’re awake, so the reflexive movements you make are much smaller.
In the case of a Ouija board, your brain may unconsciously create images and memories when you ask the board questions. Your body responds to your brain without you consciously “telling” it to do so, causing the muscles in your hands and arms to move the pointer to the answers that you — again, unconsciously — may want to receive.
There are multiple scientific studies that have shown various instances of the ideomotor effect in action. In one well-known and oft-repeated variant of the Ouija board test, blindfolded participants spell much more incoherent messages. (You can try this one at home.)
These experiments easily demonstrate that the Ouija board only works when the participants are able to manipulate the pointer themselves. If a ghost or spirit were really in the room, it would be able to direct the planchette to spell out coherent messages without any assistance. But there is no ghost, and when the Ouija board users are deprived of their ability to spell out words they can see, the game rapidly devolves into gibberish.The ideomotor effect is actually a powerful subconscious tool
Before Ouija boards were invented, spiritualists and other would-be ghost communicators used makeshift devices called “talking boards” that served a similar purpose. Talking boards first became popular in mid-19th-century America, when millions of people suddenly gained an interest in talking to the dead following the tremendous loss of life in the Civil War. The popularity of talking boards, and their use as a tool to exploit grieving war families, meant scientists actually started studying the ideomotor effect in the midcentury. well before Ouija boards and planchettes were patented in 1890.
Over the years, research has determined that the ideomotor effect is closely tied to subconscious awareness — and that its effect is maximized when the subject believes he has no control of his movements. Paradoxically, the less control you think you have, the more control your subconscious mind is actually exerting.
This is where the Ouija board’s triangular pointer comes in. The planchette makes it easier to subconsciously control your muscle movements, because it focuses and directs them even while you believe you aren’t in control of them. It’s also why the planchette seems to move even more effectively when multiple people are using the planchette at once: It frees everyone’s minds to subconsciously generate creepy Ouija board answers together.
The effect might also make the Ouija board an effective tool to help you tap into your own subconscious. In one study published in 2012, scientists found that using the Ouija board allowed subjects to recall factual information with more accuracy than if they weren’t using the board. Participants were instructed to answer a series of yes/no questions and to rate whether they were confident in their answers or merely guessing. Later, they were subjected to another round of questions but used a Ouija board to indicate “yes” or “no,” once again rating their confidence level in their answers. In cases where participants believed they didn’t know an answer, they were able to give more correct answers, more often, when using the Ouija board than when they believed they were only guessing on their own.
The researchers behind that study have gone on to speculate that using the Ouija board as a technique to unlock subconscious knowledge could lead to insights about the early onset of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
In other words, the Ouija board is potentially a very powerful communication tool — just not in the way most people think.The ideomotor effect is behind much more than just Ouija boards — including several harmful real-life scams and “therapies”
The appeal of the ideomotor effect is that you actually may be communicating with something you can’t typically access — your own subconscious — and that the experience can feel like communicating with something paranormal or unknown.
This real physical effect causes some people to believe that seemingly miraculous or paranormal phenomena are behind certain behaviors and occurrences. It’s a common element of demon possession hoaxes. since witnesses come to believe the “possessed” person is moving without her own control. It can also convince people they have the gift of automatic writing. meaning they insist that spirits can communicate with the living through their “uncontrolled” handwriting. Often, the ideomotor effect is used to defraud people who visit exorcists, psychics, mediums, and other self-proclaimed spirit-channeling types — sometimes leading to severe financial, physical. and psychological harm.
Dowsing is another example of the ideomotor effect being exploited for financial gain. The practice, whose stated purpose is to divine water or other things located underground or concealed within something else, involves holding a special device (like a dowsing rod or a divining rod) and letting the ideomoter effect cause your hand to “mysteriously” point to the location of the desired object or substance. These devices have been scientifically tested and debunked again and again, but that hasn’t stopped their purveyors from falsely claiming they can detect everything from gold to liver disease and h epatitis to “ harmful earth radiations .” In 2013, one charlatan was convicted of selling nearly $70 million in fake bomb detectors to Iraqi police.
Finally, the ideomotor effect lies behind a controversial, repeatedly debunked form of pseudoscience therapy called “ facilitated communication ,” which emerged as a popular therapy technique in the 1990s. Facilitated communication claims to work by allowing disabled or autistic patients to “communicate” through slight finger movements. In reality, science has proven many times over that the patients’ movements are caused by the ideomoter effect, and that their caregivers are reading meaning into nothing. One scientist even referred to facilitated communication as “Ouija board stuff.”
The disastrous effects of this fake therapy include a sex abuse case in which the caregiver claimed she used facilitated communication to obtain consent from her patient, and a devastating parental custody case where manipulative caregivers used it to suggest that the children involved had “accused” their parents of abuse. Sadly, it still exists today as a fraudulent speech therapy technique used with autism patients, disguised under various names like “rapid prompting method,” “supported typing,” or “progressive kinesthetic feedback.”
Ironically, the same factor lies at the heart of both the cause and the effects of the ideomotor phenomenon: We want to believe. Our desire to confirm the existence of ghosts, spirits, and other improbable possibilities is what convinces Ouija board users, facilitated communication proponents, and anyone else who encounters the ideomotor effect in action that they’ve experienced something real: a real visitation from another dimension, some sort of mystical sign, or an indication that a patient trapped in his own mind is suddenly able to break free and communicate.
But the marvelous thing about a Ouija board isn’t what a planchette might read or a psychic might claim the spirits are saying through it from the other side. In reality, the true wonder of the Ouija board is what lies within our own subconscious.Was this article helpful?
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Ouija Boards consist of two components: a board upon which the alphabet, numbers zero through nine, "yes," "no" and "goodbye" are stenciled; and a pointing device called a planchette. 1 They are frequently associated with tools used by mediums to contact spirits during a seance or divination. 2,3 In the movies, Ouija Boards are depicted as having the demonic ability to channel evil spirits into the unsuspecting host. 4 Whether or not such a capability exists or is merely a manifestation of the ideomotor effect has been debated by theologians, psychologists, scientists and paranormal enthusiasts for more than a century. 5 There is certainly no shortage of stories regarding Ouija Board experiences ranging from private, personal encounters to famous cases like Patience Worth. 6,7,8,9,10
Although not the Ouija's inventors, many attribute the success of the Ouija Board to Kate and Margaret Fox, two sisters living in New York in the 19 th century. As the story goes, the girls established communication in 1848 with a spirit entity by asking questions that could be answered with a physical response such as snapping sounds. 15 They signed sworn statements testifying they were in communication with a dead pedlar whose body was later discovered beneath the house. The publicity of their other-worldly communication led to both a surging belief in spiritual contact along with a coinciding amount of skepticism.
As the popularity of spiritual communications increased, different techniques began to emerge for understanding the spirits. First came Table Tipping, a practice where a spirit would cause a table, which was balanced on a leg and held by participants, to rap against the floor. 16 Following the experience, the raps would be counted to interpret the spirit's message. Other methods included a practice known as Automatic Writing where a pencil was guided by a planchette to write the spirit's message. 17 A planchette, literally French for plank or board, was simply a wooden device used to hold the pencil and allow the spiritualist to "channel" the message. 18 An excerpt from an article in the American Spiritualist Magazine dated 18 December 1876 outlines one of the first known examples of using the dramatically simplified communication process of the planchette pointing at letters of an alphabet (rather than writing them). 19,20
The Ouija Board can trace its lineage directly to patent number 446,054 filed by Elijah J. Bond on 28 May 1890, although a number of patents were filed by different individuals for the various board designs and planchettes over the next century. 21,22 The "father" of Ouija, however, is considered to be William Fuld. 23 He joined the Kennard Novelty Company as a painter but soon became so engrossed with the Ouija product that he began filing his own patents. 24,25 William eventually transformed the company into the Ouija Novelty Company, where he produced Ouija Boards until his death in 1927. 26 The Fuld family continued to manufacture and sell Ouija Boards until transferring the product line to Parker Brothers in 1966. Parker Brothers maintained it until 1999 whereupon an updated Ouija version was introduced. 27How to Use a Ouija Board
Variants on the practice of using the Ouija Board have, of course, developed over the years, but there are some commonalities. Although it's fully possible to use it alone, it's not a recommended practice by those who have done it before. (Whether that recommendation is based on it being impossible to fool yourself by pushing the planchette intentionally or because demons will possess you while playing alone is a question left to the reader.) Generally, it is recommended to have approximately three people: two for using the board and another to witness and transcribe the events. An appropriate setting where the lights are dimmed with distracting elements removed is the most conducive for performing a seance type activity. People recommend starting the planchette by manually moving it in circles until it begins to move on its own.
In general, the original directions from the first Ouija Boards are more or less applicable today: 28
It has become common to open simply by asking if a spirit is present in the room and whether it desires to communicate. There are mixed opinions on whether or not it is polite to discuss the death of the spirit or the existence of god. Additionally, it should be obvious certain questions are inherently nonsensical, such as:
Consider this scenario: You're struck with awe having just come up with a cure for cancer and before you can exclaim "Eureka," some kid in a hurry accidentally knocks you off a curb whereupon you are squished by a bus. Now dead, you begin roaming the Earth passively as a spirit because the living simply can't see you, feel you or hear you. Amazingly, you find some people using a medium device (the Ouija Board). As they struggle to open their minds seeking to touch on your energy, you simultaneously struggle to figure out how to connect with theirs. While attempting to get a message across about who you are and what the cure for cancer is, they giggle and laugh about how many fingers they're holding up before they ask, "what are the winning lottery numbers?" How would you know these things?
Questions should be limited to things the spirit has a chance of knowing. Treat your experience as if you were meeting somebody for the first time and consider it a social event rather than a "work for me NOW" session. Additionally, remember the spirit's knowledge is limited to what it knew upon death, so there is a good chance it may be uneducated. It might be illiterate - meaning the Ouija's alphabet is useless - or the spirit could even speak an older dialect or a completely different language.Superstitions
As the Ouija Board has aged, a variety of superstitions have come to surround its usage. 29 Not only that, people have come to believe particular behaviors are indicative of malicious spirits or if they perform certain actions evil will be warded away. 30 Most of these "facts" can be simply attributed to the perpetuation of myth by the Internet. For the sake of argument, these are amongst the most popular:"Signs of an Evil Spirit"
It should go without saying Parker Brothers is probably not in the business of manufacturing portals to hell and selling them to children ages "8 to adult." For the moment, it will be necessary to suspend disbelief in order to consider how a Ouija Board could work. Whether the Ouija Board is a farce will be addressed afterwards.
Imagine all things in the world are connected by an invisible force, some form of energy that permits everyone and everything to commune as one. Perhaps the most dominant fictional representation of this idea is expressed as "The Force" and eloquently described by Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back: "For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship." 31
In reality, the idea is not without precedent under such religious belief systems as Buddhism or Paganism. 32,33 (It should be noted that Paganism is not equivalent to worshiping the devil - that it is a figment of Christianity). 34 Although less in tune with a synergistic connection between entities, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all fundamentally believe in the spirit and realms in which spirits reside. 35,36,37 The complete biorhythm control exhibited by meditating monks relates to calming and being in touch with surrounding energies. 38,39 Martial artists make reference to channeling their chi as a means of focusing their minds and energy. 40 Yogis stimulate their chakras to control energy. 41
So, assuming the bulk of Earth's population is correct in believing spirits and energy exist in one form or fashion, the Ouija Board is a mechanism that facilitates getting in touch with them. 42,43 Some people believe we cannot perceive the spirits because our minds are generally closed to the idea. This is why it takes training and practice to even do such simple tasks as clearing the mind in preparation for meditation. 44 Suspending disbelief and opening the mind to the possibility of spiritual communion is simply too difficult a hurdle for many to overcome. The Ouija Board is a tool for permitting the mind and senses to basically make an exception. When a person doesn't believe, it takes a considerable amount of evidence to overwhelm their assumptions. When a person submits to possibility, the realization "there is more out there" becomes monumentally easier.
For that matter, it is not so much the Ouija Board itself that is necessary to perform the ritual. Any object a person can accept as a medium of communication will suffice. People have used a wine glass atop a message board. Crystal balls. Candles. Hallucinogens. Eventually, when a tool is no longer necessary to believe the inconceivable, the person is essentially the medium. Given the mysticism and subtle fear associated with Ouija Boards over time, they are among the de facto tools for loosening people's minds into believing spiritualism is possible. 45
Still, that does not explain how the Ouija Board's planchette moves. 46 There are essentially three schools of thought concerning the matter:
The first school of thought can generally be dismissed as nonsense. If the spirit has the ability to interface with the physical world such that it can move physical objects, the Ouija Board (and participants for that matter) would be irrelevant to the process. For that matter, it would be just the same to see a pencil spontaneously stand upright and begin writing on paper or witness a computer keyboard begin typing without a user. Perhaps holding a seance around the computer simply isn't popular enough a practice for it to have become part of the occult, but its far more likely its because the spirit is not directly moving the planchette.
The second and third schools of thought are more closely related. For the second to be true, it must be assumed a spirit or energy form can inhabit the participant's body and thereby control their actions. While the Catholic church seems to have many documented cases of possession, this option also seems unrealistic for the same reasons as the first. If spirits could arbitrarily possess and control human hosts, there would not be any purpose for the Ouija Board. And if the Ouija Board truly is the "secret" barrier through which possessions take place, Parker Brothers would be making a lot more than $25 a piece.
The third explanation does not rely upon the spirit to move the planchette or the spirit to control the medium. Rather, the medium is influenced by a synergistic link to the spirit through which an exchange of information takes place at a subconscious level. That influence drives the participant to move the planchette, though not in a deliberate way. While this explanation falls more into line with the spiritual and energy beliefs of prevailing religions and philosophies, it also matches the primary model pushed by the skeptics.Ouija Board Skepticism
When skeptics cry foul, they cite the Ideomotor Effect as the driving force behind the Ouija Board. The term defines a third, unconscious muscle action and was first used by William B. Carpenter in 1852 to describe the actions of dowsers and frauds who claimed to be spirit mediums. 47,48 The two other types of unconscious movements are called Excitomotor and Sensorimotor actions, and they include natural actions like breathing and reflex actions like pain retraction. 49 As per the ideomotor effect, participants are essentially deluded and creating the psychic effects themselves. It is also known as automatism and describes tiny, involuntary muscle movements in response to subconscious desires. 50
In the "The Mischief-Making of Ideomotor Action," written for The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. Ray Hyman declared, "Although the effects of ideomotor action have been understood for at least one hundred fifty years, the phenomenon remains surprisingly unknown, even to scientists." 51 Ideomotor actions are very much at the heart of human communication - almost an instinctual response. They are not necessarily associated with such large movements as hand gesturing. Rather, the ideomotor effect presents itself as involuntary subtleties. Think of poker players reading the involuntary "tells" of their opponents. 52 Perhaps an athlete who seems to have an uncanny ability to predict his opponent's next move despite the mathematical and physical impossibilities to respond in time. Or the gumshoe who can read all the minute, physical characteristics of someone in order to detect a lie. 53,54,55 These are examples of people who have developed an ability to read particular, subtle movements in others.
The aforementioned Ray Hyman has been instrumental in proving the ideomotor effect, notably in the court of law. 56 Chiropractors once used a device called the Toftness Radiation Detector which would respond to tactile touch when placed over troubled areas of the spine. 57 As part of his testimony that the ideomotor effect drove the chiropractors diagnosis, Hyman performed a psychological experiment with student volunteers demonstrating the ideomotor effect where, by the power of suggestion, participants would all receive the same experience with dowsing rods, pendulums and a rubbing plate. The reactions were so powerful, one student believed it was the powers of the devil at play. Hyman makes the following conclusions: 58
The ideomotor effect's facets of force projection and self-fulfilling prophecy are really the crucial elements to the skeptic's view on the Ouija experience. Richard Wiseman is a noted professor with a psychological interest in the "peculiar" sciences. 59 In 1995, he conducted multiple seance experiments with a group of twenty-five participants in order to draw conclusions regarding the susceptibility to belief in the supernatural. 60 Given the proper ambiance, conditions and suggestions, he found participants believed certain events happened during the seance that did not. When combining the power of suggestion and the mind's tendency to believe the ideomotor effect is external, it becomes increasingly easy to dismiss a Ouija Board seance as anything more than a psychological novelty.
There is, of course, a more obvious explanation to how it works. The other guy is moving it intentionally to mess with you. 61 It is usually easy to detect an intentional planchette movement because the planchette exhibits unnaturally abrupt jerks instead of "feeling" like smooth, surreal motion. (I will admit I moved the planchette intentionally only once. There was a really annoying kid amongst us who kept whining about the Ouija Board being unsafe and yet he would not leave! So I asked the board who was going to die next and turned the pointer at him. Needless to say, he left.)Experimenting with the Ouija Board
For the sake of determining whether the Ouija Board movement is influenced by the participants or a spirit entity, experimentation is in order. If the Ouija Board is the fabled gateway to the spirit world, then it must work when the participants are unaware of its configuration. ("Work" being defined as providing an intelligible answer relevant to the conversation at hand.) To repeat the experiment in your own home, you will need:
Four sessions were necessary in order to produce an appropriate set of data for analysis. The experiment consisted of the participants following the basic directions of the Ouija Board. Basic inquiries were be used that make use of spelled, yes/no, and pointing responses. (A pointing response will request for the planchette to be rotated to point at one of the easily distinguishable objects set up beside the board.)
Two cameras were used to capture audio and video from the experience. A Canon Elph SD1000 was setup beside the board to capture audio and video in 320x240 AVI format. 71 Overhead video was captured by an Oregon Scientific ATC2K Helmet Cam (mounted to a tripod) configured for 320x240 AVI format. 72 In order to listen for EVP, PCM waveform audio was extracted from the AVI video files using the freely available mplayer software on Linux. 73,74 Once extracted, the WAV audio files were processed using Audacity, which permits fundamental editing and visualization of the audio signal. 75 Video clips were reviewed with MPlayerOSX and edited using both Final Cut Express and FFMPEGX available for Apple OS X. 76,77Ouija Board Results - The Control Session
The control experiment was conducted in an office building at the heart of Times Square on 5 February, 2008. A little-used lab room offered a quiet environment and freedom from distraction by other employees throughout the building. I was assisted by my ghosthunting friend from college, Erin Stair. For the sake of discussion, time will be referenced from "T Hour" which is when the cameras were synchronized.
It took awhile for the board to start doing anything at all. The following are highlights to annotate the provided video segment:
After a short break, we resumed the Ouija experiment for a second session. We discarded the intentional blindfold session for two reasons: the first session was so unintelligible repeating the experiment blind would make no difference, and Erin brought dirty socks for blindfolds. "T Hour" will again refer to the time at which the cameras were synchronized. The following are highlights to annotate the provided video segment:
The haunted experiment was conducted in on the fourth floor of the United States Military Academy library on 12 April, 2008. 80 A Saturday afternoon was chosen to minimize the likelihood of the cadets interrupting the session. On the far end of the library's fourth floor was an audio/visual lab featuring cassette and VHS tapes covered in a fine layer of dust - I doubt a cadet had been there in months. For the sake of discussion, time will be referenced from "T Hour," which is when the cameras were synchronized.
To avoid using up the camera battery like before, we "warmed up" the board for about ten minutes prior to recording. After several minutes, the planchette began moving, but the results were incoherent movements around the letters. We asked various questions and were given answers through the board's YES/NO markings that the spirit was alone (at the time) and that it was difficult for it to "see" the board in the light. The only consistent movement from the planchette was to sweep over towards the moon icon. After activating the cameras, the planchette still did not make any coherent indications so at approximately T-3:55, I opened a deck of cards and began placing selected cards at the four corners of the board for it to point at.
At this point, the gibberish continued so we decided to end the first haunted session and take a break. The next session was conducted with blindfolds on. Additionally, the orientation of the board was randomized while blindfolded to prevent participants from knowing which way was "up." In this fashion, the ideomotor effect should be negated because participants cannot see the board and therefore cannot subconsciously influence the planchette.
Prior to making any conclusions, it is necessary to address some of the known problems with the experiment.
After the sessions were completed, the electronic AVI files were taken from the video recorders and consolidated. Software was used to extract the audio tracks from the AVI files and these were saved as separate WAV files. Audacity was used to review each WAV file looking and listening for EVP. It was necessary to use a visual program to identify EVP in case faint audio forms were missed in the listening tests. Visualizing the audio wave forms permitted an analysis looking for spikes deviating from background noise for more focused scrutiny. Unfortunately, upon reviewing the audio tracks extracted from the video footage, there was no evidence of EVP from any of the sessions.Control vs. Haunted
The purpose of conducting sessions in both a controlled, non-haunted environment and a haunted environment was to judge the responsiveness of the planchette on the Ouija Board. Given a truly non-haunted environment, the planchette should have remained motionless and not provided any meaningful response. In the haunted environment, the planchette should have responded during the session with notable movement and ideally coherent, meaningful responses.
The control obviously failed in the first regard to be un-responsive. The planchette demonstrated blatant activity although it may have been the result of the Ideomotor Effect. The results of the first control session were so incoherent it was decided not to bother with a controlled blindfolded session. Incoherency continued with the second control session although minor results seemed to manifest. Other than the 1 /2 alphabet enumeration and the peculiarity with the candle flame at the end, the control sessions did seem to confirm a degree of meaninglessness, leading to the conclusion there was nothing significant present or the result was entirely of Ideomotor influence.
The haunted session was demonstratively different from the control. Unlike the sweeping, repetitive pattern demonstrated in the office building, the planchette seemed to move to distinct alphanumeric characters and other indicators. At first, it would be easy to conclude this seemingly intentional activity was indicative of an intelligence not present during the control. However, it stood to reason it was also from the influence of the Ideomotor Effect. While the movements seemed more deliberate, the result was largely unintelligible. Assuming the Ouija Board worked, however, part of the session indicated the entity was having trouble interfacing during the afternoon and that a better result would be possible at night. 81Ideomotor Effect
According to the Ideomotor Effect, the ability of the participants to see the board results in unconscious muscle movements to make the planchette go towards particular results to fulfill the desire to have a result. As an example, each participant may have a subconscious desire or hope that the planchette will answer in a particular fashion. Although not intentionally moving the planchette, the slightest muscle twitch by one participant may be perceived as real movement by the other who in turn gives an ever slight muscle twitch of their own. These slight twitches each push the planchette towards the desired result such that each participant fully believes they are not influencing the outcome, yet each participant is magnifying the effect from the other.
The Ideomotor Effect was tested with the blindfolded session. If the movement of the Ouija Board's planchette is the result of the Ideomotor Effect, than the blindfolded experiment should result in a complete failure to replicate any of the non-blindfolded results. Neither participant is able to see the planchette's position on the board and therefore has no orienting indications from which unconscious muscle action can "correct" it's movement. Furthermore, the random orientation of the board will result in an inability for either participant to even know which way to move the planchette for simpler answers like YES/NO or object pointing.
This experiment showed a prominent degradation in the quality of answers from the Ouija Board following the blindfolds. It is evident the planchette was not aligning itself well with the alpha-numeric characters nor even with the larger YES/NO answers. However, it can be argued the planchette was "in the ballpark" for rough interpretation of the answers in which case the offset error is a demonstration of the correcting factor of the Ideomotor Effect. It was interesting the playing card portion of the experiment resulted in picking three of four cards, but it cannot be ignored all cards were missed on the second pass.Conclusions on the Ouija Board
The bottom line is the Ouija Board is not a gateway to hell. Touching it will not harm you. Being in its presence is not going to cause you to become possessed. It would seem most sessions conducted with the Ouija Board are in fact, nothing more than parlor tricks. Most people are likely to have the misfortune of encountering participants who physically manipulate the board as a scare tactic, ruining the experience. And for the few occasions when a legitimate session is possible, it is very likely the Ideomotor Effect will influence the outcome of the result to some degree. Despite the probability most sessions are the result of the Ideomotor Effect or pranksters, enough outlier case examples of Ouija Board mystery exist that giving them the benefit of the doubt is not entirely unreasonable. If the believers are correct, it is likely most people are simply too skeptical (or fearful) to truly open their minds to make a real connection. Anyone who has ever used a Ouija Board under the right conditions will swear there is that little something weird that cannot necessarily be explained away rationally. For those few who may make a connection, the question really is - it is just a game isn't it?
4 Saunders, William. "'The Exorcist:' The Story Behind the Movie." Catholic Education Resource Center. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0137.html
5 "How the Talking Boards Work and the Ideomotor Effect." Speaking With Spirits. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.speakingwithspirits.com/ideomotor_effect.htm
8 Kaczmarek, Dale. "Ouija: Not A Game." Ghost Research. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.ghostresearch.org/articles/ouija.html
9 "Ouija Board Stories & Information." Grave Addiction. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.graveaddiction.com/ouija.html
16 "Table Tipping: Popular Past Time of the Home Spirit Circles." PrairieGhosts.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.prairieghosts.com/table.html
18 "Gallery of Talking Boards: Planchettes." Museum of Talking Boards. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/planchet.html
20 "History of the Talking Board." Museum of Talking Boards. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html
21 "Elijah J. Bond." ElijahBond.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://elijahbond.com/
22 "Talking Boards Patents and Trademarks." Museum of Talking Boards. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/patent.html
27 "History of the Talking Board." WilliamFuld.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.williamfuld.com/ouija1.html
28 "Directions On How To Use The Ouija Board." Museum of Talking Boards. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/directio.html
31 "Memorable Quotes for The Empire Strikes Back." Internet Movie Database. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080684/quotes
34 " FAQ ." Pursuers of All Things Holy and Sacred. Accessed January 2008 from http://people.smu.edu/paths/faq.html
39 Cullen, Psychology Today. "How to Get Smarter, One Breath At A Time." Time. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1147167,00.html
41 "Chakras, An Ancient Philosophy Now A Hot Trend." Chakra Energy. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.chakraenergy.com/
43 "Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents." Adherents. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html
45 Horowitz, Mitch. "How this American Anomaly Became More than Just Fun and Games." MitchHorowitz.com. accessed January 2008 from http://www.mitchhorowitz.com/ouija.html
46 "Automatism vs. Spiritualist: Theories of Ouija." Museum of Talking Boards. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/theories.html
47 "Ideomotor Effect." Skepdic.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://skepdic.com/ideomotor.html
51 Dorko, Barret L. "The Presence and Purpose of Ideomotor Movement." BarretDorko.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.barrettdorko.com/articles/ideomotor.htm
53 Jayson, Sharon. "Face Expert's Ability To See Deception Has Him In Demand." USA Today. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-07-20-face-expert_x.htm
54 "How To Detect A Lie." Blifaloo.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.blifaloo.com/info/lies.php
55 "Eye Direction and Lying." Blifaloo.com. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.blifaloo.com/info/lies_eyes.php
56 Hyman, Ray. "How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action." Quack Watch. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ideomotor.html
57 Magner, George. "The Toftness Radiation Detector Is A Fraud." Quack Watch. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/toftness.html
58 Id. "How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action."
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60 Wiseman, Richard. "The Psychology of the Seance, from Experiment to Drama." Skeptical Inquirer. Accessed January 2008 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_2_23/ai_54237504
61 These people are usually referred to as assholes and are often your closest friends.
62 It is advisable to not only have friends that run slower than you, but also perhaps an "extra" friend everyone is willing to leave behind. If you don't know who that friend is, it's probably you.
63 "An Easy Way to Make Your Own Holy Water." AngelFire. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.angelfire.com/on/wicca/Water.html
66 The person in charge of writing down the letters always gets caught up in the "excitement" when the planchette moves. It's much better to simply record what it does. Having access to a thermal or IR camera as well makes for good corroborating evidence.
67 An audio recorder is useful for detecting EVP (electronic voice phenomena).
68 "Haunted Places, Ghosts And Hauntings In New York." Ghost and Hauntings Research Society. Accessed January 2008 from http://www.strangehappenings.org/New-York-Hauntings.htm
73 "American Association Electronic Voice Phenomena." AAEVP. Accessed February 2008 from http://aaevp.com/
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77 "FFMPEGX." FFMPEGX. Accessed February 2008 from http://www.ffmpegx.com/
78 The security camera made Erin look like she had gained a good twenty. maybe thirty. pounds.
79 My coworkers were pleased to hear of this answer the next day although I still got several strange looks about having conducted a seance in the office.
80 "United States Military Academy Library." USMA. Accessed May 2008 from http://usmalibrary.usma.edu/
81 Unfortunately, the opportunity to commute to West Point and use the library at night was not readily available and an afternoon session was the best option.
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