From Academic Kids

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A typical Ouija board

Ouija (pronounced wee-juh or wee-jee) refers to the belief that one can receive messages during a sťance by the use of a Ouija board (also called a talking board or spirit board) and planchette. The fingers of the participants are placed on the planchette which then moves about a board covered with numbers, letters and symbols so as to spell out messages.

Ouija is a trademark for a talking board currently sold by Parker Brothers. While the word is not a genericized trademark, it has become a trademark which is often used generically to refer to any talking board.



The use of talking boards has roots in the modern Spiritualism movement that began in The United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Methods of divination at that time used various ways to spell out messages, including swinging a pendulum over a plate that had letters around the edge or using an entire table to indicate letters drawn on the floor. Often used was a planchette affixed with a pencil that would write out messages in a fashion similar to automatic writing. It should be noted that many of these methods predate modern Spiritualism.

During the late 1800s, planchettes were widely sold as a novelty. In 1890, businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed, and thus had invented the first Ouija board. An employee of Kennard, William Fuld took over the talking board production and in 1901, started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija". [1] (http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html)

The Fuld name would become synonymous with the Ouija board, with Fuld reinventing its history claiming that he himself had invented it. Countless talking boards from Fuld's competitors flooded the market and all these boards enjoyed a heyday from the 1920s through the 1960s. A true businessman, Fuld sued many companies over the "Ouija" name and the concept up until his death in 1927. In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the entire business to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold all trademarks and patents. About 10 brands of talking boards are sold today under various names. [2] (http://museumoftalkingboards.com/new.html)

How is it done?

A Ouija board is used by one or more operators placing the planchette on the board and then placing their fingers on it. The players start by moving the planchette around the board and begin speaking to the entity (or entities) trying to be summoned and asking questions of it. Eventually the planchette will come to rest on letters, spelling out messages. Often, an additional participant is involved to record the messages on paper. As with automatic writing, the messages are often vague and open to interpretation, or completely in gibberish.

Some talking boards have words or even complete phrases written on them to simplify the interpretation of the messages. Tarot, zodiac, and other esoteric symbols are frequently incorporated into talking board design, as well as dramatic and mystical artwork. However, some users prefer to improvise their own Ouija board, using a sheet of paper with the alphabet written on it or lettered cards placed around a table and will use an object like an overturned glass or a coin as the indicator. Hand-made Ouija boards produced by artists are viewed as valuable to talking board enthusiasts and collectors.

Many users feel that the spirit with whom they are communicating is controlling their motions to guide their hands, spelling out messages. The board is the tool or medium through which they can communicate to the spirit realm and these believers often take offence at the dismissal of the talking board as merely a game. Other users contend that they are in control of their actions but the talking board allows communication with their inner psychic voice or subconscious.

Proponents of Ouija boards do not believe that there is any harm in communicating with spiritual entities, provided that they follow some basic guidelines. These often vary from user to user but usually include things like never playing alone, beginning and ending a sťance "properly", and always using the board in "comfortable" environment. Superstitions surrounding Ouija board use are numerous.

Skeptical view

Skepticism exists and most people do not accept that a piece of cardboard sold as a game can conjure spirits, evil or benevolent. The accepted theory among scientists is that the participants are subconsciously making small, involuntary, physical movements. This is known as the ideomotor effect. Experiments suggest that messages come involuntarily from the participants themselves. The only information conveyed by the talking board is what the participants already know, even if it is wrong.

Some users of talking boards have apparently communicated with "ghosts" of people they subsequently found were still alive. An example of this was demonstrated by British mentalist Derren Brown in his 2004 television special Derren Brown: Sťance. Skeptic and former magician James Randi, in his book An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, points out that when blindfolded, Ouija board operators are unable to produce intelligible messages since they cannot see what they are doing. Magicians Penn & Teller demonstrated a similar test in an episode of their television show Bullshit!.

Skeptics point out that people are often very willing to fool themselves, as is illustrated through the Forer effect. These skeptical researchers point out that messages can express the participants' genuine fears, such as the fear of death, and such notions can have a lasting effect on impressionable people. Psychologists say that decent people often harbor indecent thoughts subconsciously. Even though a person might interpret a message that alters their life for the worst, it is hardly a sufficient reason to conclude that the message originated from anything but the minds of the user.

Criticism of Ouija boards

Although Ouija boards are viewed by some as a positive spiritual device or a simple toy, there are people who believe that they can be harmful including the famous medium Edgar Cayce who called them, "dangerous." Critics warn that evil demons pretend to be cooperative ghosts in order to trick players into becoming spiritually possessed.

Some practitioners claim to have had bad experiences related to the use of talking boards by being haunted by demons, seeing apparitions of spirits, and hearing voices after using these boards. A few Paranormal researchers, such as John Zaffis, claim that the majority of the worst cases of demon harassment and possession are caused by the use of Ouija boards.

Many Christians claim that use of a talking board is an evil taboo as they believe it allows communication with evil demons, which is Biblically forbidden as a form of divination. Many of these people claim they could only get rid of these problems after Christian deliverance.

Parapsychologist Martin Ebon in his book Satan Trap: Dangers of the Occult, states, "It all may start harmlessly enough, perhaps with a Ouija board. [...] The Ouija will often bring startling information, [...] establishing credibility or identifying itself as someone who is dead. It is common that people who get into this sort of game think of themselves as having been "chosen" for a special task. [...] Quite often the Ouija turns vulgar, abusive or threatening. It grows demanding and hostile, and sitters may find themselves using the board [...] compulsively, as if "possessed" by a spirit, or hearing voices that control or command them."

The late Roman Catholic priest Malachi Martin also believed talking boards to be dangerous and claimed that by using these devices a person opens themself to demonic oppression or possession. The novel The Exorcist and the film of the same name were based on a story of a demon possession, caused by use of talking boards, that was removed by Catholic exorcists.

See also: Christian views on witchcraft

In Literature

Talking boards appear in countless books and movies. Their role in such varies from being a benign object to an evil entity. This demonstrates what an iconic part of culture the game has become. A more peculiar role of talking boards in literature stems from authors using the board to channel complete written works from the deceased.

In the early 1900s, St. Louis housewife Pearl Curran used her Ouija board communications with the ubiquitous spirit Patience Worth to publish a number of poems and prose. Pearl claimed that all of the writings came to her through sťances, which she allowed public to attend. In 1917 writer Emily G. Hutchings claimed to have communicated with and written a book dictated by Mark Twain from her Ouija board. Twain's survivors went to court to halt publication of the book that was later determined a hoax.

Since the 1970s, author Jane Roberts has transcribed text channeled from what she described as an "energy personality essence" named Seth. Topics attributed to Seth discuss the nature of physical reality, the origins of the universe, the theory of evolution, the many-worlds interpretation, the Christ story, and the purpose of life among other subjects and form a collection of more than 10 books and a number of videos and audio recordings.

More recently, Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Merrill used a Ouija board and recorded what he claimed were messages from a number of deceased persons. He combined these messages with his own poetry in The Changing Light at Sandover (1982).


The term "Ouija" is derived from the French "oui" (for "yes") and the German "ja" (for "yes"). An alternative story suggests that the name was revealed to Charles Kennard during a Ouija sťance, and was claimed to be an Ancient Egyptian word meaning "good luck", although this is known to be incorrect. It has also been suggested that the word was inspired by the name of the Moroccan city Oujda.

Despite its common usage, "Ouija" is a trademark and the word should be capitalized when used in print.

Non-Occult usage

  • In the technique of directional drilling, a mechanical calculator was used to perform calculations necessary to solve "how do I get 'there' from 'here'" problems. This board has traditionally been nicknamed a "Ouija Board". These calculations are done by computers these days, but often the name persists as the public or internal name of the relevant module.
  • Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig, an American photographer and photojournalist.


External links

Online Ouija boards

External links skeptical of Ouija boards

External links critical of Ouija boards

es:Ouija fi:Ouija


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