Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

5
Simon Usborne

What better time to talk to dead people for fun than the festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Ouija boards are flying themselves off shelves and under trees this Christmas, according to trends data released by Google. The company has recorded a 300 per cent increase in searches for the spirit-bothering devices, fuelled by a terrible movie that was effectively a feature-length ad for a board game, an appearance on The Archers, and the Victorian belief that if the dead could speak, they would use a plank of a wood and the alphabet.

Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija, released in October in time for Halloween, was, by all accounts, a cliché-ridden turkey about a group of teenage girls who experiment with a board and get scared. It has a disastrous 7 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregating site, but became an occult hit, to the delight of its backers. Hasbro, the toy company behind Monopoly, pushed for the revival of the film, which had stalled in development, and partnered with Universal to make it happen. Its Ouija Game, including a glow-in-the-dark version, is – sure enough – the biggest seller online.

All of which is appropriate, because the Ouija-board trend, circa 1890, was always about selling games. Spirit writing dates back much further. In 12th-century China, it was believed that spirits had the power to guide a “planchette” to write Chinese characters. In the late 19th century, when doubts about God inspired by Darwin’s little birds led to a boom in spiritualism, planchettes became a novelty hit in the west. Elijah Bond, an American lawyer and inventor from Baltimore, devised and patented in 1891 “a toy or game by which two or more persons can amuse themselves by asking questions of any kind and having them answered by the device used and operated by the touch of the hand, so that the answers are designated by letters on a board”.

Bond’s talking board, with its planchette pointer (a small glass is now a popular alternative), was a minor hit in the séances of the time, but it was William Fuld, who had worked with Bond, who made it big. He marketed the board heavily, crushing competitors and copycats. Ouija was a portmanteau of “yes” in French and German, he said (as well as 26 letters, boards include the words “yes” and “no” so that spirits can answer simple questions more quickly). Fuld eventually passed the company to his children who in 1966 sold it to… Hasbro.

Cliché-ridden turkey: Douglas Smith, Olivia Cooke and Ana Coto in Ouija
If there were any doubt that dead people don’t tend to communicate in this way or at all, scientists have been on the case for decades. In the 1850s, Michael Faraday, the electromagnetism guy, devised an experiment to expose a similar spiritual fad. Table tipping required a group of people to rest their hands on a small table, which would then seem to become possessed and move. He created a system of movable cards that would show whether the motion derived from the table or the participants (it was them, of course).

Faraday and other scientists identified the ideomotor effect, which also explains how Ouija boards work (or don’t work). Ray Hyman, an American psychologist and early figure in the modern skeptical movement, neatly described it in 1999: “Honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations.”

In other words, if the questioner at a Ouija board expects a yes or a no, or a word, their brain guides the hand accordingly without their realising it. Other hands in the group follow. Similar experiments show that looking at an object can further compel the brain to guide a hand in its direction. Sure enough, when the letters on a board are only visible to a “spirit”, and not the players, their hands produce nonsensical responses.

Yet the creepiness of the exercise and the imagery of films like Ouija can make them fun, especially during teenage sleepovers. In a Halloween episode of The Archers last month, Kenton hosted a séance a The Bull, with far from spooky results. But those falling for the marketing this Christmas should beware the risks of messing with spirits, or at least one’s own mind. Two years ago, a 15-year-old boy from Texas told police he had stabbed his friend in the neck because a Ouija board had told him to.

Reports abound online of players freaking out or even committing suicide after sessions. In 1994, a British judge was forced to order a retrial of a man jailed for life for a double murder after it emerged that jurors had used a Ouija board during a drunken night to guide them towards a verdict. A fresh jury found the accused guilty. That time, board games were banned.

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5 Responses

  1. Stella says:

    Every Human Being can ONLY attract, that of which we are. If we are evil, we will attract Evil Spirits. If we are pure, we will attract good spirits. Purity is strength. Purity gives us power to command spirits should they try to deceive you.
    Read this link on facts of the New Age which has commenced and how to purify yourself. Why? Because there is an influx of great multitudes of evil spirits on earth. Their last opportunity to steal your spirit from eternal life…you never die – read about the opposing forces under tab ‘Stella Age’…….http://www.ecotrace.org.uk/main.html?src=%2F#4,0

  2. Serf says:

    Ouija boards are like calling a random stranger on the phone and giving them uncontrolled access to you. Demonic Possession is worse as the demon takes over the host’s body. Demonic possession (known as body snatching) can occur through the use of lots of alcohol, smoking tobacco and hallucinogenic drugs such as marijuana and ayahuasca. There are some very evil drugs that can cause instant and permanent demonic possession (body snatching) such as methamphetamines, crack cocaine and crank. The most effective and quickest means of demonic possession is sex with a demon controlled/hosted body.

    It is important to note that the body is not the person because the body is just a box for the consciousness within. It is the consciousness (some would say soul or spirit) that resides within the body that is the person and it is the consciousness that gets reincarnated into new physical bodies.

    http://jchiappalone.site11.com/Essays/2013/With%20the%20awakening%20within%20you.html

    • Serf says:

      The website link directly above (awakening within) has been reported as being hacked by Dr Chiappalone and should not be used. Please see his original site for information below.

      http://jchiappalone.com

      • Serf says:

        Sorry misworded my last comment, apologies . It should read as follows:

        The website link directly above (awakening within) has been reported by Dr Chiappalone as being hacked and should not be used. Please see his original site for information below.

        http://jchiappalone.com

  3. Glenn says:

    Ouija boards are a major gateway to demonic possession. This is why the God of the Bible forbids us from trying to “communicate with the dead”, etc. FYI, “the dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and so CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH ANYONE. The demonic spirits ONLY tell you what you want to hear, and know NOTHING of the future except the events YHEY will cause in the life of the ouija board user.
    “Behold, NOW is the acceptable time, NOW is the day of salvation”. (2 Corinthians 6:2).
    We beg you, seek the Lord while you still can!!!

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