The Ouija board is an object which gets far too much respect, quite a bit of which is out of fear. Americans may be surprised to learn that in the UK it is far harder to purchase a Ouija board, where a person in the UK may be surprised that in the US the name Ouija is owned by Parker Brothers, the same company that make monopoly. It is even marketed as a children's game, with a recommended age of 8-12 years. Bizarre then, when I attempted to purchase one, many years ago now, I had to lie to a 'medium' who would not sell me the board without proof that I could protect myself.
So what is the truth of the matter? What is a Ouija board? Simply put, it is a flat board with letters and numbers on it. People often sit in a circle, and place a finger on a pointer or glass. Sometimes the glass will move, seemingly as if under it's own volition and may spell out all manner of things. Who or what is doing the spelling is a matter of some small debate, although, as usual, the skeptic knows best. Here is an example of a hysterical, religious account:
The following quotes from a Christian publication highlight the experiences that others, like the individual in the introduction to this article, have had with the evil of the Ouija Board:
"The headmaster of an Essex school was confronted by a dozen terrified 15-year olds who were seeking help after playing with home-made ouija boards, a simple device for communicating with outside forces. Teachers at the school were shocked at the behavior of those involved which included:
A 15- year old boy who stood bolt upright in a geography lesson, shouting at a spirit to get off his shoulder - before he ran out of the classroom and the school.
A girl claiming to have woken in the night to see a person in her room.
One child who told of how, after a ouija session in a block of recreation park toilets, he was barred by a spirit from leaving the building.
It was only through the help of local clergymen that the problems were resolved. After prayer, the children said they felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from them. One girl slept peacefully through the night for the first time in two weeks."
But since there is no god and no survival after death, where do the messages really come from? The answer is intriguing, although not supernatural in the least. Get two pencils and hold one in each hand, so that you have the ends between your thumb and index finger, and try and touch the nibs. If you keep you fingers reasonably loose you will notice a quivering between the nibs: an almost imperceptible movement which is exaggerated by the pencils. That is an example of the ideomotor effect. From The Straight Dope:
This is a fancy name for involuntary/unconscious movement, such as a dowser's hand flicking enough to move his stick when he passes over an area he knows has water. (In fact, Cecil has discussed this very subject.) The basic point is that your muscles can move without your consciously thinking, "move to the word YES." As the Skeptic''s Dictionary says, "suggestions can be made to the mind by others or by observations. Those suggestions can influence the mind and affect motor behavior. What is purely physiological, however, appears to some to be paranormal." In other words, if you believe this stuff and are trying to get the spirits to answer questions proving that they are all-knowing, and you ask a question that you already know the answer to (for example, "What's my father's name?"), odds are that your own hands will do the rest by spelling out your answer. That's where trying it blindfolded comes in (provided you haven't memorized the board, obviously). If it's spirits, they should be able to guide your hands no matter whether you can see or not. But if it's you doing it unconsciously, the blindfold will screw things up.
Your brain has to do a great many things without conscious input. Yesterday I mentioned alien hand syndrome, where a hand can act as if under someone else's control. This phenomenon is similar and these automatic responses can act in strange ways, when you sit people down in a group and ask them to play with a Ouija board. Finally there is one other explanation which is the most simple, as to why the pointer moves. Conscious faking on the part of one or more of the other sitters is difficult to prove for definite but no doubt happens a lot. So, don't be afraid of a board with letters and numbers and don't be foolish to hope that death isn't the end. The biggest questiGo Top