Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spirit Boards: The Never Ending Debate

As a paranormal investigator, there are few subjects that really get under my skin. One subject that never fails to ruffle my feathers in nearly any debate setting, is the infamous Ouija Board. Mention talking boards in any given group and you will  be guaranteed to hear a slough of conflicting opinions spoken with the conviction we usually only see with topics such as politics or religion. Wanna ruin dinner or a friendship, just talk about the Ouija Board.

While this might sound extreme, its nothing short of just that.

In my lifetime I've had my fair share of run ins with spirit boards. If you had asked me 20 years ago my opinions of them, you would see a stark contrast in my opinions now. Matter of fact, a year ago you'd see a jump in the views I hold today. There's no doubt that people who've used them at an early age like I did, have quite a vast array of colorful stories revolving around their usage of Ouija boards. Many are honest, and many, not so much.

So how is that I've come to the opinions I have today? In a very straightforward, honest fashion I will tell you that I was the one whom created what I'm sure is now a thing of legendary Hollywood proportions, to those who shared my experience with me. That's right, I pranked my friends. Admitting such a thing is less than favorable, and most people would not do it. I, myself, wish to be known for my integrity if nothing else. Clearing my conscious of that is step one. So here I openly admit that as a teenager, I regrettably lied to many people. In my defense, it was with the help of a few friends who "talked me into it".

While I had already played with a Ouija board long before this experience, this to me was my most memorable time using in one, and in a few minutes you will see why. Before this moment in all honesty I believed in them. Experiences before this I can honestly say I did not move the planchette, but "something" did. I now assume that was one of my friends.

Borrowed from The Mary Sue
Act One

At around the age of 15, I was at a large birthday party for my cousin, where we decided to use a Ouija Board. This was a huge group of my cousins friends, and of course she was in attendance. Many alcoholic beverages had been consumed well into the wee hours of morning (Seagram's wine coolers were pretty damn popular back then). Someone suggested playing with the Ouija board and of course, we were all game. Before beginning, a group of us got together and decided we really wanted to scare everyone. I, of course agreed, that is until it was suggested that one of us "get possessed". Guess who? That's right, me. Being that my cousin was the birthday girl, everyone particularly wanted to freak her out. I adamantly refused at first, but then as we began to talk about it, it began to seem like a great idea. What harm could it cause?

So it began. We all played with the board for awhile and of course questions like "Who's my next boyfriend?" and "Is Ashley a total whore?" came up, until we moved onto some darker questions. We mixed the groups up pretty good and at any given point we had at least one of the girls who were in on our gag in the circle with the planchette. At this point I broke away from the circle and sat off to the side drinking my wine cooler. It was apparent that some of the girls were getting pretty freaked out, including my cousin. One of the main girls in on the joke gave me a gesture, indicating it was the prime time to really freak everyone out.

And I will say, I'm a damned good actress.

On que, I fell back on the floor, appearing to pass out. This of course drew attention to myself and everyone was deathly quiet. No one said much of anything, nor approached me. I rolled my eyes back and arched my back a little letting out a strange guttural noise that even surprised myself. From what must have been 20 different directions I hear girls take off screaming. "Now what?" I thought to myself once I had realized I was really deep into this. I shook a little and continued to growl. One of the girls in on the joke came over to me and helped to sit me up. For good measure I drooled a little and appeared to "come to". Opening my eyes, I could see that not only did I thoroughly do a good job freaking everyone out, I think I may have actually traumatized this very large group of girls.

Now, I will say- I feel like a total asshole now in hindsight, but as a teen, this was actually pretty cool. I totally pulled off the coolest damned prank - ever. I got to my feet and we walked outside. At this point only a couple of the girls in on the prank walked out with me. I began to ask when we should let everyone off the hook, we then entered this pat of "NEVER". So it was.

This to me was like an induction to a secret society of badassery. Now, it's silly of course, but it's how it was. I break my silence. I totally lied

So does this make me a jerk now? Probably since now of those 20-30 girls...this is a memory that probably haunts them today and I have absolutely no way of fixing it since I'm not in contact with any of them. Ask anyone of these girls today their stance on the Ouija Board and you will hear a passionate conviction of how evil they are. Unfortunately I created a problem that today I wish to change. I'm a little embarrassed that under the vice of peer pressure, I have been part of the problem. But here it is. Not nearly as honorable as being a martyr, for something I believe in. *face palm*

As goofy and shaming this situation is, there are situations like this happening all over. Teens are fooling each other daily using this same type of bs (perhaps without as much possession). How many times was my story shared and how many times was it blown up way bigger than it was?

Only a few times after, did the situation come up. While I never worked to further the lie, I never worked to fix it either. I decided the best course of action was to say nothing about it at all. Which is all honesty, is just as bad.

A Change in Perspective

So now these days, as I said earlier, my views have changed immensely. The last 5 years have brought me in touch with many people who have varying views on talking boards. This has given me the opportunity to research both sides of the issue openly, and honestly. I can say I've been on all sides of the issue as a believer, a cheater, and now a skeptic. In my research I've discovered somethings that have helped me form the view I have today.

What makes the planchette move? One possibility is in the quite earnest confession I expressed above: tomfoolery. Let's face it, any time we have to put a group of people together to generate an outcome, we widen the margin for error and shenanigans. It's human nature to want to trust people, especially at a young age. Teens have not become jaded enough to utilize skepticism as most adults do. If the Ouija board only required one user, it would be much easier to convince people that the planchette will not move without human intervention. After all, if we didn't moved the planchette, we'd know for sure, right?

Not necessarily.

When asked if the planchette works, an honest answer can be "yes", but not for the reasons you may think. Another, more complicated possibility is a psychological phenomena called the ideomotor effect. Coined by the William B Carpenter in 1852, the ideomotor effect was explained: "Of or relating to an unconscious or involuntary bodily movement made in response to a thought or idea rather than to a sensory stimulus." Meaning, that the users hands can respond to subconscious thoughts or suggestions of the mind.

This theory has been tested by many people including Scientist Michael Faraday, Chemist Michael Chevreul, Psychologist Ray Hyman, and Psychologist William James. Each agreed that many of the things that are attributed to paranormal intervention, may in fact be associated with the ideomotor phenomena.  Hyman explains, "that honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations". This shows possibility as to why so many adamantly believe that their experiences with talking boards are in fact due to paranormal intervention. After all, if we are unaware of such rational psychological phenomena, what else could it be?

The next possibility is, paranormal intervention. When this argument arises the answer is nearly unanimous, that the board is evil. The Ouija board being "evil" is nothing more than a Hollywood novelty, in my opinion. There is no evidence proving spirits cause the planchette to move. Even if that were true, why would spirits require a plastic planchette to communicate with the living? Why do people think that a force as powerful as Satan, or his demons, would require a mass produced plastic and cardboard game to wreak havoc? I'm pretty sure if a demon wants in, it would do so with out any provocation.

Despite my opinion, there will always be people out there who insist that the talking board is Satan's tool. In fact according to Google, since last years horror blockbuster "Ouija" came out, the sales of Ouija Board has rose to nearly 300%. With this surge, the Ouija-talk online has run rampant, which drives individuals like myself insane.

"Ouija" The Movie (2014)

Testing the Board

For anyone who cares to challenge their belief in the board or are looking to simply gain a better understanding of the usage of spirit boards; I challenge you to try this.

In any mix of individuals, pick 3-4 people to participate as board users.

Be sure to have 1-2 unbiased individuals to record the results on paper for each question and result.

If possible, it wouldn't hurt to record your results using a video recorder.

Might be a good idea to have questions prepared with answers attached to that only the questioner will know the answer to. Mix these questions into the basic questions, which can include simple yes/no. These questions should not be viewable to the participants.

Phase 1, allow the individuals to use the board openly in traditional fashion. Record the results.

Phase 2, Blindfold the individuals and record in the same fashion. Note any changes in the "performance" of the board and planchette.

Phase 3, Users remain blind folded and this time, without the users knowing, turn the board so that the top of the board is now where the foot of the board was. Continue to ask questions in the same manner as phase 1 and 2. Record the results and note any changes.

The videos below will give you an idea of what you can expect during this experiment. This is taken from Penn and Teller's program, "Bullshit".

Now I have presented this experiment to many as a way to test the talking board, but by many have told me that this will not work, as the spirits require the human senses to work. This perplexes me. How can a spirit, let alone a demon that is capable of wreaking absolutely havoc, require the human senses, let alone a mass produced plastic planchette in order to work? A handmade witches board, I'd be more inclined to give a little more thought, but not a Parker Bros board. Doesn't make much sense to me.

Weak ass demons. 

The Difference in Divination Tools

Another aspect into the legend of the spirit board that makes me curious is, what makes a Ouija board different than any other divination tool? What makes them different as tools such as a pendulum, scrying, a KII, a voice recorder, or a Ghost Meter? Why is it that a spirit board carries the stigma of evil while other forms of divination remain "safe". It's always been a little funny to me that the same people who will run into a building using flashing gadgets with the intention to conjure a reaction from the paranormal, would suddenly feel differently when it comes to a board game. Most EVP sessions I've been involved with usually go about them the same way as any spirit board session I've been involved with. Usually some generic calling is given, like "Is anyone present? If so, please come forward and communicate with us". I see no difference.

Sometimes honestly the rationale behind these fears make absolutely no sense to me.


Its apparent that the fears surrounding the spirit board is quite complex, and that they are absolutely real. As most feared things, lack of understanding and education mixed with the hype of television and legend are responsible for the misconceptions behind the board. While many have been honest about their experiences with its usage, deception and naivety seem to play a huge part in why many cannot let go of their convictions of the board being evil. In my opinion the only way to change this stigma is through education, and participation in controlled groups that show that the board is powerless without human interventions. The fear factor that drives sales to continue to climb since the Ouija board's commercial introduction in 1890, will always be, so long as people refuse to look at them in a rational manner.

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