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The ouija ( /ˈwə/ WEE-jə, /-i/ jee), also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0–9, the words "yes", "no", "hello" (occasionally), and "goodbye", along with various symbols and graphics. It uses a small heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic called a planchette. Participants place their fingers on the planchette, and it is moved about the board to spell out words. "Ouija" was formerly a trademark belonging to Parker Brothers, and has subsequently become a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the United States, [1] [2] but is often used generically to refer to any talking board. According to Hasbro, players take turns asking questions and then "wait to see what the planchette spells out" for them. It is recommended for players over the age of eight. [3]


Following its commercial introduction by businessman Elijah Bond on July 1, 1890, [1] the ouija board was regarded as a parlor game unrelated to the occult until American spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use as a divining tool during World War I. [4] Spiritualists claimed that the dead were able to contact the living and reportedly used a talking board very similar to a modern ouija board at their camps in Ohio in 1886 to ostensibly enable faster communication with spirits. [5]

The Catholic Church and other Christian denominations have "warned against using ouija boards", holding that they can lead to demonic possession. [6] [7] Occultists, on the other hand, are divided on the issue, with some saying that it can be a positive transformation; others reiterate the warnings of many Christians and caution "inexperienced users" against it. [6]

Paranormal and supernatural beliefs associated with Ouija have been harshly criticized by the scientific community, since they are characterized as pseudoscience. The action of the board can be parsimoniously explained by unconscious movements of those controlling the pointer, a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]



Wang Chongyang, founder of the Quanzhen School, depicted in Changchun Temple, Wuhan Changchun-Temple-Master-and-disciples-painting-0316.jpg
Wang Chongyang, founder of the Quanzhen School, depicted in Changchun Temple, Wuhan

One of the first mentions of the automatic writing method used in the ouija board is found in China around 1100 AD, in historical documents of the Song Dynasty. The method was known as fuji "planchette writing". The use of planchette writing as an ostensible means of necromancy and communion with the spirit-world continued, and, albeit under special rituals and supervisions, was a central practice of the Quanzhen School, until it was forbidden by the Qing Dynasty. [13] Several entire scriptures of the Daozang are supposedly works of automatic planchette writing. According to one author, similar methods of mediumistic spirit writing have been practiced in ancient India, Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe. [14]

Talking boards

As a part of the spiritualist movement, mediums began to employ various means for communication with the dead. Following the American Civil War in the United States, mediums did significant business in presumably allowing survivors to contact lost relatives. The ouija itself was created and named in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1890, but the use of talking boards was so common by 1886 that news reported the phenomenon taking over the spiritualists' camps in Ohio. [5]

Commercial parlor game

Businessman Elijah Bond had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed, much like the previously existing talking boards. The patentees filed on May 28, 1890 for patent protection and thus are credited with the invention of the Ouija board. Issue date on the patent was February 10, 1891. They received U.S. Patent 446,054 . Bond was an attorney and was an inventor of other objects in addition to this device.

An employee of Elijah Bond, William Fuld, took over the talking board production. In 1901, Fuld started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija". [15] Charles Kennard (founder of Kennard Novelty Company which manufactured Fuld's talking boards and where Fuld had worked as a varnisher) claimed he learned the name "Ouija" from using the board and that it was an ancient Egyptian word meaning "good luck." When Fuld took over production of the boards, he popularized the more widely accepted etymology: that the name came from a combination of the French and German words for "yes". [16]

The Fuld name became synonymous with the Ouija board, as Fuld reinvented its history, claiming that he himself had invented it. The strange talk about the boards from Fuld's competitors flooded the market, and all these boards enjoyed a heyday from the 1920s.

Trade marks and patents

Scientific investigation

Experimental setup to test ouija board.png
Experimental setup with eye tracking
Video experiment with ouija board.png
Video caption of experiment [12]

The ouija phenomenon is considered by the scientific community to be the result of the ideomotor response. [8] [17] [18] [19] Michael Faraday first described this effect in 1853, while investigating table-turning. [20] [21]

Various studies have been produced, recreating the effects of the ouija board in the lab and showing that, under laboratory conditions, the subjects were moving the planchette involuntarily. [17] [22] A 2012 study found that when answering yes or no questions, ouija use was significantly more accurate than guesswork, suggesting that it might draw on the unconscious mind. [18] Skeptics have described ouija board users as 'operators'. [23] Some critics noted that the messages ostensibly spelled out by spirits were similar to whatever was going through the minds of the subjects. [24] According to professor of neurology Terence Hines in his book Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (2003):

The planchette is guided by unconscious muscular exertions like those responsible for table movement. Nonetheless, in both cases, the illusion that the object (table or planchette) is moving under its own control is often extremely powerful and sufficient to convince many people that spirits are truly at work ... The unconscious muscle movements responsible for the moving tables and Ouija board phenomena seen at seances are examples of a class of phenomena due to what psychologists call a dissociative state. A dissociative state is one in which consciousness is somehow divided or cut off from some aspects of the individual's normal cognitive, motor, or sensory functions. [25]

Ouija boards were already criticized by scholars early on, being described in a 1927 journal as "'vestigial remains' of primitive belief-systems" and a con to part fools from their money. [26] Another 1921 journal described reports of ouija board findings as 'half truths' and suggested that their inclusion in national newspapers at the time lowered the national discourse overall. [27]

In the 1970s ouija board users were also described as "cult members" by sociologists, though this was severely scrutinised in the field. [28]

Religious responses

Since early in the Ouija board's history, it has been criticized by several Christian denominations. [6] For example, Catholic Answers , a Roman Catholic Christian apologetics organization, states that "The Ouija board is far from harmless, as it is a form of divination (seeking information from supernatural sources)." [29] Moreover, Catholic Christian bishops in Micronesia called for the boards to be banned and warned congregations that they were talking to demons when using Ouija boards. [30] In a pastoral letter, The Dutch Reformed Churches encouraged its communicants to avoid Ouija boards, as it is a practice "related to the occult". [31] The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod also forbids its faithful from using Ouija boards as it teaches that such would be a violation of the Ten Commandments. [32]

In 2001, Ouija boards were burned in Alamogordo, New Mexico, by fundamentalist groups alongside Harry Potter books as "symbols of witchcraft." [33] [34] [35] Religious criticism has also expressed beliefs that the Ouija board reveals information which should only be in God's hands, and thus it is a tool of Satan. [36] A spokesperson for Human Life International described the boards as a portal to talk to spirits and called for Hasbro to be prohibited from marketing them. [37]

These religious objections to use of the Ouija board have in turn given rise to ostension type folklore in the communities where they circulate. Cautionary tales that the board opens a door to evil spirits turn the game into the subject of a supernatural dare, especially for young people. [38]

Notable users


Ouija boards have been the source of inspiration for literary works, used as guidance in writing or as a form of channeling literary works. As a result of Ouija boards' becoming popular in the early 20th century, by the 1920s many "psychic" books were written of varying quality often initiated by ouija board use. [39]

  • Emily Grant Hutchings claimed that her novel Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board (1917) was dictated by Mark Twain's spirit through the use of a Ouija board after his death. [40]
  • Pearl Lenore Curran (February 15, 1883 – December 4, 1937), alleged that for over 20 years she was in contact with a spirit named Patience Worth.
    • This symbiotic relationship produced several novels, and works of poetry and prose, which Pearl Curran claimed were delivered to her through channelling Worth's spirit during sessions with a ouija board, and which works Curran then transcribed.
  • Much of William Butler Yeats's later poetry was inspired, among other facets of occultism, by the Ouija board. Yeats himself did not use it, but his wife did. [41]
  • In late 1963, Jane Roberts and her husband Robert Butts started experimenting with a ouija board as part of Roberts' research for a book on extra-sensory perception. [42]
    • According to Roberts and Butts, on December 2, 1963 they began to receive coherent messages from a male personality ( an 'energy personality essence no longer focused in the physical world') who eventually identified himself as "Seth", culminating in a series of books dictated by "Seth".
  • In 1982, poet James Merrill released an apocalyptic 560-page epic poem titled The Changing Light at Sandover , which documented two decades of messages dictated from the Ouija board during séances hosted by Merrill and his partner David Noyes Jackson.


  • Roland Doe used a Ouija board, which the Catholic Church stated led to his possession by a demon. [46]
  • Dick Brooks, of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, uses a Ouija board as part of a paranormal and seance presentation. [47]
  • G. K. Chesterton used a Ouija board in his teenage years.
    • Around 1893, he had gone through a crisis of scepticism and depression, and during this period Chesterton experimented with the Ouija board and grew fascinated with the occult. [48]
  • Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, used a Ouija board and conducted seances in attempts to contact the dead. [49]
  • Early press releases stated that Vincent Furnier's stage and band name "Alice Cooper" was agreed upon after a session with a Ouija board, during which it was revealed that Furnier was the reincarnation of a 17th-century witch with that name. Alice Cooper later revealed that he just thought of the first name that came to his head while discussing a new band name with his band. [50]
  • Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi claimed under oath that, in a séance held in 1978 with other professors at the University of Bologna, the "ghost" of Giorgio La Pira used a Ouija to spell the name of the street where Aldo Moro was being held by the Red Brigades.
    • According to Peter Popham of The Independent : "Everybody here has long believed that Prodi's Ouija board tale was no more than an ill-advised and bizarre way to conceal the identity of his true source, probably a person from Bologna's seething far-left underground whom he was pledged to protect." [51]
  • The Mars Volta wrote their album Bedlam in Goliath (2008) based on their alleged experiences with a Ouija board.
    • According to their story (written for them by a fiction author, Jeremy Robert Johnson), Omar Rodriguez Lopez purchased one while traveling in Jerusalem. At first the board provided a story which became the theme for the album. Strange events allegedly related to this activity occurred during the recording of the album: the studio flooded, one of the album's main engineers had a nervous breakdown, equipment began to malfunction, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala's foot was injured. Following these bad experiences the band buried the Ouija board. [52]
  • In the murder trial of Joshua Tucker, his mother insisted that he had carried out the murders while possessed by the Devil, who found him when he was using a Ouija board. [53] [54]
  • In London in 1994, convicted murderer Stephen Young was granted a retrial after it was learned that four of the jurors had conducted a Ouija board séance and had "contacted" the murdered man, who had named Young as his killer. [55] Young was convicted for a second time at his retrial and jailed for life. [56] [57] [58]
  • E. H. Jones and C. W. Hill, whilst prisoners of the Turks during the First World War, used a Ouija board to convince their captors that they were mediums as part of an escape plan. [59]

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley had great admiration for the use of the ouija board and it played a passing role in his magical workings. [60] [61] Jane Wolfe, who lived with Crowley at Abbey of Thelema, also used the Ouija board. She credits some of her greatest spiritual communications to use of this implement. Crowley also discussed the Ouija board with another of his students, and the most ardent of them, Frater Achad (Charles Stansfeld Jones): it is frequently mentioned in their unpublished letters. In 1917 Achad experimented with the board as a means of summoning Angels, as opposed to Elementals. In one letter Crowley told Jones:

Your Ouija board experiment is rather fun. You see how very satisfactory it is, but I believe things improve greatly with practice. I think you should keep to one angel, and make the magical preparations more elaborate.

Over the years, both became so fascinated by the board that they discussed marketing their own design. Their discourse culminated in a letter, dated February 21, 1919, in which Crowley tells Jones,

Re: Ouija Board. I offer you the basis of ten percent of my net profit. You are, if you accept this, responsible for the legal protection of the ideas, and the marketing of the copyright designs. I trust that this may be satisfactory to you. I hope to let you have the material in the course of a week.

In March, Crowley wrote to Achad to inform him,"I'll think up another name for Ouija." But their business venture never came to fruition and Crowley's new design, along with his name for the board, has not survived. Crowley has stated, of the Ouija Board that,

There is, however, a good way of using this instrument to get what you want, and that is to perform the whole operation in a consecrated circle, so that undesirable aliens cannot interfere with it. You should then employ the proper magical invocation in order to get into your circle just the one spirit you want. It is comparatively easy to do this. A few simple instructions are all that is necessary, and I shall be pleased to give these, free of charge, to any one who cares to apply. [60]

Ouija boards have figured prominently in horror tales in various media as devices enabling malevolent spirits to spook their users. Most often, they make brief appearances, relying heavily on the atmosphere of mystery the board already holds in the mind of the viewer, in order to add credence to the paranormal presence in the story being told.


In Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End , aliens from a distant star visit and oversee the Earth, and human users of a Ouija board spell out the name of their star, from the New General Catalogue. See The Golden Age.

In Stephen King's postapocalyptic novel The Stand , Nadine Cross is contacted by Randall Flagg (also known as the dark man or Satan's Imp) twice via Ouija board. The first time is unintentionally, in college; the second time, in post-plague Boulder, she deliberately opens herself up to the communication, with dire consequences.

The Ouija Board (Paranormal Adventure Series Book 1) by Shelby White centers on a group of friends who unintentionally release evil through their use of a Ouija board, as does The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff.

In For What It's Worth by Janet Tashjian a boy uses a Ouija board to contact the spirits of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison.

Issue #79 of Bart Simpson, a comic book series based on The Simpsons, contains a story called "The Demon" in which Bart and Lisa find a Ouija board and unleash a demon. Issue #10 of Bart Simpson's Treehouse of horror contains the story "Scareway to Heaven" in which a Ouija board results in demon possession.

The Invisible Histories of the Spiral Mountain; or The Hymns of Melchizedek, an occult novel by Christopher of Detroit, contains several chapters that use the talking board for communication with the protagonist's higher self.


The Uninvited, made in 1944, features a scene with an impromptu board the characters put together. The 1973 blockbuster film, The Exorcist , also uses a Ouija board to explain why the young girl becomes possessed. Alison's Birthday has one too, with its claustrophobia-inducing filming, as do the films Deadly Messages and Awakenings.

The earliest Western film to hinge its entire plot around the (mis)use of a Ouija board, Witchboard (1986), makes a nod to The Exorcist (where there is a sequence in which a board is used), with a main character called Linda, and her partner quipping "So what you're telling me is ... that I'm living with Linda Blair?" Witchboard was so successful it spawned two sequels: Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway , and Witchboard III: The Possession . In the same year as the first of the trilogy, the film Spookies also had its own Ouija board scene.

In 13 Ghosts (1960), Cyrus Zorba's children play with a Ouija board and inadvertently learn about the titular ghosts.

What Lies Beneath (2000) also includes a séance scene with a board. Paranormal Activity (2007) involves a violent entity haunting a couple that becomes more powerful when the Ouija board is used. Another 2007 film, Ouija , depicted a group of adolescents whose use of the board causes a murderous spirit to follow them, while four years later, The Ouija Experiment portrayed a group of friends whose use of the board opens, and fails to close, a portal between the worlds of the living and the dead. [62] The 2014 film Ouija featured a group of friends whose use of the board prompted a series of deaths. [63] That film was followed by a 2016 prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil , which also features the device.

I Am Zozo follows a group of people that run afoul of a demon (based on Pazuzu) after using a Ouija board. [64]


In season 1 episode 5 of The West Wing , the Ouija boards are mentioned by two characters who compare having a Ouija board to believing in UFOs.

In Season 3 Episode 8 of the TV series Reba , Barbra Jean and Reba use an Ouija Board to try and clean Barbra Jean and Brock's house after Reba convinced her that the house was haunted. While holding the séance Reba pretended to be a ghost causing Barbra Jean to scream and run up stairs. The electricity then goes out and Barbra Jean screams once again. At the end of the episode Barbra Jean asked Reba if they should ask the board if Brock was being a good husband in Vegas and the planchette moved. Reba then jumped across the table into Barbra Jean's arms.

The National Geographic show Brain Games Season 5 episode "Paranormal" clearly showed the board did not work when all participants were blindfolded. [65]

In a Halloween special of The Goldbergs episode, "Jackie Likes Star Trek", Barry and his friends play with the board.

See also


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  6. 1 2 3 Raising the devil: Satanism, new religions, and the media. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN   0813126827 . Retrieved 31 December 2007. Practically since its invention a century ago, mainstream Christian religions, including Catholicism, have warned against the use of oujia boards, claiming that they are a means of dabbling with Satanism (Hunt 1985:93-95). Occultists are divided on the oujia board's value. Jane Roberts (1966) and Gina Covina (1979) express confidence that it is a device for positive transformation and they provide detailed instructions on how to use it to contact spirits and map the other world. But some occultists have echoed Christian warnings, cautioning inexperienced persons away from it.
  7. Carlisle, Rodney P. (2 April 2009). Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society. SAGE Publications. p. 434. ISBN   9781412966702. In particular, Ouija boards and automatic writing are kin in that they can be practiced and explained both by parties who see them as instruments of psychological discovery; and both are abhorred by some religious groups as gateways to demonic possession, as the abandonment of will and invitation to external forces represents for them an act much like presenting an open wound to a germ-filled environment.
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Automatic writing or psychography is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words purportedly arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source. Scientists and skeptics consider automatic writing to be the result of the ideomotor effect and even proponents of automatic writing admit it has been the source of innumerable cases of self-delusion. Automatic writing is not the same thing as free writing.

Séance attempt to communicate with spirits

A séance or seance is an attempt to communicate with spirits.The word séance comes from the French word for "session", from the Old French seoir, "to sit". In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma". In English, however, the word came to be used specifically for a meeting of people who are gathered to receive messages from ghosts or to listen to a spirit medium discourse with or relay messages from spirits. In modern English usage, participants need not be seated while engaged in a séance.


A planchette, from the French for "little plank", is a small, usually heart-shaped flat piece of wood equipped with two wheeled casters and a pencil-holding aperture, used to facilitate automatic writing. The use of planchettes to produce mysterious written messages gave rise to the belief that the devices foster communication with spirits as a form of mediumship. The devices were popular in séances during the Victorian era, before their eventual evolution into the simpler, non-writing pointing devices for ouija boards that eclipsed the popularity of their original form. Paranormal advocates believe the planchette is moved by the presence of spirits or some form of subtle energy. Scientists explain the motion is due to the ideomotor effect.

Electronic voice phenomenon sounds found on electronic recordings that are interpreted as spirit voices that have been either unintentionally recorded or intentionally requested and recorded

Within ghost hunting and parapsychology, electronic voice phenomena (EVP) are sounds found on electronic recordings that are interpreted as spirit voices that have been either unintentionally recorded or intentionally requested and recorded. Parapsychologist Konstantīns Raudive, who popularized the idea in the 1970s, described EVP as typically brief, usually the length of a word or short phrase.


Table-turning is a type of séance in which participants sit around a table, place their hands on it, and wait for rotations. The table was purportedly made to serve as a means of communicating with the spirits; the alphabet would be slowly spoken aloud and the table would tilt at the appropriate letter, thus spelling out words and sentences. The process is similar to that of a Ouija board. Scientists and skeptics consider table-turning to be the result of the ideomotor effect, or conscious trickery.

William Fuld was an American businessman, inventor, and entrepreneur from Baltimore, Maryland who is best known for his marketing and manufacture of Ouija boards from the 1890s through the 1920s. Fuld is seen as the father of the Ouija board. Though Fuld never claimed to have invented the Ouija board, intense media coverage in the 1920s credited him with it. The misinformation was sustained by his own marketing, and his practice of stamping "Original Ouija Board" and "Inventor" on the back of his boards. By the end of his life he would have over 33 patents, trademarks, and copyrights credited to him.

Elijah Jefferson Bond was an American lawyer and inventor. He is most known for inventing the ouija board.

Jane Wolfe American actress

Jane Wolfe was an American silent film character actress who is considered an important female figure in magick. She was a friend and a colleague of Aleister Crowley and a founding member of Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis in Southern California.

Lon Milo DuQuette American writer, lecturer, musician, and occultist

Lon Milo DuQuette, also known as Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford, is an American writer, lecturer, musician, and occultist, best known as an author who applies humor in the field of Western Hermeticism.

Charles (Robert) Stansfeld Jones (1886–1950), aka Frater Achad, was an occultist and ceremonial magician. An early aspirant to who "claimed" the grade of Magister Templi as a Neophyte. He also became an O.T.O. initiate, serving as the principal organizer for that order in British Columbia, Canada. He worked under a variety of mottos and acronymic titles, including V.I.O., O.I.V.V.I.O., V.I.O.O.I.V., Parzival, and Tantalus Leucocephalus, but he is best known under his Neophyte motto "Achad", which he used as a byline in his various published writings.

<i>Witchboard</i> 1986 film by Kevin S. Tenney

Witchboard is a 1986 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Kevin S. Tenney in his directorial debut, and starring Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, and Todd Allen. The plot centers on a female student who becomes entranced into using her friend’s Ouija board alone after it was accidentally left behind at her party, where she becomes terrorized by an evil spirit.

Ghost hunting person who hunts ghost

Ghost hunting is the process of investigating locations that are reported to be haunted by ghosts. Typically, a ghost-hunting team will attempt to collect evidence supporting the existence of paranormal activity. Ghost hunters use a variety of electronic devices, including EMF meters, digital thermometers, both handheld and static digital video cameras, including thermographic and night vision cameras, as well as digital audio recorders. Other more traditional techniques are also used, such as conducting interviews and researching the history of allegedly haunted sites. Ghost hunters may also refer to themselves as "paranormal investigators."

Amado Crowley was the pseudonym of an English occult writer and magician who claimed to be the secret illegitimate son of occultist and mystic Aleister Crowley (1875–1947). During a period of over thirty years, from the early 1970s through 2000s, he published and self-published many books and recordings.

Fuji is a method of "planchette writing", or "spirit writing", that uses a suspended sieve or tray to guide a stick which writes Chinese characters in sand or incense ashes.

Ideomotor phenomenon A psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously

The ideomotor phenomenon is a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously.

<i>Ouija</i> (2014 film) the Ouija board

Ouija is a 2014 American supernatural horror film directed by Stiles White in his directorial debut, produced by Jason Blum, Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, and Bennett Schneir and written by Juliet Snowden and White, who previously together wrote The Possession. It stars Olivia Cooke, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, and Bianca A. Santos as teenagers who have unleashed spirits from a Ouija board.

<i>Ouija: Origin of Evil</i> 2016 film by Mike Flanagan

Ouija: Origin of Evil is a 2016 American supernatural horror film directed and edited by Mike Flanagan and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. The film is a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija and stars Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, and Henry Thomas. A widow and her family introduce a Ouija board into their phony seance business, thereby inviting a spirit that possesses the youngest daughter.

<i>The Dangers of Spiritualism</i> 1901 book by John Godfrey Raupert

The Dangers of Spiritualism is a book by author John Godfrey Raupert (1858-1929), first published in 1901 and again published in 1920 in London.


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