Ryan Feature THE PERCEIVED DANGERS OF THE OUIJA BOARD

Article by: Ryan D. Buell

On a regular basis, I will write articles in response to e-mails and inquiries that my office receives.  I will select topics that I’m regularly contacted for as well as some off-the-cuff ones that I find insightful, important or just plain entertaining.

Some time ago, a gentleman named Darryl wrote to me inquiring about phenomena that began occurring after he played with a Ouija Board.   “My curiosity of spirits inclined me to use a Ouija Board,” he writes.  “While using it, I asked any spirits to communicate with me, with inconclusive results.  Now, my brother and guest are seeing shadows and unexplained lights.  I would have used the board to close any doors, but the board was stolen from me, and is now missing.”

He claims that, while he personally has not experienced anything, others have experienced unexplained activity.  “I am not frightened by the events, as I have not seen anything myself.  Just wondering if I should do anything to keep things from possibly getting worse.”

Well, Darryl, hate to say it… but you just opened up a portal to hell!

Okay, not really.  But that’s a common answer I see all over the Internet.  One website warns of the dangers of summoning “dark astral beings” that tire of being in their dark realms.  And then, of course, there are countless ministry and evangelical sites that warn people that using such devices guarantees you demonic turmoil and/or spirit possession.

The Zero-Tolerance Policy: 16th Century Thinking

Norman Rockwell's Depiction for the Saturday Evening Post

Many people take the “zero tolerance” policy on Ouija Boards and condemn anyone who uses it.  Folks, telling people to not buy the Ouija Board is like telling teenagers and college students not to have sex until marriage and banning the distribution of condoms and other contraceptives.  The war is lost when it comes to trying to force bans on pre-marital sex.  Hardly anyone was practicing it 50 years ago and they aren’t doing so now.  Now, we’re just more honest about it, and therefore, becoming more educated.  Ouija Boards will always be popular devices.  They are here to stay for quite some time.  Trying to give the “fire and brimstone” speech about Ouija Boards isn’t going to work.  It’s going to tune you out.  The people who still wish to use these devices will now turn to websites that offer an equally dangerous and PRO-Ouija Board use.  Case in point is Carol Anne, a client from season one of “Paranormal State,” entitled, “Paranormal Intervention.”  The site she visited was full of practitioners who obsessed over EVP communication.  They didn’t see any harm in what Carol Anne was doing.  But they didn’t know Carol Anne personally.  They didn’t see how it was affecting her life.  Ultimately, Carol Anne didn’t stop conducting EVP experiments.  But that’s not necessarily the point.  Like EVPs, I have nothing against the use of alcohol when done in moderation and responsibly.  The problem is when someone goes on a bender all day, every day, or loses control whenever they do drink.  Those people have a problem.  Alcohol and drugs are not the only unhealthy addictions/obsessions.

Do I believe that people should use a Ouija Board?  No.  I think between the two options of ‘yes, they should’ and ‘no, they shouldn’t,’ I think ‘no’ is the safest bet.  But in all honesty, are Ouija Boards really spreading an epidemic?  No.  Millions of Ouija Boards have been sold.  I’d daresay that the majority of people who use a Ouija Board will not have an experience.  But we don’t hear about those cases because the people who don’t have experiences don’t report it.  After all, do any of you paranormal investigators get calls from clients saying “I played with a Ouija Board and NOTHING happened!  Help!”  No, we always hear the worst.

It’s important for investigators to not become so jaded.  We must acknowledge that we are in a niche field where we will by definition only deal with the bad.  After all, alcohol addictions counselors don’t get the other 99% of people who drink and lead healthy, normal lives.  So should the addictions counselor push to ban alcohol?

Earlier this year, PRS started selling Ouija Board bracelets on its store.  A few people took offense.  My response back to the commenters was that it was the same as someone wearing Marijuana leaf earrings.  Or what about reading books by Anton LeVay (the father of Satanism), or worse… books by Michael Shermer?!?  I read books by both, and I have yet to turn in to a Satanist or an Atheist.  Perhaps we should ban those, because they are dangerous thinking! (although I am a proud Catholic, I see only banning such materials as LaVey as being equally as damaging to our 1st Amendment rights, which apply to all Americans, regardless of their Creed).

Ouija Cuff Bracelet

Wearing a Ouija Board bracelet is an article of clothing.  You can’t raise the dead with it (and as Shermer would no doubt want to point out, neither can the board itself).  But it’s so controversial to some that the mere sight of it is offensive.  I recall something similar happening in my home state of South Carolina in the late 90s when Evangelical Christians started a movement to burn existing copies of “Harry Potter” throughout the state.

We must not fear these devices, lest we look like fools.  Nor should we create such a noticeable amount of fuss around an object, lest we make the legend grow.  The Vatican learned this lesson very harshly, when in 2006, it publicly denounced “The Da Vinci Code” book and film, only to create so much media attention that the film grossed more than $200 million in the United States alone.

The people who’ve already made up their minds about using the device will surely do so regardless if a million priests shake their heads and declare that such devices are the work of the devil.  That kind of thinking doesn’t work in the 21st Century.  Scaring people with “because it’s evil” is an embarrassing response for fellow investigators.

In Truth: The Board is a Tool.  That’s It.

Our response must be to educate and also respect the purpose of the Ouija Board.  Just because it may symbolize an alternative methodology from our own does not make it evil.  The intention is evil.  A car doesn’t kill a human being.  The human being who is drunk and behind the wheel kills the human being.  I have no problem in us cautioning users on the dangers of the board.  And the board does have valid dangers, whether you’re looking at it from a skeptical or paranormal point-of-view.  Dale Kaczmarek summed it up nicely in an article he wrote when he said, “This can be psychologically adverse on the psyche as you will attempt to get more and more information out of the board and you could actually just be using the board as an avenue to the inside of your own mind without realizing it. In other words, you could be asking questions of the board and then your subconscious mind would be using the planchette to answer your own questions!” (http://www.ghostresearch.org/articles/ouija.html)

If we believe in the paranormal, then yes, the Ouija Board can also be dangerous.  I often use the analogy of comparing it to Online Instant Messaging (such as through AIM, ICQ, etc.).  You don’t really know who you’re speaking to.  Odds are, you’re speaking to someone who is who he/she says they are, but there are cases of child predators and other unstable people who use the Internet to mask their true identity/intentions.

Lastly, to call upon one other unknowing guest witness/expert, I refer to Rosemary Ellen Guiley, who went on the record to address the Ouija Board controversy: “It is a tool and as such it is neutral.  It does not guarantee a good experience or a bad one, or even any experience.  It has gotten a bad rap from Hollywood and Bible thumpers.  However, many people do have odd or negative experiences with them – but perhaps because subconsciously they expect them.  Malevolent entities who wish to cause trouble do not need to depend on Ouija boards.” (http://extraordinaryintelligence.com/4244/the-unexplained/10-extraordinary-questions-with-rosemary-ellen-guiley/)

I am inclined to agree with Ms. Guiley.  The Ouija Board is a tool.  Do we really think Satan depends on Parker Brothers in order to wreak havoc?  How about all the other cases of demonic activity that had no history of Ouija Board (or any occult) use?  The point is that there have been positive experiences as well as some negative experiences.  We must inform people of the potential dangers when using a Board, so that they have the necessary resources in case something negative should happen.

The 21st Response: Education & Awareness

In response to Darryl (you were probably wondering if I was ever going to get back to him), I believe there may be a bit of hysteria in your household.  Darryl asks if there’s anything he can do to prevent it from “getting worse,” but the question we have to ask is, “is anything happening AT ALL?”  I have investigated several reports where homeowners believed they were being attacked, and this belief came about after a Ouija Board was used.  Psychologically, and/or perhaps culturally, they expect it.  That’s because they were told that this would happen.  Ask them what type of phenomenon they are experiencing.  Common answers such as doors creaking, hearing footsteps, feeling watched, etc. are typical claims people use when hysterical.  One can’t prove nor disprove that someone is feeling watched.  But if you’re scared enough, you’ll convince yourself that you feel watched.  My house makes plenty of sounds at night, but I usually pay attention to them after I come home from a violent paranormal case.  Then, suddenly, I lay in bed, listening to the sounds and wonder, “what if…”

In the event that your guests and/or yourself are still feeling threatened, then it’s entirely acceptable to call upon a member of clergy of your choosing to perform a simple house cleansing.  Just understand that the priest has other things to do, so don’t make it a regular habit.

I do not recommend the use of the Ouija Board by hobbyists who are uneducated.  Like sex, it can be an amazing experience, but also have disastrous results if not probably respected and understood (pregnancy, STI’s, Post-Boinking Regret, etc.).  Users must understand that there is a chance of danger.  You have to ask yourself, “if something DOES happen, will I be prepared to deal with it?”  When it comes to protecting oneself from evil interactions from the board, I would argue that, in theory, there is no guarantee, except to NOT use it.  If you are a parent whose child wishes to use the board, it’s important to do research beforehand.  Read about positive and negative experiences.  Look for respectful resources that provide valid arguments/points.  If you are religious, it IS important to think about the theological implications so not to feel guilty or ashamed afterwards.  Lastly, if you’re going to use a board, don’t be stupid.  Don’t be a moron and call upon Beelzebub or some dark entity, cause if he really does decide to show up, what the hell around you going to do then?  Get drunk and run around in the dark with a shotgun?

The Ouija Board, like any other device/methodology, is a tool.  It merely reflects the intentions of the user.  Understand it well and be willing to accept the consequences.  Like with all things in life, if you’re going to play, play safely.

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Further Reading

Books:
Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game by Stoker Hunt

Ouija-Evil or Merely a Parlor Game?The Truth by J Smith

Articles:

Some Facts (and Fiction) About the Ouija Board by Llewellyn Worldwide

William Fuld Ouija Articles

Websites:

Robert Murch: Talking Board Expert

Museum of Talking Boards

Rosemary Ellen Guiley

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