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Ouija Board

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Ouija Board

This article is about spiritualist use of the ouija board. For other uses, see Ouija (disambiguation).

The Ouija board (/ˈwə/ ) 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 is a registered trademark of Hasbro Inc.,[1] which markets and distributes the Ouija board as part of its line of board games.[2] It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) or movable indicator to indicate the spirit's message by spelling it out on the board during a séance. Participants place their fingers on the planchette, and it is moved about the board to spell out words. "Ouija" has become a trademark that is often used generically to refer to any talking board.

Following its commercial introduction by businessman Elijah Bond on July 1, 1890,[3] the Ouija board was regarded as a harmless parlor game unrelated to the occult until American Spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use as a divining tool during World War I.[4]

Mainstream religions and some occultists have associated use of a Ouija board with the concept of demonic possession, and view the use of the board as a spiritual threat and have cautioned their followers not to use a Ouija board.[5]

Despite being criticized by the scientific community and deemed superstitious by traditional Christians, Ouija remains popular among many people.[4]

History

China


One of the first mentions of the automatic writing method used in the Ouija board is found in China around 1100 AD, in historical documents of the Song Dynasty.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 (扶乩), "planchette writing". The use of planchette writing as an ostensible means of contacting the dead and 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.[6] Several entire scriptures of the Daozang are supposedly works of automatic planchette writing. Similar methods of mediumistic spirit writing have been widely practiced in ancient India, Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe.[7]

Toy

During the late 19th century, planchettes were widely sold as a novelty. The businessmen

Criticism

Religious

Most religious criticism of the Ouija board has come from Christians, primarily evangelicals in the United States. In 2001, Ouija boards were burned in Alamogordo, New Mexico by fundamentalist groups alongside Harry Potter books as "symbols of witchcraft."[10][11][12] Religious criticism has also expressed beliefs that the Ouija board reveals information which should only be on God's hands, and thus it is a tool of Satan.[13] 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.[14]

Bishops in Micronesia called for the boards to be banned and warned congregations that they were talking to demons and devils when using the boards.[15]

Popular

Ouija boards have been criticized in the press since their inception; having been variously described as "'vestigial remains' of primitive belief-systems" and a con to part fools from their money.[16][17] Some journalists have described reports of Ouija board findings as 'half truths' and have suggested that their inclusion in national newspapers lowers the national discourse overall.[18]

Scientific

The Ouija phenomenon has been criticized by many scientists as a hoax related to the ideomotor response.[19] 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.[19][20] Skeptics have described Ouija board users as 'operators'.[21] Some critics noted that the messages ostensibly spelled out by spirits were similar to whatever was going through the minds of the subjects.[22] 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.[23]

In the 1970s Ouija board users were also described as "cult members" by sociologists, though this was severely scrutinised in the field.[24]

Use in creation of literature

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.[25]

Emily Grant Hutchings claimed that her 1917 novel Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board was dictated by Mark Twain's spirit through the use of a Ouija board after his death.[26]

Poems and novels written by Patience Worth, an alleged spirit, contacted by Pearl Lenore Curran, for more than 20 years, were initially transcribed from sessions with a Ouija board.

In 1982, poet James Merrill released an apocalyptic 560-page epic poem entitled 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. Sandover, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983,[27] was published in three volumes beginning in 1976. The first contained a poem for each of the letters A through Z, and was called The Book of Ephraim. It appeared in the collection Divine Comedies, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1977.[28] According to Merrill, the spirits ordered him to write and publish the next two installments, Mirabell: Books of Number in 1978 (which won the National Book Award for Poetry)[29] and Scripts for the Pageant in 1980.

Notable users

Much of William Butler Yeats' later poetry was inspired, among other facets of occultism, by the Ouija board. Yeats himself did not use it but his wife did.[30]

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.[31]

Poet James Merrill used a Ouija board for years and even encouraged entrance of spirits into his body. Before he died, he recommended that people must not use Ouija boards.[32]

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."[33]

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 seance and had "contacted" the murdered man, who had named Young as his killer.[34] Young was convicted for a second time at his retrial and jailed for life.[35][36][37]

Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, used a Ouija board and conducted seances in attempts to contact the dead.[38]

On the July 25, 2007 edition of the paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM, host George Noory attempted to carry out a live Ouija board experiment on national radio despite the objections of one of his guests. After recounting a near-death experience in 2000 and noting bizarre events taking place, Noory canceled the experiment.[39]

Dick Brooks of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, uses a Ouija board as part of a paranormal and seance presentation.[40]

The Mars Volta wrote their album Bedlam in Goliath 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.[41]

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.[42]

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.[43][44]

Notes

References

  • Cain, D. Lynn, "OUIJA – For the Record" 2009 ISBN 978-0-557-15871-3
  • "On the Influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition", Royal Institution of Great Britain, (Proceedings), 1852, (12 March 1852), pp. 147–153.
  • Cornelius, J. Edward, Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board. Feral House, 2005. ISBN 1-932595-10-4
  • Gruss, Edmond C., The Ouija Board: A Doorway to the Occult 1994 ISBN 0-87552-247-5
  • Hunt, Stoker, Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game. 1992 ISBN 0-06-092350-4
  • Hill, Joe, Heart-Shaped Box
  • Murch, R., "A Brief History of the Ouija Board", Fortean Times, No.249, (June 2009), pp. 32–33.
  • Schneck, R.D., "Ouija Madness", Fortean Times, No.249, (June 2009), pp. 30–37.

External links

Information on talking boards
  • Museum Of Talking Boards
  • The Official Website of William Fuld and home of the Ouija board
  • World wide Ouija on Facebook
  • Ouija Board Instructions
Skeptics
  • The Skeptics' Dictionary: Ouija
  • The Straight Dope
Trade marks and patents
  • (1): Trade-Mark Registration: "Ouija" (Trademark no. 18,919; 3 February 1891: Kennard Novelty Company)
  • (2): "Ouija or Egyptian Luck Board" (patent no.446,054; 10 February 1891: Elijah J. Bond – assigned to Charles W. Kennard and William H. A. Maupin)
  • (3): "Talking-Board" (patent no.462,819; 10 November 1891: Charles W. Kennard)
  • (4) "Game Apparatus" (patent no. 479,266: 19 July 1892: William Fuld)
  • (5) "Game Apparatus" (patent no. 619,236: 7 February 1899: Justin F. Simonds)
  • (6) "Ouija or Talking Board" (patent no.1,125,833; 19 January 1915: William Fuld)
  • (7) "Design for the Movable Member of a Talking-Board" (patent no.D56,001; 10 August 1920: William Fuld)
  • (8) "Design of Finger-Rest and Pointer for a Game" (patent no. D56,085; 10 August 1920: John Vanderkamp – assigned to Goldsmith Publishing Company)
  • (9) "Message Interpreting Device" or "Psychic Messenger" (patent no.1,352,046; 7 September 1920: Frederick H. Black)
  • (10) "Design for the Movable Member of a Talking-Board" (patent no.D56,001; 10 August 1920: William Fuld)
  • (11) "Ouija Board" (patent no.D56,449; 26 October 1920: Clifford H. McGlasson)
  • (12) "Psychic Game" (patent no.1,370,249; 1 March 1921: Theodore H. White)
  • (13) "Ouija Board" (patent no.1,400,791; 20 December 1921: Harry M. Bigelow)
  • (14) "Game Board" (patent no.1,422,042; 4 July 1922: John R. Donnelly)
  • (15) "(Magnetic) Toy" (patent no.1,422,775; 11 July 1922: Leon Martocci-Pisculli)
  • (16) "Psychic Instrument" (patent no.1,476,158; 4 December 1923: Grover C. Haffner)
  • (17) "Game" (patent no.1,514,260; 4 November 1924: Alfred A. Rees)
  • (18) "Amusement Device" (patent no.1,870,677; 9 August 1932: William A. Fuld)
  • (19) "Amusement Device" (patent no.2,220,455; 5 November 1940: John P. McCarthy)
  • (20) "Finger Pressure Actuated Message Interpreting Amusement Device" (patent no.2,511,377; 13 June 1950: Raymond S. Richmond)
  • (21) "Message Device With Freely Swingable Pointer" (patent no.3,306,617; 28 February 1967: Thomas W. Gillespie)
Other
  • "'Ouija board' appeal (against second guilty verdict) dismissed" – R. v. Young (1995)
  • BBC video on Ouija Board
  • DMOZ
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