A Quija Board consists of a small tripod, with a clear center, on felt rollers, and a wooden board with large letters and numbers printed on it.
Under the light touch of two people’s hands, the tripod is allowed to move freely--unconsciously--over the board, and act as a pointer, so that messages can be spelled out, after a question is asked.
The messages supposedly come from the spirits of those who have passed on to the “other side,” from disincarnated entities, or, perhaps, from the unconscious minds of the players.
But Quija Boards are just a game, right?
Afterall, the’re made by Parker Brothers, and they’re primarily sold in toy stores, alongside popular children’s board games, like Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, and Candyland.
So they must just be toys, meant to amuse and entertain.
That’s what I thought, until I did a little research, and I began to suspect that maybe, for some people at least, Quija boards are not just a game.
After reading up on the history of Quija boards, automatic writing, pendulums, and supposed cases of “spirit posession,” I began to wonder if maybe there might really be some unexplained phenomena associated with the so-called “talking board.”
I was surprised to learn about the ancient history of Ouija boards, how uncanny knowledge has come through them, and how some people have felt “possessed” by “spirits” that they contacted through the mysterious boards.
Ouija boards are ancient, and no one really knows their true origin, as the basic idea seems to have independently arisen in numerous cultures at different times--although the earliest records come from China (aproximately 351 B.C.) and Greece (aproximately 550 B.C.).
I was especially intrigued to learn how successful writing careers have been created solely through a voice “contacted” by using the mysterious talking board.
Patience Worth--supposedly a spirit contacted in 1912 by St. Louis homemaker Pearl Curran (who never finished high school)--authored over four million words, in the form of poems, short stories, plays, complexly-layered, full-length novels, and other writings.
Patience wrote around 2,500 poems and won many poetry contests. Her writing became extremely popular from 1913 to 1919, and it received much critical acclaim, including stellar reviews in The New York Times and The Chicago Mail.
Pearl, the medium through which Patience spoke, was thoroughly investigated by reporters and psychic researchers, who observed her creating the writings with her Ouija board without any conscious attention to what she was doing.
Everyone came to the same conclusion; that--regardless of where the communications were coming from--Pearl was being honest about not consciously creating them.
Whether it was a dissasociated, alternative personality inside her brain, or the ghost of a woman who died in 1694 during a battle with Native Americans--as both Patience and Pearl claimed--we may never know.
However, it just didn’t seem possible that a woman could create such literary masterpieces so quickly, without any conscious attention--especially in an authentic Middle English dialect--so the author of all those acclaimed writings remains a genuine mystery.
Another woman, Jane Roberts, also began contacting a supposedly disincarnate entity through her Ouija board, named “Seth,” who authored numerous writings through her--spiritual teachings on reincarnation and the nature of consciousness--such as the popular book Seth Speaks.
Many people have used a Quija board at some point in their life, usually as children or teenagers--often late at night during slumber parties--and many times with strange and puzzling results.
When I put a query on my Facebook page, asking people if they ever had an interesting experiences with Ouija boards, my page lit up like Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve.
Friends and colleagues were eager to share stories of odd coincidences and weird happenings that resulted from Ouija board experimentations when they were younger.
Many people who have tried using Ouija boards have experienced interesting results. In other words, clear coherent messages often appear, when both parties swear that they aren’t consciously moving the pointer.
There are some people who can use a Ouija board while engaged in other activities, such as talking or reading, and there are even people who can do it perfectly fine while blindfolded.
Where are these messages coming from?
The oldest theory, of course, is that these questions are answered by spirits of the dead, attempting to communicate with the living. But there are also other theories.
There is evidence that these experiences are due to a dissociated part of our own minds expressing what is in our unconscious, much like dreams are thought to do by many psychologists.
Some religious leaders, as well as some psychologists, say that Ouija boards can be dangerous. Many Catholic priests specifically warn against their supposed perils, and say that it is a tool of the Devil, that it can attact evil spirits, or drive people mad.
To support their fears, there are indeed numerous cases of people attracting “spirits” into their lives that they couldn’t banish--who then seemingly abused, raped, and tortured them--or of Ouija board-inspired murders.
A murder trial in 1933 revealed that a teenage girl in Arizona was instructed by the talking board to kill her father, which she did.
However, although she followed the Ouija board’s specific instructions, instead of the $5000 in insurance money that she was promised, she wound up in a state reform school.
So many people have gone insane from their obsession with Ouija board communications that there’s even a psychiatric term for the illness that results--”mediumistic psychosis.”
Then there’s the Philip Experiment. Members of the Toronto Society of Psychical Research met regularly in the early 1970s, and tried to manifest an imaginary character named “Philip” through seances.
After creating a fictional biography for “Philip,” which each member of the group memorized, the goal of the meetings was to see if they could manifest a non-existent character into existence through concentrated group thought.
The meetings took place in brightly-lit rooms, and unexplainable knocks were heard and recorded, after a number of meetings.
The researchers discovered that they could communicate with the knocking presence by establishing a code; one rap for yes, two for no.
It appears that that the researchers had manifested the imaginary ghost of “Philip,” and all of the unexplainable knocks that responded to the questions, remained consistent with the fictional biography.
If the biography was changed, then the knocking presence correspondingly shifted “his” responses.
It seems as though a genuinely unexplainable phenomena occurred, but it appears to be more tied to the power of concentrated group thought and psychokinesis than to disincarnate spirits.
This experiment has been replicated dozens of times, by numerous groups throughout the world.
However, before we jump to any firm conclusions here about where these messages come from, there is also evidence that information can come through a Ouija board that no one in the room knew, such as with the writings of Patience Worth or Seth.
If the universe is truly a seamless whole--as both physicists and mystics maintain--then inner and outer influences can become difficult to discern, once conceptual boundaries start to blur, and everything is revealed as being interconnected.
If, after reading this column, you decide that you might like to experiement with a Ouija board, may I suggest that, whatever you do, you don’t take the experience lightly.
To learn more about Ouija boards, see Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game, by Stoker Hunt. Also, Claude Lecouteux’s The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations is a gold mine of valuable information about the scientific study of unexplained phenomena related to “spirit” activity.
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