The ouija 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 planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic) as a 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, 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.
Some mainstream Christian denominations have "warned against using Ouija boards", holding that they can lead to demonic possession. Occultists, on the other hand, are divided on the issue, with some saying that it can be a positive transformation; others rehash the warnings of many Christians and caution "inexperienced users" against it.
|Original Spirit Board Design, 1894|
The Ouija phenomenon is considered by the scientific community to be the result of the ideomotor response.
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.Skeptics have described Ouija board users as 'operators'. Some critics noted that the messages ostensibly spelled out by spirits were similar to whatever was going through the minds of the subjects. 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 dissociation 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.
In the 1970s Ouija board users were also described as "cult members" by sociologists, though this was severely scrutinized in the field.
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.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.