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The Truth About Ouija Boards

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Are ouija boards dangerous? As it's Halloween, it's the peak time of the year for people to dabble with ouija. And - ooh, look - the same old hysteria is beginning to erupt any time someone mentions the dreaded board. You can't move on spiritual forums for people dishing out panicky advice about not touching one with a bargepole, not being in the same room as one or even advising people to not be in the same building as where a ouija board is being used. These warnings are usually accompanied by the traditional tales of a friend of a friend of a friend of next door's ex barman who once knew someone through a third cousin who once tried a ouija board and had their life completely, like, ruined.

Please.

Let's have some common sense around this issue. The hysteria surrounding ouija boards is a mixture of Hollywood fabrication, urban legend and religious paranoia, and very well they've done the job too. Let's not forget the origins of the ouija board - it was first introduced by Hasbro as a board game. That's a board game. You know, those harmless, fun things? And indeed from its introduction in 1890 until well past the second world war, it was universally considered just that - a game. Alas for Amazon, when they tried to introduce a pink ouija board for girls a couple of years ago, the masses had got their way and the company was roundly denounced from all corners.

Extensive research by better people than me has turned up not one single documented case of someone being harmed that can be directly attributed to a ouija board. Of course there are rumours, of course there are urban legends. Of course there are people who have frightened themselves badly - but that's not the 'fault' of the board. Of course there are people who can report 'bad things' happening to them on the night they used the board or in the days afterwards - these things are called coincidences, people. If something bad happened in my life two hours after I'd bought a bouquet of flowers, I wouldn't condemn flowers as the tool of the devil and take to internet forums to warn others away from them.

An appropriate, non-hysterical response to a ouija board depends on your original standpoint. If you are a skeptic about these things, then you'll consider the ouija board to be merely a demonstration of the ideomotor effect, and you'll consider that the participants are either knowingly or unconsciously moving the planchette. If you are a spiritualist - a real spiritualist, who has studied spiritualism and understands the basic tenets of the faith - then you will consider that all of spirit is love, that there is nothing in the spirit world that can harm you, and that you can therefore proceed to use a ouija board as a tool in complete safety just as you might use tarot cards, crystal, dowsing rods or a piece of jewellery in psychometry.

These two positions are really all there is to it. If you're a casual user, wanting to dabble with a ouija board, pick your stance from the above and stick to it. If you absolutely must, then go for the wishy-washy middle ground, the there-might-be-something-in-it-so-I'd-better-use-some-kind-of-protection thing. Personally, I don't believe in the need for spiritual or psychic protection - however, if it makes you feel better to imagine a bubble of white light or a cloak of light or some other form of psychic protection, by all means do.

My husband uses ouija boards extensively in his paranormal investigation work. Sometimes, nothing happens at all. Sometimes, words are spelled out. Sometimes - relatively rarely, it has to be said - words are spelled out which make sense in context. As spiritual tools go, ouija boards are just not especially efficient - but they're certainly not something to be feared.

Any (honest) medium will tell you that it takes years of dedication to achieve a reliable link with spirit. And that connection can be lost in a heartbeat. So what on earth makes people think that a random lump of wood or cardboard suddenly enables spirit to latch onto someone with no mediumship training, with great force, and to refuse to leave them, and to generally create chaos? If that really happened, then talented mediums up and down the country would be having their lives ruined on a daily basis because (whisper it) not all mediums do use bubble of lights or angelic invocation or any other form of psychic protection in their daily work. If evil entities existed, why would they need to wait for a lump of wood to be used? Why not latch on to someone through tarot cards, or through their dreams, or indeed just while they're sat thinking about what to have for tea?

The self-styled demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren once rather ludicrously stated that "ouija boards are as dangerous as drugs". Well, they would, wouldn't they? Half of their income and fame disappears at a stroke if people are educated out of their ouija paranoia. And paranoia it is, and it spreads far and wide. Even apparently intelligent and self-proclaimed atheists are not immune, with the atheists in particular deserving a slap on the wrist or worse. If you don't believe in the spirit world, what on earth do you think could possibly harm you through a ouija board? Bizarre.

The one warning I always do give to people who are considering using a ouija board is this: don't do it if it makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or unhappy. Which is the same advice I'd give about *anything* which makes you feel uncomfy or unhappy. I say this not because ouija boards are dangerous, or because a ouija board can harm you in any way whatsoever - but because your fear is a powerful psychological thing. For those who are extremely frightened by the idea, the fear of a ouija board can truly cause problems and damage. People who are vulnerable psychologically should not put themselves in a position where they are likely to make themselves worse. That's common sense. And it has absolutely nothing to do evil entities - you have far more to fear from what's inside your own head than you could ever have to fear from a ouija board.

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