The Ouija Board is an occult device currently manufactured by Parker Brothers under the auspices of a board game.
The Ouija name was coined by one of the early manufaturers of the board named William Fuld. A device similar to the Ouija board has been around for centuries, dating as far back as 500 BC. Its main use was to contact the dead in a “séance”. Since its invention in the late nineteenth century, the Oujia board has been associated with the threat of demonic possession. Consequently, mainstream Christian denominations, have warned against using Ouija boards. Occultists, on the other hand, are divided on the issue, with some saying that it can be a positive transformation; others echo the warnings of many Christians and caution inexperienced users against it.
Although Ouija boards are marketed as a toy, there are people, even occult practioners themselves, who believe they can be harmful. Some critics include Edgar Cayce, who called them "dangerous." Some warn that "evil demons" pretend to be cooperative ghosts in order to trick users into becoming spiritually possessed.
Some practitioners claim to have had bad experiences related to the use of talking boards by being haunted by "demons," seeing apparitions of spirits, and hearing voices after using them. A few paranormal researchers, such as John Zaffis, claim that the majority of the worst cases of so-called demon harassment and possession are caused by the use of Ouija boards. The American demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, stated that "Ouija boards are just as dangerous as drugs." They further state that "séances and Ouija boards and other occult paraphernalia are dangerous because 'evil spirits' often disguise themselves as your loved ones—and take over your life."
In 1944, occultist Manly P. Hall, the founder of the Philosophical Research Society and an early authority on the occult in the 20th century, stated in Horizon Magazine that, "during the last 20-25 years I have had considerable personal experience with persons who have complicated their lives through dabbling with the Ouija board. Out of every hundred such cases, at least 95 are worse off for the experience." He went on to say that, "I know of broken homes, estranged families, and even suicides that can be traced directly to this source."
Many Christians hold the belief that using a Ouija board allows communication with demons, which is Biblically forbidden as a form of divination. Some people who claim to have been oppressed by evil spirits after using a board say that they could only get rid of these problems after Christian deliverance. Many Christians believe that no dead person's soul can be summoned, and that the only summoned spirits are demons who are trying to harm humans. In a famous case, in January 1949, a thirteen-year-old Lutheran boy, Robbie Mannheim, living in Cottage City, Maryland became involved in satanic possession after trying to contact his deceased aunt (with whom he had been very close) via an oujia board. Shortly afterwards, his home became the scene of many alarming events, including unexplained noises, rearranged furniture, and flying objects. Forty-eight witnesses attested to these paranormal phenomenon. The boy was examined by both medical and psychiatric doctors, who could offer no explanation for these disturbing events. The frightened family turned to their Lutheran clergyman, Rev. Luther Miles Schulze, for help and he concluded that there was evil at work in the teen and he referred the case to Rev. Edward Hughes, a Catholic priest, who conducted an exorcism on the boy. Rev. William Bowdern, assisted by Rev. Walter Halloran and Rev. William Van Roo, conducted subsequent exorcisms and succeeded in driving out the demon from the child when the child finally uttered "Christus, Domini." According to this Christian proposition, most psychologists would like to dismiss this case, and other cases of demonic possession, as that of mental illness; yet they cannot fully explain why he never had a relapse. The Maryland youth went on to lead a normal, healthy existence, whereas schizophrenia and other dissociative disorders are often lifelong and require extensive psychiatric treatment. In the early to middle part of twentieth century, people were committed to sanitariums for these conditions. Yet, in this case, there were no recorded residual effects. Full-blown mental illness rarely (if ever) goes away on its own.
As early as 1924, Harry Houdini wrote that five people from Carrito, California were driven insane by using a board. That same year, Dr. Carl Wickland in his book stated that "the serious problem of alienation and mental derangement attending ignorant psychic experiments was first brought to my attention by cases of several persons whose seemingly harmless experiences with automatic writing and the Ouija board resulted in such wild insanity that commitment to asylums was necessitated."
The former medical director of the State Insane Asylum of New Jersey, Dr. Curry, stated that the Ouija board was a "dangerous factor" in unbalancing the mind and believed that if their popularity persisted insane asylums would be filled with people who used them.
Decades later, in 1965, parapsychologist Martin Ebon in his book Satan Trap: Dangers of the Occult, states that "it all may start harmlessly enough, perhaps with a Ouija board," which will, "bring startling information... establishing credibility or identifying itself as someone who is dead. It is common that people... as having been 'chosen' for a special task." He continues, "Quite often the Ouija turns vulgar, abusive or threatening. It grows demanding and hostile, and sitters may find themselves using the board compulsively, as if 'possessed' by a spirit, or hearing voices that control or command them."
In her 1971 autobiography, the psychic Susy Smith said, "Warn people away from Ouija and automatic writing. I experienced many of the worst problems of such involvement. Had I been forewarned by reading that such efforts might cause one to run the risk of being mentally disturbed, I might have been more wary."
The late Roman Catholic priest Malachi Martin believed talking boards are dangerous and claimed that by using these devices a person opens themselves to demonic oppression or possession, topics upon which Martin spoke and wrote extensively for many years.
- Raising the devil: Satanism, new religions, and the media. University Press of Kentucky. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “Almost since its invention in the late nineteenth century, the Oujia board has been associated with the threat of demonic possession.”
- Raising the devil: Satanism, new religions, and the media. University Press of Kentucky. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “Practically since its invention a century ago, mainstream Christian religions, including Catholicism, have warned against the use of Oujia boards, claiming that they are a means of dabbling with Satanism (Hunt 1985:93-95). Occultists, interestingly, are divided on the Oujia board's value. Jane Roberts (1966) and Gina Covina (1979) express confidence that it is a device for positive transformation and they provide detailed instructions on how to use it to contact spirits and map the other world. But some occultists have echoed Christian warnings, cautioning inexperienced persons away from it.”
- An American Prophet, Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, Riverhead Books, 2000
- Graveyard Ed and Lorraine Warren, 1992, pages 137-138
- Horizon Magazine, Manly P. Hall, October–December 1944, pages 76-77
- Contemporary Christian Divination, by Bob DeWaay
- Dialog with a Demon, by Lona Kay
- The Ouija Board:A Doorway to the Occult, Edmund C. Gruss, P & R Publishing, Chapter 3, 1994.
- The Cold Hard Facts Behind the Story that Inspired "The Exorcist". Strange Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “Rob’s home address was listed in the yearbook as being 3807 40th Avenue, Cottage City, Maryland.”
- Good Spirits, Bad Spirits: How to Distinguish Between Them. Writers Club Press. Retrieved on 2010-04-02. “Harriet responded to Robbie's interest in board games by introducing him to one - the Ouija board. Because Aunt Harriet was a Spiritualist, she saw it as a way to make contact between this world and the next. The planchette, she explained to Robbie, would sometimes move in response to answers given by the spirits of the dead. The communicated by entering the consciousness of people at the board. The spirits, Aunt Harriet said, produced impulses that traveled through the medium to the planchette, which moved obediently to spell out words or point to "Yes" or "No." Aunt Harriet seemed to have treated Robbie more like a special friend than a nephew. She had an exotic quality, especially with her talk about Spiritualism. Between visits, Robbie sometimes played at the Ouija board himself. For a Spiritualist like her, attempts to deal with the dead were neither pagan nor dangerous. Most Spiritualists considered themselves good Christians...Spiritualists, however, did not heed the biblical admonitions against consorting with spirits.”
- A Faraway Ancient Country. Lulu. Retrieved on 2010-03-27. “While there is no doubt that much of humanity's aberrant behavior can be classified as mental illnesses or conditions, there remains a number of unexplained cases that continue to frustrate those who completely rely on scientific reason and logic to explain all psychic phenomena. There are two well-documented instances of exorcism, which occurred during the twentieth century. The first, which happened in 1906, concerned an orphan at the St. Michael's Mission in Natal, South Africa. The account, written by a nun, tells of a girl named Clara, being able to speak languages that she had no previous knowledge of and demonstrate clairvoyance by revealing the most intimate secrets and transgressions of people with whom she had no contact. Clara could not bear to be around some blessed objects and seemed imbued with extraordinary strength and ferocity, often hurling nuns about the convent rooms and beating them up. Her cries had a savage beastiality that astonished those around her. An attending nun wrote, "No animal had ever made such sounds. Neither the lions of East Africa nor the angry bulls. At times, it sounded like a veritable herd of wild beasts orchestrated by Satan had formed a hellish choir." Two priests were chosen to perform the exorcism, which lasted for two days. Clara's first response was to knock the Bible from the priest's hands and grab his stole from his shoulders and attempt to choke him with it. But, in the end, the demon was forced out and the girl was healed. The second account is probably the most famous of all cases concerning exorcism and is believed to be the basis for William Peter Blatty's best selling book, The Exorcist. In January, 1949, a thirteen-year-old boy, living in Mt. Rainer, Maryland became involved in satanic possession after trying to contact his deceased aunt (with whom he had been very close) via an oujia board. His home became the scene of many alarming events. Whenever the youth was at home, unexplained noises would reverberate from the attic, furniture would move on its own accord, objects flew, and witnesses reported hearing the sound of marching feet. Once, a portrait of Christ fell off the wall. Forty-eight witnesses would later come forward to substantiate this case and the unbelievable incidents that occurred. The boy was examined by both medical and psychiatric doctors, who could offer no explanation for these disturbing events. Then, the frightened parents turned to their Lutheran minister for spiritual aid. At a loss, their clergyman told them that there was nothing that he could do, that there was evil at work in the teen, and their best solution would be to seek the help of a Catholic priest because Catholics knew about that sort of thing. The first exorcism was conducted by Father Albert Hughes at Georgetown University Hospital, a Jesuit institution. Within five minutes of beginning the ritual, the boy stabbed the priest, inflicting a wound that took stitches. Thus ended the initial attempt to rid the demon. The youth was released and sent home to be with his family. A few days later, the teenager began screaming hysterically while in the bathroom. The parents rushed into the room to find the words "St. Louis" written in blood upon the boy's chest. St. Louis was where the dead aunt had lived. The family then moved to St. Louis to stay with relatives. At this time, the case came before Father William Bowdern, pastor of St. Louis University - another Jesuit institution. After obtaining permission from his bishop, Bowdern would finally succeed where his predecessor had failed. After Bowdern's initial exorcism, the teen was checked into another hospital run by the Alexian Religious Order. This began the ordeal that would continue for six weeks. Father Walter Halloran, SJ, who assisted remembers time periods that lasted as quickly as a few hours or as long as most of a day. Halloran recalls that the hospital bed began shaking violently as holy water was sprinkled on the youth and that at one point, a bottle of holy water went sailing in mid air, just missing his head. Another vivid memory the Father Halloran has was of the word "evil" appearing on the teen's body during one prayer session, saying that it was a definite word, not some phenomenon up for personal interpretation. The demon, when asked when it would leave, told Bowdern and Halloran that it would only do so when the boy uttered the proper words. At last the teenager said, Christus, Domini or "Christ, Lord." At that moment, the whole hospital echoed with a thunderclap. Then boy told them, "It's over. It's over." And it was truly over. The family, now at peace, relocated to their home in Mt. Rainier, and the youth returned to normal life. After over fifty years, this man (whose identity remains a closely guarded secret) has no memories of his possession. While most psychologists would like to dismiss both these cases as that of mental illness, they cannot fully explain why both people never had a relapse. Clara and the Maryland youth went on to lead normal, healthy existences, whereas schizophrenia and other dissociative disorders are often lifelong and require extensive psychiatric treatment. In the early to middle part of twentieth century, people were committed to sanitariums for these conditions. Yet, in both cases, there seems to be no recorded residual effects. Full-blown mental illness rarely (if ever) goes away on its own.”
- Possessed: the true story of an exorcism. University Press of Kentucky. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “played at the Ouija board himself. He was used to finding solitary amusements...a one-and-a-half-story frame house in Mount Rainier, Maryland.”
- The Cold Hard Facts Behind the Story that Inspired "The Exorcist". Strange Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “The story came to light when an unnamed minister gave a speech before a local meeting of the Society of Parapsychology at the Mount Pleasant Library in Washington, D.C. According to the minister the family had experienced many strange events in their suburban Maryland home beginning January 18th: scratching noises emanated from the house’s walls; the bed in which the boy slept would shake violently; and objects such as fruit and pictures would jump to the floor in the boy’s presence. The minister, described as being intensely skeptical, arranged for the boy to spend the night of February 17th in his home. With the boy sleeping nearby in a twin bed the minister reported that in the dark he heard vibrating sounds from the bed and scratching sounds on the wall. During the rest of the night he allegedly witnessed some strange events—a heavy armchair in which the boy sat seemingly tilted on its own and tipped over and a pallet of blankets on which the sleeping boy lay inexplicably moved around the room.”
- The Cold Hard Facts Behind the Story that Inspired "The Exorcist". Strange Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “He turned out to be Reverend Luther Miles Schulze and in this article his experiences with the boy were reported in detail.”
- Jesuit Priest Walter Halloran. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “Father Halloran was the last living Jesuit who assisted in the exorcism in 1949 at a psychiatric unit in St. Louis. Father Halloran was a 27-year-old Jesuit scholastic at St. Louis University when a priest called him to the psychiatric wing at Alexian Brothers hospital. The Rev. William S. Bowdern was trying to help a 14-year-old boy from Mount Rainier who he believed was possessed by a demon, and he needed a strong man to help control the boy. A third Jesuit, the Rev. William Van Roo, also was there. "The little boy would go into a seizure and get quite violent," Father Halloran told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1988. "So Father Bowdern asked me to hold him. Yes, he did break my nose." Father Halloran said he saw streaks and arrows and such words as "hell" on the boy's skin. Father Halloran told a reporter that the boy went on to lead "a rather ordinary life." A news account of the incident inspired William Peter Blatty to write his 1971 bestseller, "The Exorcist," which led to the movie in 1973. Blatty's story featured a 12-year-old girl played by Linda Blair.”
- A Magician Among the Spirits, Harry Houdini, Harper, 1924
- Thirty years Among the Dead, Dr. Carl Wickland, 1934
- Edmund The Ouija Board: Doorway to the Occult, Edmund C. Gruss, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois 1995 page 75.
- Satan Trap: Dangers of the Occult, Martin Ebon
- Confessions of a Psychic, Susy Smith, 1971
- Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Americans, Malachi Martin, 1976