via The Skeptic’s Dictionary
If there really is an afterlife, I’ll bet the best way to contact it is through a plastic, mass-produced board game from Milton Bradley! –Mad Magazine
A Ouija board is commonly used in divination and spiritualism, often by friends out to have some fun. Sometimes, users become convinced they’ve been contacted by the spirit world. The board usually has the letters of the alphabet inscribed on it, along with words such as ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘good-bye,’ and ‘maybe.’ A planchette, a small 3-legged device with a hole in the middle or a pointer of some sort, is manipulated by those using the board. However, users often feel the planchette is moving of its own accord rather than responding to their own unconscious muscle movements (ideomotor action). The users ask a “spirit” a question and the pointer slides until it stops over “yes” or “no” or a letter on the board. Sometimes, the selections “spell out” an answer to a question asked.
Some users believe that paranormal or supernatural forces are at work in spelling out Ouija board answers. Skeptics believe that those using the board either consciously or unconsciously move the pointer to what is selected. To prove this, simply try it blindfolded some time Have an unbiased bystander take notes on what words or letters are selected. Usually, the results will be unintelligible.
The movement of the planchette is not due to spirits but to unconscious movements by those controlling the pointer. The same kind of unconscious movement is at work in such things as dowsing and facilitated communication.
Before there were Ouija boards in America there were talking boards. These could be used to contact the spirit world by anybody in the privacy of one’s own home; no séance was required and no medium need be present (or paid!). No experience necessary! No waiting! Quick results, guaranteed!
The Ouija board was first introduced to the American public in 1890 as a parlor game sold in novelty shops.
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via Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids
In a nutshell: Ghost hunters are people who use lots of scientific equipment when they look for ghosts. Scientists don’t think the equipment will do them much good.
Ghost hunters look for ghosts or evil spirits (demons) in haunted houses, graveyards, old hotels, and other places. It’s likely that some of the first stories cavemen and cavewomen told their little cavechildren were stories about ghosts and demons. It seems just about everybody loves a good ghost story or a scary tale about some wicked demon’s nasty tricks.
Are the ghosts and demons real? So far, scientists haven’t found proof of a single ghost or demon. But that fact hasn’t stopped many people from throwing a bunch of equipment into the trunk of a car and heading out to see if they can find proof that at least one ghost or demon exists.
You may have seen some of these ghost hunters on television. They load up with things like flashlights, EMF detectors, Geiger counters, Gaussmeters (more about these later), tape recorders, video recorders, motion detectors, thermometers, and sometimes even things like Ouija boards and dowsing rods.
These ghost hunters bring flashlights because they seem to always work in the dark. We don’t really know what a ghost or demon is, but for some reason people who look for them are pretty sure they only come out at night. One problem with looking for something at night is that it’s harder to see and easier to trick ourselves into thinking we see something that isn’t really there.
Keep Reading: ghost hunters – Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids.
Beloved of spiritualists and bored teenagers on a dare, the Ouija board has long been a source of entertainment, mystery and sometimes downright spookiness. Now it could shine a light on the secrets of the unconscious mind.
The Ouija, also known as a talking board, is a wooden plaque marked with the words, “yes”, “no” and the letters of the alphabet. Typically a group of users place their hands on a movable pointer , or “planchette”, and ask questions out loud. Sometimes the planchette signals an answer, even when no one admits to moving it deliberately.
Believers think the answer comes through from the spirit world. In fact, all the evidence points to the real cause being the ideomotor effect, small muscle movements we generate unconsciously.
That’s why the Ouija board has attracted the attention of psychologists at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Growing evidence suggests the unconscious plays a role in cognitive functions we usually consider the preserve of the conscious mind.
Keep Reading: Short Sharp Science: Ouija board helps psychologists probe the subconscious.