By Bobby Nelson via randi.org (JREF)
Coming up around Halloween is a new movie based on the Ouija board. Popular culture ideas have a great impact on social acceptability and spread of beliefs. You can guarantee that the popularity of Ouija boards and the volumes of strange stories people tell about them will increase precipitously in conjunction with portrayals of totally fictional events.
One of the most controversial tools ever used in spirit communication, still used today, is a simple wooden board. It comes in many different sizes, with a variety of beautiful painted scenes and symbols. They all share certain characteristics. The surface of these boards will have inscribed the words “Yes”, “No” and “Goodbye“, the letters A through Z, and the numbers 0 through 9. The pointer, a planchette, is most typically a triangular or heart-shaped device that will point to the letters, numbers or words, spelling out phrases, names and dates. The planchette predates these boards, first seen in China a millennium ago and also used with a pencil attached for automatic writing (a method used regularly during the spiritualist movement of 19th century America.) Now the planchette and this board go hand in hand.
The board goes by many names – talking board, a witch board, spirit board – but most of us know it as the Ouija board.
The Ouija board is infamous. I would bet that most people reading this have heard a terrifying story that has either happened to a friend, or a friend of a friend, that involves the Ouija board. What is the history of this fascinating and popular tool of devilish mischief? Was it constructed under candlelight in a dark dungeon sometime in the Dark Ages? Or maybe it was created by a witch who practiced black magic and satanic rituals. Nope. The Ouija board is fairly young and it was made as a novelty item.
On May 28th 1890, a patent was filed by Elijah Bond, Charles W. Kennard and William H. A. Maupin for the item developed by The Kennard Novelty Company. The first boards were stamped February 10, 1891. Kennard named the board Ouija. People say the name Ouija means yes-yes because oui is French for yes and ja is German for yes, but Kennard claims the board itself repeatedly told him that Ouija meant good luck in Egyptian and the name stuck. The company only produced the Ouija board for fourteen months but kept corporate control until 1898 at which time the Ouija board was appointed to a man that would revolutionize the board’s history, William Fuld.
Fuld said that he invented the board and that the name did in fact mean yes-yes. In 1919, Fuld bought the remaining rights and sold millions of these boards along with other toys. Fuld would die from a horrible accident when he fell from his company’s rooftop while supervising a flag pole replacement. Fuld’s children took over the business and the production of Ouija boards. In 1966, the business was sold to Parker Brothers toy company, which was subsequently sold to Hasbro who now holds the rights to the Mystifying Oracle. [Source]
So when did the Ouija Board turn evil? The history seems generally harmless, how did it go from a toy, a novelty item, to being associated with Satan and demons? While use of the board was always criticized by scientists and some religious authorities, the majority of “evil” reports relating to the board came about in the 70’s, after a novel was published which was made into a blockbuster movie two years later. The story was about a teenage girl who tells her mother she has been talking to a person named “Captain Howdy” through the Ouija board. Later this girl becomes possessed by the devil, which causes her body to contort, she spits up green vomit and her head spins 360 degrees (among other extraordinary events). This iconic film, of course, is “The Exorcist” (responsible for the current popular culture perception of demonic possession.)
A popular tale tells of a haunted Jewish wine box that brought ill fortune upon its owners… apparently.
Every once in a while, there’s a small, local ghost story that’s not very good, or that even has an obvious commercial origin, and that has no business becoming popular — but it does. The famous “dybbuk box” (also spelled dibbuk) is one such story. It went from a screenwriter’s pen on an eBay auction page, all the way onto the Hollywood big screen, with 2012’s The Possession starring Kyra Sedgwick and directed by Sam Raimi. It is the story of a small antique wooden box designed to hold a few bottles of wine, to which was attached a horror story going all the way back to the Holocaust. Whoever owned the box, it was said, experienced terrible disturbances for as long as the box was in their home. Why? Because, according to the story, the wine box was inhabited by a “dybbuk”, said to be a tormented spirit come back from the dead.
The whole idea of the box being inhabited by a dybbuk (דיבבוק) is nonsensical, according to what a dybbuk is supposed to be. The Encyclopedia Mythica describes it as “a disembodied spirit possessing a living body that belongs to another soul” and usually talks from that person’s mouth. An important 1914 Yiddish play The Dybbuk was about the spirit of a dead man who possessed the living body of the woman he had loved, and had to be exorcised. The word comes from the Hebrew verb “to cling”, so a dybbuk is specifically a soul who clings to another. Nowhere in the folkloric literature is there precedent for a dybbuk inhabiting a box or other inanimate object.
But of course, we’re talking definitions of folkloric terms, fictional by their very definition; so there’s no reason why this particular dybbuk can’t inhabit a wooden box if it wants to. And besides, the fact that folklore exists for a possessing spirit tells us nothing about whether or not factual events did indeed harass the owners of this box. The folklore is irrelevant to the question of whether or not this wine box did indeed cause the frightening disturbances attributed to it. So let’s see what the box’s claimed history is.
One thing to keep in mind is that, if you’ve heard this story before, you’ve probably heard that the box was owned by a whole series of people, each of whom had lots of terrifying experiences, and they then got rid of it to someone else. In fact, the lone skeptical quote associated with this story is from Chris French, who said of these many owners:
“[They were] already primed to be looking out for bad stuff. If you believe you have been cursed, then inevitably you explain the bad stuff that happens in terms of what you perceive to be the cause. Put it like this: I would be happy to own this object.”
But then when we look at its actual history, the number of people whose hands it is documented to have gone through becomes astonishingly small, two or three at most; and each of whom went to great pains to tell the ghost story in a dramatic way. Let’s have a look.
The dybbuk box first appeared in 2003 as an eBay auction by Kevin Mannis, who owned a used furniture shop in Portland, Oregon. But it was not listed as a piece of furniture; it was listed as a mysterious haunted item. Mannis wrote on his eBay page an elaborate horror story.
Are orbs really ghosts, or a common artifact of photography?
Next time you pick up a camera, watch out. You’re holding in your hand the very device responsible for tens of thousands of the most bizarre and unexplainable type of ghost photographs: Orbs.
Orbs, formally called Spirit Orbs, are those semi-transparent white balls seen floating around in many photographs taken in ghostly locations. Orbs are among the class of paranormal phenomena that are visible only to cameras, and not to the naked eye.
The usual hypothesis presented by believers is that orbs represent spirits of dead people, though some support variations on that. The science behind this hypothesis is not clear. For example, there are no plausible hypotheses that describe the mechanism by which a person who dies will become a hovering ball of light that appears on film but is invisible to the eye. There are lots of other things that a dead person might become, presumably; and the only reason believers have chosen orbs seems to be that orbs are the most common unexpected objects seen in photographs. If there was any good science behind this, there would at least be some plausible proposals for what the orb might consist of, how and why it is generated by a dead body, why it floats in the air; and also some good predictions about who will become an orb after they die, what size and color that orb would be, and where and when it can be found. I welcome any hypotheses that would explain how orbs could be a real phenomenon, but I haven’t been able to find any. The only evidence is anecdotal reports and, of course, the obligatory photographs, found on the Internet by the thousand.
Orbs most often appear on camera when a piece of airborne dust, an insect, or a water droplet is close to the camera, outside of the depth of field, and the flash source is no more than a few degrees away from the axis of the camera lens. This causes the object to be brightly light but way out of focus, resulting in a semi-transparent whitish circle. If the flash or other light source is significantly off of the axis of the lens, you won’t get nearly as much light reflected right straight back to the camera. If the object is within the depth of field it will be in focus and generally very small, and probably not noticeable. If the object is not very close to the camera, again it won’t pick up enough light from the flash.
I’m often challenged by believers that if orb photos are so easy to take, why don’t I do it then? I don’t because many people have already done so. If you want great step-by-step instructions for taking an orb photo, go to assap.org and click on Paranormal Photos. You will get all the examples, instructions, and explanations that you could ask for.
Some People Certainly Think So
Every show on TLC really knows how to tug at your heartstrings, but The Long Island Medium does it pretty much better than anyone else. That is because the Long Island Medium herself, Theresa Caputo, has an amazing ability to connect strangers with their loved ones who have passed away. By communicating through “spirit,” Caputo can learn how someone died, his or her nickname, and even deliver a message to the living. Her readings are so spot-on, it’s freaky.
Maybe even a little too freaky for some people. When a person has a supernatural ability like this, there are of course going to be skeptics. Caputo encounters them all the time on her show, like when one self-proclaimed skeptic, Brian, started to believe after Caputo’s tape recorder magically stopped without any prompting. Like with most issues in our society, the debate has mainly been alive and well on the Internet, the trolliest of troll-y places, since the show premiered back in 2011. Whether it’s through opinion pieces, blog posts, or videos, there are plenty of people online who make it their mission to debunk Caputo’s ability. So who are these people, and why do they think Caputo is not for real?
Caputo’s main opponent is James Randi, a former magician and escape artist who now spends his days “as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims,” according to his website. Randi is famous for his “One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge,” where anyone who can prove “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event” will be awarded $1 million.
Randi claims Caputo uses a technique that many mediums employ called “cold reading,” where it may look like Caputo is simply chatting with the person, but she’s actually picking up information that she’ll use to make what she says seem very specific to the person she’s reading. He says Caputo’s questions about initials and life events are basically just guesses that she hopes turn out to be true. Randi, who has also taken on the famous mediums John Edward and James Van Praagh, awarded Caputo a 2012 Pigasus Award, which is awarded to parapsychological frauds who are most harmful to society.
Inside Edition performed an entire investigation on Caputo in 2012, which found that she was much less accurate in her live readings than she is shown to be on her TV show, as she would “strike out time and again.” Inside Edition had former psychic Mark Edward perform the “cold reading” techniques he believed Caputo uses, and the audience believed him.
A psychic has been accused of hiding a man in an attic to make knocking noises on the ceiling during a hotel “ghost tour”.
By Victoria Ward and agencies via Telegraph – UK
Chris Date, a paranormal medium, is alleged to have rapidly driven away from the scene after suspicious staff who hung around after his tour spotted a man climbing down from the roof.
The 38-year-old, who calls himself Knight Guider, tells guests who pay £12-a-head for the ghost hunt that he can contact the spirit world.
During a recent tour of the “haunted” Halfway Hotel in Llanelli, South Wales, 14 people paid to join him in trying to contact the spirit world.
The ghost hunters were led into the hotel stables where Mr Date asked a spirit to knock twice in answer to a question.
The guests were hushed as two ghostly knocks were heard coming from the ceiling above.
Hotel owner Paul Francis, 33, said: “A member of staff and a member of the public wanted to see if someone came down from the attic where the knocking was coming from.
“Twenty minutes went by and then this guy jumped down.
“Our staff grabbed the guy and threw him out.”
Guest Mike Grimble, 43, said the man claimed he was homeless and had nothing to do with the spooky sounds but was wearing “designer jeans”.
Mr Date denied having any link to the mystery man in the attic and said: “I’m disgusted by it.”
“It was nothing to do with me, that is one of the reasons that I left,” he said.
- Gilbert and the Angry Ghost (biffbampop.com)
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- Study up on college haunts (bostonherald.com)
- Teenage Lovers Mistaken For Ghosts (newsfromthespiritworld.com)
- Psychics are not real (ryan59479.wordpress.com)
- Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Investigations (writingpis.wordpress.com)
- Family calls in ghost experts to their NE Houston home (khou.com)
- Gilbert’s Helpful Ghost Hunting Tips (biffbampop.com)
- Were Ghosts Sabotaging One of My Books? (spiritspast.com)
In a nutshell: A Ouija board is used in a game where people ask questions and hope a ghost will move their hands to find the answer.
A Ouija board is a game board with letters, numbers, and the words “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye” printed on it. A 3-legged device with a hole in the middle or a pointer of some sort (called a planchette) is placed on the board. Players put their fingers on the pointer and ask questions that have yes or no answers, or that can be answered with numbers or words spelled out by letters.
There are several weird things about this game. The players don’t ask each other questions. They ask ghosts to join them and answer their questions. The pointer moves under their fingers. The players feel sure they are not moving it.
Try it. It works!
How does it work? Do ghosts really join in board games? Are ghosts moving the pointer? It might seem so, but when players are blindfolded and the board is turned so the top faces the bottom (without the players knowing it), something weird happens. The pointer moves and stops where “yes” and “no” would be if the board was top side up. Without being able to see the words, letters, and numbers on the board, the players move the pointer to places that make no sense. This seems to tell us that the players are moving the pointer to where they think “yes” and “no” (or letters and numbers) are.
Is it possible to move something and not know you’re moving it? Yes. Many scientific experiments have shown that people are unaware of slight movements they make. (Scientists call this the ideomotor effect. See the entries on dowsing and Clever Hans for other examples of moving without being aware of it.)
But what about the answers? Where do they come from? Do ghosts move the fingers of the players? Maybe, but it seems more likely that the answers are coming from the players themselves. Again, if the answers were coming from ghosts, you’d think that it wouldn’t matter whether the players were blindfolded. But it does. When blindfolded, Ouija players’ answers don’t make any sense.
Is it possible for the players to be coming up with answers to their own questions without their being aware of it? Yes. Again, many scientific studies have shown that much of our thinking goes on without our being aware of it. The unconscious (or subconscious) is what scientists call that part of the mind that thinks without our being aware of it.
Even though the Ouija board is a game, many people take it very seriously. Sometimes players give answers that are scary and frighten them. They don’t want to believe that scary answers are coming from their own unconscious thoughts. They might think evil spirits are lurking about the room. One person I know was playing with a Ouija board with her teenage friends many years ago. She asked how old she would be when she died. She and her friends moved the pointer to a 6 and then a 2. She took this to mean that she would die at age 62. “How will I die?” she asked. The fingers moved the pointer to the letter “B.” She took this to mean she’d die of a bee sting. She’s 66 now, but she’s still afraid of bees.
The Ouija board can be fun, if you know what’s really going on. If you think ghosts are listening to your questions, you would probably be better off playing something like Monopoly.
- Oh, my god, ouija boards… (impossiblaaah.wordpress.com)
- Ouija Board and my Boo Boo (majicandmayhem.com)
- The Dangers Of Using Ouija Boards (paranormalintruder.wordpress.com)
- The “mystical” Ouija Board (nobooblog.com)
- Studying ghosts: The equipment part 4 (thefreakyoz.wordpress.com)
- The History Of The Ouija Board (disclose.tv)
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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