The Ouija board as we know it dates back to the late 1800s when at the height of the spiritualist movement it was a popular parlor game. Over the years, many manufacturers have marketed Ouijas and other “talking boards.”
Currently, apart from the familiar Ouija board marketed by Parker Brothers (now part of Hasbro), there are at least eight other styles of talking boards that all work in pretty much the same way, with a pair of hands resting on a planchette that points to words or spells out answers to questions asked.
Why do many people believe that spirits make the Ouija’s plastic planchette move? For one, because they cannot understand how their subconscious might be doing it. For another, the Ouija itself often tells them so. It’s not uncommon for users to ask during a session, “Who is controlling this board?” And very often the Ouija will oblige the users, spelling out a name unknown to the users, or perhaps that of some dead relative or friend.
Are we controlling the Ouija or not? The Museum of Talking Boards articulates the two prevailing theories on how the Ouija works — the spiritualist theory and the automatism theory:
The Spiritualist Theory— Ouija messages obviously come from forces beyond our control. You contact or “channel” these entities through the board. They are discarnate spirits, ghosts, or other ethereal beings who have a purpose for contacting the living. Many advocates of the Spiritualist Theory think that there is no harm in contacting the other realm because most spirits are basically benign and have important information to share. Other Spiritualist Theory supporters believe that no one should ever use the Ouija board. Malevolent forces can masquerade as good and cause emotional damage, even death to the user of the board. They offer as proof the many accounts of spirit possession reported by “experts” on the occult and demonology.The Automatism Theory — The clinical term is “ideomotor response.” You may not know that you are moving the message indicator, but you are. This is similar to automatic writing, also know as automatism, a well-understood phenomenon. Mediums in years past, would hold a pencil in one hand and pay no attention as it wrote furiously. Some believed that these written messages came from the spirits. Others felt that the messages came from a clever medium. At any rate, most proponents of the Automatism Theory generally accept that it is very possible to move the planchette unconsciously. They claim that the Ouija board opens a kind of shortcut from the conscious to the subconscious mind. Collective automatism occurs when more than one person is operating the board.
Indeed there are many anecdotal tales of very weird events and paranormal phenomena taking place during and sometime immediately following Ouija sessions. And this has led to the warnings that the Ouija is not a game at all, but a dangerous tool.
Ghost researcher Dale Kaczmarek, of the Ghost Research Society, in his article, Ouija: Not a Game, says: “The board itself is not dangerous, but the form of communication that you are attempting often is.
Most often the spirits whom are contacted through the Ouija are those whom reside on ‘the lower astral plane.’ These spirits are often very confused and may have died a violent or sudden death; murder, suicide, etc. Therefore, many violent, negative and potentially dangerous conditions are present to those using the board.