Perhaps the most mysterious thing about the Ouija board (except why we pronounced it "wee-gee") is that Parker Brothers still makes this thing. People are genuinely scared of these pieces of cardboard and plastic and I'm surprised Parker Brothers risks getting boycotted over something so widely reviled and feared. My own experiences with them has been less than overwhelming.
Would you work for me?
A friend and I, a budding Catholic occultist, decided to try and contact something one afternoon using the accursed board. To help facilitate the process, we lit an incense cone and then four candles, one in each corner of my room, corresponding to the corners of the board. We sat in the center of the room, placed our hands on the planchette and began asking it questions. Eventually, the planchette began to move.
Is there a spirit present. Yes.
Are you in the room? Yes.
Can you prove it? Yes.
How? No answer.
Can you put out one of the candles? Yes.
Which one? The candle moved towards my right, at the bottom of the board.
We waited. Nothing happened.
Should we concentrate on the candle to help you? Yes.
Still nothing. After a few minutes, we gave up.
Just as we were lifting our hands from the planchette, we both nearly jumped to the ceiling as a candle sizzled and popped, one might say violently. Our heads jerked in unison to look at the candle, which was kind of sparking and doing a jig, a good 6 or so feet from where we sat. It was, of course, the candle to which the board had pointed.
Hearts pounding, we looked at each other, then back at the candle, which at this point had settled down. I got up and walked towards it. As I approached, I reached out my hand and the flame simply died, as if it had been sucked into the wick. It didn't flicker as if it had been blown out and when the flame was gone, it didn't smoke.
Shaken, we packed up the Ouija board and left the room.
So at this point, you might expect me to be a believer. Alas, I am not.
How can this be so? you might ask. Wasn't this proof?
Nope. Later, I recalled that the night before I had lit the candle, but had extinguished it not by blowing it out, but by spraying it with a spritzer I used to water plants.
It's clear to me now that what had happened is that a drop of water had cooled some of the wax and become trapped inside it, a ball of water encased at the bottom of the waxen pool which then cooled and hardened above it. As the candle burned away this wax, the drop of water become hot until the point it boiled and exploded, thus the pop and spark. The water then entered the wick, which only burned a few seconds more until this damp part of the wick extinguished the flame in such an strange-seeming manner.
So, for a moment, I was a bit frightened by something unexplainable, seeming physical proof that a spirit had done what it said it would, that is to say, put out the candle it indicated. I soon remembered what I'd done and the mystery was explained.
For me, whenever I hear a convincing tale of ghosts, UFO's and ESP, things of this sort, I always think of this Ouija experience, that behind every unexplained event lies a perfectly rational explanation. I keep an open mind nonetheless, but I am certainly not a believer. Just because we cannot think of or find an explanation for paranormal phenomena, it doesn't mean there isn't one. It doesn't mean there is one, either. But the burden of proof is on those who believe.
Controlled experiments in dowsing, Zener cards and Ouija boards invariably show that the results are always statistically consistent with random guessing. A veterinarian friend of mine once told me that a professor told her class about a pain relief experiment on humans using aspirin (or perhaps paracetamol, I'm not sure which), a placebo and acupuncture. What researchers found was that the success rate for all three was statistically the same. Which means that acupuncture works just as well as an aspirin. Which indicates, to me anyway, that a person's expectation of success is a potent factor in pain relief. If we believed rubbing a feather on our foreheads is an effective headache cure, it would work....at least as well as an aspirin works.
Possessed in Mexico
I remembered this story while reading about three American kids who were hospitalized after playing with a Ouija board in Mexico. Minutes into the game one of them began growling and thrashing about, in a trance. The other two began hallucinating after experiencing blindness and deafness.
According to doctors
"They had involuntary movements and it was difficult to transfer them to the nearest hospital because they were so erratic.
It appeared as if they were in a trance-like state, apparently after playing with the Ouija board.
They spoke of feeling numbness, double vision, blindness, deafness, hallucinations, muscle spasm and difficulty swallowing."
He added that whether the trio were really possessed, or had simply convinced themselves that they were, was not for doctors to comment on.
So, they were either faking it or this is a case of collective hysteria. I also wonder if the trio had taken too many magic mushrooms. Their symptoms sound like sensations that can be produced during a strong psilocybin trip. Come to think of it, it also sounds a lot like what a friend told me about his experience with Datura and what other friends have told me regarding ketamine. Never having tried these latter two, I cannot say. Their symptoms could easily have been created by the drug and their minds' attempts to deal with what was happening to them, influenced by their own beliefs about the results of using a Ouija board: possession.