Ouija boards have been debunked time and time again. We all know they started out as kids toys, were popularised in the era of Victorian mediumship and were demonised by Hollywood movies. The psychological principle behind how they work is well understood and can be demonstrated. So why do many people still hang on to the idea that they are genuinely communicating with a spirit via the board?
If for a moment we assume that Ouija boards are a valid method of communicating with spirits, then you still have to ask yourself why every single word, phrase and number that is spat out by a board is taken as 100% evidence of spirit communication by many.
The reason why it seems especially odd that so much faith is put into this evidence is that most paranormal investigators are quick to say that 90% of evidence they obtain can be rationally explained away through non-paranormal means. So really, this rule should mean that at most only one in 10 Ouija board session should be considered as genuine too. The majority of them should be written off as unreliable.
Those sessions that should be taken seriously are only the sessions where information comes through that no one in the room was aware of at the time of the session, because if any single bit of information that comes through is known by people around the table, then the most likely explanation is that it’s ideomotor suggestion.
Even if you are sure that everyone around the table can be trusted and isn’t moving the planchette, still the most obvious, repeatable and most understood explanation of this is the ideomotor effect. You may have even been unwittingly involved as the most widely accepted explanation of how a spirit board works is that the movement is entirely subconscious.
Take the word “zozo” for example. It comes through all the time on Ouija boards, it’s become a trend and it’s said that Zozo is a demon. The real reason why this word so frequently comes up is because the group all start subconsciously moving the planchette, there’s no real direction or thought behind it so it doesn’t stop on a letter, it just keeps moving across the board. So when it eventually approaches ‘Z’ everyone then expects it to stop because there’s nothing beyond that, and it does. It then moves to the next letter, of course it’s got to go back across the board but again there’s no word in mind, so the planchette slides across the whole bottom row. The reason it stops short of ‘N’ and lands on ‘O’ is because ‘O’ simply makes more sense as the next letter after a ‘Z’ so people expect it.
If you liken a Ouija board to the phenomenon of orbs the point becomes clear. Almost all paranormal investigators agree that orbs are nothing more than dust, insects and other airborne particles. A small subset of investigators claim that at best just 10% of orbs are real.
So applying this best-case 10% to Ouija, investigators should be wiping out the evidence from at least 90% of sessions.
The truth is we know of that ideomotor phenomenon exists and how it can explain why the planchette moves, so why does no one ever say “no, that was just subconscious” or “that can’t have been subconscious”? By being more openminded and approaching Ouija boards with the aim of deciding whether it could be subconscious or not, it will encourage investigators to question the evidence better, and before you know it that claim of 100% proof could be whittled down to a more realistic and robust 10%.
A further thought is that even if it turns out that the evidence supports the fact that the planchette’s movement isn’t the result of subconscious movement, it still doesn’t prove that a Ouija board can be used to communicate with the dead. It’s evidence that supports this claim, but it isn’t proof.
If the board spells out a very specific name, to check that name you’d have to consult someone who knows the names of the people associated with the location. If someone living knows that name, then it could be that the sitters have some how managed to obtain this information through some sort of telepathy. This might sound ridiculous, but telepathy has as much (or as little) evidence to support it as ghosts.
But what if you’ve obtained a name on a Ouija board and no one living knows that information, it’s been forgotten in time? So, you delve through old records and uncover then information to corroborate it, this is great evidence, but again it’s not necessarily evidence that the information came from the spirit of a dead person, it could have been gained through some kind of remote viewing ability as a result of the sitters’ focussed attention.
Whether the information has come through as a result of a spirit, telepathy or remote viewing, it is still incredible. It’s not poof that a board can be used to talk to the dead, but if the board is conducted in controlled conditions then it is proof of paranormal communication.