The Ouija board―pronounced as weejee board―is a medium of divination, allegedly used to contact spirits from the other world. Also known as the talking board, it is generally made from wood, and has alphabets, numbers, and 'yes', 'no', or 'maybe' inscribed on it. The Ouija board also contains a planchette―a 3-legged device which points at the alphabets or numbers to give out the answers. Owing to this pointing device, the practice of using the Ouija board is also referred to as planchette. Over the last few decades, the increasing popularity of this practice has made it even more difficult to say whether it is real or hoax.
How Does the Ouija Board (Allegedly) Work?
The Ouija board is kept in the center, while all the participants sit around it. Each of the participants has his/her hand or a finger on the pointer, which may be a planchette, coin, or any other pointing device. When you start asking questions, the spirits allegedly answer them by spelling out the answers. The words are spelled by pointing the pointer towards the particular alphabets. If you ask Who is the President of the United States, the pointer will move towards letters B-A-R-A-C-K-O-B-A-M-A one by one. On the other hand, if you ask something like Will I get this job, the pointer will move towards the set of words and point at 'Yes', 'No', or 'May be'. There are various customized variations of Ouija boards which may differ from each other in certain aspects. However, all of them have one thing in common, they help you communicate with spirits from the other world.
Is Ouija Board Real or Hoax?
While people who believe in this practice argue that supernatural forces help in determining the answers, skeptics are not ready to believe that. If the skeptics are to be believed, the answers don't come from spirits, but come from the people sitting around the board. That may seem a bit strange, but it's true. Basically, it's the ideomotor effect coming into play. Though people who have used the Ouija board deny this, it is only because they themselves are not aware of the fact that they are giving the answers. Other paranormal phenomena attributed to the ideomotor effect include dowsing, wherein you find water or precious metals below the Earth's crust with the help of two sticks, and automatic writing, wherein spirits answer the question through a person (the medium) who writes it down.
The Ideomotor Effect
Human brain is undoubtedly one of the most amazing things in this world. It can do many things which may look seemingly impossible, without the person even realizing. One of the best examples of this, is the ideomotor effect―a psychological phenomenon wherein a person makes small physical movements in a subconscious state of mind. It is basically a process wherein we indulge in a physical activity which is related to our desires or thought process, without being aware of it.
If Ouija really works, it's only because of the ideomotor effect. The answers we get from this board are products of ideomotor effect, wherein one of the participants moves the pointer subconsciously. Studies by eminent scientists and psychologists across the world have attributed various phenomena pertaining to paranormal forces―including the use of Ouija board, dowsing, and automatic writing―to the ideomotor effect time and again.
Ouija Board Answers
So what about all those answers this board gives? Is Ouija fake? We do aspire quite a few things which we don't get. Our brain stores all this information, which at the end of the day is summed up by our subconscious mind. When the person uses the Ouija board, the subconscious mind triggers the ideomotor effect. This, in turn, makes the person move the pointer or planchette and give the answers.
Basically, ideomotor effect is nothing but the involuntary muscle movement triggered in response to desires of our subconscious mind. A large part of the credit for the popularity of Ouija board goes to all those myths in the neighborhood. There are seldom any cases with first-hand experience about the alleged encounter with spirits. Most of the stories making the rounds narrate the encounters of a third person, who is not even in the picture. And those few who claim to have had first-hand experience, can seldom prove that they did. Being excited does give us an adrenaline rush, which prompts us to do quite a few things which we wouldn't do otherwise. Bragging about having an encounter with spirits in order to prove a point also contributes in increasing popularity of this practice.
The answers, allegedly given by the spirit, are vague enough. When asked some question, the answer of which no participant knows, the result is bound to be unintelligible and hence, open to as many interpretations as possible. Not many people out there would know what the cell phone number of Mr XYZ living in a remote area of Texas is. It's not quite surprising that the pointer doesn't move when none of the participant touches it, which is exactly why the ardent fans of Ouija board argue that the proper procedure includes touching the pointer, or else spirit doesn't appear. Isn't that obvious enough to understand that Ouija board is not real? Of course there are significant chances that your friends are playing a prank on you, but that would also imply that they know that Ouija is simply a game.
The term ideomotor effect was first used to describe the actions attributed to spirits by William B. Carpenter in 1852. While we have come a long way since then, not many people are aware of this psychological phenomenon. If you are still not convinced that there is nothing supernatural about the Ouija board, you can try a simple experiment. Next time when you practice this divination method try to do it blindfold. Considering that it's actually the spirit who gives all the answers, participants being not able to see should not affect the procedure in any way.