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The Ouija board is one of the most controversial inventions of all time – it has bitterly divided spiritualists and sceptics since its introduction in the late nineteenth century. If asked, the vast majority of people will admit to feeling very uneasy about the use of Ouija boards for spiritual or paranormal purposes. This seems to be the case whether an individual is particularly superstitious or not, so what is it about the Ouija board that frightens us so much?

After all, a person who is staunchly against the use of Ouija boards might visit a medium and ask them for contact with a deceased friend or relative. There are plenty of people out there who spend long nights alone in haunted buildings or take pictures of ghosts, but many of them wouldn’t be comfortable using a Ouija board to speak to the dead. What’s the real difference and why is it so important to spiritualists and paranormal experts?

There is a very good reason why the debate around Ouija boards has raged for so long – the product was originally invented to be used as a children’s toy. In 1890, businessman Elijah Bond introduced and advertised it as a harmless parlour game. It wasn’t until the outbreak of World War One that the Ouija board began to be associated with the spiritualist movement. This is the main reason why the Ouija board is routinely mocked by sceptics and self proclaimed debunkers.

Nothing But Fun And Games? 

If you do believe in ghosts, you don’t automatically have to believe in the assumed danger of Ouija boards – it isn’t some sort of spiritualist requirement. There are lots of believers out there who scoff at the notion that the board itself that is dangerous. After all, it is just a piece of wood or plastic that was originally designed to be used as a toy. How can the board itself be dangerous in any way? It is the action that can be harmful, it is the intention that holds the threat.

It is endlessly strange to think that anybody would invent a children’s toy designed to facilitate contact with the dead anyway. How and why did the inimitable Elijah Bond decide that this was a good idea? Why didn’t anybody step in and say ‘Hey Bond-ers, what the hell are you bloody thinking?’ Then again, this is the same man who later went on to establish The Swastika Novelty Company - you can’t really excuse him of having an overabundance of good taste.

Yet, it is important to realise that the Ouija board does have earlier origins. It is very similar to the methods of automatic writing that were regularly used as early as 1100AD in places like China, India, Greece and Rome. In China, the practice was known as fuji – it involved the use of a planchette to facilitate contact with spirits. This contact was only ever made under the strictest supervision. After 1644, it was officially outlawed by the Qing Dynasty.

Are You Sitting Comfortably? 

Once again, it is the intention that holds the threat. Whilst it can sometimes be difficult to understand the fervent criticism that surrounds the use of Ouija boards, it is clear that it has been treated as a very serious matter everywhere but the modern western world. A Ouija board is designed to act as a conduit for very serious and potentially very powerful forces. Like all things, it is very easily abused and this makes it similarly easy for controversy to be kicked up when things don’t go as expected.

There is no recorded proof of a Ouija board directly causing serious injury or death. This does not, of course, mean that it has never happened. If you’re going to treat paranormal contact as a parlour game, do you have any real right to complain when you eventually get a fright? After all, if there are spiritual forces at work, do you really think that they’re going to be restricted to a piece of plastic?