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The truth behind the not-so-mysterious Ouija board

The table that supposedly allows us to communicate with the spirits is due to an involuntary psychological effect and a lot of marketing.

Halloween is coming and with it, all those horror stories that we were once told when we were younger begin to emerge. Ghosts, haunted houses, undead and spirits that don’t let us sleep. And most of those stories begin with a table full of letters, a pointer and a group of young and innocent creatures who come together to communicate with the afterlife.

The  Ouija board  is one of the protagonists that always appears in horror stories. His alleged powers to communicate with people from beyond have turned it into a mystical object and even  banned on some occasions  by more conservative schools and religions due to his alleged extrasensory powers.

But at Mouse we know that  ghosts don’t exist  and that behind each of these stories, as incredible as they may be, there is always some explanation. And in that sense,  how does the Ouija board work?

For those who do not know how it works, the Ouija board operates with a group of people placing a finger on a kind of wooden arrow that has a hole that lands on any of the letters, numbers or symbols on the board. Supposedly, the concentration of all the members of the table with their finger pointing to the same place, causes  the energies of the beyond to move this arrow,  allowing the spirit to converse with the people.

The movement of this arrow can be due to two cases: sometimes one is simply the joker who makes an intentional movement in a smooth way so that it seems that it is the product of collective effort. But when there is no active accomplice, the cause of the movement of the plate on the surface is caused by our  own unconscious,  in an effect that in psychology is called  the ideomotor effect.

This effect makes a person make movements automatically and unintentionally, responding to ideas or emotions of the moment. The more one believes in the Ouija, the more the mind will be suggested to perform the movements and therefore, they all end up being part of a great  self- deception. Hence, everyone denies that they were moving the pointer because, in reality, they do not do it consciously, and it is enough for some to do so for the rest to follow the course.

But perhaps there is something more relevant to understand the true nature of the  deception of the Ouija board  and it refers to the fact that its origins, rather than mystical and supernatural, are  commercial. While the board may be based on ancient Chinese traditions, the Ouija board as we know it was introduced to the US market by a businessman named  Elijah Bond  in 1890. Yes, the Ouija board is such a mystical  communication tool  that it received a invention and commercialization patent in  1891.

The name “Ouija” comes from the combination of the words Oui and Ja, which mean  Yes  in French and German respectively, and has no other mystical meaning.

The table then began to be sold with esoteric properties added simply  to be able to sell more units and make its inventors richer. In 1966, its original owners sold the product license and business to  Parker Brothers  and in 1991, the brand became part of  Hasbro. All, in case you haven’t noticed,  toy companies.

So every strange story you hear about the Ouija board is nothing more than part of the campaign to give more mysticism to a product that is supernatural, it has nothing. What about the two films in the Ouija board series released in 2014 and 2016? They are also part of Hasbro Films.

And this is all part of the myth. And the idea is not to stop playing either. Sometimes entertaining things can happen or it’s a good dynamic to scare a friend or play that ghosts exist. But if we go to the reality of the matter, the Ouija board has less sustenance than an empty bag of Halloween candy.


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