Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Spelling out the facts - Ouija toys for girls and boys?

Recently a group was formed on social networking site Facebook called 'Parents against Ouija boards geared for small children at Toys-R-Us'

A friend of mine brought my attention to it when she mentioned it in one of her status' and I curious to find out if Toys-R-Us really do sell ouija boards or not, and it turns out they do! At least... in the US.

The description for the ouija board I found read:
Ouija Board has always been mysterious. It has always been mystifying. And now the OUIJA Board is glow in the dark! With 72 fun questions included, you'll never run out of things to ask. Who will call/text me next? Gather your friends around, draw a card, place your fingers on the planchette and ask your question. Concentrate very hard and watch as the answer is revealed in the message window. Make up your own questions, and let the OUIJA Board satisfy your curiosity in virtually endless ways. OUIJA Board will answer. It's just a game - or is it? Includes OUIJA Board, message indicator (planchette), card deck with 72 questions, carrying case with storage pockets and instructions.
This has caused controversy, with the members of the facebook group claiming that:
Ouija Boards should NEVER be for children!! It is a "game" for adults. It should not be used to promote the vanity driven age by letting young impressional[sic] girls think that it has the answers and allowing them to build their self confidence from a board game that , although not scientifically proven, can be dangerous and unstable.
If you agree then lets use our "buying power" and stand up to these people who are making toys for our children that are less then appropriate! As consummers[sic] we have the right to buy or not to buy but does that mean that everything is ok to sell?? That everything is ok to placed in pink and shown to our children as a fun and exciting toy?
I think its time those big market toy thinkers ask themselves "Would I let MY child play with that? Would I be comfortable with my child seeing that on the shelf and wanting it? Would I allow my child to play with it at a friends house?" The world is getting pretty bad when its run out of decent toys for little girls and boys.
I suppose the first thing I ought to do before I get stuck into this is to look at what exactly a ouija board is.

I own a ouija board, I bought it as a laugh and I'm glad I did because every time I show it to somebody they either recoil in fear or laugh along with me. When you investigate claims of paranormal occurrences one thing that you cannot shy away from is the sheer number of people who also do the same sort of research from a belief orientated POV.
Evil boardgame

For a year or two when I first started out with my research the woo type of investigators convinced me the ouija board was dangerous and that toying with one would end up with me having a demon or negative entity in my home because 'opening the door is fine but it's closing it that's difficult' because some people believe that using a spirit/ouija board opens a 'portal' into the afterlife, spirit world or other dimension. This was some scary shit and I wasn't willing to mess around with it because I was naive enough to think that they wouldn't make such a thing up.

I soon found out though that the ouija board isn't dangerous at all, it's a game - or at least that's how it started out. Wikipedia explains is clearer than I could hope to:
The businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed. The patentees filed on May 28, 1890 for patent protection and thus had invented the first Ouija board. Issue date on the patent was February 10, 1891. They received U.S. Patent 446,054. Bond was an attorney and was an inventor of other objects in addition to this device. An employee of Kennard, William Fuld took over the talking board production and in 1901, he started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija".[3] The Fuld name would become synonymous with the Ouija board, as Fuld reinvented its history, claiming that he himself had invented it. The strange talk about the boards from Fuld's competitors flooded the market and all these boards enjoyed a heyday from the 1920s through the 1960s. Fuld sued many companies over the "Ouija" name and concept right up until his death in 1927. In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the entire business to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold all trademarks and patents. About ten brands of talking boards are sold today under various names.[3]
They found their inspiration from spiritualists whom they saw conducting a talking board session. People claim that the fact that their inspiration came from a spiritualist communication session must mean the board is dangerous and capable of opening up spiritual portals. This isn't the case at all and that's a leap of logic. Such a conclusion relies on the spiritualists method of communication being right and all research goes against this idea.

It has been proven by various controlled studies that the ideomotor response is the cause for the movement of planchettes, glasses and dowsing rods/crystals during spiritualist communication sessions.
Muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires or emotions. This basically means that people who have a desire for the glass, table, planchette, crystal, dowsing rod to move, could be causing the object the move through involuntary muscular movement. Could this be the reason some spiritualists, mediums and psychics claim that anyone feeling doubtful should leave the circle?
“Honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations”
This is a quote from Ray Hyman who in the year 1999, alongside his fellow American Psychologist as well as English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Chevreul actually conducted numerous tests that demonstrated that what some people believe the be spirits moving tables, glasses and planchettes IS down to the ideomotor effect. Earlier tests also showed that people can be subconsciously influenced when given subtle clues which can lead them to move the object in question (glass, pendulum etc.) without actually realising it, in response to the subtle clues given.
The problem I have with the group on facebook who protest against the ouija board being sold is that it's up to the individual if they buy a ouija board for their child or not. It is just a toy, if you don't want to buy it for your child then that's fine because you are their parents. However, should another person wish to buy their child a ouija board then it's their choice.
The Facebook group comment:
 Allowing them to build their self confidence from a board game that , although not scientifically proven, can be dangerous and unstable.
 I fully agree with this, children shouldn't be unsupervised with something that could potentially have an effect on their self confidence or their development. However, it HAS been scientifically proven that the ouija board is not dangerous or unstable because we KNOW that the ideomotor response as mentioned above has a direct influence with the outcome of the ouija board session.

I personally find it more worrying that parents would stop their children from playing with a board game due to their own prejudice and superstitions. Way to go to crush your child's curiosity and fill their heads with nonsense.

My final thought to come out of all of this was a humorous one because on the game being sold by Toys-R-Us it gives a recommended age of 8-14 years. Who's going to be the person to tell all the grown up ghost hunters who still use ouija boards that they're being immature?


  1. Being a bad parent is causing your child mental or physical harm. Not buying them a simple object.

    Because that's what it is. It's just an object, as proven by studies. It's the individual who then gives that object a meaning.

    The problem is, Ouija boards (and their "use") are so entrenched in peoples' minds as something you use to contact the dead. They don't think that if they worked they would be used by a multitude of professions, not just 'ghost hunters'. Imagine the ability to settle contested estates and unsolved crimes for a pittance of the usual financial and resource cost!

    Until you remove that entrenched view (which is probably strengthened by rumour, superstition and TV) then people will always give this simple object a subverted meaning, no matter how many times you explain the ideomotor effect.

    As for my kids, if they seem old enough and reasonable enough to understand that anything that happened whilst playing it could be explained rationally, sure I'd let them play with one.

    If, however, they seemed unable to cope with the potential fallout of thinking that they're channelling scary ghosts (e.g. because they believe in ghosts and get creeped out by the house creaking in the dark) then I would be an irresponsible parent to let them play with it. And if there was the potential for mental harm, no matter how small or temporary, then I would be verging into bad parent territory.

    So it's an individual decision based on the individual child.

    What I'm trying to say, based on your tweet about does it make you a bad parent, is that no. Depending on the circumstances.

    But the board itself is just an object. Next we'll be claiming that Mouse Trap can possess you with the spirits of dead mice.

  2. I'm surprised you didn't test your board out and include that in your report.