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Ouija Boards Are Even Creepier When You Know How They Work

Ouija Boards Are Even Creepier When You Know How They Work

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to pull your Ouija board off that seldom dusted shelf and channel a spirit or two for answers to your most sleepover-enhancing questions. It’ll will be even creepier when you realize that the answers are coming from inside the house, inside you.

The Ouija board first appeared in stores in the 1890s, a mark of 19th century America’s obsession with spiritualism. It was a flat board with the letters of the alphabet written in two arced rows over a straight line of numbers, 0 through 9. The words “YES” and “NO” appear in the uppermost corners and “GOODBYE” is written at the bottom. The board comes with a planchette, a tear-drop shaped device on little feet with a hole in its body through which you can read the number or letter underneath it.

Instructions for using the board are simple: two or more people — mediums — place their fingers lightly on the planchette, ask a question, and let the spirits guide the planchette around the board. The answer will either be a yes or no, or it will be a word spelled out.

For best results, the board asks for mediums who are serious about the process, turn off anything that emits electrical disturbances, and who light candles and incense.

Almost nothing has changed about the Ouija board since its debut, save our understanding of how it probably works. It could be a spirit reaching out to you, but science provides another spooky possibility: You are unconsciously answering questions that you never thought you could.

Ouija board

Two factors are at play when using an Ouija board: A strong subconscious need for an answer to a question and a phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect.

The ideomotor effect says that people can move or move something without their conscious mind realizing it. In the case of the Ouija board, if you really want the answer to a question to be yes and your partner knows it, you could both push the planchette to “YES” without either of you consciously applying any force. (And if you think you can ever keep your hands completely still, try keeping a laser pointer’s dot perfectly motionless.)

You can test this effect for yourself. Find a string and tie something moderately heavy to it. Extend your arm and hold the string and hanging object as still as possible. Now imagine the object moving in a circle. Even though you think your arm is motionless, the object should start moving!

The University of British Columbia ran a study on the ideomotor effect and the Ouija board in 2012. One test had subjects sit at a Ouija board with another person and answer factual yes or no questions. The subject was blindfolded when using the board and the partner knowingly removed their hands from the planchette. The blindfolded subject moved the planchette alone, answering questions, but felt that they were exerting no force on it at all. The subjects answered more questions correctly than when they answered the same questions verbally — they did better when they believed they weren’t in full control of the planchette.

This an example of implicit — unconscious — cognition, and experiments with the Ouija board and concepts like it may end up revealing quite a lot about how the mind makes decisions below our level of awareness.

But this doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with turning to a Ouija board for answers, or trying to channel spirits at Halloween. You just might be channeling the dark depths of an inaccessible unconscious, which is scary enough as it is.

If all this Ouija wisdom has you curious about the new movie, check out Clarke’s interviews with the cast:

Feature image via

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  1. Gavin says:

    hello there, I’ve had a lot of experience due to ouija/wigi boards.. People have they’re own opinion, but if you haven’t done one before don’t go saying they ain’t true it’s all fake.. Because it’s not! I’m in the royal marines and I done the board several months ago and this spirit said that I was going to die in the forces but that is nothing compared to what we have been told! I have tears in my eyes start getting all goose bumbs just writing this. Imagine what I was like doing the board? It is not  safe it’s dangerous it plays mind tricks, try’s to gain your trust so they can feed off your energy to release them selves from the board.. If you would like to know the full story please comment back… DO NOT EVER DO IT ALONE! If you want to know the do’s and dont’s please comment .

  2. Berckley says:

    I had a Ouija board and I was going to use it, but I left to go get my friend and when we came back, my dad had cut it in half with scissors and threw it in the neighbor’s trash, then gave me a lecture about how Ouija boards are bad and stuff. I want to try it, though. I feel to interested in things like this. I wonder if they work. I doubt it, but I guess it depends on one’s beliefs. I think it’s weird that my dad threw it away and stuff and I asked him if he believed in spirits and bad luck or whatever reason he threw it away, and he simply replied, “No.” And now I’m even more curious. I ask about this frequently and no one seems to ever give me a satisfying answer on what is so bad. I feel like a piece of cardboard couldn’t contact spirits, then again I think it would be cool if it could. I’m just in to stuff like that. What could happen? I mean, the YouTube videos look pretty fake. Very dramatized, and I just feel like that wouldn’t happen. I don’t know how to word my thoughts together. I still want one, and that was over a year ago. I was always the kid at sleepovers that suggested we told scary stories and played Bloody Mary, Candyman, Baby Blue, etc. I’d always end up being the only one doing it. All of them are fake! Please don’t say that I did it wrong. They’re fake. There are lots of different versions and such, and they don’t work. Not the point. But, can someone please answer my Ouija board questions? 

    • Matthew says:

      I have played. I think because you are expecting and hopeful that something may scare you to make it real that your mind will portray some evil elusons and thoughts to scare you and keep you going. ideo or subconscious 

  3. My sister told me that it’s actually a spirit using you to answer. She said that if you were being used that you fingers would be cold!

  4. Lysa says:

    I really like reading blogs but this one has petty fighting and whom ever is in charge of it needs to get it under control

  5. Sedona says:

    I want to try one, but im honestly kindof scared.

    • Freakedout says:

      Same here. I hate rape and I don’t want to be raped by one of those Planchettes!!! That would freaking hurt!!! But I really would like to see my dead grandpa again. But he better have lost the nose hair and the old man smell.

    • Malfa Phillips (from Crooked Creek, Alaska) says:

      I know, i do too, but i am kinda scared too!! I think i should try one, just to see if my gram is with me, or at least someone that I know!!

    • Nova says:

      I was scared too, but I did it at my friends birthday party, and it was really fun, but eerie. So do a quija board with friends or you will be scared!

  6. Megan says:

    There really is no need to argue over something so dumb. Some of y’all really do have some audacity. Grow the hell up.

  7. relicsally says:

    money spent on educating more evil into the world than actually documenting research on bannishing,.institutions have been said to be working with the devil, congrats Uni of British wateva, incidently the british after the uni. word explains it all

  8. Via says:

    Found * not ‘fond’ 

  9. Heather says:


  10. b-ray says:

    bullshit they don’t, go to my old house. I lived in the basement and was awoken almost on a daily basis by something shaking me and a bright light would then dissipate. Also fell asleep alone in my place after a long night of drinking, was smoking a cig when I fell asleep, my bed started to burn up and was just starting to really smolder and burn this is when something smacked my face, I even felt their fingers. Nobody was in the house but me. so im convinced they exist 100% so does everyone else who spent the night

  11. Satyrs says:

    I think he ment Pan.

  12. Nickolas D says:

    I’m a high school student interested in para normal things but I’m also interested in how people’s minds work indepentantly when they want and you prove a valid point.

  13. LOLZZZ says:

    Serenity… Check your own grammar before knocking another’s Mrs Comma Splice….. 

  14. Your all a bunch of douche-bags says:

    Im an atheist and scientific and demons and spirits do not belong in the same sentence. Oh and perfection is scientifically and  physically impossible so people stop trying to create the perfect excuse to mess with people.


    Fuck all of you that have religion because gods don’t exist, they are just excuses and lies to make you feel a false spence of security and God is dead and he says he wants to fuck justin bid dr hard in the mouth with his golden dick and his power will make an army of strikers fuck him too!

  16. Factbot says:

    He gets it. He is 100% correct so stop being assholes and get in reality idiots. Ever heard of SCIENCE if not look it up in a book of words and what they mean, example: dictionary; A BOOK OF WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS!

  17. Maybe Sam says:


  18. Gavin says:

    If we’re all faggots why are you on this page mate! You need to get a look of what is reality and what these boards can do!!!

  19. terry says:

    Ouija do not work

  20. terry says:

    Yeah it is a piece of cardboard

  21. terry says:

    No it not

  22. terry says:

    It’s never worked for me 

  23. Gavin says:

    One of the reasons not to burn a wigi board is, they said if you burn the board your freeing all the energy built up and the spirits out.. Not only that the board will scream apparently! Haven’t even tried to and wont. If your ever in a situation to get rid of a ouija board, pour holy water over the board cut it into 4/6 pieces and bury is separate.. Or take it to a spirit museum where they will do it all for you

  24. Gavin says:

    What a comment you need to get a life dude!  How did this universe even start ask yourself that?!!