It’s Halloween, and foul things believed long dead are once again strutting their stuff on this mortal coil.
When darkness descends and all is moonlight, some say you might catch a glimpse of one of these terrifying apparitions from beyond the grave in the growing shadows or in the mirror at midnight, but then again a heady mixture of alcohol and high spirits can do strange things to a person’s mind, not to mention their appearance.
Others say the voices of the departed can be heard upon the howling wind, but to a befuddled mind which is numb and dumb with superstition, the wind in question could be little more than a barbaric bout of high-pitched flatulence caused by an almost lethal dose of candy and doughnuts.
For a genuine warts n’ all Halloween experience, more and more people are turning to that ancient and time-honored device to get in touch with those on the other side — the Ouija board.
Long regarded as a hotline to the afterlife, the Ouija board has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. In fact, they are flying off the shelves quicker than you can say, “Oh no, it looks like poltergeist activity.”
But if you’re thinking of dabbling with a Ouija board this Halloween. Here’s what you should know.
Although Ouija boards are viewed as a harmless parlor trick by some, many, including the church, regard them as dangerous tools which can trigger psychological harm — or something even more sinister.
Church of England vicar Peter Irwin-Clark is one such man, and told the Daily Mail that he has witnessed the dark side of the Ouija, and believes it is hugely responsible to market and sell the controversial devices as toys.
“It is absolutely appalling. I would very strongly advise parents not to buy Ouija boards for children. It’s like opening a shutter in one’s soul and letting in the supernatural. There are spiritual realities out there and they can be very negative.
“I would hugely recommend people not to have anything to do with the occult. People find they are having strange dreams, strange things happening to them, even poltergeist activity.”
Ouija boards were invented in America at the height of the spiritualist craze of the 19th century, where seances and mediums seemed to be waiting around every corner to help one contact the dead.
They enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1960s, even outstripping sales of other well-loved board games such as Monopoly, and kids who didn’t have the money to buy a mass produced Ouija board would make their own.
Yet in 1973, the film The Exorcist, based on a true story of a teenager who became obsessed after playing with a Ouija board for long periods, seemed to change the public’s perception of the devices, according to Christina Oakley Harrington, proprietor of Treadwell’s, a London bookshop specializing in the esoteric and the occult.
“The horror film shifted the focus of Ouija to the idea of lost or malevolent spirits. That was where the culture of danger came in. Once you have something said to be a way of consorting with malevolent spirits, you get the Church involved.”
[Image by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images]
Catholic Priest and former exorcist Anthony Hayne was only too aware of the dangers of teenagers who “had been using Ouija boards and had let the darkness into their lives.”
The late Reverend Tom Willis, who was also a practicing exorcist, was also concerned about the dangers inherent in the Ouija board.
“A lot more people are dabbling in the occult and having seances, and that is causing a lot of problems. In the Sixties, the Ouija board caused so many problems — people ending up in mental hospitals because of what they have experienced.
“An unseen force spelling out messages may have sinister motives. It may pretend to be your grandmother you’re in contact with, but it might be something more evil that suddenly gives you some bad advice.”
A recent Reddit thread where people shared their experiences using a Ouija board makes for some pretty grim reading.
Skeptics believe that when the planchette on a Ouija board moves to spell out messages, it is powered entirely by the subconscious of the users involved, and not spirits from beyond the grave.
Canadian paranormal investigator James Randi once tested this theory by blindfolding people taking part in a Ouija board session. The result? The chatty spirits seemed to be silenced when the users couldn’t see the board’s letters, and when they did speak, they spoke nothing but gibberish.
A recent article in Vox claimed to debunk the Ouija board myth completely.
“Ouija boards won’t actually put you in contact with demons or spirits. Any scary firsthand reports you might hear or read of real-life Ouija board horror stories are exaggerations, false claims, or a misunderstanding of how Ouija boards actually work.
“That might be disappointing news if you’re hosting a Halloween sleepover, but it might also leave you asking, ‘How do Ouija boards work?’ The answer is surprisingly simple.”
Apparently, Ouija boards are not dangerous gateways into the netherworld but just the users talking to themselves through unconscious, involuntary physical movement.
So although the Ouija board may not be a good way of chatting to the dead this Halloween, it’s still a great tool for communicating with that most elusive and magical of things, your own subconscious.
[Featured Image by Rob Stothard/Getty Images]