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In a nutshell: A Ouija board is used in a game where people ask questions and hope a ghost will move their hands to find the answer.

A Ouija board is a game board with letters, numbers, and the words Ouija board"yes," "no," and "goodbye" printed on it. A 3-legged device with a hole in the middle or a pointer of some sort (called a planchette) is placed on planchettethe board. Players put their fingers on the pointer and ask questions that have yes or no answers, or that can be answered with numbers or words spelled out by letters.

There are several weird things about this game. The players don't using a pointer on a ouija boardask each other questions. They ask ghosts to join them and answer their questions. The pointer moves under their fingers. The players feel sure they are not moving it.

Try it. It works!

How does it work? Do ghosts really join in board games? Are ghosts moving the pointer? It might seem so, but when players are blindfolded and the board is turned so the top faces the bottom (without the players knowing it), something weird happens. The pointer moves and stops where "yes" and "no" would be if the board was top side up. Without being able to see the words, letters, and numbers on the board, the players move the pointer to places that make no sense. This seems to tell us that the players are moving the pointer to where they think "yes" and "no" (or letters and numbers) are.

Is it possible to move something and not know you're moving it? Yes. Many scientific experiments have shown that people are unaware of slight movements they make. (Scientists call this the ideomotor effect. See the entries on dowsing and Clever Hans for other examples of moving without being aware of it.)

But what about the answers? Where do they come from? Do ghosts move the fingers of the players? Maybe, but it seems more likely that the answers are coming from the players themselves. Again, if the answers were coming from ghosts, you'd think that it wouldn't matter whether the players were blindfolded. But it does. When blindfolded, Ouija players' answers don't make any sense.

Is it possible for the players to be coming up with answers to their own questions without their being aware of it? Yes. Again, many scientific studies have shown that much of our thinking goes on without our being aware of it. The unconscious (or subconscious) is what scientists call that part of the mind that thinks without our being aware of it.

Even though the Ouija board is a game, many people take it very seriously. Sometimes players give answers that are scary and frighten them. They don't want to believe that scary answers are coming from their own unconscious thoughts. They might think evil spirits are lurking about the room. One person I know was playing with a Ouija board with her teenage friends many years ago. She asked how old she would be when she died. She and her friends moved the pointer to a 6 and then a 2. She took this to mean that she would die at age 62. "How will I die?" she asked. The fingers moved the pointer to the letter "B." She took this to mean she'd die of a bee sting. She's 66 now, but she's still afraid of bees.

The Ouija board can be fun, if you know what's really going on. If you think ghosts are listening to your questions, you would probably be better off playing something like Monopoly.

Last updated 27-Nov-2012

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