ByRedmond Bacon, writer at
Have realised my dream of finally living in Berlin. I like movies, techno, and talking too much in bars.

Ouija: The Origin Of Evil comes out on the 21st October, a week before Halloween, and it looks like a spine-tingling treat. Set fifty years before the events of Ouija - which although was critically maligned managed to make $100 million of a $5 million budget - it tells the story of a family that, although at first using the board as a means of scamming people, find that they have invited an unwanted presence into their house.

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But, you may be asking yourself, what is a Ouija board, how does it work, and does it really allow you to talk to the dead? Here is the definitive guide behind the board that has anchored the successful Blumhouse franchise.

No One Knows Exactly Where It Came From

Whilst talking boards have been around for a long in various forms, dating all the way back to 12th Century China, the Ouija board, with its alphabet, numbers from 0-9, the words "yes" and "no" and "goodbye", is shrouded in much more mystery. 19th Century America was a place where spiritualism was far more common than it is now, with families holding regular seances as a form of evening entertainment, and so before the Ouija board itself there were forms of talking boards used in order to facilitate conversation with the dead. Yet as to who 'invented' the boards themselves, it cannot accurately be said. A businessman named Charles Kennard saw the economic potential of such boards, and teamed up with fellow investors in order to patent the product. When deciding what to call it, he asked the board itself what it should be named. The board responded "Ouija" which is apparently ancient Egyptian for "good luck"

How Does It Work?

Its pretty simple. You put both your hands on a planchette, ask a question and the apparent spirits you are talking to either answer "yes" or "no" or spell out the answer for you by letting you guide the planchette around the board. Depending on your religious or spiritual inclination, how this works can be explained two ways: either it really is spirits talking to you, or the board answers your questions by something known as the ideomotor effect, by which people are able to move something without being conscious of their mind doing it. Therefore, if you are secular, the ouija board can still be an exciting (or quite terrifying) game by allowing you to express unknown desires by means of unconscious body movement.

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Its Amazing Success

In the past 120 years, leading right up to Ouija: Origins of Evil, the Ouija board has never sold out out, occupying a pivotal role in the American Imagination. Ironically, those who disliked the board the most were in fact mediums, who found that their job was made more or less redundant. In 1967 it even managed to sell more boards than monopoly. It was eventually bought in 1991 by Hasbro, and you can buy it from basically any toy store.

In Popular Culture

Give or take the odd, titillating story about someone mysteriously dying playing the game in the tabloid newspapers, the Ouija board was traditionally seen as a commonplace game, almost at times something not to be taken seriously. That is, until The Exorcist. With a terrifying story that suggested Regan was possessed after playing the game, the meaning of the Ouija board changed from a spiritual one to something much spookier indeed, subsequently appearing in films such as Witchboard, Spookies and The Devil's Gift.

Is It Real?

Your interpretation in whether it is real or not depends highly on your personal spiritual and religious beliefs. The games spookiness stems from its ability to be able to answer questions you genuinely didn't know the answer to, making it seem that there is something truly paranormal going on. The Catholic Church, for one, certainly believes it is real, stating:

"90 percent of their very worst cases involving demonic activity have been linked to the use of the Ouija board."

Additionally there are too many horror stories that make you think twice about it effects. Take this story for example:

"My great aunt has never married, and when I asked why, my dad told me the story. Apparently when she was sixteen she had a pretty serious boyfriend. When she used a board, she asked if they would get married, and it said no. She asked if they would break up… no… asked if one of them would die and it said yes, and when she asked which of them it said ‘goodbye’. A week later he was in a woodchipper accident at the mill where he worked"

Of course, this could just be a coincidence, but it is the not knowing that makes it truly terrifying. As an agnostic myself, I'm not taking any chances!

Do You Believe In Ouija Boards?


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