Spirits or science? The mystery behind the Ouija board

In movies, the Ouija board is seen as a portal to a dark spirit world. But there are other theories about the talking board.

Some say the movement of the mysterious board has to do with the user.

Spells and Ouija boards don't scare Elke Lockert. In fact, she built a Ouija board table that's on display in her Seminole Heights store.

“I think if you do have spirit connections, you could probably bring them out,” Lockert said.

Shawnee Kircher is the owner of Alchemy and Ashes – a vintage emporium in Lutz.

“If you're looking to have a scary experience, you're going to have a scary experience,” Kircher said. “The Victorians were notorious with their spirit communications so they used it then for spirit communication.”

She has several Ouija boards among her collection of items.

“Boards have been around for a really long time for parlor games, but it wasn't really until like 1970's when the exorcist came out when the girl used a Ouija board and was possessed that people got a really bad taste in their mouth for Ouija boards. Now everyone thinks they're associated with portals to hell and demons but it's really just a tool for divination,” Kircher said.

Some say it's not spirts, but rather science moving the planchette on the Ouija board.

“This is what you put your fingers on. It moves around and hovers over certain letters on the board to spell out your answer, Kircher said.

It's called the Ideomotor Effect. It's basically a way for the body to talk to itself.

“I think people tend to unconsciously move around on the board and without realizing it or sometimes they could intentionally move towards different parts of the board. We also kind of unconsciously pick up on cues that other people who are present might be giving us so if another person starts to gasp or react in a certain way or direction, they're moving quite unconsciously, we respond by moving,” said Dr. Judith Bryant, USF professor of psychology.

“I definitely think that plays a part, but I think you can't discard the spiritual connection too. I think it's just different for every user as to their experience with it,” Kircher said.

So is it something to fear or harmless fun? The yes or no answer may lie in the user's hands.

There was a surge in Ouija board popularity back in the 1920's. It was even featured on a cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

In the 1960's, Parker Brothers bought the game and sold millions, at one point even outselling Monopoly.

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