Head to any major retail store and you’ll probably find a Ouija board in the kids game section. Next to Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity? Seriously? Unless you are an occult practitioner or someone who has studied the paranormal, a Ouija board probably looks harmless, like any other board game.
But talk to people who have had a creepy or downright terrifying experience misusing a Ouija board, and they’ll tell you that it is anything but. And there are a lot of stories out there that inspire some of the most bone-chilling paranormal books and horror movies. We know many people who had the kind of experience with a Ouija board that was so bad, they will not even sit in the same room with one. Even if it is in the box.
The Origin of the Name and the Ouija Board Game
In the United States, spirit boards were used starting as early as the 1880’s. There were spiritualist camps popping up all over America, but the boards were particularly popular in Ohio. Four years later, a local businessman named Elijah Bond patented the ‘game’ and started selling it in stores. An employee (William Fuld) named it “Ouija”.
There is a popular misconception that the word “Ouija” comes from the French and German words for ‘yes’ (Oui) and (Ja). The origin of the name is a little more mysterious than that, but hotly disputed. First, William Fuld indicated that the term ‘Ouija’ was derived from an Egyptian word, meaning ‘good luck’. But this was more of a marketing thing; it helped him dispel concerns that people had about contacting the other side.
Historians claim that Elijah Bond had a sister-in-law named Helen Peters who was a strong and renowned medium and spiritualist. The story goes that they were using a spirit board together and they asked the spirits what they should call the board; it spelled out ‘Ouija’. However, Helen Peters was also wearing a locket with a picture of a women’s rights activist and novelist named Ouida.
The consensus is that the spirit saw the locket and had really bad spelling.
After the game was patented by Elijah Bond, the sales of the classic Ouija board skyrocketed between 1920 – 1960 worldwide. For the first twenty years, the board retailed at $150 which for the time was insanely expensive. In 2020, that would convert to about $1,900.00 per board. Only the rich and the elite could afford to talk to the dead. Now you can find them for under $20.00, or at thrift shops (although we definitely do not recommend buying one used).
There are actually over 20 different rules that occult experts identify as essential for safely using a Ouija board. We are going to focus on the top 5 ‘what not to do’ with a spirit board. And talk about some examples of what could happen if you do not follow the rules.
1. Never Use a Ouija Board In Your Home
Okay, so we know this sounds counterintuitive. You bought the thing, and now you want to use it. It make sense to retreat to your bedroom or maybe your kitchen table, light a candle and start using your Ouija board. But this is actually one of the worst things you can do.
Spiritualists and mediums, white witches and other paranormal practitioners and specialists are comfortable using a spirit board because they know how to block out spiritual influences, and malevolent beings. You however, don’t have the experience to deal with an entity that comes through your Ouija board to make themselves comfortable in your home.
The more personal your space is (i.e., your bedroom or your car) the easier it is for a spirit or demon to attach its energy to you. We are pretty sure you know how that story ends, because just about every Ouija horror story and movie is based on that outcome. So, don’t do that.
2. Keep Talking to a Countdown Spirit
You cannot contain the excitement when the planchette moves for the first time. We all go through the same “Dude, you moved it” and “No man, I swear I didn’t” motions until we understand that we have actually connected with a spirit.
But if your planchette seems to be counting down numbers, what do you do? Say GOODBYE immediately. Much like a nuclear bomb, the countdown on a Ouija board is a spirit who is attempting to come through the board. And the ones that are strong enough to do that, are not always nice. In fact, they are dangerous. Don’t keep talking through a countdown, or you may be heading to the paranormal danger zone.
3. Dare the Entity to Show Proof (In a Rude Way)
In the movies, you know how the people using the Ouija board ask for some kind of proof that they are talking to a spirit? Something innocuous, like move the table, or make the lights flicker, or force the temperature of the room to become noticeably colder. We get it. You are excited that you finally have proof of intelligent paranormal life, and a chatty ghost.
Asking for a few harmless signs is okay but understand that you are taking a big risk. First of all, your average safe spirit (think Casper) does not have as much strength as a malevolent demon does. And when you ask for a demonstration of power, you may bet more than you asked for. And mocking a spirit is a definite no-no; it can flex and show you just how much power it has, and harm you, other occupants of the room, or start applying unwelcome influence that puts you at risk.
4. Communicate with a Spirit Who Demonstrates the Figure 8
This is another thing that some horror movies get really wrong. The characters are sitting at a table, and the Ouija board seems to warm up, by making a figure 8 with the planchette. Cool! You connected right? Yeah, you did, but the figure 8 is a demonic sign that implies eternity, and more specifically, eternal torment. So, if your planchette starts moving in a figure 8, immediately say GOODBYE. You are talking to the ‘Dark Side of the Force”.
5. Make Friends With a Spirit Named ‘ZoZo’
In 2009, an average joe kind of guy named Darren Evans posted a very public warning about using Ouija boards; in particular, he warned about a charming demon named ‘ZoZo’. After that announcement went viral, so did appearances of ZoZo on Ouija boards around the world.
According to lore and testimonials from victims of ZoZo, he begins with a figure-8 formation, and then rapidly pushes the planchette to spell “Z” “O” “Z” “O”. The origins of the demon are thought to be Sumerian, or African, and he was referenced in the 1818 publication Le Dictionnaire Infernal (demon encyclopedia written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy).
This celebrity entity likes to stay on top of the news feed, and is historically known for stalking individuals through spirit boards. And because demons are clever, he also goes by the name ZaZa, Oz, Zo, Za and sometimes Abacus or Mama.
He doesn’t play nice. The internet is full of stories of possessions and terrified individuals who connected with him on Ouija boards and were not able to say “GOODBYE” no matter how hard they tried.
One of the mysterious complications about using a Ouija board is getting rid of the thing. You bought it (or received it as a gag gift) and used it. You scared the crap out of yourself and now you want to get rid of it, so you can just throw it away right? Not so easy. The internet is also full of stories about Ouija boards sent to the trash, and mysteriously returning, with the planchette on top of the board. Even after it has been burned to ashes.
Ponder that one, and maybe think twice before attempting to talk to the ‘other side’ unless you are one of those rare people that will actually follow every one of the safety rules. You may not get a ‘do over’ if you mess it up.
Generation X gamer girl, marketing professional and closet horror writer. Lover of fast moving horror movies, slow moving zombies and historically based paranormal lore.