That said, I have to confess that between the ages of 17-18 I was deeply involved in using the Ouija. At first I used a real board, one that I bought at a thrift shop. But after awhile I would just draw the alphabet and numbers on a large piece of paper, and use a glass or some other object as an indicator. And no matter who was using the ‘board’ with me, we always received messages. After a summer of using the board almost daily, it started to become clear that this was not such a good idea. The first indication was how I physically felt while using the board. My Ouija ‘partner’ and I would put our hands on the planchette or glass and wait for it to move, and little by little I would feel my body begin to change.
It started with a feeling that I can only describe as ‘the chills’. I would literally start to shiver; not violently, but the way your body shivers when you have a fever with chills. Next, the indicator would start to move around the board. It usually started by tracing the figure eight over and over again as if it was thinking. Then, after awhile the planchette would move rapidly around the board and begin spelling out words, phrases and full sentences. The movement from one letter to the next was not tentative; it moved rapidly and with purpose. Sometimes it moved so rapidly that it was hard to predict what the word would be. For example, I remember once the letters W-R-O-U came up and I thought to myself, ‘There’s no word that starts with those letters.’ Then G-H-T followed. Wrought? ‘Is that even a word?’ I thought. Yes, it is a word. It’s a word that most 17 year old boys don’t know, an archaic version of the word “WORKED”.
What were the messages I received? There were many, and they were varied. One time a young man came through saying that he had been killed in a motorcycle accident in some town in Ohio that I had never heard of. He said that he was lost and he was asking for help. Another time, two spirits conversed back and forth with one another. One was supposedly good, and the other evil. As each took over the board, a totally different feeling would come over my body. In the end, the good spirit ‘won’ and said that God is all good and that evil cannot prevail. The session ended with the cryptic message, “You, I die”.
Speaking of which, I was often told that I would die. One spirit told me that I would be run over by a car that night, and it told me the name of the person who would kill me. Guess what? It never happened. The board would often lie to me. Some of the lies were about me, about what was going to happen to me that night or in school the next day. Lies about my friends. Predictions that never came true. Lies about people’s lives. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, more often than not, the message I received were either stories about the spirits’ lives and deaths -- stories that I could never corroborate -- or outright lies.
But not all of the messages I received were negative. The most amazing message I ever received from the Ouija board was a poem. The spirit who came through said his name was Albert Killings, and the poem he dictated was:
Never trust the wind that blows,
It often seeks but never knows,
It crawls upon the skies at night,
And often chills us with its bite.
I have searched high and low for that poem, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t exist anywhere in written literature. I now hold the copyright to the poem, which is odd since I don’t really think 17 year old Barry Pirro wrote it -- Albert Killings wrote it through me. A few days after receiving the poem, I hit upon the idea of writing a book of poetry dicted from the Ouija board. But just one other poem came through. It simply said, “The stars are holes in the sky”.
My Ouija board days ended abruptly when I was 17 years old and a spirit actually left the board and made its presence known in a physical way which proved to me that this was not something I should be fooling around with. The experience was terrifying, and I have not used the Ouija board since. I’ll tell you the full story at the end of this newsletter.
The Ouija board we know today originated with the Spiritualist movement of the late 19th century. From 1849 until 1888 the Fox sisters from Hydesville, New York became world renowned for their public seances. During these seances, mysterious knocks were heard, some answering yes or no questions by the number of knocks the spirits supposedly produced. The sisters toured the country, and even held a seance at the White House for president Franklin Pierce’s wife who was desperate to communicate with her dead child, Benny.
With the rise of the Fox sisters’ fame the Spiritualist movement was born, and other mediums came forward claiming that they too could communicate with the dead. But in October of 1888, the Fox sisters’ fame came to an abrupt end when Margaret Fox confessed in a signed statement that it was all a hoax. She told how at an early age the sisters learned that they could make loud sounds with the knuckle joints of their fingers and toes. In retrospect, it’s amazing that they were able to fool so many people for so long using just their hands and feet. It was later discovered that they also used a specially designed table that contained a spring mechanism that would strike a steel bar on the inside of the tabletop, thus producing loud rapping sounds. This table is now on display at the Rochester Historical Society. You can see a picture of it in an article in the Resources section of this newsletter.
Despite Margaret’s confession - which she later recanted after losing all of her money - the Spiritualist movement continued to flourish. Many mediums began to explore other methods of communication. Some used tables that would tip back and forth beneath their hands and spell out words as the legs tapped on the floor. But this method was slow and tedious, and some began to explore the use of alphabets on tables and eventually on boards. As the Spiritualist movement continued to expand, the use of talking boards became common, and by 1886 they were in wide use.
In 1890, businessman Elijah Bond filed for a patent for a talking board that worked by using a planchette, a rectangular device that would slide across the board to spell out words. The Kennard Novelty Company was the original manufacturer, and in 1901, William Fuld took over the talking board production.
How did the Ouija board get its name? The board supposedly named itself! In 1890, the board still didn’t have a name. On April 25, 1890, William Kennard was spending time with fellow investors Elijah Bond and Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters who was a medium. They decided to ask the board what it wanted to be called, and it spelled out “O-U-I-J-A”. When they asked what it meant, the board spelled out ‘good luck’. This story may or may not be true, as “Ouija” is also a combination of the words ‘Oui’(French for Yes) and ‘Ja’ (German for Yes).
Although Ouija boards can be found in the toy isle of many department stores, they are not all fun and games. Many people feel that Ouija boards are dangerous, and that they invite evil spirits into the lives of those who play with them. But not everyone feels this way. Some think that the use of Ouija boards is harmless, and they can be used to communicate with loved ones and spirit guides. Let’s take a look at both sides of the issue.
The Good Ouija
When the first Ouija boards were made, they were not viewed as evil. Remember, they grew out of the Spiritualist movement which had a positive view of communicating with spirits. Today, there are many people who still believe that Ouija boards are harmless, and that they can be used to contact good spirits and deceased relatives.
In her book, The Spirits of Ouija: Four Decades of Communication, author Karen A. Dahlman talks about the many positive benefits of using the Ouija board. These include contacting loved ones on the other side, spirit guides, and making new ‘spirit friends’. Ms. Dahlman feels that Ouija boards have a bad reputation because of people’s religious beliefs, and because of the way that Hollywood has portrayed the board. She thinks that using the Ouija board can actually help develop empowerment and spiritual growth. Dahlman says that she is able to contact deceased loved ones, stuck spirits (aka - ghosts), higher selves, inter-dimensional beings, angels and animals. She claims that she speaks to animals who are no longer living, and to those who are still alive.
Many authors have used the Ouija board, and some claim that entire books have been ‘dictated’ to them by spirits. Poet James Merrill used the board to write many of his works, including the 560 page ‘The Changing Light at Sandover’(1982) which consists of message from fellow poet W.H Auden, a few of Merrill’s deceased friends, and the Archangel Michael. In 1957, Sylvia Plath wrote ‘Dialogue over a Ouija Board’ after a session she had with the board. And author John G. Guller used the Ouija board to contact the spirits of some of the people killed during the airline crash of flight 401 when writing his book, ‘The Ghosts of Flight 401’.
70’s rock icon, Alice Cooper, claims that he got his stage name from the Ouija board. The board told him and a friend that Vincent Furnier (Cooper’s real name) was actually reincarnated from a 17th century witch named Alice Cooper, so he used it as his stage name.
Did you know that the Ouija board was, in part, responsible for the creation of the Alcoholics Anonymous program? Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, had a room set up in his house where he would contact spirits via the board to help him with his alcoholism. In his autobiography, Wilson acknowledged that he used the Ouija board to create the program’s famous 12 steps.
The Bad Ouija
Many people feel that Ouija boards are dangerous. I am one of them. I base my opinion on the work I’ve done as a paranormal investigator, and on my personal experiences with the board. In 2017 I conducted an investigation in Danbury, Connecticut. The case file appears on my website as “It Came from the Ouija Board”.
The case involves a woman in her mid-twenties named Abigail who used the board her girlfriend when they were in their teens. When I interviewed her about her experiences with the Ouija board Abigail explained, “We had an OK experience the first time we used the board so a few nights later we were like, ‘Let’s try it again’. It was about midnight. My mom was home, so we went upstairs to my room to a cubby hole that we used to hang out in. It was kind of like a clubhouse. That was a bad idea. The messages that were spelled out on the board were “Get out”, “I don’t like you”, and “I’m gonna kill you”. Then we heard a bunch of swearing.”
“Did you actually hear the swearing in the room with you,” I asked?
“Yes,” said Abigail. “It didn’t swear on the board, it swore out loud. It was getting mad at us. We heard the swearing right in the cubby hole with us. I don’t know if I can do it justice but it was like ‘YOU …’ then a bunch of curses. It was a deep, growling type of voice. It was a full grown man’s deep voice, and he sounded very, very angry. We could also hear stomping in the bedroom. We peeked out from the cubby hole, but there was nothing there. It sounded like heavy boots stomping on a wood floor, and it went on for a long time. We came running out of the room screaming, and my mom was like, ‘What are you screaming at?’ She hadn’t heard a thing; not the man’s voice, not the boots, nothing.”
Things went from bad to worse for Abigail. First, she began to feel as if she was being watched. Then one day she was sitting on her bed and she felt a hand grab her arm. It left an imprint that lasted for over 5 minutes, and which was witnessed by her mother. A few months later, Abigail walked into her kitchen one night and she saw a heavy set man looking in the window at her. She ran upstairs and her mother called the police. Two officers came to the house, but they didn’t find anyone. In fact, they looked outside underneath the window where Abigail had seen the man, but there were no footprints in the snow that had fallen that day.
Years later, Abigails’ fiance moved in with her, and even though he was unaware of the activity in the house, he began to have horrible nightmares every night. One night he woke up and watched a bright blue orb travel from the closet in their room, watched it cross the room, and then saw it vanish into the wall. Another night, Abigail heard two men arguing in her kitchen. No one was home at the time, so she was very frightened. She slowly made her way down the stairs, but as she stepped into the kitchen the voices stopped and she heard footsteps running away into the dining room. She ran into the dining room, but there was no one there.
Soon, things began to get even worse. A black figure with red eyes was seen standing at the far end of the upstairs hallway. Abigail said that it would just stand there and stare at her. One night, the black figure appeared in her bedroom at the foot of her bed as she was playing on her cellphone. She suddenly felt a burning sensation on her back, then ran out of the room. Two deep scratches appeared on her back. These scratches mysteriously vanished the next morning.
The black figure continued to make itself known. Abigail explained, “One day was I was standing in the kitchen looking into the dining room and I saw a black head with red eyes. I just saw a head, a black head with glowing red eyes staring at me and then, poof, it went away. It was high up on the ceiling, it was upside-down, and it was staring straight at me.” When asked her to describe the eyes, Abigail said, “They weren’t human. They don’t look like my eyes or his eyes or yours. They’re not that size. They’re bigger than normal, like the size of ping-pong balls.”
There is more to the story, but the important thing is that it all started with the Ouija board. You can read the full case file, and hear the EVP I captured by going to http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/case-files.html#Ouija
My Last Ouija Board Session
As I mentioned at the start of this article, my Ouija days ended when something actually manifested in the room with me when I was 17 years old. It was summer, and I was helping a friend look after his neighbor’s dogs while there were away for a few days. After we had walked the dogs and watered the plants in the living room, I suggested that we try the Ouija board. My friend had never used the board before, and he was skeptical, but he agreed, so we sat at the kitchen table and I drew a board on a piece of paper. We used a drinking glass as an indicator.
We started asking questions, and we watched as the glass began to slowly travel across the board. The entity who came through said that he was the spirit of my friend’s brother who had died as an infant. I never knew this about my friend, but he admitted that he did have a brother who died shortly after birth. I asked the spirit how it knew how to spell if he died as a baby. It said, “They teach me here”. It went on to say that it watches over my friend and that it protects him. Just then, the dogs who were in a room in the basement began howling. The glass began to move faster and faster around the board in a figure eight, and we suddenly heard a loud SWISHING sound come from the living room. We jumped up from our chairs and hurried into the living room. As we walked into the room we were totally shocked by what we saw.
In one corner of the room was a large, indoor palm tree. Prior to beginning the Ouija session, we had watered this tree and it was a healthy plant. Now, nearly all of the palm tree fronds were broken off the tree, and they were scattered all over the room. Some lay on the couch, others were strewn about the floor. The few remaining fronds were broken, bent, and ripped looking and were hanging off of the trunk. It was almost as if someone ran a closed fist down the trunk of the tree, then grabbed all of the leaves and threw them around the room. The dogs were still howling downstairs, and my friend and I were really afraid. We quickly cleaned up the living room, then made our way back to the kitchen.
To this day I don’t know what made us do it, but we went back to the board. I guess we needed to know what this was about. We needed an answer. I asked the board, “Did you do that to the tree?” It spelled out “Y-E-S”. My friend asked, “Why did you do it?” -- and the board spelled out, “Because I love you.”
Some might think that it was a charming answer, a message from my friends deceased brother, a happy ending. But just as the board had told me many lies before, I was sure that it had been lying to us. The spirit that came through may have had some knowledge about my friend and his deceased brother, but it was using that knowledge to lie to us. The feeling that came through the board was bad. It was not a warm, loving feeling. It was evil, and I don’t use that word very often.
By using the Ouija board you are, in a sense, entering into an agreement with unknown spirits, demons, and God knows what else. The agreement goes something like this:
“By using this Ouija board, I am allowing any and all spirits to temporarily take over my body and use my hands to transmit messages. Whether these messages are true or not, I don’t really know or care about since it’s just for fun and entertainment. After using the Ouija board, I fully expect those spirits who have taken temporary residence in my body to leave it, and to also leave my home - even though I was the one who invited them in.”
Does this make sense to you? Me neither.
Some people may think that Ouija boards are safe, and that the messages they receive are from loved ones, spirit guides, or angels. Others believe it’s just a harmless psychological game, and that our subconscious is causing our hands to move and to spell out words and phrases. But I think otherwise, so I’ll end this newsletter with the exact words I use at my lectures:
DO NOT USE OUIJA BOARDS -- THEY ARE DANGEROUS
- A very interesting and well written article about the Fox Sisters can be found HERE
- Read more about the Fox Sisters, and see photos of the ‘rapping table’ HERE
- Author Karen Dahlman talks about the positive side of Ouija Boards - Click HERE
- Click HERE to read various Ouija Board stories.
- Author Rosemary Ellen Guiley talks about her book “Ouija Gone Wild” - Click HERE
- Read about 10 famous uses of the Ouija Board HERE
- You can read 8 short, scary Ouija Board stories by clicking HERE
Ouija Board Collecting