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Shades of Danger
Theory & Superstition Regarding

By Chas Bogan


It is common for folk to regard talking-boards with fear. Partly to blame for this reputation is the role Ouija boards have played in movies and campfire tales, in which they often serve as hackneyed props, gateways through which menacing spirits enter into the story. Folk who have been exposed to such references must therefore wonder if their experience with a talking-board might include some evil force à la Captain Howdy from ‘The Exorcist.’ Why then, given their reputation, have folks continued to be drawn to them?

That there is fear, a sense of danger, surrounding talking-boards is part of their allure. The same desire to experience something supernatural and spooky draws us to the Ouija and also to those celluloid ghouls with which they often share the silver-screen. It is the thrill of danger and the delight at being slightly frightened that draws us. Of course, those who consider themselves to be earnest mediums have mostly moved on from that novice thrill, and claim to be quite comfortable chatting with their spirit allies through a talking-board. But for others the Ouija is something spooky to play with at slumber parties, and it is in that context that most persons are first attracted to the pull of the planchette.

The topic of danger is wide and includes a variety of perceived threats.

  • Reliance on superstitions
  • Mental anguish
  • Addiction
  • Possession
  • Energetic Vampirism
  • Physical attacks

As we discuss these particular dangers, we will also examine the widely debated nature of said dangers. Often, a danger is calculated according to how one believes talking-boards work. For those who believe that it is all a psychological phenomena, the danger comes in the form of self-induced hysteria, wrought in a psyche compromised by fear. Those who ascribe to the psychological model will regard tales of frightening phenomena as being all in the person’s mind or else group frenzy. To the contrary, others believe that actual disembodied entities are capable of producing disturbing phenomena. Both camps place a certain amount of blame on the victims of such ‘hauntings.’ Pragmatic minds will often be sensitive to—if simultaneously critical of—those who let their fears overwhelm them. Whereas the more metaphysically minded will regret that persons were not adept enough to have safeguarded themselves against such malfeasance. Whatever the reasons attributed to the danger, both sides agree that negative experiences do occasionally occur.

Whether these terrifying experiences are real or imagined may be a matter of speculation, but in either paradigm superstition plays a role in making people feel either secure or menaced. The following is a list of superstitions regarding the use of talking-boards. In my opinion, most are baseless if not outright silly, but what matters to a large degree is the individual’s relationship to these various warnings. Faith is a strong force for strengthening one’s resolve against negative influences, be they psychological or metaphysical.

  • Never use a board when under the influence of drugs or alcohol!
  • Never use a board when you are sick!
  • Never use a board in bad weather, particularly during a lightening storm!
  • Never use a board alone!
  • Never use a board if you have a wound or are menstruating!
  • Never permit the planchette to fall from the board!
  • Never use a talking-board in a graveyard!
  • Never use a talking-board where a horrible death occurred!
  • Never drink from a glass that has been used in place of a planchette!
  • Never leave the planchette on a board when it is not in use!
  • Never ask when you are going to die!
  • Never ask where treasure is buried!
  • Never read aloud an unknown word for it might be a magic-word that has evil consequences!
  • Never use a board when it is not astrologically appropriate, such as when Mercury is retrograde!
  • Never ask an 'entity' to move an object beyond the board!
  • Never speak or laugh while an 'entity' is communicating because they are easily offended!
  • Never disrespect the 'entities' you interact with!

Although it is good to educate and be educated concerning such talking-board lore, knowing the relationship some persons have towards superstition makes the endeavor problematic, in that it can fuel hysteria. When one is feeling psychically menaced often she or he will look for incidents to affirm their belief. Therefore confirmation of a lightening cloud the next county over can be seen as an omen of something sinister. As the saying goes, ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ Superstition is a personal thing. Few of us actually believe that bad luck will follow us should we walk beneath a ladder, and yet, few of us will walk beneath a ladder if given an equally easy route. My advice is to avoid those practices that make you uneasy, but not to freak out should any of them occur.

Even a strict adherence to superstition may not guard against ‘bad spirits,’ some would say. So additionally there are omens harking the presence of evil.

  • If the planchette goes to the four corners then you have contacted an evil spirit!
  • If the planchette makes a figure eight then you have contacted an evil spirit!
  • If the planchette counts down through the numbers or goes backwards through the alphabet then you have contacted and evil spirit!
  • If the talking-board is burned it will scream, and anyone hearing the scream will have only thirty-six hours to live!

One of the reasons why we cannot accept every superstition is that many of them conflict. Whereas one will say that laughter offends the spirits, another will say that laughter attracts them. Whereas one will say that you should never use a board in a place where spirits dwell, another will say that doing so is entirely the point. Whereas one will warn not to use a board when the veils between the worlds are thin, such as during a full moon or on Halloween, others will say that those are the most opportune times.

A reliance on superstition can be dangerous in itself, in that it numbs the mind against reason, and can in some instances be obsessive and stifling. Equally dangerous is an emphasis on dogma.

Whereas actions regulated by unfounded fears or unanalyzed beliefs can be termed superstitious, mindful metaphysical theories often inform one’s technique. Yet as with most personal beliefs, you cannot expect others to recognize your practice and dogma.

Beliefs and techniques change according to the occult climate of any given era. For example, with the ascendancy of Wicca, which often stresses that energy is best manifested between sexual opposites, some insist that only a man and woman together should use the board. While this is a reasonable suggestion for those whose spiritual practices strive for such balance, the danger here is when one’s personal belief becomes dogmatic and is intolerant towards the practices of others. Continuing with the topic of sexual balance, some see this belief as metaphysically unfounded and heterosexist (seeing how it is particularly limiting for persons whose cultures recognize more than the two sexes known in the west, or persons who are transgender). Others would agree that we all have within us elements both masculine and feminine, polarity and harmony, discord and resonance, and so on. The extent to which a person is balanced within his or herself may be more important than the preponderance of Y or X chromosomes in their reproductive cells. Many see that nature has many more dynamics in play than simply opposites of masculine or feminine, or black and white. Would anyone suggest that because the number three is fundamental (we each have a left and a right and a center, and a past and a present and a future, and know a below and an above and an in-between) that three persons would be required to use the planchette? Or perhaps four people, since there are four cardinal directions? Yet if polarity features highly in your philosophy then you might feel most comfortable working boy/girl.

As with many issues that are spiritual in nature, you will find the topic of talking-boards to be deep in superstition and dogma. My advice…

  • Explore bravely but with caution.
  • Learn from your experiences.
  • Decide for yourself what you believe.
  • Share your wisdom with those who might benefit.
  • Allow others to develop their own understandings.

Having begun our observation of how talking-boards are deemed dangerous by presenting two distinct interpretations of the phenomena, the psychological theory and the supernatural theory. We have also seen, as with the topic of polarity, how differently technique can manifest even among persons agreeing that the phenomena is supernatural. Indeed, the difference in belief does not narrow simply because two people agree that the phenomena is psychological or else supernatural.

The psychological model presents some distinct theories of how the phenomena is manifested. Chief among these is that the planchette is moved by barely detectable ticks generated by those fingers in contact with it. As with pendulums, and to a more active degree with automatic writing, one’s own mind, albeit not his conscious mind, drives the planchette.

Returning to our topic of danger, under the consideration of Automatism Theory (which stresses that the hands touching the planchette cause its movement), the danger exists primarily in what damage might be done to a fragile mind. Beyond the effects of fear that we previously discussed in relation to a person’s discomfort over broken superstition, the conscious mind might not always be prepared or stable enough to cope with what the unconscious expresses. While this behavior could bring to the surface disturbing drives, such as might be violent or sexual, more likely, given the manner in which the human unconscious mind expresses itself dramatically and with symbolism, the experience might resemble a haunting dream.

In addition to Automatism Theory, there is another concept that suggests the phenomena is psychological. Denial might also play a part, in that the person using the planchette might consciously cause certain words to be spelled out, then later be in denial of having done so, so that he might be able to revel in a confirmation of ‘supernatural’ involvement in his life. The danger here is evident, and the elation gained by such self deceptive belief will likely be countered by his knowing unconscious, which will struggle with the discrepancy, manifesting as bad dreams or depression that will seem to have no known cause.

As to how theories of mind manipulation apply to multiplayer events, the theories differ. One suggests that group hysteria plays a part, producing audio-visual perceptions, a transient, shared schizophrenia. The other theory suggests that in such instances where more than one hand touches the planchette that its movement is the result of a single player’s will, be it recognized or not.

A danger recognized by both of the psychological or supernatural theory is that of addiction. The issue here is not to what extent the information derived from a board is helpful or harmful, rather it is the degree to which some persons come to depend on divination to maneuver through life. While few would argue that it is a bad thing to shuffle out the tarot cards when faced with a challenging dilemma, it is possible for some persons to reach a point where they must consult the bones each time they contemplate stepping out of the house. Such persons loose all ability to reason and decide one their own which direction their life should go. Besides that concern, there is the fact that not all information derived from such sources may be legitimate, or in your best interest. If you take the idea that all the information being derived is arising from your unconscious, then you might note that reasoning resides in the conscious mind, meaning that the pursuits sought by a talking-board will not likely be thought out in manner considerate of your safety or long-term benefit. Otherwise, if you believe these messages to have come from spirits, you would do well to question how it that they know everything. Some believe that spirits instigate addiction. This is known as ‘progressive entrapment’ and tops our next list dangers arising from unscrupulous spirits.

  • An entity predicts and creates positive events in a persons life, until him or her is addicted and dependant on the entity’s council!
  • Evil spirits (and evil people in general) are likely to win you over with flattery!
  • Evil spirits will often assert that you have untapped psychic power within you, getting you to raise psychic energy in an attempt to practice floating a pencil or performing some other magickal act, all the while siphoning off you energy to feed!
  • Spirits will pretend to be people they are not!

So therein lies the danger recognized by the psychological set. Interesting perhaps, but not nearly as intriguing as manipulation by dead people or demons. So lets move on to the supernatural believers and what they have to say.

For those believing in actual spirits, their approach depends a lot on their outlook on the spirit-world, to what extent they perceive the spirits they seek to contact as being helpful guides, or benign dead folk, or threatening souls damned to unrest.

It is this latter category that conjures dark stories and dire warnings, and commands much of the dialogue on the matter. Not that there is a shortage of persons to tell you how their angel or spirit guide changed their life in a positive way by using a talking-board as the means of communication. Nor is there a lack of persons eager to share the fact that Aunt Elly is whooping it up in the afterlife, or that Uncle Edgar is just as cranky on the other side as when he used to shake his cane at kids who would wander into his yard. However, persons who warn of destructive spirits are those whose voices often are the loudest, and whose horrifying tales are much more likely to be remembered. Behind their hype of madness and mayhem is a specific view of what sort of spirit is likely to be contacted via a Ouija.

Among the many beliefs of what happens to our spirits when we die, one doctrine most often voiced by persons suspicious of spirits regards such ghosts as are available to interact through a talking-board as spiritual hobos. One issue taken with novice Ouija practitioners is the lack of purpose. Rather than calling on any specific spirit, often a group dabbling in the game will ask to talk to whomever is present, thereby attracting whichever spirit makes himself available.

Contacting someone with whom you have a past is preferred; but even that will not detract persons who hold the belief that our ancestors dwell beyond our easy reach and only those lesser souls come to play. They would argue that many of the friends and historical persons contacted through a Ouija are actually mischievous spirits impersonating our beloved dead. As with all things, there does not exist a means to prove or disprove the theory. A spirit who shares some knowledge known only between you and a deceased loved one can be explained away as having read your mind (as some suppose spirits can). Others who discredit the notion of spirits altogether would explain such an occurrence not as being a matter of your mind having been read, but as your mind having behaved as a spirit. There is no debate to be won one way or another, but experiences of your own will allow you to formulate your own conclusions.

Returning to the idea that you are most likely to encounter spirits of a less than elevated nature, they are often characterized in a few ways, each progressively unflattering. Some are seen merely as slackers, who would rather stick around to mess with the living than move on. Other earthbound spirits are thought to be lost from their respective places of rest due to tragic events that left them distraught. Then there are those spirits who are downright evil, the souls of murderers and madmen who dwell in the darkness and prey upon the guileless like vampires.

Most mediums I have spoken with concede that although there are some bad apples wandering the ether, they are not dominant, either in number or influence. Here is where those who earnestly believe in spirits often embrace the psychology of those who do not, asserting that although a spirit might be manipulative, they are no more so than any living person you are likely to meet. Regard them as you would anyone, not believing everything they spell out for you. I will give further detail later about what things you can do to strengthen your will and what precautions you can take to feel secure in your task. For now, I will put forth these common bits of talking-board folklore.

  • Turning over the planchette will keep an evil spirit from getting loose!
  • Placing a silver coin on the board will keep away evil spirits!
  • Placing the planchette on the word ‘goodbye’ will send spirits packing!

Yet there are those who claim that it would be folly to believe that the dark powers you contact could be dismissed with merely a white candle or scented oil. What discussion about talking-board would be complete without mentioning Satan?

While it is impossible to prove that anything supernatural happens at all through the use of a talking-board, it is more impossible still to prove any supernatural explanation is superior to any other. Yet those who dominate the topic about talking-board are often the ones claiming them to be tools of the Devil, scaring folks away before they are able to make up their own minds about the phenomena. At their worst, such persons quote passages from the Old Testament as ‘proof’ of their beliefs.

Here are the most popular ones, quoted from the King James Version.

  • {Leviticus 19:31} ‘Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them…’
  • {Leviticus 20:6} ‘And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.’

For fundamentalists who believe that today’s version of the Bible had almighty God as its editor, these verses are reason enough to avoid seeking spiritual knowledge beyond what their particular religious institution endorses. Although biblical quotes are insufficient for making a case that the spirits attracted to talking-board are demonic, we have seen how that belief that talking-board attract evil is not limited to religious conservatives. Anyone who has ever been spooked by a board, or come to believe the horrifying reports they have heard, are likely to warn others away from using a talking-board Perhaps that is for the best, being how the pious are rarely fun to play with, and the secrets gained from talking-board belong to those who are daring enough to try them and whose minds are open enough to receive them.

Earlier we looked at Automatism Theory as the process through which one’s mind manipulates the planchette by one’s own hand, but another theory claims that although movement is controlled by one’s hand that there is a separate mind influencing the motion, that of a spirit possessing those hands. This is a classic form of mediumship in which one allows his or herself to be used as a vessel. Those active in this type of channeling generally take precaution, relying on their spirit guide(s) to keep away the riff-raff, or casting around themselves sphere of light that they believe evil unable to penetrate. Each has his or her own emphasis on safety, but in the opinion of others, no level of possession is wholly safe. They fear that, as in the Exorcist, a more controlling possession will occur beyond the mere ticks believed to direct the planchette.

Although you could dig up some stories of people forced to do evil deeds while possessed by some evil spirit, loosing control of one’s body is often less of a threat to channelers than is psychic vampirism, the perceived ability of a spirit to drain a living person of essential energy. Again, most adepts develop what they believe to be safeguards against such a threat, but the concern is for the novice user of the board who gets drained without knowing it.

Last among out list of dangers is the category of physical attacks, such as are claimed by some accounts. Among the literature one will find no shortage of tales involving levitating objects, ghostly forms or floating orbs, bleeding walls and similar ilk. Again, we find ourselves in territory that is troublesome to prove. Given how suggestive and easily deceived humans are, it is reasonable that many would dismiss outrageous claims of physical menace. Some who do not disbelieve claims of moving tables and so forth, who do not assume that all such claims are fantasy or fabrication, yet also do not believe in spirits find an alternative explanation in parapsychology, especially telekinesis—which they might likewise draw on to explain the very movement of the planchette. Others, believing that the spirits themselves move the planchette see it as no jump to accept that a spirit himself produced poltergeist activity.

So there you have the dangers some associate with what has become a popular parlor game. It’s spooky stuff, unheeded by the many people who reach out to play with it. Beyond some of the more outrageous claims of insanity and spiritual warfare is the mundane reality that most who use the board get gibberish if anything, after which it is stacked in the coat closet between some old photo albums and a monopoly board. If lucky, it will be used as a serving tray come Halloween, otherwise it is likely forgotten.

While the talking-board’s dramatic reputation will continue to set an often spooky atmosphere, this only enhances the experience. Those who wish to use the talking-board, as a means by which to contact their unconscious or as a means of exercising spiritualist skills, will develop their own practice and understanding of how the process works.


© Carnivalia 2006
(This article may not be reproduced without the consent of the author, Chas Bogan.)


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