Tales from the Psychic Toolbox -------------------------- THE OUIJA BOARD

“The magic is inside you. There ain’t no crystal ball.” Dolly Parton
Crystal balls, Ouija boards, tarot cards, etc. --- objects like these have become clich├ęs in our culture, objects to play with at parties or decorate with at Halloween.

But perhaps there’s something more to them.

If psychic ability exists, then why not psychic tools? Because that’s what these really are. If I’m examining my finger in search of a splinter, I might use a magnifying glass in order to see it more clearly. It certainly focuses my view on minute details. I’m thinking that psychic tools might be used in this way as well. Some people use them to focus their abilities. The power is not in the tools themselves but in the persons wielding them – or perhaps in the energies they connect with.

Did you know that the topic of psychic tools causes controversy even among psychics? Apparently there are two schools of thought. One, the intuitive camp, maintains that only the gift itself should be used. Others feel that whatever helps the psychic to access and express their gift is as acceptable as a plumber using a pipe wrench or an artist using a brush.

Over the next few blogs, let’s explore these psychic tools one at a time.


Ouija (wee-JA or wee-GEE) as we know it today is likely made by Parker Brothers and marketed as a game. (Hands up if you got one for Christmas or giggled over one at a slumber party! Is there any girl who hasn’t asked who she was going to marry?) It consists of a rectangular board on which the alphabet is printed, and a planchette – a small wooden triangle or heart supported on castors or wooden feet. The participant rests his fingertips lightly on the planchette and it glides over the board, pointing to various letters and numbers to spell out a message or answer questions.

Also called a spirit board, talking board or witch board, the planchette on its own was a popular psychic tool and widely used in the Great Spiritualist Movement of the mid-nineteenth century. Sometimes the wooden planchette had a pencil affixed to the pointer so that messages could be physically spelled out on paper. A teacup with a handle was often used as a planchette in a pinch, or a pendant necklace gently swung like a pendulum. Either would point to letters of the alphabet or basic yes and no answers on a piece of paper. The idea of having a preprinted board to use with a mass-produced planchette wasn’t patented until 1890.

By the way, no one had heard of the name Ouija until the board and planchette were marketed as a set. In fact, no one really knows to this day what the word means or who exactly came up with it. The name itself is not patented – it’s long since passed into the language of pop culture.

So how does it work? Is the Ouija’s planchette guided by the person’s subconscious mind, or does it tap into their psychic energy? (And if you’re psychically inclined, is there a difference?) As a writer I can visualize ideas coming to me just because my mind is quiet and focused – but some people have written entire books using an Ouija board! Of these, most claim to have “channeled” the work from an unseen entity.

Mediums suggest that the Ouija board can also be used to channel messages from beyond. Does it work? I read recently that renowned psychic Sylvia Browne strongly recommends against the use of an Ouija board. Her analogy is that it’s like throwing open your front door to absolutely anyone and everyone – and not everyone is friendly. Certainly there is no shortage of scary anecdotes about the device.

When I was fifteen, a group of us (all nerdy members of the library club) held a candlelight session with an Ouija board in a very old house on the outskirts of town. We each took a turn with the planchette. The more outgoing of us would embellish what the board was “saying” for the entertainment of our friends. The shyer ones would pass it to the next person quickly.

Then it was Cliff’s turn. He was the nerdiest of all of us and uncrowned king of the skeptics. He hadn’t wanted to play with the Ouija board in the first place, but agreed finally. He worked the board, delivering witty little answers to our questions – and then he got very quiet. The planchette slowed.

“Someone’s here,” he said.

We thought he was playing. Joanna asked the board to spell out who was here, but it didn’t get a chance. Cliff began speaking, slowly but steadily. He felt a presence and identified it as Grey Squirrel, a native man who claimed to have once lived near where the old house now stood.

This was a great tale! We watched Cliff’s face in the flickering candlelight, as he described the man’s features, his life, his home, his family. Then in mid-sentence, he screamed out “Smallpox!” and jumped into the middle of the circle, rolling and flailing. It would have been a great prank, an expertly-delivered fright at the end of a scene-setting story...

Except it wasn’t. We turned on the lights and our 6’2” skeptic was ashen-faced and huddled on the floor, clutching a blanket around himself. Crying. “What was that?” he asked repeatedly. “What was that?”

We didn’t know.

Later, after he’d settled down and caught his breath (and had a stiff drink), Cliff revealed that at first he’d been intrigued as words and descriptions seemed to “just come” to him. That ended abruptly as complete terror took hold with a single word, a word that had struck fear and death into the hearts of many in centuries past. “His family all died,” he said. “And Grey Squirrel too. All of them. I just suddenly knew it. I knew it. I’ve never been so f---ing scared. What the hell was that?”

I still don’t know. Did our friend tap into residual energy of a long-ago occurrence? Was there a ghost still wandering the area who just wanted to be heard? Or had we all taken a step into the Twilight Zone? One thing I do know – Cliff didn’t make it up. Believe me, I’d seen him onstage in theatre group and he just wasn’t that good of an actor.

So now it’s YOUR turn. Did you have an Ouija board as a kid? (By the way, there are PINK ones now, apparently designed for little girls!) Do you have a story of your own to share? Or you could suggest a topic for a future blog – what paranormal object, creature or occurrence do YOU want to learn more about?

Dani Harper