By Rachel Hayward
One evening in the late 1950’s some ten years plus before I was born, my parents put my two brothers, aged eighteen months and two and a half years, to bed as they did every evening. My parents were blessed with two boys (and then later myself) who slept through the night from the day we were born. We were the guaranteed twelve hours a-night children!
Once confident that their sons were asleep my parents left their house and went over the road to my Aunt’s house for an evening of food, a couple of drinks and some good company. Apparently, they did this every weekend and, in those days, this was not an uncommon behaviour.
Obviously some sixty years has passed since this evening in the 1950’s and the precise times and subject matter of the discussions of the evening have been lost to memory but the main event of the night as told to me by those who witnessed the event remains fresh in my memory. At some point during the evening and much to the surprise of my parents my Aunt produced an Ouija Board. Again, I must state that I do not know when in the evening this occurred or how the session on the board progressed but what I have been told is that at some point the planchette took on a different ‘character’ and with some force, deliberately spelt out the words ‘GO HOME,’ and then ‘YOUR CHILDREN NEED YOU.’
Somewhat astounded and as I am told, if only to prove the messenger wrong my parents returned home to check on my brothers. To say that their arrival was timely was putting it mildly. Both boys were not only wide awake but in serious difficulty. One of my brother’s had managed to get underneath his mattress and had his head wedged in the slats of the cot base whilst the other had almost succeeded in getting out of his cot. However, he had become trapped between the two cots and my parents found him hanging by his chin, his feet dangling unable to gain purchase. Both boys were instantly released from their predicament and knowing my father I expect some strong words along the lines of ‘And this time stay asleep,’ were said!
Nevertheless, the truth of the matter was, that had my parents not heeded the Board Warning both boys would probably have suffocated.
Over the years I have thought on this family story many times. Could my Aunt or my parents have manipulated the planchette? It is a possibility but the probability of that message on that particular evening, the first evening when my brothers had woken would be incredibly high. Could it have been telepathy? Again, it is a possibility but the preciseness of the words spelt out on the board were far too grown up for a toddler to have expressed. This brings me to my third thought which is, could a spirit have manipulated the board to warn my parents? My mother always believed that it was her Grandmother who spelt out the warning and nobody in the family ever contradicted her and out of respect to my mum, I won’t either.
I had heard this story from my family before the film The Exorcist was released but until the late 1970’s when I first watched the film I did not even know what an Ouija Board even looked like! When I first saw ‘Captain Howdy’ communicate with Regan the image of my parents and my aunt using the Board, their fingers on the planchette made me smile. I could not for one second imagine my father participating and it astounds me to this day that he did. Maybe, the fact that the most unlikely candidate to use a Board used it and was part of a session that saved his children’s lives enhanced my interest in the board and its history. Initially, the local library answered a few of my questions on the subject but it was not until the internet came into its own that I was able to fully research the origins of the “Good Luck” Ouija Board.
There are, it seems many rules for using an Ouija Board and most of the rules seems to be about not using it in an environment that could lead to a heightened state of fear. Just a few of the rules that I have found on the internet include that you must never use it on your own, you must only use it in the dark and you must never, never use it in a graveyard! Then there are the belief systems which have led to a different set of rules, some stating that you must always ‘open’ the board before use and most definitely ‘close’ the board after use. This is to ensure that the Spirits do not use it as a Portal and gain entry into our World after the board had been used. For me, my only rule has always been that at the end of the session to simply say ‘Goodbye.’
Regardless of whether or not you apply any of the rules when using the Board, the one obvious issue with using it, is its notoriety for misuse and the easy ability to manipulate the planchette to spell out whatever you want. For the past ten years I have ran a small team of Investigators who can be found under the name of ROPE – Researchers of Paranormal Events. We have frequently used the Ouija Board on our investigations but only ever used it with ourselves or with people we know and trust. Many years ago, at an event investigation, I once watched a young woman use the board with others and she was clearly pushing the planchette. When a woman left the table in tears because the board had spelt out that her late father had had an affair I had seen enough and stepped in. It transpired that this young woman was in fact a minor and the daughter of the owner of the location. Once, in very strong terms I explained to her the potential consequences of her actions she apologised not only to me but to all concerned and left the event in tears. And this is the true danger of the Ouija Board. It is not what or who might come through but whether or not the users are trustworthy enough not to manipulate the board for their own malevolent entertainment.
So, then there are then two questions which I feel must be answered; firstly, does the board work and if so how can we prove it?
In my opinion the Ouija Board is a tool that can be used in Paranormal Investigations. It is no more or less reliable than a Spirit Box, a KII metre, a Geoport, an interactive EMF teddy bear or doll, automatic writing or Trans-Mediumship. Indeed, I once witnessed a Trans-Medium allow the Spirit of a well-known male Inventor enter her body. Afterwards, when she regaled her experience she was told that the character that she described was completely different to character of the gentleman and whoever had spoken through her certainly wasn’t him. This Medium had, earlier in the evening, admonished me for using such a dangerous instrument as I had no control of who or what may come through. Evidence would suggest that neither did she!
The Ouija Board evokes very strong responses in people and these can be collated into four loose categories. There are the non-believers, there are the believers who are terrified of the board and what it represents and so will not go near one, there are the sceptical believers who use it but want to find the supporting evidence and there are the complete believers who accept everything that comes through on it. I consider myself to be a sceptical believer who not only looks for the supporting evidence but also believes that one’s own psyche can have an effect on what the board produces and this is why definite proof is needed.
For too long the board has been the subject of fear and ridicule. The film industry has branded the board it seems almost as the ‘Bringer of Demons’ where no good will ever come from using it. In fact, if you watch the films that include an Ouija Board a terrible death will await virtually all those who use the Board.
On the flip side many throw scorn at the board stating it is nothing more than a toy and only works due to manipulation by those on the board or at best it is influenced as described in the Ideomotor theory. In short, this Theory states that those on an Ouija Board session can unconsciously manipulate the planchette because of their current feelings and emotions. Now I am no Scientist and I do see the reasoning behind this theory but it only goes so far. Most questions asked of the board are generic and are easily open to interpretation. ‘Is there anybody there?’ ‘Can you tell me your name?’ and the probably the most well used question ‘How did you die?’ These questions I believe can be answered in two ways. Firstly, if we use the Ideomotor Theory then our imaginings will happily give us the answers. Secondly, if we accept, just for the moment that the spirit is manipulating us to use the board then the spirit would have a grand old time.
The one thing that I have learnt since investigating the Paranormal is that Spirts can and often will lie. If we again accept, just for the moment that Spirits are the energies, souls if you will of our families and friends then we must agree that the vast majority lived a very boring life. They were not murderers and nor were they murdered. They didn’t commit atrocities and nor were they famous or infamous. They were normal, everyday people living normal, everyday lives. Therefore, as a normal everyday spirit being contacted by the living why not tell a few porkies and spice things up a bit? If Spirits were us then they know us and they know our hopes and fears. Whether or not you believe in the dark side of the Paranormal there is a little bit in all of us that wonder about the existence of negative entities that were never human to start with. Over the years I have witnessed many times how Spirits can play on our qualms and invoke our darkest of fears.
Therefore, whether we are trying to prove or disprove the Ideomotor Theory, the evidence given to us on the board and the knowledge that we acquire through the Ouija Board we must set some form of parameter that we can measure the responses by. The issue is that the board cannot be a guaranteed method of communication and therefore cannot be measured under laboratory conditions. As a spirit I would not necessarily want to communicate in a ‘stale’ or ‘clean’ environment because for many it may look too frightening and alien or simply because I might not necessarily be there! To measure the accuracy of the board needs a method that is simple, easy to understand and easy to quantify. And this, until approximately five years ago was my quandary.
For many years I have wanted to come up with a fool-proof, laymen’s experiment that would unequivocally show whether or not the movement of the planchette was caused by the persons using the device or whether it was being moved by another form of energy. When I look back now I realise that not only was I exceptionally supercilious to believe that I could prove something with such certainty but I was also very naïve and so I decided to lower my expectations. I decided that an experiment that could show that potentially,those using the Ouija Board are not always either, consciously or unconsciously manipulating the board and planchette. I therefore needed direct questions with an unknown answer that could easily and quickly, be double checked. An easily, repeatable experiment that could be quantified and verified and have no ‘grey’ areas.
Now I would love to be able to say that the idea came to me in the dead of night or whilst using the Ouija Board but that would be a lie. The idea, like many others came whilst sitting on the lavatory! Whilst sitting there pondering, a vision suddenly came into my head. It was a scene from THE Ghostbusters film where Peter Venkman is conducting the ESP experiment using Zenner Cards and slowly thoughts and ideas began to knit together. Those being experimented on could not see the cards but Venkman could, instantly. If I was to combine Zenner Cards with the Ouija Board...? Strangely the first thing I needed to do was actually purchase a pack of Zenner Cards. They arrived in time for an investigation at a local Public House near the River Severn and by the end of the evening we were all astounded with the results.
The method of the experiment is really very simple:
What happens next can and will vary. What you are hoping for is that the planchette will move towards a card and match it to the one (hopefully) that you have placed safely down on a surface.
That evening when we first trialled the experiment the Spirit of a young man called Terry came through. Following the above method, we asked Terry to identify the card and four out of five times he was correct. For the last two correct attempts a member of the team that we had joined chose the cards whilst standing at the other end of the pub with a partition wall between us. He was watched by another team member choosing the card and they confirmed that neither had seen the card. On each attempt Terry chose correctly. Only on the last attempt did Terry make a mistake and choose incorrectly. I believe that this was because such was my delight at the experiment being so positive, that my joyous shouts brought the rest of the team down from the upstairs area causing a change in the energies. I have been told (although I have yet to hear it) that when I asked Terry why he could not identify the last card there was an EVP response that said “I could not see it.”
With the exception of the down-time due to the Pandemic we have attempted this experiment at virtually every location we have investigated but I must stress that the vast majority of the experiments have only been recorded on audible devices. If I am honest we have had very mixed responses. From 100% accuracy in multiple locations to 100% failures and multiple non-responses. In the case of the non-responses we have voided the experiment and these cases have not been included in our findings. The first year our results showed a 54.54 success rate which not only were we astounded at but were also amazed that this rate was higher than the recorded rates of 32% that were recorded during the Ganzfeld Experiments held in the 1980’s.
Over the past few years the rates of success have dropped down to around the 30% mark. This does not surprise me as we have conducted the experiment fewer times due to a change in the types of locations and investigations that we have explored. Though, with even this taken into consideration I remain surprised as the figures are still in keeping with the Ganzfeld results. However, there are some other results and incidences that have occurred that have not been included within the figures. These include:
We have also varied the cards at some locations, exchanging them for children’s flash cards and again with varying results. The cards that I own have both the picture and the word on them and the theory in using these is that if the ‘spirit’ cannot spell he or she can copy the word from the card and replicate it on the Board.
So, what have we (in theory) learned:
Conclusion and Contemplations
Firstly, I think it is important to stress that this experiment is not just my experiment or ROPE’s experiment. I would love more people to try this and report any findings back to myself. I am contactable via private message on Facebook or by my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would also love to see if there is a correlation between a belief system and the accuracy of the cards chosen.
The first conclusion that I have come to is that to try and prove or disprove a theory is not as easy as I first thought! This however, works both for and against this experiment. The variables that are involved in calculating the accuracy of the experiment are too great and I would go so far as to suggest that the Ideomotor theory would have the same issues. With our experiment we are reliant on:
The Ideomotor Theory would state that these actions are not down to a spirit or unknown energy source manoeuvring the planchette but our state of mind. Surely every time we conduct the experiment we have a desire for it to work and our desire should then translate into a subconscious movement that would push the planchette towards a card, any card? Yet this has not been our experience.
It is only while I have been looking and listening back on our recordings that I have realised one potential correlation to our findings. We have always had more positive results in locations where there has been historically, less animosity and has shown to be more of a supportive environment. For example, we have had no positive interaction during the experiment in any of the prisons that we have investigated. We have investigated HMP Gloucester multiple timesand each time we have had a zero-return rate. Nevertheless, other methods of communication have been most forthcoming. We have however, had strongerand accurate interactions in many of the more collaborative locations such as Community and County Halls and Educational and Medical Establishments.
When we have had positive and accurate interaction we have been left astounded. Often, we have asked the spirit to continue past the five attempts and we have been lucky that they have agreed and the accuracy has continued. When there is no way that anyone either with their finger on the planchette or blindly, choosing a random card can replicate the accuracy sometimes eight or nine times in a row my scepticism begins to diminish.
My final conclusion is one which may cause some discord. Since commencing with this experiment ROPE has, on various occasions allowed other trusted Investigators to join them on the board. One notable occurrence has happened. Each time someone has joined us who is either far more sceptical than ourselves (to the point of complete disbelief) or, those who are more willing to accept that there could be another reason for this to happen outside of the Ideomotor Theory or even, those who have never heard of the Ideomotor Theory one of two things occur. With the highly sceptical individuals the Ouija Board ceases to work and with the more ‘open’ individuals there has been more movement from the planchette and therefore a higher rate of accuracy when it comes to the Zenner Card Experiment.
I find it strange that one individual would have such an effect on an Ouija Board Session. Would the highly sceptical individual be subconsciously able to use the Ideomotor Theory to hinder any message coming through from an outside source or would their general negativity impact on the session as a whole? This seems to be a regular occurrence not just on Ouija Boards but within the Paranormal as a whole. The more sceptical the individual, the less Paranormal Activity they seem to witness. Maybe, we should change our stance and become less sceptical and more objective? After all, those of us that are living tend to communicate more with those we know we will get a response from. I am sure you would agree that one-sided conversations are hard work!
Finally, I believe that we will never confirm the true accuracy and authenticity of the Ouija Board but I do believe that there are times when a Spirit or a source of energy from outside of our consciousness and understanding can manipulate the planchette. I and many others have witnessed too many times, far too accurate a piece of information come through on a board that was not known by those taking part. How the spirits do this is, like many things, outside of our understanding and whether or not they want to convey the truth is another matter entirely. To underpin this, I would like to share with you an experience that a close colleague of mine experienced very recently. This is not my words but the words of Michelle Evans:
“…This was quite recent, (I) went for a reading with a medium who used the board, before I went I was getting ready and I said out loud OK spirit if you are really here with me now, here is a word that I would like you to get into my reading at some point tonight – I chose a word that wasn’t obscure but could play a part in my reading the word was addict. The reading progressed and not a sign of the word, although lots of info did come through that I could certainly take, the medium was about to close and asked is there any final questions I wanted to ask so I said ‘what was the word I shared with you spirit earlier as confirmation?’ And the planchette moved and spelled A D D I C T...”
Although Michelle feels strongly that the experience was Spiritual she ends her recount with the question “… Was that me or was it indeed the work of the spirit who had been around me all day and into the evening – will we ever truly know….?”
I shall end with a quote from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, that my late father used to use and would have thought as quite appropriate for this topic:
“…There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”
You can listen to the episode featuring Rachel at https://www.podpage.com/haunted-history-chronicles/experimenting-with-spirit-communication/