How Do Ouija Boards Work? The Secret Magic of Ouija

A Ouija Board and planchette.

How Do Ouija Boards Work? Understanding the Secret Magic Behind the Ouija Board

Medium Using Ouija Board

Divinatory instruments that are as forthright as Ouija are pretty rare. Mystical iconography and opaque omen tend to obscure your typical agents of augury. These are further clouded by the user’s subjectivity. But not Ouija.

With the whole alphabet displayed prominently on the board, whatever should choose to communicate can clearly spell out their message. The words “Yes” and “No” hang in the balance about the top right and left corners, making further interrogation of the “visitor” easier.

There is a numeric system at the bottom of the board, in case needed. And when it’s time to formally dismiss the spectral guest, the Ouija allows for a straightforward and unambiguous “Goodbye.”

And then there is the planchette – a spade-shaped, narrow plank with a conspicuous “eye” strategically placed in the center. The eye is the nexus between enigma and clarity. It is the crucible that refines the message – bit by bit, letter by letter.

By what force the planchette moves is shrouded in mystery. Some would posit that it moves by the will of subconscious impulses that betray our control. Still, others would offer that possession is at play – and hopefully beneficial possession at that.

What seems indisputable is that the planchette moves — of what appears to be its own volition. The board comes alive under our fingertips, revealing secrets that no one should know.

The magic that empowers Ouija flies in the face of all we presume to be possible. It can divine things beyond the scope of our knowledge – deep-rooted secrets that no one should know. Ouija allows us to reach out to the all-knowing unknown. And to our astonishment, we get a response…

A close-up of a Ouija Board, lit by candlelight.

How do Ouija Boards Work? Understanding the Ideomotor Effect and The Science That Makes Ouija Move

A Ouija board molded into metal.

Ask a trivia expert what empowers the mysterious movements of the Ouija, and they might answer glibly: “Oh! It’s the ideomotor effect.” They wouldn’t be wrong, but they might not be being entirely precise.

To put it simply, the ideomotor effect is a proven scientific phenomenon that describes the involuntary, physical reaction to sensory input. For instance, when cold, you’re body shivers. Furthermore, when you tell a lie, your fingers will betray you and twitch. These are both automatic, involuntary movements your body makes that demonstrate the ideomotor effect.

Research has shown that the ideomotor effect impacts Ouija, much like the swing of a pendulum. When you ask the board a question, the planchette will move under your hands without conscious effort. Furthermore, it has a likely chance of arriving at the correct answer because your subconscious is covertly directing it to do so.

However, there is little room for the ephemeral and therefore unprovable spirit world in the realm of science. There is no empirical proof of the spirit world—yet. Thus, science generally regards it as irrelevant.

But the ideomotor effect being the phenomenon at play when one interacts with Ouija ought not to be mutually exclusive to the influence of the spirit world. Spirits can interact with the subconscious and provide sensory input—for instance, the smell of perfume. Or a slight chill that makes the hair on your arms stand on end.

Ouija, in truth, provides a nexus by which the spirit world can interact with the material world to dramatic effect. You’ll often hear of people feeling like they were “haunted” shortly after interacting with Ouija. The Ouija board provides an opening by which a spirit can interact with the physical world. And in the presence of a strong enough entity, expect to experience ideomotor phenomena.

• Ouija Fun Fact: What’s in a Name?

If you’re wondering who came up with the name “Ouija,” it was the board itself. When Helen Peters, known for being a strong medium, asked to board its name, “Ouija” was what came through. When Peters asked the board what Ouija meant, it responded: “Good luck.”

Ouija and Possession: Does Possession Empower the Ouija Board?

Some might assert that to engage in Ouija is to temporarily (ideally) allow a spirit to take control of your body – possession, essentially. Using you as a medium and your body as a conduit, the entity takes control to communicate its message using you to move the planchette.

However, suppose a spiritual presence needs to take control of your body to relay a message. In that case, there are far more direct means of communication than Ouija. For instance, they could employ automatic writing or psychography.

Psychography allows them to bypass your conscious mind altogether. As a result, the message that the spirit desires to send can be much less prone to the biases and filters inherent in the body channeling it.

Additionally, if a spirit is possessing you, they have direct access to your mouth and voice. They could speak their message through you. Speaking through you is far more unmediated and practical than using you to move the planchette. It’s unlikely that possession engineers the Ouija planchette’s movements in most cases.

However, spiritual entities can still seize control of you while you engage with Ouija. Ouija has, in fact, been connected to numerous cases of this phenomenon. The occurrence has become so prevalent that many psychologists study cases involving Ouija-induced possession. The aim is usually to explain these supernatural events as hysteria or some fugue state of mind.

Even so, there are many cases of Ouija-induced possession that defy even scientific explanation. If tampering with Ouija leads to a spirit appropriating your body, it’s because something went wrong, not right. You usually take proper precautions to protect yourself when using any other tool. The same is true with Ouija.

• Ouija Fun Fact: Patented Technology

Ouija has a patent because it has been demonstrated to work. When attorney Elijah Bond went to retrieve a patent for the oracle board, the chief patent officer demanded a demonstration. If the board could accurately predict the patent officer’s name, the patent would be rewarded.

The Ouija board did so successfully, and on February 10, 1891, Elijah Bond was given a patent for his “toy or game.”

The Haunted Ouija Board: How the Spirit World Works its Magic on the Ouija Board

A quaint looking Ouija Board and planchette.

When a spirit involves itself in your Ouija practice, it will likely do so by haunting the actual board and planchette. “Haunting” can be a scary word, but there is no reason it should be.

When we interact with an object, as living beings, we do so physically because we reside in the physical world. Likewise, spiritual beings interact with an object spiritually, animating and haunting it with their energy.

Ouija provides quite the powerful nexus between the spirit world and the physical plane. It borrows from the querent’s energy and the spiritual entity’s resonance to create an arena that suspends the limits of the temporal realm momentarily.

So not only is Ouija haunted by the spirit seeking to communicate, but by your energies as well. This magical interplay animates the board, bringing it to life and making it much easier for communication to occur unmuddied.

It’s important to note that Ouija working by way of haunting doesn’t negate the ideomotor effect being at play. Instead, it almost confirms it. Unless you are sensitive to the influence of the spirit world, chances are you won’t sense the presence of a spirit nearby. At least not consciously.

But subconsciously, your body will react. Your body might shiver as an undetectable chill graces it. Your fingers might start to twitch. And the planchette underhand will be guided by these subtle movements until the whole picture unfolds – a message from the spirit.

• Ouija Fun Fact: The Benign Pastime

The stigma of Ouija being a portal to hell is a recent phenomenon, as Ouija was once a pleasant pastime. The sitcom I Love Lucy famously had an episode where Lucy and Ricky perform a seance using Ouija as comic relief. Norman Rockwell even painted a picture of a couple playing Ouija on their knees published in the Saturday Evening Post.

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