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View Full Version : Good way to debunk Ouija board


Hilarity N. Suze
01-13-2007, 03:37 AM
So, a friend of mine got a Ouija board for Christmas, and she's dead set on convincing me that it really, really, knows what it's talking about. Really. She is just as amazed by it as when she played around with one in college.

She and her husband played around with it, and it told them a great many things, and it was always right--they knew this, because they always knew the answers.

Okay, so I'm a skeptic. I know what moves the Ouija board. The players. I'm thinking the reason it won't move for just one person is because that one person would KNOW who is moving it (i.e. the only person touching it) but when there are two or more there is a tension, it could be anybody, and everybody says it wasn't them.

I know there must be a great way to debunk this. The only way I could think of,though, was to tell her to ask it something she didn't know the answer to but could find out, afterward, to see if Ouija was correct. She argued that it was hard to know what you didn't know an answer to--so I asked her if either she or her husband knew Murphy's first name. (Of course she immediately said, "Murphy who?") I said to ask it, and I'd tell her later if she was right. She said, what if it comes up with a different Murphy? I said to ask it (I feel silly even typing "ask it" since it's an inanimate object) the first name of the Murphy who the law is named after, and I think that's a pretty good test as it's not something the average person knows, but can easily be found. (And not by a Ouija board.)

Oddly enough, even though a week has passed, she hasn't come up with an answer. I know I read somewhere about another way to prove the Ouija board was just a gimmick, but I can't find it. Any and all ways to debunk this thing welcomed!

Ice Wolf
01-13-2007, 04:12 AM
Could try using blindfolds, perhaps?

DMark
01-13-2007, 04:21 AM
Not all things Ouija are false - some things take more time to become relevant.

I have told this story before here on the boards - and it is absolutely true:

When I was in Junior College, Kathy was one of the gang I hung around with and would see at parties. Kathy had a thing for the supernatural and was always trying to organize a seance or get someone to use the Ouija board with her. At one party, everyone else was running around as usual and Kathy roped me into sitting with her at the Ouija board. Kathy was dating a guy named John so it came as no surprise when her first question was, "will I marry John?"

The Ouija moved to YES.

Kathy was quite pleased and said, "How many children will we have?"

The Ouija moved to 3 and then to O.

Kathy seemed perplexed...even in her ambitious dreams, 30 kids seemed a little out of the question, so she tried again.

"How many children will we have?"

The Ouija moved to 3 and then to 0.

I could see Kathy's face scrunch up but no one could ever accuse her of not being a determined woman so again she asked, "How many children will we have?"

Again the Ouija moved to 3 and then to 0.

By now, Kathy was a bit disgusted and we ended the Ouija session before I even had a chance to ask anything, but that was fine with me. Shortly after that party, I moved away.

Fast forward to 20 years later. I came back to town to visit and was asking my friend Janet about the old gang. Everyone seemed to have moved on and was happy and then I said, "Oh, how is Kathy doing?" I hadn't seen her since that party and the Ouija night.

Janet smiled, "Fine. She married John, you know."

I didn't know, but was glad to hear it and said, "do they have any kids?"

Janet shook her head and said, "no. She has had three miscarriages."

My blood ran cold.

Twenty years earlier, Kathy had asked, "How many children will we have" and the Ouija had said, "3 and 0"

jjimm
01-13-2007, 05:35 AM
In my more gullible youth, I once asked a ouija board the name of my grandfather, but left the room to allow my friends to produce the answer. I was expecting "George", but it spelled out "Guilam" - my other grandfather's name is William, and Guilluame is French for William. Amazing? No, IMO, wishful thinking.

Sadly I think DMark's story I think it is just a coincidence too: if it had said "3 M I S C A R R I A G E S" I might be less skeptical - sorry dude!

We had a big fad with ouija at college. As well as Stalin, Hitler, Jesus, Buddha, and all sorts of other interesting dead people, we contacted Buddy Holly, who told us he had been killed by the CIA. Amazing!

Visiting the house of the main ouija enthusiast a few weeks later I espied a book he'd been reading, about a CIA conspiracy to kill Buddy Holly. So I arranged a session without him, and we contacted nobody and nothing.

It's the ideomotor (http://skepdic.com/ideomotor.html) effect.

glee
01-13-2007, 05:54 AM
Ask it to predict lottery numbers.

Black Train Song
01-13-2007, 06:06 AM
When I was a kid I got into this for a little while. I got my sister to use the board with me. I asked (it) why it took more than one person for the ouja to work and the answer I got back was "spiritual togetherness". At the time neither one of us would've thought to come up with something like that. That freaked me out for a little while. I knew deep down inside that it was one of us who spelled that out but I wasn't sure which one of us it was (I'm still not). That drove me to thinking of how complex the human mind is and how deceptive it can be to its own self.

Paul in Qatar
01-13-2007, 06:36 AM
IIRC, the Ouija Board has a copyright notice on the lower right corner. The Forces of the Underworld do not need copyright notices. Milton Bradley does. Pretty well settles it for me.

FriarTed
01-13-2007, 08:47 AM
IIRC, the Ouija Board has a copyright notice on the lower right corner. The Forces of the Underworld do not need copyright notices. Milton Bradley does. Pretty well settles it for me.

They don't NEED copyright notices, but that doesn't mean they won't use them!

Bwah-hah-hah-hah!

Vinyl Turnip
01-13-2007, 09:45 AM
Could try using blindfolds, perhaps?

Yeah. Blindfold the participants (thoroughly), then have a non-blindfolded person rotate the board randomly so nobody "playing" knows which end is up. Then ask the questions—especially ones that require more than just a yes-or-no answer.

My psychic abilities tell me you're likely to see drastically fewer coherent answers, and many more that look like "TXP5XBLQ," if the planchette lands on anything at all.

The credulous response will probably be that the "spirits" require the use of the participants' vision to "see" the board, or that they're "angered" by the use of subterfuge to try to "trick" them, etc. If that strikes someone as a plausible explanation, I'd probably consider him or her a lost cause anyway.

saoirse
01-13-2007, 12:11 PM
My psychic abilities tell me you're likely to see drastically fewer coherent answers, and many more that look like "TXP5XBLQ," if the planchette lands on anything at all.

The credulous response will probably be that the "spirits" require the use of the participants' vision to "see" the board, or that they're "angered" by the use of subterfuge to try to "trick" them, etc. If that strikes someone as a plausible explanation, I'd probably consider him or her a lost cause anyway.

Well maybe the spirit is of someone who died before their first birthday. There must be an awful lot of them out there.

When I was a teenager, I knew a girl who has a Ouija board. I was an enthusiastic participant because she was cute and had long long brown hair, and always wore Dolphin shorts. The best part was, for the thing to work right, we had to sit with it on our laps, with my left knee as far up between her legs as it would go, and with her left knee stuck between my legs. Sometimes, the board would start to move slowly up and down, and then vibrate faster and faster. It is important not to break the connection, then, becasue it could anger the spirits.

Ice Wolf
01-13-2007, 12:14 PM
When I was a teenager, I knew a girl who has a Ouija board. I was an enthusiastic participant because she was cute and had long long brown hair, and always wore Dolphin shorts. The best part was, for the thing to work right, we had to sit with it on our laps, with my left knee as far up between her legs as it would go, and with her left knee stuck between my legs. Sometimes, the board would start to move slowly up and down, and then vibrate faster and faster. It is important not to break the connection, then, becasue it could anger the spirits.That could explain most of the popularity right there. :D

Lissa
01-13-2007, 12:31 PM
Here's a test:

Make the "operators" turn their backs. Write down a three or four digit number on a piece of paper, showing it around to the ceiling and all corners of the room so the "spirits" can see it. Then, ask the operators to get the numbers from the Oija board. You could so the same with a word like "shoe" or even use a picture from a book.

Renee
01-13-2007, 02:03 PM
I know there must be a great way to debunk this. The only way I could think of,though, was to tell her to ask it something she didn't know the answer to but could find out, afterward, to see if Ouija was correct. She argued that it was hard to know what you didn't know an answer to--so I asked her if either she or her husband knew Murphy's first name. (Of course she immediately said, "Murphy who?") I said to ask it, and I'd tell her later if she was right. She said, what if it comes up with a different Murphy? I said to ask it (I feel silly even typing "ask it" since it's an inanimate object) the first name of the Murphy who the law is named after, and I think that's a pretty good test as it's not something the average person knows, but can easily be found. (And not by a Ouija board.)

Oddly enough, even though a week has passed, she hasn't come up with an answer. I know I read somewhere about another way to prove the Ouija board was just a gimmick, but I can't find it. Any and all ways to debunk this thing welcomed!

Well, who's to say that all spirits with whom one might be conversing know which Murphy you're talking about and what his first name was? Not the best test, assuming imperfect souls.

I don't particularly believe in the ouija board, but I found one in a closet one evening when I was hanging out with my husband, my sister, and her boyfriend. We started playing around with it. It was just for fun, but I feel very confidant that neither my sister or my husband would have consciously moved the thingy (and I know I didn't). My sister's boyfriend was very Christian, and totally freaked out by the whole thing--didn't want to do it but we made fun of him until he participated. ;) Anyway, we got some movement, asked the "spirit" his name, which I forget, and asked when he died. There was something about the civil war, and then a year date. We looked up the year date and it was, indeed, during the civil war. None of us are history people and none of us could have told you the exact years the civil war started or ended. My sister's bf totally freaked out; it was pretty fun.

I don't really make much of this, but I'm bored and felt like typing it out.

ianzin
01-13-2007, 02:50 PM
According to the story I heard, Michael Faraday had an interesting way of 'debunking' the ouija board. He arranged it such that the four participants all stood on moveable, wheeled platforms while they took part. If they pushed on the glass, they would move backwards (action and reaction). If the glass moved of its own volition, they wouldn't move at all. Of course, under these conditions the glass never did move or do anything spooky.

DMark
01-13-2007, 04:04 PM
Sadly I think DMark's story I think it is just a coincidence too: if it had said "3 M I S C A R R I A G E S" I might be less skeptical - sorry dude!



I grant you that 99% of the time, it is total bunk...but on another occasion (you only remember the ones that come true) a friend and I were trying to find a bass player for our new garage band. So for some stupid reason (hey, we were about 12 years old) we asked the Ouija...at the time we were living in Illinois and it gave us the name of a guy and his phone number in California. OK - so his parents were not at home and we called the number - the guy's mother answered, gave the phone to her son and he was indeed a kid our age with the exact first name, and yes, he did play bass guitar! Of course, the few thousand miles between us made it difficult to get together for practice sessions, but freaky all the same.

BTW, back when I was teaching in Berlin, a few Brits told me that Ouija boards were officially "illegal" in the UK...they said people had them of course, but that you were not allowed to just go to your local toy store and buy one. Any truth to that?

Cat Whisperer
01-13-2007, 05:40 PM
<snip> That drove me to thinking of how complex the human mind is and how deceptive it can be to its own self.
I had a funny experience just a little while ago like this - I was looking at the side of a van with lettering on it, and I was mis-reading what it said. I said it out loud to my husband, because what I mis-read struck me funny, and as he pointed it out, the letters re-arranged themselves as I watched. I was seeing what I expected to see - my brain was filling in the letters for me that weren't there. Something people don't think about much, but which I believe to be absolutely true, is that you can't trust your brain as far as you can throw it. Our "life experiences" are a complex mish-mash of truth, lies, misconceptions, mis-rememberings, even other people's experiences that we have adopted as our own.

As for Ouija boards, I don't particularly believe in them, but I don't mess with them, either - I'm very much in the "better safe than sorry" camp on that kind of stuff. I've had some extremely vivid dreams in which a demonic presence was trying to take my soul, that kind of thing, and I just ain't playing around with stuff like that. I don't really believe that my dreams were real, either, but you have a dream like that and see where you stand afterwards.

Diogenes the Cynic
01-13-2007, 07:16 PM
Ouija boards are bunk 100% of the time. They were invented as a parlor game and there has never been a shred of anything supernatural about them. People just move the damn marker themselves. 100% of the time, with no exceptions, people are moving the marker themselves. Blindfolds are the easiest way to debunk them. When the human participants can't see the board the "demons" can't see it either.

August West
01-13-2007, 10:17 PM
Yep. One of my best friends in 7th grade had a Ouija board and it told us that he had 3 different ghosts in his house. Names, dates and manners of death, etc.

Except it was me moving that thing around every time, I thought it was hilarious. But he still talks about that and how weird it was.

Black Train Song
01-14-2007, 06:30 AM
I had a funny experience just a little while ago like this - I was looking at the side of a van with lettering on it, and I was mis-reading what it said. I said it out loud to my husband, because what I mis-read struck me funny, and as he pointed it out, the letters re-arranged themselves as I watched. I was seeing

Um, what did the lettering read and what did you think it read?

I was passing by a building on a train last night and saw piles of snow outside on the ground (Philly, 50 degrees). I was pretty relieved when I finally saw that it was outside of and ice skating rink. Whew.

jormundgondir
01-14-2007, 01:05 PM
We had a pretty lively ouija board phase while i was in college, with very real-feeling, engaging, complex and convincing conversations. Of course the board seemed to be more effective with certain people working the it, but also when certain people were merely in the room, and there were a couple of different "characters" in the board we chatted with regularly. I'm not one to put much stake in the supernatural, but there was definitely *something* of interest going on, and I trusted my friends enough that it seemed unlikely anyone was skewing things, at least consciously. Also after an hour of so of this it would get sort of exhausting and people would just be lazing about on the floor around it, barely even in contact with the planchette, just with a nail on a knuckle touching it anymore, and it would keep going until it accidentally lost contact completely as it flew off and petered out in a corner. Some of the people who it was most lively about were actually quite aloof to using it and had to be coaxed into participating for the entertainment of the rest of us.

So it worked well enough that I needed some sort of explanation. My basic working hypothesis at the time was that while there weren't spirits or angels or dead people or invisible hedgehogs controlling the thing, it must be working off some sort of subconscious drve, either from one or more participants or some not-yet-understood channeling of the "vibe" of the participants or surrounding people. Hell, it's a flakey mindset you get into when you're sitting around a ouija board.

Later in school I was in a class about dada and surrealism, and we were discussing automatic writing, and it occurred to me that in the same fashion a lone person with a pen was ostensibly able to tap the subconscious by leaving the writing part to the hand itself, perhaps we could tap a collective subconscious by blindly operating a ouija board? So I pulled back together some of the old all-stars of the board and had them do a chat session with it, eyes closed or blindfolded, while i transcribed the output. Alas, it was a failed experiment: the planchette was hesistant and sluggish, and the output made little sense nor even complete words Everyone was a little disappointed, and we gave up muttering some pseudoscience about reciprocal awareness or something.

Anyway, you could obviously debunk it by going blindfolded, but people who want to believe will come up with flakey mumbo-jumbo to justify the poor performance nonetheless. If people insist on eyes-wide-open, try a limited contact strain, like where everyone only gets the pinkynail, hand palm up, and that way if anyone were queering the results it might be more clumsily self-evident.

Cat Whisperer
01-14-2007, 05:40 PM
Um, what did the lettering read and what did you think it read?
<snip>
I don't recall the exact company name, but it was something that was just out by a couple of letters (like the difference between Chair and Chain).