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Can Ouija Boards Trigger Demonic Possession?

Supernatural 'games' should be approached with caution.

Over the past year, there have been several reports of Ouija Boards triggering demonic possession, either in individuals or in small groups. The players, usually students, were reported to have fallen into a trance and appeared to be possessed by spirits. Possession states are well known to psychiatrists. These states of mind can be triggered by extreme stress in susceptible individuals. The content is colored by cultural beliefs. There is a widespread belief in many cultures that people can contact spirits of the dead or demonic entities by using a Ouija board.

These square-shaped boards are covered with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers one to ten, and the words ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘goodbye.’ Participants place their fingertips on a triangle-shaped pointer called a planchette which moves around the board to spell out alleged spirit messages. The game has peaked in popularity in times of crisis. During World War I, England experienced a surge in attempts to contact dead soldiers by attending séances featuring Ouija boards.

In November 2014, 35 students at a school in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, were taken for hospital treatment after playing with a Ouija board (known locally as “the cup game”). They were reportedly suffering from mental agitation and confusion, profuse sweating, rapid pulses, and trance states. Over the past few years, many countries in South and Central American have been hotspots for the game, where there have been many reports of mass fainting and spirit possession, especially Mexico.

The largest outbreak of illness attributed to a Ouija board took place between October 2006 and June 2007, at a girls-only Catholic boarding school near Mexico City. Students at the ‘Girls Town School’ reported a variety of symptoms including headaches and difficulty walking. Some students could only walk with the help of their friends. Symptoms would suddenly go away, and just as suddenly recur. Of a student population of 4,000, 512 were affected.

Mexican psychiatrist Nashyiela Loa Zavala investigated the outbreak and diagnosed it as a case of mass psychogenic illness (a.k.a., mass hysteria) and traced it back to a student who had used a Ouija board to try to influence the outcome of a school basketball game. Writing in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, she noted that the accused girl, Maria, was expelled for using the board. But before leaving, she was reported to have cursed the school.

Soon after, the symptoms appeared. A belief in the reality of demons and spirits, the involvement of the Ouija board and rumors that Maria’s mother was a witch appear to have generated extreme stress. Dr. Zavala observed that even before the outbreak, the school was a hotbed of tension as it was operated under strict rules where even minor infractions could result in dismissal. The first few victims of the strange malady only affected Maria’s fellow Ouija board players, but soon spread across the school.

The 'Charlie Charlie' Game

A primitive form of Ouija board is the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game which spread by social media in early 2015. The game is played by writing the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ on a piece of paper. Two pencils are placed on top of each other and questions are posed. As the top pencil pivots right or left (yes or no), a spirit is supposedly answering the question. In reality, vibrations, wind and movement in the room can affect the pencil. Here are just a few cases reported in the press:

May 2015, four students in Columbia were hospitalized when they began “screaming and babbling” after playing the game.

May 2015, schools in several countries across the Caribbean reported a wave of symptoms after playing the game, including trance states, confusion, and fainting. Outbreaks in small groups of students were reported in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados.

Early June 2015, the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game resulted in several students reportedly being possessed by the Devil at the Juan Pablo Duarte Primary School in the Dominican Republic.

In the case of more traditional Ouija boards, while believers think that spirits of the dead move the planchette and spell out messages, it actually moves by unconscious muscle movements. If you could not afford to buy a professional Ouija board, messages could be obtained by using an upturned glass on a piece of cardboard with letters, words and numbers handwritten on it.

There is no scientific evidence that Ouija boards can contact the spirit world (or that such a world even exists), but if the participants believe they do, the anxiety of believing they are contacting spirits or demons can be overwhelming for some, triggering trance states and even episodes where people may hallucinate and lose touch with reality. While I do not believe in the existence of spirits and demons, people should tread carefully when using Ouija boards because of the powerful emotions they can evoke. For instance, sometimes Ouija boards are used to attempt to communicate with deceased loved ones. This is why I suggest that those with a history of anxiety disorders, dissociative or trance states, and who have an absolute certainty in the existence of the supernatural would be better off steering clear of Ouija-type games. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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