OUIJA boards have delighted and terrified in equal measures, for well over a century.
The board game has a dark history, but not everyone believes in its supernatural powers. Here are the stories behind its fearsome reputation…
How do Ouija boards work?
Also known as spirit or talking boards, a Ouija board is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, numbers 0-9, as well as the words “yes”, “no” and “goodbye”.
The board is operated using a small, heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic called a planchette.
Users put their fingers on the planchette, and it is thought that spirits move it around the board to spell out words.
The word Ouija, pronounced ‘wee-jee’, is an ancient Egyptian word meaning “good luck” – as well as a combination of the French and German words for ‘yes’.
Some have warned against the use of ouija words, claiming they can lead to “demonic possession”.
Where do Ouija boards come from?
Ouija boards have their roots in 19th century America, and the spiritualist movement.
The movement was led by mediums, who claimed to be intermediaries between the living and the dead.
Talking boards were soon established and, in 1891, businessman Elijah Bond decided to turn the board into a toy – which initially sold for around 75p.
Hasbro now owns the patents to Ouija boards.
Are Ouija boards real?
There are three schools of thought when it comes to Ouija boards.
One, it’s all a sham – and the person with their hand on the planchette is sneakily moving it around.
Two, they’re a genuine portal to the spiritual world.
Three, they’re possessed by demons and shouldn’t be messed with – or disaster will ensue.
The truth is, as with ghosts and other paranormal goings on, nobody really knows.
But many people are scared of the boards, mainly because of stories like these…
What are some of the scariest Ouija board stories?
Patience Worth was one of the most acclaimed writers of the earliest 20th century, despite having died more than 200 years earlier.
The authoress (1649-1694) supposedly communicated with St Louis housewife Pearl Lenore Curran (1883-1937) through her Ouija board.
Patience was supposedly a British woman who emigrated to New England in the late 1600s, and was killed by an Indian.
The New York Times called her first novel a “feat of literary composition”.
Some believe Pearl simply made Patience up, in order to draw more attention to her work.
But others claim Pearl had a limited education and life experience, which would have made this impossible.
In 1933, 15-year-old Mattie Turley, from San Diego, shot her own dad twice in the back – and then claimed the board had told her to do it.
Apparently, the board said she should commit the crime so her mum, Dorothea Irene Turley – who was holding the planchette at the time – could “marry a young cowboy”.
Turley’s mum insisted she followed the instructions, and both women were arrested. Turley’s dad died in hospital, a couple of weeks after the shooting.
Possessed by demons
In July 1976, career criminal Gary Gilmore shot two men to death in Utah.
He was arrested, and became famous when he demanded to be executed for his crimes.
His younger brother, Mikal Gilmore, later wrote a book about their childhood.
In Shot In The Heart, he alleged their mum Bessie had contacted a demonic spirit through a Ouija board as a child – and was convinced it had attached itself to her family.
An accident in which one of Bessie’s sisters was killed, and another paralysed, was also attributed to the demon.
In February 2011, grandmother Carol Sue Elvaker, then 53, was using a Ouija board with her daughter Tammy, and Tammy’s two daughters.
She is said to have received a message from God through the board, in which he said her son-in-law Brian Roach was evil and needed to be killed.
Elvaker grabbed a knife and stabbed Brian in his sleep, and then tried to kill Tammy’s 10-year-old daughter.
Tammy sprang into action, wrestled the knife from her mum, and hid it in the house.
Elvaker then drove the group away from the house, but tried to kill them by running into a road sign.
She was later arrested, ruled insane and committed to a psychiatric hospital.
What troubles people is that Elvaker had no previous history of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse.
Serial killer calling
In December 2007, Joshua Tucker, 16, and Donald Schalchlin, 15, asked a Ouija board if they should become serial killers.
The board supposedly said yes, and Tucker went on to kill Schalchlin’s 13-year-old sister by stabbing her in the throat.
When Schalchlin’s mum Lori went looking for her daughter, Tucker attacked her as well – and instructed Schalchlin to finish the job.
Lori died on her way to hospital. Her son was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison, while Tucker got a 41-year sentence.