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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Ouija board Bearing a name said to be derived from the French and German words for “yes,” the Ouija board is simply a flat, smooth board bearing the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and often the words “Yes,” “No,” “Maybe,” and “Goodbye.” A hand-sized, heart-shaped device perched upon three short legs, each of which has a pad or wheel to enable the instrument to slide freely across the board, is known as the planchette. This is used as a pointer, the tapered end of the heart shape indicating letters on the board.

The Ouija board and heart-shaped planchette.

      One or more operators sit around the board, each lightly resting fingers upon the top of the planchette. It is said that spirits or other entities cause the planchette to move about the board, spelling out messages and answers to questions posed by the operators. (This process is a form of “dactylomancy,” or divination by means of finger motions.)
      Actually, the movement is due to the ideomotor effect and this can be shown by the fact that when the operator is properly blindfolded, only gibberish is produced.
      The Ouija board was patented in 1892 by a Maryland novelty company.
      See also planchette.

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