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OUIJA, one more time

  1. Jan 12, 2008 #1
    The Ouija board has been discussed a couple of times in this forum -- 2004 and 2005, as far as I could see. I would like to re-open the discussion with the following understanding ---to participate you must not believe in paranormal phenomena and/or that the messages are coming from supernatural entities.--- I'm trying to understand the PHYSICS of it. Also, please abstain from classifying it as good or evil.

    The principle I would like to explore is that the Ouija board participants can generate some type of electric (???) energy that dictates the content of the messages and moves the glass. I haven't used a Ouija board in a long time but I haven't stopped being puzzled by what happens in one. I have a problem with the ideomotor principle based on past experiences, as I will describe below:
    1- Once, my sister and I experienced the glass rolling soooooo fast that several times we lost contact with it. We could barely touch the glass to keep up with it, let alone push it. The glass had so much momentum that it ended up tumbling sideways and rolling to the floor.
    2- Often, there were clear patterns of movement depending on "who" was giving the message. Example: an 88 old priest, that returned several times, moved very slowly in circles going 180 degrees to the left, then 180 degrees to the right and once spelled "Ave Maria" (Hail Mary) in Latin, not one single letter missing (I checked it) - it took forever -- we were three at the table and none os us knew how to recited it in Latin, or at least not that well. Please remember, I really believe that one of us was subconsciously creating the message and the messenger -- I just would like to know how, as all of us were just as baffled. Keep in mind also that I have always watched everyone at the table as a hawk trying to catch a cheater, or just to make sure that only the lightest touch was used. We were never more than three people using the board. By the way, it was not a real board. I just wrote the alphabet on small pieces of paper, put it in a circle, with the world YES at 12 noon, and NO at six o'clock and used a glass upside down placed in the center.
    3- The lightness of the touch (just barely, barely touching the glass) could not (I SAY, COULD NOT) physically produce the impetus for the glass to move the way it often does. I tried it alone to understand what kind of force would be required to achieve the results I had witnessed and there is no mistake in it, it takes a very assertive contact to get the glass moving.
    4- in previous forums someone suggested some "scientific" testing, like blindfolding the participants and "showing" to the "entity" the question formulated by someone other than the participants and kept secret from them to see what would happen. I read on the internet that some doctor or another tested it in this manner and was not able not solve the conundrum.
    Another difficulty, is that in my experience, you cannot really control the "replies" because very often they have nothing to do with the questions asked albeit the fact that they come in full sentences and sometimes paragraphs. I have tried it in two languages and it works just the same.
    5- I will side-track here a little, but this last summer I had a kinesthetic experience for which I would like to have a scientific explanation, too:
    I was staying at my mother's to clean and organize 66 years of accumulated possessions in a household where six children grew up. It was just past mid-night. My 88 year old mother and her nurse were sleeping in my mother's bedroom and I was going through old photos, letters, cards, announcements that I had spread out in little piles on the dining room table. It was chilly and since the house has no heating (it is in Brazil, and it was winter there) I had closed all windows and doors. The French doors behind me leading to a hallway, had one leaf bolted and the other slightly ajar.
    I had just finished collecting the funeral announcements that my mother had collected all those years, relatives, friends, neighbors, and when I put the last one on the pile, the door behind me banged really hard and loudly. (It woke up my mother and the nurse.) I examined the door, put it back in the original position and tried to move it with one finger, two fingers, etc to see how much force was necessary to recreate the motion -- a lot --- I re-checked the windows, and just for thoroughness sake, looked outside to see if there was wind or air movement, and there was none -the trees and shrubs were very still (not that it could have got inside the house anyway.) My speculation is that I must have used some kind of energy that we humans have no control over or awareness of to create the impetus for the door to bang. Being back at home, must have stirrred some unconscious and long forgotten and abandoned belief in life-after-death, etc. and therefore this happened when I was dealing with the dead. I emphasize: I do not believe in the supernatural -- I just would like to know if the bang could have been the result of some obscure physics principle. Would the ideomotor theory also apply when there is not physical contact between the object and the propeller, i.e. between the door and myself, and/or the rolling glass and mine and my sister's finger tips?
    (sorry this is so long. if you got to this point -- thank you!)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2008 #2


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    There is no need for each person to use a considerable force to move the glass. A little push from each can do the job.
    I used to make a seemingly astounding experience: A heavy person sat on a chair. Four other people joined the indexes of both hands and each of them put the joined indexes under the knees and the armpits of the person and tried to lift him. They ordinarily weren't able to do it. Then I spoke some pseudo magic words and told them to try again and this time they were able to do it.
    The explanation is that the first time they had no conviction and each one tried loosely and asynchronously. After the mumbo jumbo they all acted together and with a little effort were able to lift an 80 kg man.
    With the glass happens the same. One person involuntarily pushes the glass in one direction (ideomotor effect). Even if the push is not enough to move the glass the others sense it and also involuntarily try to move in the same direction.
  4. Jan 12, 2008 #3

    And once the other people at the table see any movement, they will then tend to follow that movement, as they are convinced it is some paranormal force. Though I think the OP was asking for some more scientific explanations.
  5. Jan 12, 2008 #4
    Thank you CEL. I never assumed that "considerable force" would be required to move a glass. Anything more that the subtlest touch would be considered against the spirit of the game. What I mean is that I find it impossible to ordinarily make a glass move with that kind of light touch, even when two people are exerting the same pressure (or lack of it) -- Movement with the speed and determination that the glass can show requires more assertiveness. But, for argument sake, let's assume that yes, we can make imperceptible movements with our fingers that can result in the glass moving. What about the acceleration of the glass when only two people, myself and my sister, were trying to keep up with it, but could not?

    (As for the "messages", if we accept the ideomotor principle, I guess, their content could come from anywhere, as no one is really sure about what is in the subconscious, and that is OK with me. But, it's interesting to notice that the subconscious can in advance decide on, but not reveal to the conscious mind, entire phrases, sentences and paragraphs, and spell it letter by letter, without anyone at the table realizing what the outcome will be, as the spelling progresses. In addition, the oddity of the statements very often surprises everyone participating. For example, after the episode I mentioned in my first posting, in which Ave Maria (Holy Mary) in Latin was spelled word per word from beginning to end, we didn't catch up right away that the "message" was coming in Latin and we kept questioning one another:" What is going on?". When the spelling was finished, I gave each of us three participants a clean piece of paper and had everyone write down by memory what had been just spelled out - no one was able to do it. So, the question is, can the subconscious choose a subject, compose it and spell it in an intelligent sequence without letting the conscious mind register and retain it at all? I guess I will have to address this in the psychology forum, right?)

    Any ideas about the door banging? I have to add, in all those years of occupying that house no one in the family remembers that door banging before, even when it was drafty.

    Like you, I tried the lifting of heavy people, too. And was even able to do an assisted levitation with the subject in a prone position hanging up high in the air supported by the index fingers of six people positioned at the head, feet, armpits and knees of the subject. It's not the same as the glass -- the glass CAN CONTINUE MOVING and ZIG ZAG without direct touch. In this one episode, when after doing some circles in the air with our fingers, trying to pinpoint where the glass was going to be, we finally touched the glass again, it immediately flipped sideways and just rolled off the table to the ground. (That one, for sure, was an assertive glass.) After this happened my sister and I weren't too disposed to continue our investigation, I regret we didn't. As for the lifting/levitation, if you cease contact, i.e. if the people doing the lifting withdraw their fingers, the person being lifted would certainly crash, in my opinion.
    Going back to the glass, could it be that my sister and I had positive/negative energy poles that "conducted" to the glass through our touch and created movement?
    I wish I knew a little about how electricity and magnetic forces work.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2008
  6. Jan 12, 2008 #5
    I know you want to know about the physics behind it, but I think it would be useful to read into the actual mental side of it all, I can't say I've gone very deep into it but I have read a bit into it.

    If a person notices that the cup is moving towards a letter he is likely to sub consciously believe that is where it is going, and so will apply some minimal amount of force, and as all the members of the table "believe" they cup will move towards it.

    Lets take an example. They are trying to find a name.

    The first letter is an "S" the people around the table, are most likely to think subconsciously of a name with the first letter being "S" then these people are likely to go for the next letter of the name of the person they are thinking, of and then other people follow them. When it gets to "SARA" I think 99% of people would think SARAH, and would go for the "H" It is very rare you come out with something like "SARAZ" or "SARADFG"
  7. Jan 13, 2008 #6
    Thanks, CEL, thanks CrawfordK.
    One more observation about CrawfordK's suggestion that the people around the table can guess the next letter when the spelling becomes obvious and together move the glass towards that letter -- Well, in his example, the glass would have to move four times to get to form SARA? So what took place before it got to the second 'A' of SARA? Consider what happened to me once: I was at the table with two other people, one named Irene, one named Adelina. My name starts with L-E-N. The glass was telling us that the message was for LE... We all assumed that the message was for me and that the next letter would be N, but no, the glass insisted in going to O, just next to N. We assumed the glass was 'wrong or mistaken' and kept asking it: "N?" and the glass would retreat a little and go back to "O". After our first three attempts to change O to N, we accepted "O" and the name LEONOR came up which was the name of a friend of one of the participants, not known to the others. The message was clearly about the LEONOR the friend knew. Please, bear in mind that we were all trying to be "scientific," so touching the glass in any manner that would have resulted in 'pushing' would have been a big NO-NO, and in this the case, how could the subconscious mind of one person so persistently fight the conscious mind of three others', including the conscious mind of its owner in selecting an O over an N? Convoluted? Perhaps, but not impossible, I guess.

    Many other times we experienced the glass fight us because it would go near a letter that appeared obvious to us, but it would "refuse" to stop where we thought it should and it would quickly move to a very unexpected letter that would form an unexpected word that nevertheless would fit in the context of the phrase. So, in other words, many moves of the glass are not consciously obvious, predictable or expected by any, or all of the participants, and many times, once the glass stops, there is an Ahhh! by everyone.

    I guess I better move this discussion to the Psychology forum and explore more in depth the "ideomotor" principle. In 2005, a PO named "Canute" opened up a discussion stating his surprise that someone had not done a scientific research on the Ouija "phenomena" because to him and his friends many of the actions taking place on an Ouija board went far beyond the limits of the ideomotor principle. Like Canute, I feel that there should be more investigation of the Ouija in a controlled scientific environment. For instance, it would be interesting for someone to see if anything would happen, if participants who had experienced very out of the ordinary results before, instead of verbally asking the questions, wrote them in pieces of paper, folded them and draw them at random to place them at the center of the circle-- would the glass move? would the "answer" be coherent with the question, if no one knew for certain what was being asked? But would coherence matter, since often the answer does not address the question asked aloud anyway?

    thank you all!
  8. Jan 14, 2008 #7


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    Of course I can't tell exactly what happened. Al I can make is conjectures.
    In the case of LE... perhaps you unconsciously did not want the message to be for you. Messages can be unpleasant. So, you involuntarily pushed away the glass from the letter N. Since everyone was touching the glass very slightly, this little push made the glass go to the letter O.
    Once the LEO was formed, the one person that knew someone named Leonor involuntarily pushed the glass to form that name.
  9. Jan 14, 2008 #8
    Back Ground Information.

    Investigation year 1999

    Private home Harvard Massachusetts, A 62 year old women claims to be contacting a dead female spirit using a Wee Gee board. The spirit has identified herself as Doris

    I received a call from one of my team members who stated there is a lady in The Boston area who can receive messages from a spirit using a wee gee board. I rolled my eyes and told him wee gee boards are manipulated using the ideomotor effect . I couldn’t understand why he believed such nonsense could or should be connected to paranormal activity. He laughed and told me the lady’s brother contacted him and said he was convinced his sister is genuine and she is being contacted by a spirit . I asked him if she claimed to be a psychic or if she claimed to have any psychic ability. He already asked these questions and was told she did not display any special powers or unusual behavior until she purchased a wee gee board. At this point I have no idea why I’ am still having this conversation . Even worse why he bothered to call me. I said I was not interested in investigating something you and I can duplicate. I ended my conversation thinking that was the end of it.

    A few days later he called me back. He was excited and said you have to see this. I said see what, slow down. He blurts out, the wee gee board lady. He said you would not believe the demonstration I witnessed. He related the following story. I went to the client’s house with the lady’s brother; I asked her if it was possible to communicate with the spirit in my presence. She said she would try and proceeded to get the wee gee board. She sat down and placed the board on her lap. She then asked if the spirit was present. Within moments the board moved to yes. She then asked the name of the spirit. The spirit complied and spelled out the name Doris. More questions were asked and the spirit answered them all. No questions were asked by the investigator. So I inquired about his tone of excitement and said nothing unusual about what he just related. He then said, it was the speed of the indicator moving on the board. His direct quote was. The indicator spelled out answers faster then an experienced typist. I paused and tried to imagine what I just heard. Wouldn’t you? Now he has my attention. BUT I’ am not convinced she is communicating with a spirit or a phenomenon I couldn’t explain. A wee gee board can be purchased at Wal-Mart for a few dollars. It’s a toy right. “OR IS IT”

    We made an appointment for another demonstration. I brought two video recorders and a list of 50 well prepared question to ask. I asked her if the spirit would respond if I asked all the questions. She didn’t seem to think that would be a problem. She agreed. And seemed to be excited about the idea of a video. She asked for a copy when we finished.

    The first camera was set up for a complete frontal view capturing her hands and face. The second camera was at a slight right angle directed more on the hands and board.

    Would the spirit communicate with camera’s rolling? We all know how spirits and ghost’s appears to be camera shy.

    I won’t list all the questions asked, and answered. I will explain what happened. Remember I asked all the questions. And I examined the board and indicator.

    As soon as I asked a question the indicator immediately went to spell out the answer. I can only relate the speed at which they were answered .Nothing less then remarkable. The speed of a laser presentation pointer. I’m holding a pad of paper and pencil and I can’t record the answers. That’s how fast the indicator is moving across the board.. She either has the best hand eye coordination and thought process I have ever seen or I am the victim of a well planed hoax. Let’s find out. I stop the questions. The cameras are still rolling. I asked her if she could communicate with the spirit using a different wee gee board. I had purchased one and left it in the car. She had a puzzle look on her face, I explained she was making an Extraordinary Claim which required proof. She agreed to give it a try. With a new board. I asked if the spirit was in the room. Long pause, indicator does not move. The question was again repeated. No response from the indicator. I asked if she thought the spirit had left. She said she didn’t know. I asked if she wanted to continue using her board. She said she would try.

    I had one more request . I asked her if she was truly communicating with a spirit could she get the same results BLIND FOLDED. To my surprise she agreed and said she did not think this would be a problem. Now I’m thinking (Game Over)

    Doris are you still here. Indicator moves, answer yes, I quickly ask another question. Indicator spells out the correct answer. I notice this time I can keep up with the indicator and record on paper what is being spelled out. A total of 12 questions were answered and all spelled out correctly. The only difference being the speed was noticeably much slower.


    Was the wee gee lady really communicating with a spirit. How could we explain the speed at which the answers were given. How could she do this blind folded and spell out the answers correctly. Was the spirit guiding her. Does she possess a gift. Is this a classic case of unexplainable phenomenon. Can we really communicate with a spirit with an object purchased at Wal-Mart.

    Comments. I will admit this was an experience that had me baffled. And one I will not forget, to say the least it was amusing and entertaining and she had me thinking about how she was doing this. I watched the video and consulted with a few friends. The obvious question, was she peeking through the blind fold. I can only say I’ am confident she was not. So how did this remarkable lady do this. I have to admit I knew it was a trick but like most tricks I don’t know how they are performed. So if it was a trick how do you find out. Ask the Magician.

    How it was done. Practice, and More Practice. The magician explained she can be compared to a well trained Marine who can assemble his weapon quicker then you can say Marine. A combat trained Marine can also assemble his weapon in pitch black conditions with a slightly slower pace. I would suggest the Wee gee lady would have made a very good Marine. Does this explanation seem likely? Did she really take the time to memorize the lay out of the wee gee board. How many hours of practice did it take to master this incredible mystifying illusion, what would be her reason. Did the magician prove it can not only be done but duplicated? I did except his explanation for the simple reason. When blind folded the speed of the indicator was slow, she appeared to be thinking instead of reacting. We can all type and spell with out looking at the key board, so with practice we should be able to push a triangle shaped object to spell out words.

    Doris the spirit: Was Doris Larkin, she died in 1923 at the age of 27 believed to live in The Harvard Massachusetts area. How she died was not clear. Possible accident. Spirit could not remember. A history search proved negative. No information on Doris was ever confirmed.
    One more note.. Did I waste my time with nonsense. NO, I loved the experience and would do it again.
  10. Jan 14, 2008 #9


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    One question and one observation.
    What kind of investigations do you and your team perform?
    The fact that we have a nose leaves always a space between a blindfold and the face through which one can see things put in one's lap. The vision is not so good and it would explain the smaller speed. One way to overcome this is to fix the bottom of the blindfold to the face with duct tape.
  11. Jan 14, 2008 #10


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    Staff: Mentor

    Of course you can memorize where the letters are.

    Next time, blind fold her then put the ouija board on her lap Backwards so that the letters at the top are now at the bottom.

    I'll believe a ouija board when the marker moves without being touched.
  12. Jan 14, 2008 #11


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    If the supposed power behind ouija boards were real, why would it matter if the users were blindfolded, and what the orientation of the board was?

    Penn & Teller also talked about ouija boards on their caustic Showtime show Bulls**t (which I am quite a fan of). They first let the users use the ouija board normally, and it seemed to be working; but, then they blindfolded the users and flipped the board 180 degrees. The results were spectacularly non-existant; anything the users tried to spell out didn't make sense, and for yes/no questions the users went to spots on the board that "yes" and "no would have been if the board hadn't been rotated.

    In my opinion ouija boards have been thouroughly debunked.
  13. Jan 14, 2008 #12
    I debunk any claims of paranormal activity. Their is no such thing as spirits or ghosts. Until we drag a ghost into a lab and study it, I will stand on the fact, no evidence has been presented to convince any rational thinker to believe otherwise.Im a true skeptic.

    I secured the blind fold. Two cotton balls were attached to the fold. I tied the knot. Im convinced she did it with memory.
  14. Jan 14, 2008 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    Welcome to PF JJbrigham.

    Can you give me an example of evidence that would satisfy your demand? Or do you actually demand that a ghost comes to the lab and allows testing?
  15. Jan 14, 2008 #14


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    It's nice to have you here! Most of us can only rely in our knowledge and intuition in the discussions. Someone that really tests claims is a great asset.
  16. Jan 15, 2008 #15
    Thanks for the welcome.

    Emphrical evidence would be great.

    Evo: Of course you can memorize where the letters are.

    Next time, blind fold her then put the ouija board on her lap Backwards so that the letters at the top are now at the bottom.

    I'll believe a ouija board when the marker moves without being touched.

  17. Jan 15, 2008 #16

    Im not a ghost buster. I don't adhere to all the Scientific rules. But Houdini would be proud of me. I have had a great deal of success using "Occam's razor

    "Occam's Razor is not anything strange: what is strange is how people occasionally stop applying it.
  18. Jan 15, 2008 #17

    Pardon? Occam's Razor?

    Do you get paid to do all this? If so you have the best job ever.
  19. Jan 15, 2008 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    What evidence specifically? The problem that I see with any form of evidence [less a cooperative ghost that agrees to take tests] is that none would suffice.
  20. Jan 15, 2008 #19

    Ivan Seeking

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    "Occams Razor" is a rule of thumb and not a scientific principle that can be used to arrive at a conclusion.
  21. Jan 15, 2008 #20


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    Yes, but it's judicious use can avoid useless testing. In the Ouija board case, there are two simple explanations that do not involve the breaking of the now accepted physics rules:
    1. The old lady is cheating and moves the marker of her own free will.
    2. She is honestly deluded and the marker moves by the ideomotor effect.
    Those two hypotheses can be confirmed or not following Evo's suggestion: blindfold her and inverse the position of the board.
    If the board continues to provide meaningful messages we can use new hypotheses, for instance that ghosts exist and communicate with us. In this case new testing protocols must be devised.
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