How the ouija board really moves (2024)

How the ouija board really moves (1)How the ouija board really moves (2)

ByTom Stafford,Features correspondent

The mystery isn’t a connection to the spirit world, but why we can make movements and yet not realise that we're making them.

Ouija board cups and dowsing wands – just two examples of mystical items that seem to move of their own accord, when they are really being moved by the people holding them. The only mystery is not one of a connection to the spirit world, but of why we can make movements and yet not realise that we're making them.

The phenomenon is called the ideomotor effect and you can witness it yourself if you hang a small weight like a button or a ring from a string (ideally more than a foot long). Hold the end of the string with your arm out in front of you, so the weight hangs down freely. Try to hold your arm completely still. The weight will start to swing clockwise or anticlockwise in small circles. Do not start this motion yourself. Instead, just ask yourself a question – any question – and say that the weight will swing clockwise to answer "Yes" and anticlockwise for "No". Hold this thought in mind, and soon, even though you are trying not to make any motion, the weight will start to swing in answer to your question.

Magic? Only the ordinary everyday magic of consciousness. There's no supernatural force at work, just tiny movements you are making without realising. The string allows these movements to be exaggerated, the inertia of the weight allows them to be conserved and built on until they form a regular swinging motion. The effect is known as Chevreul's Pendulum, after the 19th Century French scientist who investigated it.

What is happening with Chevreul's Pendulum is that you are witnessing a movement (of the weight) without "owning" that movement as being caused by you. The same basic phenomenon underlies dowsing – where small movements of the hands cause the dowsing wand to swing wildly – or the Ouija board, where multiple people hold a cup and it seems to move of its own accord to answer questions by spelling out letters.

This effect also underlies the sad case of "facilitated communication", a fad whereby carers believed they could help severely disabled children communicate by guiding their fingers around a keyboard. Research showed that the carers – completely innocently – were typing the messages themselves, rather than interpreting movements from their charges.

The interesting thing about the phenomenon is what it says about the mind. That we can make movements that we don't realise we're making suggests that we shouldn't be so confident in our other judgements about what movements we think are ours. Sure enough, in the right circ*mstances, you can get people to believe they have caused things that actually come from a completely independent source (something which shouldn't surprise anyone who has reflected on the madness of people who claim that it only started raining because they forget an umbrella).

You can read what this means for the nature of our minds in The Illusion of Conscious Will by psychologist Daniel Wegner, who sadly died last month. Wegner argued that our normal sense of owning an action is an illusion, or – if you will – a construction. The mental processes which directly control our movements are not connected to the same processes which figure out what caused what, he claimed.

The situation is not that of a mental command-and-control structure like a disciplined army; whereby a general issues orders to the troops, they carry out the order and the general gets back a report saying "Sir! We did it. The right hand is moving into action!". The situation is more akin to an organised collective, claims Wegner: the general can issue orders, and watch what happens, but he's never sure exactly what caused what. Instead, just like with other people, our consciousness (the general in this metaphor) has to apply some principles to figure out when a movement is one we've made.

One of these principles is that cause has to be consistent with effect. If you think "I'll move my hand" and your hand moves, you're likely to automatically get the feeling that the movement was one you made. The principle is broken when the thought is different from the effect, such as with Chevreul's Pendulum. If you think "I'm not moving my hand", you are less inclined to connect any small movements you make with such large visual effects.

This maybe explains why kids can shout "It wasn't me!" after breaking something in plain sight. They thought to themselves "I'll just give this a little push", and when it falls off the table and breaks it doesn't feel like something they did.

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Human body


How the ouija board really moves (2024)


How the ouija board really moves? ›

The action of the board can be most easily explained by unconscious movements of those controlling the pointer, a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect.

How do Ouija boards work? ›

To work, all participants must place their hands on the wooden pointer (or planchette) and ask any present “spirits” to answer their questions by moving the planchette around the board to spell out their response.

How does the Ouija Board work in Demonologist? ›

The player can pick up the Ouija by using the E key, and ask the ghost questions while holding down the E key. It can be dropped with the G key. It should be noted that using the Ouija Board for a long period of time quickly drains Sanity, so it is best not to use it for long.

What does Ouija mean in English? ›

According to the letters and journals of the group, they asked the board what it wanted to be called. It spelled out "Ouija." When they asked what it meant, it spelled "Good luck." Did Ouija's name come from the board?

What is the Ideomotor effect Ouija boards? ›

As in responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively with an ideomotor effect to ideas alone without the person consciously deciding to take action. The effects of automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, applied kinesiology, and ouija boards have been attributed to the phenomenon.

Is the Ouija origin of evil scary? ›

Ouija: Origin of Evil does rely on a few too many digitally created white eyes and stretched-open mouths. That, plus the troubling idea of a 9-year-old girl being possessed, in addition to the downbeat, death-heavy ending, makes the movie recommendable only to hardened horror fans.

What is the story of Ouija's origin of evil? ›

What is Ouija 2 called? ›

Ouija: Origin of Evil is a 2016 American supernatural horror film directed and edited by Mike Flanagan and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. The film is a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija and stars Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, and Henry Thomas.

How to play Ouija game? ›

✦ Don't let Raina put her hands in the wax until after you've finished.
  1. Find a place to sit the board.
  2. Read the prayers.
  3. Place your fingers on the planchet, one finger per person.
  4. Push the planchet in a circle around the board and let it rest in the center.

What is Ouija 1? ›

Ouija is a 2014 American supernatural horror film directed by Stiles White in his directorial debut, produced by Jason Blum, Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, and Bennett Schneir and written by Juliet Snowden and White, who previously together wrote The Possession.

Is Ouija based on true story? ›

The movie Ouija hits theaters Oct. 24 and its impending release has people asking plenty of questions about its authenticity. With so many ghost tales circulating over the years, people want to know if Ouija is based on a true story. According to the official promotions for the movie, the answer to that question is no.

Does Ouija have jump scares? ›

IF you enjoy jump scares, this movie is definitely for you. Ouija has jump scares through out the movie, which made it a pretty entertaining watch. Overall, decent movie, nice jump-scares, okay-acting, but too abrupt of an ending. The movie as a whole was not bad, but the ending was a little disappointing to me.

What happened in Ouija? ›

Doris grabs Laine's arm and almost kills her, until Debbie's spirit shows up to intervene. Sarah brings Doris's corpse and throws it into the furnace. Laine throws the Ouija board and planchette, and Doris's spirit is destroyed. Laine and Sarah return home, relieved that everything is over.

Is Ouija and Ouija origin of evil the same? ›

Ouija: Origin of Evil is a 2016 American supernatural horror film directed and edited by Mike Flanagan and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. The film is a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija and stars Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, and Henry Thomas.

How does the ouija board work in phasmophobia? ›

The Ouija Board can be activated by left clicking (default: left click on mouse) on it if the player is not holding it, or toggling (default: right click on mouse) it directly while holding the board. The planchette will drop down onto the board, signifying that the board has been activated.

What is the spirit of the glass game? ›

A variation of an ouija board is the spirit of the glass game, which is often played with a homemade version of the ouija board, a glass, a piece of paper and a pen. Participants put their fingers on the glass and are asked to concentrate on the questions being asked.


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