For many years, when I talked to groups — especially to people who aren’t ghost hunters — I heard more questions about Ouija boards than any other subject. (Ah, the days when most questions weren’t about ghost-related TV shows and the people on them!)
Ouija boards have always been a volatile subject.
These are my opinions, and replies to some claims.
Claim: If you use a Ouija board, you’re asking for trouble.
When a professional is called to investigate a serious haunting, we almost always discover that the homeowner had used a Ouija board.
Some people insist that that Ouija boards can cause hauntings.
My opinion…? Maybe, but not always. I respectfully suggest that — in some cases — this might be putting the cart before the horse.
If a haunting is severe enough to call a professional, the homeowner has probably tried many other ways to deal with the problem… including folk remedies and Ouija boards.
In other words, the trouble was already there. The Ouija board often came later.
However, in the case of demonic activity — something I don’t deal with, but refer people to Pete Haviland, John Zaffis, and Keith and Carl Johnson — almost every case I’ve encountered had involved a Ouija board. Whether the Ouija board gave the entity access to the home or the individual… that’s outside my expertise. Some demonologists say that’s the case. I trust their opinions.
By contrast, when dealing with a haunting — that is, a ghost or residual energy, or both — he homeowner has a problem, perhaps a very big one. That’s all that matters. Blaming the homeowner for hauling out a Ouija board won’t resolve anything now.
Claim: Psychics can be ghost hunters, but they shouldn’t conduct seances, etc.
I agree… maybe. The problem is semantic.
First of all, I believe everyone has some psychic abilities. I think it’s hard-wired into us. But, just like some people can sing beautifully and some of us can sing but we’re tone deaf, some people are gifted psychics. Others aren’t.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to set up a seance at the same time as you’re checking for faulty wiring, uneven stairs, and so on. Those are two different activities, and I think each deserves the full focus of the people involved.
At a haunted site, a psychic might:
- Sense ghostly or spiritual energy. That could be from an entity or residual energy. That’s commonplace during a routine ghost investigation, and it can help confirm if a site is active.
- Receive messages. That’s less common, and it usually involves a ghost who’s trying to make contact.
- Act as a trance medium. This could be planned or it could be spontaneous. In most cases, that’s a conscious choice by the psychic (or medium), and it can be a risky one.
- Conduct a seance. This is very different from most of what goes on during routine ghost investigations. It’s planned, and should be carefully organized ahead of time. The normal, routine ghost investigation has been completed. People are certain that a ghost or spirit is not only there, but likely to “come through” to communicate with people.
Here’s one issue:
The psychic puts himself or herself at risk as soon as the door is open, even a little. That’s up to the psychic. If you don’t have confidence in the skills and spiritual defenses of a psychic you’re working with, don’t work with that person.
One problem with people who open as trance mediums is this: They can give spirits the idea that it’s okay to move into any undefended person’s mind or body. I’ve seen it happen far too often. In one case in Salem (Massachusetts), a trance medium allowed a spirit to speak through her, but didn’t close that door firmly when the investigation concluded. About 20 minutes after the investigating team left the house, the spirit successfully invaded the mind and body of one of the homeowners. It was so terrifying, that person’s partner called 911.
Extreme? Yes. Rare? I hope so. However, starting around 2005, and certainly since 2008, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in demonic attacks in this field. (Note: I talk about demonic activity. Whether all of that comes from actual demons… that’s outside my range of expertise.)
A psychic or a medium isn’t just transmitting messages from one world to another. If you’re not educated in the spiritual issues, you’re playing with fire.
Don’t open unknown spiritual doors
In general, I believe that ghost hunters should avoid making any investigation personal.
If spirits want to communicate with you, it should be on the same terms as the living. We make it as easy as possible for them to speak to us through EVP, photos, and other measurable means.
There is absolutely no reason for anyone to put themselves at risk by “letting in” a spirit that might be cleverly disguised.
I’m not questioning the skills, spiritual gifts, or competence of most psychics.
I do question the logic: Why take chances you don’t need to? Carry and use devices like voice recorders, EMF meters, etc., and give spirits time to figure out how to communicate through them.
A skilled, trained, experience psychic can be an invaluable asset to paranormal research. However, there are alternatives that — in theory — should work well in most haunted settings.
Establish firm boundaries and know your limits
The trance state should not be attempted by novice investigators, especially in haunted settings.
Also, there have been enough problems with Ouija boards that I won’t use one during a ghost investigation.
In general, it’s risky to use any divinatory tool if you don’t fully understand:
- The difference between allowing a spirit to use a device, and letting the spirit use you as the conduit to that device. If you’re part of the spiritual “circuit” (referencing electrical connections), you’re putting yourself at risk.
- Defenses you must set up before using the device.
- The doorways you’re opening.
- How to recognize trouble as it approaches.
- What to do to protect yourself if the worst happens.
The problem isn’t necessarily the tool you choose.
The issue is a lack of boundaries. I’m concerned that some people may not have the experience and training to know when firm boundaries are needed, when they’ve been crossed, and what to do if you (or a team member) discover you’ve been fooled by something that’s not a ghost, after all.