Ouija Board Phenomenon Busted by Science

Ouija Board. Photo: Flickr/indi.caAfter my mother passed away when I was a teenager it was the first time anyone in my immediate circle of friends had ever experienced death so familiarly. None of us knew how to deal or cope — me with the loss and them with me — so one night during a slumber party we decided on a séance.

I found an old Ouija board in the basement and we lit dozens of candles haphazardly on the carpeted floor of my attic. With our 50 fingers touching the planchette we asked the spirits our questions and waited with baited breath for them to answer through our hands. At the time, the Ouija moving to the “yes” and “no” spots in response to our inquiry seemed like a savior and a true spiritual connection.

But now the BBC has gone and burst my bubble, and debunked those occult messages I believed my mom had supposedly sent me.

Despite the fact we all believed we weren't moving the planchette from letter to letter, it turns out we were without realizing it. The phenomenon is called the ideomotor effect, or Chevreul's Pendulum, which means someone's hand on the centerpiece makes miniscule movements without the person even realizing it. The BBC story even suggests a way to test the effect yourself by hanging a small weight from a string and holding the end of the string out in front of you while keeping your arm completely still. The weight will start to sway in small circles. Next, ask yourself some questions and make a clockwise swing mean "yes" and a counterclockwise swing mean "no." See? You could almost talk yourself into believing you're getting answers ...

Ouija boards are so convincing because, as the BBC says, “you are witnessing the moving of the weight without owning it.” While science may explain the real reason why I was able to talk to ghosts as a kid, I'll need more concrete evidence to stop believing that when the Ouija board told me that one day I would marry Leonardo Dicaprio it was telling the truth. Maybe I'll check in with a palm reader just to be sure ...