The following article from the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA) dated March 5, 1920, describes four El Cerrito, CA women reportedly going insane after using a Ouija board. In the aftermath, local clergy and physicians attempt to stop the use of this 'instrument of evil.' Interesting look at early-20th century attitudes towards the occult:
Ministers and Physicians Join in Denouncing the Baleful Effect As Four of Its Devotees Are Judged Mad
Thing of Evil is Verdict Given by Church; Causes Frenzy Which Communicable, Psychologists' Statement
Stirred to indignation at the havoc wrought by an ouija board in the homes of four El Cerrito families and by revelations which were followed by the commitment of four women to state hospitals for the insane, phsycians, psychologists, ministers and others united today denouncing as a serious menace what had been tolerated as a harmless toy.
It was the ouija board, of the belief held in its powers, that took from the Italian colony in El Cerrito three mothers and a fifteen-year-old girl and left the fathers, who must work all day, to care for the smaller children. It was a belief in the ouija that gave little Rosa Bottini, as she carries her baby sister through the streets, that faraway look that may mean she will have to join h er mother in the asylum.
Judge R. H. Lattimer and an insanity commission have committed Mrs. Josephine Soldavini, Mrs. Maria Moro, Mrs. Santina Bottini and Adeline Bottine to the asylums at Stockton and Napa. Charles Soldarini, Louis and Harry Farrario and G.B. Bottini were released.
EFFORT INAUGURATED TO STAMP OUT CRAZE
With the spectacle of El Cerrito’s disrupted homes in mind and with the knowledge that four women of that city have been sent to state asylums for the insane as the result of their faith in the little varnished boards, a determined effort to expose the ouija for what it is and to end the craze for its use has been inaugurated.
The Ouija produces hysteria and sometimes insanity, say the physicians and the psychologists.
It is an instrument of evil, say the ministers.
Even the defenders, those who have lectured and demonstrated the board in Oakland, join in the warning against the general use of the board.
Heading a number of those interviewed today as to their opinions as to the danger of the ouija board, Dr. Fred Councilman, superintendent of the State Asylum for the Insane at Stockton, said:
“The ouija I consider is dangerous as it produces manifestations of hysteria and a single belief which excludes all others. Those who accept it as being occult have no mind for anything else.”
Voicing the sentiments of the church, Dr. Frank Silsey, of First Presbyterian Church, said:
“Unquestionably the looks upon the ouija as a device of the devil. Under the terms, ‘lying wonders,’ it is condemned in the Scriptures. Its effect on the user is a spiritual, moral, and mental decline. It is extremely dangerous for one to go to the ouija even in a spirit of idle curiosity.
HYSTERIA CAUSED BY USE, DOCTOR SAYS
Dr. Jan Don Ball of Oakland, the noted psychologist, neurologist, and psychiatrist, made the following comment on the El Cerrito situation:
“Use of the ouija board is dangerous, particularly for the belief it often occasions that its manifestations are of an occult nature, when in reality they are but manifestations of the hysterical condition of the individual. There have been many cases of persons becoming hysterical to the point of seeming insanity through the use of these boards.
“A peculiar thing about the ouija of any such emotional phenomena as it appears tohave occasioned is that it is readily communicative. In earlier days whole villages have become afflicted with a religious frenzy. The El Cerrito ouija manifestations appear to have been similar. When the automatic, sub-conscious control of the ouija is mistaken for something occult and not of this world, there is always the danger of hysteria.
“Automatic writing and ouija phenomena are not always a manifestation of hysteria or disease. It may occur in a perfectly normal, or so-called normal, man. It is the subversion of the control of the will by the emotions. When one talks of being in a trance, in connection with these phenomena, or of talking to the spirits, they are in danger. - Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California - 5 March 1920
A READER'S OUIJA BOARD EXPERIENCE
"I was at my friend's house over one weekend and on Sunday night we decided to make ourselves a Ouija board, now... there will be people reading this saying, "you idiots!" and "what on earth were you thinking!", etc. I am perfectly aware that it can sometimes be dangerous if it isn't done in the correct way. I took all the precautions, using a piece of flat plywood which was laminated with plastic on the one side, using an old glass which could later be discarded.
Now...allow me to tell you what happened!
This was both our first time and we both assured each other that we were going to do it properly, no being stupid and pushing the glass around to fool the other.
We started off by saying a prayer and then asking if there were any spirits present. We were requesting only contact with peaceful and good energies/spirits.
The glass was moving very slowly at first and we were unsure if it was working or not. We asked if there was somebody who wished to talk to us and the glass slowly moved over to the 'yes' marker. We asked if the spirit was male or female and it indicated that it was female. We then asked it to spell out it's name. It then picked up a bit of speed, first going to a 'K' and then to a 'Y' and then to 'M' then it went back to the center, spelling out 'KYM'.
Now, my friend went absolutely white and you could see that he was freaked out. We then asked how she died and the spirit spelled ou and the spirit spelled out 'CAR'. My friend became even more freaked out. Then we asked what kind of car it was that she died in and it proceeded to spell out, RELIANT ROBIN. It was at this point that my friend told me that his auntie was dead, her name was Kym, that she died in a car accident and what car was she in??? You guessed it...she was in a Reliant Robin.
We then asked the spirit if it had anything to tell us. It indicated 'NO' and then said 'GOODBYE'.
Next we asked if there were anymore spirits that wished to communicate with us. It suddenly got very cold in the room and the hair was standing up on our necks and legs. This spirit was powerful, the glass moved a LOT faster. We asked if it was a male or female and it indicated that was a 'MALE'. We asked for the spirits name and it said he was called 'LIAM'. We asked for the spirit's age when he passed over and he went to the '7' and then to the '0' indicating '70'. We then asked whether he had anything to tell us and it proceeded to spell out, 'OLLIE'. Which is in fact my friend's younger brother's name! My friend then told me that his younger brother Ollie had seen the spirit of an old man standing in the garden some years earlier. We asked if it had anything else to tell us. We received some letters which seemed like total gibberish....'W L S' and 'W J S' and also 'O D O X'. We have yet to find out if the letters actually mean anything. The last thing it said to us was 'ADIEU', which I believe is French for farewell? We took that as our cue to finish up, we closed down with another prayer."
NOTE: I have always been wary of the use of Ouija boards...especially as the result of an investigation where I sensed the presence of a nasty entity that apparently 'sneaked through' during a client's Ouija board session. Any divination tool or ritual used for the purpose of contacting and summoning spirits can have dire consequences. What do you think? Is this anecdote's result just a bit too convenient? What experiences have you had?...Lon
Here are other reader submissions:
This is a response to your article about Ouija boards. I thought I would tell you about an experience my sister had many years ago.
She was around 15 or so and was at a friend's house for a sleepover. Her and a few other friends decided to play with a Ouija board in their garage. Her friend's mother was at work and her father was in bed, so they had no supervision. While playing with the board they asked if anyone who wanted to speak to them. They got a YES, they asked for a name. They got MOM, they asked for a message. They got UNDR BRIDG. They did not understand the message at the time.
Later, after they had gone on to bed, there was a knock at the front door. It was the local sheriff who had come to the house to tell the girl's father that his wife had been killed in a car accident on her way home from work that night. Her car was found submerged in water under a bridge just a few miles from their home.
To this day, my sister will not go near or even discuss the subject of Ouija boards.
...and the following story:
So, I've been thinking a lot recently of a session I had with a couple of friends and an Ouija Board 3 years ago. I tried posting and asking about Ouija boards on /x/ but no one had anything interesting to say on the topic. I used to believe in spirits and be really into the occult but this experience kind of spooked me away and I don't know what I believe right now. Well here's the story, let me know what you make of it:
So I was with 3 or 4 friends in a girl's basement. We were all into the occult and supernatural stuff and brought out the Ouija board to mess around. We contacted a spirit (she said she was good) and asked her what her name was. She said 'EMILY' and '6'. We asked a couple of random questions and treated her like we would a real six year old. Then someone got the idea to ask her how she died (big mistake) and she spelled out, 'MOM'. At this point, I though I recognized the spirit and took my hands off the board. I kept asking questions that I knew the answer to and if this spirit was the girl I thought she was, she would too. I asked if she had siblings, she said 'YES'. I asked what color her house was and she said 'BLUE'. Then I asked what street she lived on and she said 'LOOMIS'. All of these answers lined up with a murder that happened in my town (Naperville, IL) in 1999. I used to live a mile or two down the road on the same street.
We were officially creeped out but not to be rude we asked her to leave and she said she didn't want to. We told her to please leave and that she can't stay but that we wish her the best. On our way up from the basement the old play room that my friend hadn't used in years was wide open with a few toys out of their box lying on the floor like they were just used. It still seemed that she left though because my friend never mentioned anything weird going on in her house.
Here's a link to the archived Chicago Tribune article on her murder: Mom charged in slayings
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OUIJA BOARD
What is a Ouija board? Ouija boards came into existence as a parlor game in the mid-1800's, when spiritism and channeling were at the height of fashion. The word "Ouija" is a blend of the French and German words for "yes." Adolphus Theodore Wagner first patented Ouija boards, sometimes referred to as "talking boards," in London, England on January 23, 1854. In the patent, Wagner called his invention a "psychograph" and its purpose was to read the minds of people with "nervous energy." By 1861, Frenchman, Allan Kardac, was describing the Ouija board as instruments with which to open communications with the spirit world. In seven short years, the Ouija board had evolved from a mind-reader to portal of communication with the dead.
Modern Ouija boards were developed by inventor William Fuld in Baltimore, MD. Fuld sold his patent to Parker Brothers in 1966. Ouija boards, as we recognize them today, look nothing like the original prototypes. The 20-25 million Ouija boards sold by Parker Brothers consist of a rectangular game board that is covered with a woodcut-style alphabet, the words yes, no, and good-bye, and the numbers 0-9. Also included with the "game" is a heart-shaped plastic planchette. The planchette is the 'pointer' that is supposed to glide over the board under the direction of supernatural forces and form comments and questions by pointing out questions and comments. Parker Brothers has marketed Ouija Boards under the tagline, "It's only a game - isn't it?" - allabouttheoccult.org
May I suggest you read Ouija Gone Wild: Shocking True Stories written by my friends and colleagues Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Rick Fisher. It is the most comprehensive reference on the subject. I highly recommend it! Lon
Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board
Buckland's Book of Spirit Communications
Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game