In 1986, I went with a group of friends to the local movie theater to see a horror flick called “Witch Board.”
With ’80s icons like Tawny Kitaen and Stephen Nichols in lead roles, and a good scare guaranteed, how could I not.
Little did I know, that movie would awaken a fear in me that would intensify over the years and lead me to look into the reality of Ouija boards.
I can’t speak first-hand because I refuse to go near one, but Hollywood has once again brought that piece of wood emblazoned with numbers and letters to the big screen.
Called simply “Ouija,” this new version of the horrors of the spirit board hits theaters around Halloween.
In honor of this new movie that will just add to my fear of the board, I went Googling to see what I could find out about the history of the Ouija.
According to www.smithsonianmag.com, the first mention of the Ouija board came in 1891 when a Pittsburgh newspaper began advertising a “wonderful talking board.”
The website says a toy and novelty shop was advertising the Ouija board, describing it as a “magical device that answered questions about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy.”
But what is a Ouija board, really?
Did it really materialize in a toy store?
The Kennard Novelty Company was the first producer of the Ouija board.
Yes, a toy company.
In 19th century America, spiritualism was an obsession.
In the hopes of capitalizing on that obsession, Kennard designed a tool that would let those curious about communicating with the departed easily get in touch with the spirit world.
Little did they know then that what was being created would be embraced by not only spiritualists, but also those with evil intentions or no knowledge of what could happen when calling to the other side.
Rhonda Berry, psychic medium and paranormal consultant, said she doesn’t have much experience with Ouija boards, but does believe they can open a portal that one may not want opened.
“I believe it creates a portal for the spirits to come through, and when the board is used, spirits are asked to come forward by the users,” she said. “They are being invited to and through the board. I’ve not had much experience with the Ouija board, but believe it’s a tool to communicate with spirits. The problem is, people don’t know you have to ask for those of love and light only to come forward, so they bring in negative spirits, too. They let them in and don’t tell them to leave or close the portal after.”
However, sometimes even familiar spirits — or ones who say they are relatives — can be unsettling to contact via a Ouija board.
Laurel Lakes resident John Rizzo had his first and only experience with a Ouija board several years ago.
“I used one with four people I didn’t know at a party, and they didn’t know me,” he said. “We tried to bring a spirit and we got one.”
Once the group began getting reactions from the spirit, each person took a turn asking the visitor if it was someone they knew.
“The answer was ‘no’ for each person,” Rizzo said. “I was the last one to ask.”
When he asked if the spirit was someone he had known in it’s living state, the planchette (pointer) moved to ‘yes.’
“Thinking this was a joke and that the other four people moved it, I let go and said, ‘OK then, who are you?'” he recalled. “Now, mind you, I didn’t know these people, nor did they know me and my hands were no longer on the board or the pointer. It spelled out Vito Rizzo. That is the name of my grandfather whom no one there knew.”
Rizzo got up and left the party.
“I was young and got very scared,” he said. “It messed with me so much that I still think about it to this day.”
Rizzo hasn’t played with a Ouija board since that day.
“I have had thoughts of using one again, now that I’m older, but thoughts of that night stop me,” he said. “After that night, I assure you they are real.”
During the interview, Rizzo ended with this plea:
“Just do me a favor. Please tell people to be careful.”
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