Today's Northern Echo carries the story of a County Durham mother and daughter, Margaret Carroll and Katrina Livingstone, who are in critical condition in hospital after a fire broke out in their home. Police suspect that the pair committed arson, and they have been arrested on this charge and reckless endangerment. That wouldn't normally be the kind of story I cover on this blog, but most reports are focusing heavily on the fact that the pair may of been dabbling with the Ouija board the evening before the fire.
The basis for this seems to come from the word of neighbours of the family, who add Lvingstone had told them the board warned the pair that they would soon die.
"Donna Sowerby, who lives nearby in First Street, said Miss Livingstone (the daughter) told her she used a Ouija board on Friday night, which told her she and her mother were going to die."The Metro goes as far as to directly implicate the Ouija board, running a large picture of the children's game at the top of its article on the fire:
"On Saturday, a fire started at Mrs Carroll and Miss Livingstone’s home in Consett, County Durham, and again a Ouija board is believed to have been involved..."
There is added relevance to this because Carroll's husband, Paul Carroll is currently awaiting sentencing for drowning his dog and dismembering it. And guess what this vile piece of shit blames the crime on evil spirits he conjured with... you guessed it... the Ouija board.
Prosecutor Blair Martin told the Court:
“When initially interviewed by police the defendant said the dog had died while he and his wife were using a Ouija board to contact dead spirits... He said a bad spirit had entered the dog and it died.”
Carroll seems to have now dropped his alibi and has pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. In fact he dropped the excuse in his second police interview. Its most certainly also relevant that Carroll suffers from severe learning disabilities and mental health issues. Did he believe that the Ouija was some how responsible for his crimes? I doubt it.
I also doubt that the timing of this fire and the mentioning of the Ouija's death threat by Carroll's step daughter to her neighbour and the sentencing of Carroll is pure coincidence. Did this pair some how intend to add credibility to Carroll's initial alibi with their actions? One can only speculate.
Of course the press still still focuses on the fact that a Ouija board was at some point used by the parties involved in both cases.
What they fail to realise is by focusing on the board as a factor in these terrible events the media perpetuate its aura as a dangerous divination tool. The spreading of this ignorance leads to mythology around the Ouija board that obscures that fact that the movement of the plancette is described by factors such as the ideomotor effect, involuntary muscle movement that also lies behind other forms of divination such as dowsing and automatic writing, that have been understood for decades!
There really is no mystery. And there certainly isn't communication with the damned or the dead.
Yet ask the majority of people and they will tell you the that the Ouija is somehow dangerous. Look at some of these comments from a discussion on whether the Ouija board should be sold in Toys'R'Us. They display the typical attitude and belief about Ouija boards:
What incidents? Rumour and urban legend and stories in the media such as the two above, where upon closer inspection the Ouija board becomes little more than an after-thought. Remember the three youngsters taken to hospital after playing with a talking board? Turns out that it was the hallucinogen Brugmansia that was responsible for their condition, not the Ouija board.
"Things they don't understand"? Maybe the users of such boards don't understand them, but within the scientific and skeptical community the phenomena is well understood! So what we are really condemning here is ignorance.
And this is the most common claim: "The Ouija Board is dangerous".
The Ouija board isn't dangerous. The aura surrounding it and perceptions of it in many people's minds most certainly is.
When people approach the use of a Ouija board in a heightened state the likelihood of having a terrifying experience that is poorly remembered after the event is vastly increased. Therefore leading to more urban legend and fear and ignorance.
The Ouija board's reputation may have a terrible effect on anyone suffering from mental health issues or learning disabilities, there's nothing supernatural about this, and the only counter is better understanding and the dismal of rumour and ignorance.