A Ghosting Hazard: Should Ouija Boards Be Sold at Children’s Toy Stores?

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Featured in plenty of horror movies and television shows such as Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), Veronica (2017), and American Horror Story, plenty of people regardless of culture can recognize an Ouija board when they see one. It’s been used so many times in the horror genre that there are even jokes about the repetitive formula: a bunch of young people get their hands on a Ouija board, they follow whatever ritual they find on the internet, the skeptical member of the group angers whatever spirit they’ve called, and then all hell breaks loose as they fail to “close” the game.

With so much stories surrounding the Ouija board, it’s no surprise that plenty of parents are warning their children from playing the game. You might think that kids have to go to some hidden satanic store in the bad part of the city to find an Ouija board, but the truth is, getting an Ouija board is as easy as taking a trip to your local mall.

Toys R Us are selling Ouija board games, much to the protests of some parents. Some believe it is a danger to their children, playing with the supernatural elements they’re too young to understand. Others claim that there is no harm to it, and is only a fun experience to get spooked by the ideomotor effect. Today, we look at the pros and cons of Toys R Us making Ouija boards accessible to children and if it is even a good idea.


The Facts on Ouija Boards

An Ouija set consists of two parts: the flat board which has the letters, numbers, greetings, and a yes and no response, and the planchette, a small piece of wood used to determine what the “spirit” is trying to spell out on the board.

Players must gather around the board, put one finger each on the planchette, and then summon a spirit to join them. They then ask a question, and the spirit is the one moving the planchette to spell out the answer. When they are done communicating with the spirit, they end the game by leading the planchette towards goodbye.

Before the Ouija board, there were mentions of “spirit writing” in ancient Chinese, Indian, Greek, Roman, and European civilizations. There were claims that necromancers could get the spirits to write and communicate with the living.

However, the Ouija board was actually invented in the United States. After the civil war, mediums earned money by giving survivors the chance to talk to those who had died in the war. At the time, there were early forms of the Ouija board, but it wasn’t until 1890 that the Ouija board we know today was created in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Ouija board would later be patented and trademarked several times. This is where its history gets tricky. Many businessmen attempted to claim they created the Ouija board. Elijah Bond, William Fuld, and Charles Kennard claim ownership over some part of the Ouija board’s creation, but it was Fuld who ended up being remembered as the man who invented it. He claimed the term “Ouija” was just the combination of the French and German words for “yes,” (oui and ja, respectively), but Kennard claimed he had used the board and was told by a sprit that it was the ancient Egyptian word for “good luck.”

There is no hard evidence if Ouija boards can truly contact the dead. Skeptics believe that what people really experience is called “ideomotor response,” or an instance when people think they’re not moving, but they really are. Regardless of its effectiveness in contacting the dead, religious organizations are strongly against it. It was a symbol of divination and witchcraft and is regarded as a satanic device used to contact demons, not just souls of the departed.

Ouija Boards in Toys R Us

Ouija Boards in Toys R Us: Yes

Whether you believe the supernatural element in commercialized Ouija boards to be true, there are plenty of reasons to allow Toys R Us to continue selling these boards in their stores. The United States (and other countries where Toys R Us sells Ouija boards) is a free country, and giving people the option to buy an Ouija board is not breaking any law.

If it’s real, it can help provide closure by contacting the dead.

Some deaths happen suddenly, providing you with little time to make amends or say goodbye to a loved one that has passed. Assuming an Ouija board can allow people to talk to spirits, wouldn’t this be helpful for children and other family members who want to talk to their loved one? According to occultists, using an Ouija board is OK as long as it is used by someone who understands how to deal with the board.

It’s an entertaining way to teach psychology.

The scientific community dismisses the idea that Ouija boards are real and are skeptical of its effects. What some believers perceive as their loved one coming back from the dead are actually the results of something known as “ideomotor effect.” This occurs when players think the Ouija board’s planchette is moving on its own when it is really their muscles performing the movement that they themselves do not feel.

In an episode of National Geographic’s Brain Games, researchers tasked a group of believers to play with an Ouija board. One participant believed that it was their deceased loved one, as the planchette spelled out words related to the participant’s loved one. However, when they were tasked to continue playing while blindfolded, the planchette did not spell any word as it went around the board without direction or without pointing to specific letters or numbers. The results hinted at the ideomotor effect: whether or not they recognize it, players are responsible for the planchette’s movements.

It’s a fun game to play – a game you’d expect to see in a place such as Toys R Us. Remember, kids aren’t the only ones shopping here. Teenagers and adults can find some interesting games here, too, especially one that plays with the mind.

We know it’s not real.

Some of us recognize that Ouija boards are just cardboard and plastic and manufactured by Hasbro in the same way they produce Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders, and other board games. An object only has power when we give it power. If believers’ arguments against Ouija boards cite the horror films that emphasize the use of Ouija boards for contacting the dead and summoning demons, then I should be allowed to cite television shows such as The Good Place if I argue that heaven isn’t real.

Even if it’s not real, it’s a good way to cope with loss.

For some of us recognize that an Ouija board’s supernatural element isn’t real, we still recognize that there are those that do. And if they want to use it and “connect” with a loved one to achieve closure, why not? They’re using it for a good purpose, so let them be and give them a way to buy it easily in their own local mall.

If you don’t want one, don’t buy it.

The same applies to gay marriage and abortions: if you don’t agree with it, no one is forcing you to buy it. If you’re afraid your kids will summon demons, then don’t buy it and make it clear to people who give your children gifts that you don’t appreciate having an Ouija board in your home.

But just because you don’t think you or your kids should play with an Ouija doesn’t mean that your beliefs apply to everyone else. Skeptics and non-believers have a right to try one out, and if they get sucked in by demons to some netherworld, then it sucks for them. But with Ouija boards still selling and people claiming it doesn’t really work, it doesn’t seem that way.

ouija boards for kids
Source: The Horror Movies Blog

Ouija Boards in Toys R Us: No

Regardless of the religion you practice, it’s hard to deny that Ouija boards are based on the idea that there is an afterlife, there are supernatural beings, and if there are ghosts, then there must be demons as well. There’s no proof that Ouija boards can contact the supernatural, but with so many things we don’t recognize, it is best not to play with things we don’t understand.

Ouija boards are not a toy.

“Toys R Us” – an Ouija board is not a toy. If you expect makeup in Sephora or cheap deals in a Walmart, then by selling an Ouija board in a toy store, you’re giving people the idea that the Ouija board and the act of contacting the afterlife is something everyone, especially kids, should take lightly. Well, it’s not. If it’s real, then kids may be playing with literal fire – hellfire. If it’s not, this game teaches kids to pursue other means of necromancy outside their religion. And if the Church warns its followers against Ouija boards while children continue to play, then they’re going against everything their religion stands for.

They are too dangerous for children.

If we put age limits on driving, drinking, and other mature activities, we should also put a limit on things that play with entities children are too young to understand. Played incorrectly, an Ouija board may bring harmful effects on a child. They may fail to send the ghost back to the afterlife and be haunted for the rest of their lives. Some ghosts are capable of even bringing physical harm to their target, which could even be fatal.

People aren’t meant to know the future.

Humans are just mere mortals who aren’t capable of seeing the future on their own. If they require an Ouija to catch a ghost and tell them of the future, then perhaps they’re better off never knowing the truth. As humans, we’re born to live and eventually die. It’s a fact of life, one that cannot change. Knowing the future isn’t right because, if there is a future, then that must mean everything has already been planned by a higher being. And knowing what will happen to you or your surroundings in the future upsets the balance as you may try to change it.

Even if it isn’t real, it can cause psychological trauma.

A lot of these arguments are based on what-ifs and the assumption that Ouija boards truly work and that there is a supernatural. What if there isn’t, though? Well, for one, it means that children are safe from ghosts haunting or hurting them from the rest of their life. However, young impressionable children may not understand this and be fearful for the rest of their life that an Ouija board connected them to a ghost.

Say that a child gets their hands on an Ouija board. It’s for sale in Toys R Us, and even if their parent says no, they might have some savings or they pool money with their friends to get a set. They play, they think their ideomotor effect is the ghost they’re communicating, and they’re traumatized by every little thing they chalk up as a ghost that still follows them. Sure, horror movies don’t give an accurate version of how Ouija boards work, but because these films are available on TV, they may think that the same haunting is happening to them because they got their hands on an Ouija board.


On one hand, Ouija boards are a good way to observe people’s psychological behavior and a fun game for everyone to pretend they’re part of a horror movie. There’s nothing illegal about Ouija boards, and people have the right to purchase one if they want to. On the other hand, making Ouija boards very accessible for young children may be traumatizing. In the case that the supernatural is real, there’s the danger that young kids may be welcoming supernatural beings they don’t truly understand.


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