Aug 16, 2011
Ouija Boards: How Games Can Inspire Horror
Ouija boards. You can find them in the game aisle of any toy store or major retailer out there, but are they really a game? Much debate surrounds these little wooden boards with their letters and planchettes, also known as oracles.
Some say they are a hoax, driven only by overactive imaginations, or friends playing tricks on each other. Others claim they work all too well, and serve as a portal to the other side: a portal to the demonic underworld that cannot be closed once open. They say playing with an Ouija board is like sending a written invitation to any sinister spirit looking for a home.
I say they are a great tool in horror!
“The Exorcist” was one of the only movies to ever truly scare me in my lifetime. It centers on young Regan, and the chilling aftermath she endures after playing with an Ouija board. It started with the pointer moving by itself, scratches behind the wall, strange noises at night, and the unforgettable violent shaking of her bed. Then came the demonic possession. *shudders* The images of this girl and the horror she went through haunted me for weeks. I slept with the lights on, if I managed to sleep at all. That inhuman voice echoed in my head, eliciting shivers. The mere thought of laying in bed terrified me, lest it, too, started to shake.
Sure, laugh, if you will--but I was scared!
The book and movie are said to be based on the ‘true’ story of a little boy in Georgetown, USA. His is one of the only official exorcisms performed in the States. The movie, itself, was reportedly cursed. Some claim this was a hoax to garner more public interest. However, some facts do remain. A fire broke out on the set, delaying production for six weeks. The lead actress, Linda Blair, the actress who played Regan, suffered several mental breakdowns. Family members and actors tied to the film experienced a number of tragedies during and after production, including multiple injuries on set. Jack McGowen died of a heart-attack after completing his role in the film. Other deaths “linked to the Exorcist curse” are a night watchman, a cameraman’s offspring, and a special effects expert. Coincidence or not . . . you decide.
Other films that have used the Ouija board as a catalyst for horror include, “Witchboard,” “Thirteen Ghosts (also uses a séance),” “The Uninvited,” What Lies Beneath,” and many more. A more recent film, “A Haunting in Connecticut,” utilizes séances and boards with drastic results.
Whether they are a harmless game, a useful tool, or something much more sinister, the Ouija board has played a major role in inspiring terror. The Ouija will entertain, warn, instruct, or offer information from the spirit world, often with mixed results. This is a key scene that can set the stage for the rest of the story. It’s a plot device that sets the scene for many “what if” scenarios. Perhaps your character is truly haunted after playing with one. Is it a spirit, or something much more ominous? Or maybe, they have gone mad, driven by hallucinations and the result of their own fear. What sort of terror and acts do these hallucinations inspire? One thing is for sure . . . in the case of fiction, the Ouija does, indeed, open many doorways!
Historical note: Up until close to mid-last century, many cases of epilepsy, schizophrenia, and other mental and neurological diseases were attributed to demonic or spirit possession. In the medieval era, people were tortured in the name of medical science as people sought a way to “purge them of their demons.” In later centuries, they were locked away in insane asylums and forgotten, where they also suffered cruel experiments far from society’s eye.
Even advice on how to properly dispose of the board ranges widely. Some say throw it out or give it away, it is, after all, a cardboard game, saying it is comparable to Monopoly or CandyLand. Others claim it is no game and must be cleansed and burned. There are some who say burning it leaves the portal open and insist it must be cut up and buried. Yet more people claim it has to be weighted and dropped beneath running water. It seems the ways to dispose of it vary as widely as the opinions and stories surrounding the board itself.
Such debate and mystery leaves a writer’s options wide open, and would make anyone looking for a sincere option very confused. See the conflict this could provide for a character? What if option ‘A’ turned out to be the wrong one and after pitching said board, they discover it has somehow found its way home?
This is just one look at the many catalysts and options the horror genre provides. Like all things in life, the point of view taken on it is subjective to one’s own whims. I’m not here to argue or debate the board and its purpose, or the rumors surrounding it. I only know those rumors scare me silly! It’s not even the board itself that scares me. It’s the “what if” factor! This is just another example of where imagination can take us. Of what belief, or even a moment of suspended belief can do. For me, the results lasted a lifetime. I hope you found this information entertaining and, perhaps, a bit chilling. Most of all, I hope it provides a small glimmer of inspiration somewhere along the way.
~Best wishes and happy haunting!~