There are many methods, which are used in the hopes of communicating with the spirits of the dead. Within this article we will explore the most popularly used techniques, some of my own personal experiences, and the downside of these practices.
Ouija Angel/Demon Boards
How many can honestly say that as a young person they have never played around with Ouija boards? (Ouija is a trademark of Parker Bros.) I think that it’s safe to say that the majority of us have tried them out at one time or another either as a lark, or with serious intentions in mind.
For the few who may be unfamiliar with them; these wooden boards and their homemade equivalents are marked with letters and simple words. They are operated either singly or with a group by placing one’s fingertips on a plachette or similar device and asking a question along the lines of, ‘Is anybody out there?’ The hope of course is that a spirit will in turn answer by spelling out words on the board, and thus communication on some level will occur.
Séances are another familiar form of contacting the deceased. This type of communicative effort is conducted in a group setting where there is usually one designated ‘leader’ or medium; typically somebody with ‘psychic’ abilities. Candles and incense may be used to add the right ambience for the setting.
This method is often of a more serious intent than the average dabbling of the Ouija Board. Specific spirits or entities are called upon in order to interact with them and occasionally the intent of the medium/leader is to allow for a ‘possession’ to take place.
Automatic Writing and Channeling
Neither as well known nor as popular a method as Ouija boards and séances to the average person are channeling and automatic writing. These involve the ‘possession’ of the would-be contactor by a spirit in order for the entity to speak through or write/type out messages or pass along information from the ‘other-side.’ The person who allows for this type of contact is usually someone of self-expressed ‘psychic’ ability or a medium.
Props such as candles, crystals, clear bowls of water, mirrors, and the like are also employed by some in order to induce a trance by staring deeply into them. The thought behind this practice is that communication efforts will be greatly enhanced during this self-induced hypnotic state. Sensory depravation prior to the communication may also be utilized for this same purpose.
Do These Methods Really Work?
The answer to this question is obviously a matter of opinion, based on beliefs and individual life experience, as opposed to a proven scientific fact. Therefore those who claim they do or do not work, with the intention of communicating with the ‘spirit realm’ could either/or be potentially correct.
I have read, heard about, discussed with others and even participated in attempts to communicate with spirits. Does this make me an expert? No. I honestly do not believe anyone can make that particular claim without offering concrete ‘proof’ either way that is repeatable and therefore verifiable by everyone as stated above. Does my experience to date qualify me to offer an informed albeit humble opinion? Yes.
My own experiences with the methods of spirit communication/interaction discussed above, in particularly Ouija boards are suggestive that on occasion activity of a paranormal nature may result. I will share with you two examples from my youth that stand out in my mind and you are invited to form your own opinion on them:
I had been using the Ouija board alone and was surprised that it was actually working as per instructions. A lot of people claim it does not work for them unless they are within a group. This is one reason why people tend to blame others for moving the plachette. I was told by the presumed ‘entity’ that it would materialize for me. I have to confess that this really did scare me and I told ‘it’ not to. That night when I finally managed to fall asleep, I was awakened by I think a strange noise, looked around my darkened bedroom, and swore I thought I saw a dark humanish-looking shadow cross in front of the bed! This may have been my over-active imagination at work as a result from the earlier perceived frightening experience with the board. However, at the time this event seemed to be very real. Needless to say I did not get any more sleep that night, and purposely slept on the couch, lights on, TV going, for days after.
Another experience involved my younger sister, and some of her friends (one of whom is now a member of P.R.O) who were using the Ouija board. I was in the room with them, but was not participating at this time. I decided to see if I could influence the answers they were getting from the board in an experiment. They would ask a question, and I would concentrate on the answers. Surprisingly, the answers I was thinking of would come through on the board. I remember feeling delighted, like learning a new magician’s trick! I started making the answers funky i.e.: my sister would ask "will I be getting a new pet?" and I'd think "yes, a new tiger" These purposely intended to be ‘strange’ answers would also come through on the board. I will remind you that my hands were never on the plachette during the experiment. I really cannot explain exactly what had occurred aside from the fact that it did occur. Was there an ‘entity’ present that was reading my thoughts, and projecting them on the board? Were these thoughts being put into my head by something else? Was this a case for telepathy between the others and myself? Or was this a matter of coincidence? Due to the odd nature of the answers I am willing to rule out random chance, anything beyond that, and your guess is as good as mine. We at P.R.O have received two separate accounts relating similar experiments and results with Ouija board usage at the time of this writing.
The Downside Of Spirit Communication
For the majority whom dabble/d mildly with spirit communication, their intentions are to pass away a few hours for fun with low expectations in the first place. More often than not this is exactly what they will get; an amusing or slightly scary experience (the validity of easily called into question) with no real harm done. However, there are the rare exceptions where those whom after seemingly harmless attempts at spirit communication experience ongoing hauntings and poltergeist-like activity as a result.
I have consulted with Dee Freedman a ‘sensitive’ and investigator of the paranormal who offers her opinion on spirit communication through Ouija boards:
“I have a big problem with Ouija boards. I have been known to use one only in dire circumstances, for example; when the problem has originated there. They are a gateway for ANYTHING to come through and 99% of the time people use them as a form of entertainment. Big mistake. There are uncontrolled factions that more people must become aware of before messing with them. It can be compared to Russian roulette. You might get away with playing for a while, but eventually the gun will go off. If you feel you must experiment with a board, I strongly suggest that you do so in a controlled environment, never in an area where children may reside or be present. Always say a prayer for protection prior to starting. If there is ANY indication of trouble, remove the plachette from the board immediately and break contact. If the trouble still persists, call in someone with experience in these matters to help you clear it up. My best advise however, is not to mess with it in the first place.”
Skeptics can counter that there is neither scientific proof that these experiences do occur as perceived or that they offer any real danger by some supernatural threat.
These differing opinions suggest one of two possibilities. One, that people are wasting their time by consciously/subconsciously creating the desired effect themselves, and two perhaps far worse in consequence, is that people are putting themselves at risk by invoking/provoking an encounter with a not fully understood and potentially dangerous force. Either scenario does not bode well for attempts at spirit communication by the average member of society.
What About The Investigator Of The Paranormal?
We at Para-Researchers of Ontario have on occasion conducted investigations in the company of ‘sensitives’ and will continue to do so depending first and foremost on the comfort level of the experiencers who contact us and secondly when we deem this warranted.
From a statistical gathering standpoint it is of interest to note when a sensitive is brought into a situation completely ‘cold’ (with little to no prior knowledge) how often they can/cannot provide useful and later verifiable information.
It is our policy not to provoke or incite encounters with spirits, entities etc while on an investigation. Therefore we do not employ the techniques described in an attempt to illicit information nor do the ‘sensitives’ we work with. This is simply our policy and we do not criticize others who do. However it is my own opinion that information obtained through these techniques is unreliable at best.
Other researchers can point to their successes with data received by these methods, such as information that could only be known to the deceased. However, if you ask a demonologist they will tell you that a ‘devil’ could easily provide the same and that they will lie anyway. Ask a skeptic and they will want to be shown the verifiable proof that this data could have only originated from the dearly departed as opposed to through some other means such as the conscious/subconscious manipulation of the data. Even the various pro-ghost hypothesis research groups and investigators do not have a fully agreed upon conviction in regards to this topic. Again, until such a time that someone can offer proof anyone’s opinion is equally as valid and worthy of consideration, but not to be confused with absolute truth on the matter.
The final decision on whether spirit communication is a useful tool in regards to paranormal research is dependant upon the investigator and/or organization.
In conclusion I would like to ask those who have previously attempted or are contemplating an attempt at spirit communication what their true motivations are? If you are someone who has recently lost a loved one, our sincere condolences go out to you. Please do consider if your desire for communication is in fact a result of an inability to come to terms with your loss, which is often the case. It would be beneficial to you to discuss your feelings with other family members and friends, your medical doctor, or to consider joining a bereavement support group in your area (many funeral homes now offer these services). If you are playing around with these techniques on a whim, for amusement, or perhaps with the sincere intention of discovering whether communication with the ‘other-side’ is possible, please do be advised that there are those whom seriously call into question your well being physically, mentally and/or emotionally by engaging in these activities whether you are dealing with ‘entities’ or something of a more natural explanation. Director of the GHRS, Matthew Didier is not a believer in Ouija boards and has this to say:
“Regardless of my own beliefs and disbelief's, the human mind is a powerful thing indeed. If someone wishes to believe strongly enough, almost anything will become true (if nothing else, at least to the person who believes). It has been my overwhelming experience that a Ouija session almost inevitably leads to negative results. This could in part be caused by the way in which most people pursue contact with a Ouija. Usually at night, in the dark and with an emphasis on atmosphere more than on actual contact and assuming a "non-believer" says they are contacting nothing more than their subconscious, this situation would be ripe for the "victims" to assume that they have now a dark and demonic presence with them then the suffering, real or imagined, begins. Granted, if nothing else one should remember that they are using a ‘paranormal communication device’ that's mass marketed by Parker Bros.”
This statement could equally hold true for all other methods of spirit communication.