Are you prepared to be scared? Hasbro’s first horror film, “Ouija,” will be making its spooky debut when the supernatural movie hits theaters Friday, Oct. 24 -- just in time for Halloween. According to the plot’s summary, “Ouija” will follow the story of a group of teenage friends who attempt to make contact with a recently deceased classmate through a Ouija board. However, they’ll be forced to confront their most “evil and demonic” fears when they accidentally awaken a dark power of the ancient spirit board.
International Business Times caught up with Robert Murch, the foremost collector, historian and expert on Ouija and talking boards (who also consulted on the movie), to get the scoop on whether Ouija is just a game or a way to communicate with the spirit world.
Murch, who got involved with “Ouija” after reaching out to Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner in 2009, explained that the mystery and notoriety behind the talking board is the very reason why Hasbro decided to base a horror movie on the 125-year-old game. “Ouija has made people wonder, feel fascinated, scared and threatened. It hast inspired all kinds of things,” he told IBTimes. “Knowing the history of this board, the movie needs to scare people and has to be intense. It needs to be thought-provoking: Could something so simple potentially be dangerous?”
So, that begged the question: Is Ouija real? And if it is, is it safe?
“Here’s my take on it, and this is what’s great about the Ouija board,” Murch explained. “We, as a pop culture, the people who play it, give the Ouija board all the power -- power we don’t give to any other spirit-communication device. Talking boards came out of the spiritualistic movement. They were intended to talk to the other side -- no doubt about it -- but Ouija has always been marketed as an amusement. It’s marketed as a game, but there are people who believe it’s not [a game], [that] it’s letting the devil into people’s lives. That’s their belief.”
Murch elaborated on the pivotal role that belief plays while partaking in a session of the game. “When you use a Ouija board, you are opening up the door. Is it to your subconscious? Is it to the spirit world? Is your friend just pushing it? You want to believe, so you enter this world of belief. What’s funny about it is we blame the board if something goes wrong. But what’s really happening is you are communicating with something. But because we don’t want to take responsibility for what might go wrong, we blame the tool.”
Murch made the insightful comparison that texting is the modern-day version of Ouija. He explained that when you receive a disheartening text, you don’t throw your cell phone away. So, why would you divorce yourself from the board over a message you receive?
“Ouija has a life of its own. It doesn’t matter what the truth is; it’s what we believe. And Ouija represents something that is so basic to all humans: What happens when I die? We as a culture are so uncomfortable with death today because we have so many ways to fight it. But the Ouija board represents the possibility that maybe you could have that one last conversation. And that’s really tempting," he said.
What we really wanted to know was whether Murch, a chairman of the board of the Talking Board Historical Society, had ever experienced a memorable session while playing.
“I've played the Ouija board hundreds, if not thousands, of times, but I have never had an experience where I felt I was talking to a spirit,” Murch revealed, adding that his lack of ghost-talk may be because he views Ouija as a historical artifact. “But I have witnessed people who have. What has never ceased to amaze me is how badly people want to make contact. That’s why the Ouija board is sold and popular 125 years later.”
According to Murch, when Parker Brothers bought Ouija in 1966, the company came up with the tagline “It’s just a game… isn’t it?” leaving players to wonder whether it could possibly lead to communication with the spiritual realm. Now, after the board's supernatural face-lift a year ago, believing is mandatory. Instead of giving participants an ounce of doubt, Ouija insists people not play if they only see the board as a game.
In “Ouija” the characters of the movie end up accidentally reaching out to a dark entity, which results in complete chaos and even causes death. IBTimes questioned Murch if there are ways to prevent sessions from going sour, like the Hasbro horror film. “These are Ouija-stitions,” he replied. “There are rules people have made up over time and there are people who will warn you that partaking in the game is dangerous because you’re calling out to something and you don’t have control over what decides to answer.”
However, Murch believes the person playing the game is in charge. “I think what happens to many people is that they want this experience. But when they get it, they’re frightened because it kind of wasn’t supposed to work. But you put your hands on it, place your fingers on the planchette, ask a question, it slowly starts to move, and you realize, ‘What if this is real? What if this works?’ That’s the catch because you can shut other devices down and walk away -- but with the Ouija board, it’s all instantaneous. You are a part of the session, part of the answer.”
When asked if he thinks the horror film accurately portrays the game of Ouija, Murch said the movie “absolutely” represents what a large segment of America believes the board can do.
“What happened to the Ouija board over time is very Alfred Hitchcock-like,” he explained. “Hitchcock did an amazing thing to the shower in ‘Psycho.’ No one was afraid to take a shower before, but suddenly, after people were killed in [that] scene, they were afraid to step foot in their shower. And the Ouija board, for people who think it’s evil, is a very insidious thing because it’s sold to kids and could potentially open a door that’s closed.”
Murch concluded that Ouija goes back to the very basic morality we have inside of us, which is what makes the game so frightening and alluring. “The clock is ticking and if you’re trying to make contact from the Ouija board, there's some sort of belief that someday you’re going to be on the other side of that game.”
Do you think Ouija is just a game? Sound off in the comments section below with your theories on the 125-year-old talking board.