A Baptist group out of the UK recently gave a rather spine-chilling warning: Don’t try to speak to the dead.
The Baptist Deliverance Study Group published a blog post cautioning people to resist the “resurgence in interest in spiritualism” that typically comes following mass loss of life. It happened during the World Wars and the Spanish flu pandemic of the early 20th century, and they think the COVID-19 pandemic will likely be no different.
As millions of families grieve the loss of loved ones to COVID-19, this group predicts the temptation to turn to occultism to make contact with the dead is – using tools like Ouija boards and seances – will be too great to resist.
But, they warn, the consequences of pulling the old Ouija board off the shelf are dire.
“Communication with the dead [via occult means] is specifically forbidden in the Bible by a loving God who wishes to keep people safe from bondage to preternatural or demonic powers,” the blog post reads. “Becoming involved in activities such as Spiritualism can open up a doorway to great spiritual oppression which requires a Christian rite to set that person free.”
Instead of dabbling in that whole ‘dark arts’ thing, the Baptist group recommends a visit to your friendly local church.
Doorway to Hell or Innocent Fun?
But they’re hardly the first group to warn about the potential demonic dangers of seances and Ouija boards. In a Q&A on his website, evangelist Billy Graham warned about the dangers of Ouija, saying that playing with the $20 Hasbro game could “entangle you with spiritual forces that are not from God but Satan.”
Pat Robertson once said that demons control the board. And one priest, speaking on condition of anonymity, even told the Independent that playing with an Ouija board is like "going to some parts of Africa and saying I'm personally immune to Ebola.” He says that young people “can be very naive in thinking that they are only contacting the departed souls of loved ones when they attempt to communicate with the dead using the boards.”
If what they’re saying is true, that’s rather alarming; you’d think they wouldn’t sell portals to Hell in the toy section at Wal-Mart.
A (Formerly) Popular Pastime
Interestingly, Christians weren’t always so against using occult means to commune with the dead.
In the 19th century, America underwent a bonafide obsession with spiritualism and communing with dead relatives – spurred on by the devastating loss of life suffered during the Civil War. Hoping to talk to the men who went off to war and never came home, seances were a popular (even wholesome) evening activity practiced by scores of Christians.
“Communicating with the dead was common, it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” says Ouija historian Robert Murch. “It’s hard to imagine that now, we look at that and think, ‘Why are you opening the gates of hell?’
But getting a message out of those spirits could take ages. When the primary method of talking to the dead is reading out the alphabet slowly and asking the spirit to make a noise at the correct letter… things take a while.
The advent of the Ouija board changed things, allowing users to efficiently move a planchette around the board to the proper letter. Erm, guided by spirits, of course.
The obsession continued through the Spanish Flu pandemic, during which hundreds of thousands of Americans died.
Christians didn’t truly get up-in-arms about Ouija boards until the 1973 film The Exorcist, in which the soon-to-be-possessed Regan uses one to talk to a demon. Almost instantly, religious groups were warning that Ouija boards, and other occult methods of communication, were tools of the devil that could lead to your own demonic possession – paving the way for the "Satanic Panic" of the 80s and beyond.
Do the Dead Talk?
Skeptics say that Ouija boards aren’t opening any portals to Hell nor are they helping you to communicate with any dead relatives. Rather, it's just a harmless, overpriced piece of cardboard.
But for enthusiasts – and detractors – the Ouija board remains a real tool for communication to be used for good, or evil, depending on who you ask.
What do you make of all this? Can we actually talk to the dead?