Ouija in pop culture

This story originally appeared in the Wednesday,October 27, 2004 edition of The Kansas City Star

"The Exorcist." A real-life case inspired the best-selling novel and 1973 movie. Strange things started happening to a 14-year-old Maryland boy in 1949. According to legend, an aunt (from St. Louis) introduced him to a Ouija board, and after she died he spent hours with the board, probably trying to contact her. The boy's parents took him to St. Louis, where Catholic priests performed rites of exorcism. Another view: The boy wasn't possessed at all. "The kid was just a prankster," said a writer who investigated the case in 2000.

"Witchboard," a 1987 horror flick about a college student who - oops - contacts the spirit of a dead ax murderer. Two sequels followed. The Washington Post's Richard Harrington wrote: "A recent graduate of the Pia Zadora School of Acting, (Tawny) Kitaen is a serious thespian compared with (Stephen) Nichols and (Todd) Allen, who are upstaged at every turn by a wooden Ouija board that might have a hard time spelling `cat' even if you spotted it the `c' and the `t.' Then again, the planchette has a lot more movement than the film itself."

Magicians Penn Teller. Penn Jillette on his hype-debunking Showtime series "Penn Teller: (B.S.)": "There are two sure things you can say about a Ouija board. One, it'll set you back about 20 bucks. And two, it's (B.S.)." In this episode, when three volunteers try to contact the spirit of actor William Frawley (Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy"), the Ouija planchette answers their questions. But when the players are blindfolded and the board turned upside-down (without their knowledge), the pointer moves to the spots where they thought "Yea" or "Nay" were.

Gloomy singer Morrissey's 1989 tune "Ouija Board, Ouija Board." A lyrics sampler: Ouija board, Ouija board, Ouija board / Would you work for me? / I have got to get through / To a good friend / Well, she has now gone / From this unhappy planet / With all the carnivores / And the destructors of it. ... The table is rumbling / The glass is moving / No, I was not pushing that time: / P-U-S-H-O double F.