Are the spirits talking or just muscles? What about the unexplainable?

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

Edmond C. Gruss, author of The Ouija Board: A Doorway to the Occult (1994), is a retired professor in Santa Clarita, Calif. He was chairman of the history department at the Master's College, a Christian school, where he also taught religions of America.

Q. I just talked to a skeptic who subscribes to the theory of "unconscious muscle movement" when it comes to Ouija boards. I assume you don't buy that?

A. Let's put it this way: Much of it can be explained mentally or naturally, but there are some things that would be difficult explaining, that go beyond the muscular movement explanation.

There seem to be three theories on how the pointer moves: One is that a participant is consciously moving it. Another is that someone is subconsciously moving it. Then there are times, in your view, when the spirit world moves it.

That's not the rule. It's something that can happen. It's the last thing you go to. The thing that brings that explanation up is the information that comes out that the person doesn't know about. And then sometimes the information is so strong an expression that they do what they're told to do and it's often very detrimental to their life.

Is it dangerous to play with a Ouija board?

The title of my book says "a" doorway to the occult, not "the" doorway. The examples I bring out do illustrate that. And then even if it is something that's natural, people are driven to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do, so it's dangerous even from that standpoint - committing suicide, killing someone or whatever.

Are there cases in which the Ouija pointer moves on its own without someone's hands on it?

I have examples in the book of that. I had a correspondence with a lady in England who specifically had that experience. This is often what's said - sometimes it flies off (the board). You hear this time and time again.

Does it seem odd that Ouija boards are in toy stores?

It's too bad, because you have even people involved in spiritualism saying that it's not a game, not a toy. It can really get people into great difficulty, especially young people, when they start believing what comes through. Whether it's their own mind doing it or an external source, it can be very dangerous.

- Tim Engle/The Star