Back when I worked as a consumer respondent for Parker Brothers games in the late 1980s, there were days when the title “Ouija Board Therapist” would have been more accurate.

Just when I thought it was going to be a normal day answering questions about Monopoly rules (“No, you can’t put two hotels on a property”) or writing replies to long letters from Risk geeks, or getting another broken Merlin in the mail to have to deal with, I would get a Ouija call.

For example, the time a young boy called to ask, “The Ouija board said I’m going to die tomorrow, what do I do???????”

Or when a middle-aged woman hysterically told me, “The shape of the Ouija indicator appeared in the middle of my fogged up window on my car!!!!”

I fielded many desperate calls like these. I always told them to mail their Ouija board to me and I’d send them a game of their choice at no cost.

They never did.

I often told them to talk to a parent, minister, counselor, or teacher if they were really freaked out but they never responded to that. They were too caught up in telling their Ouija story.

They just needed me, a stranger, to listen to them and I suspected that their real problem had nothing to do with the Ouija board at all.

Then there were the calls from the curious people. The #1 question people asked about Ouija, almost every day, was, “What makes it work?”

This was in the days before Google and Wikipedia so it was up to me to come up with some sort of answer other than “Who knows?”

Except my answer never satisfied them, of course, because it was always just a version of “Who knows?”

Then there were the angry consumers. They would go on about how evil the Ouija board is and threatened to never buy another game from us again unless we yanked the demonic Ouija from the market.

In an attempt to diffuse their ire I would sometimes distract them with the story of how Ouija boards became popular during World War 1 because widows and others would use it to try to communicate with relatives killed in the war.

I hoped they would see that their frenzy over ridding the world of the Ouija board wasn’t all that different from the frenzy people were in during World War 1 when they turned to the Ouija board in desperation.

Of course they never saw that.

At the very least I hoped the talk of widows and such would make them chill a little.

Of course they never chilled.

Even if Parker Brothers had withdrawn Ouija from the market (they still sell it today), these people would have found some other thing to become incensed about.

The curious consumers would have found other things to make them ask unanswerable questions like, “But how does it work?”

The freaked out folks would have come up with other stories to tell to strangers, stories that had nothing to do with their real problem, because they just need someone to listen to them for a few minutes.

I guess we all have Ouija boards in our life, so to speak.

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Filed under: Stories/Storytelling

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