“How to use a Ouija board — your guide to communing with the dead safely this Halloween,” is the title of an Oct. 25 New York Post article. But according to two exorcists who spoke with the Register, the title is a contradiction. Treading into the spirit world to communicate with spirits using a Ouija board is always dangerous.
“They say in the article that it’s dangerous,” Father Patrick [not his real name], an exorcist for almost 20 years, parish priest and former U.S. Army combat engineer, pointed out. He likened it to detonating explosives in the Army. “We were taught how to deal with them safely, but you are not around when they go off. Why would you want to be around when a Ouija board goes off? The only way to be safe is to not use it. You can’t control that dimension of spirituality.”
Any communication that occurs through a Ouija board is not your relative wishing you well from beyond the grave, but rather an evil spirit, according to Msgr. John Esseff, a retired exorcist of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who at the age of 95 celebrated 50 years as a priest this past May.
“The dark side has insulated itself so that people think they have some kind of protection against the darkness,” Msgr. Esseff said. “But it always ends up bringing them down. There is suffering that comes when people have sold themselves.”
The article recommends “experimenting with necromancy” while following basic rules from “experienced psychic advisors.” But both the Old and New Testaments are replete with stern warnings against it. Necromancy is communicating with the dead, such as through mediums and Ouija boards.
“Necromancy is a sin,” Msgr. Esseff warned. “Any communication is going to be from a demon.”
Father Patrick said that many people think demonic activity is fun.
“As an exorcist, I’d love to take them with me when I’m helping people having problems with demonic activity, and they wouldn’t think it’s funny. It’s dangerous.”
He explained that opening the door to the demonic can affect a person or place or both. For instance, when a house is haunted, he said the spirits can do very disturbing things.
“If you watch a movie about a haunted house, stuff like that happens. Demons can appear and manifest in different ways like in images, or moving things, or holding you down, or physically attacking. Anything that can happen to you by a person can be done by a demon.”
Here are some of the psychics’ supposed safety rules contrasted with the exorcists’ warnings:
1. “Don’t use a Ouija board alone.”
“Seances should be a team sport” due to the “potential for psychological or emotional distress,” the article advised. It claimed that doing it as a group also helps process it in a “healthful way later.”
Msgr. Esseff noted that there can be group deception and darkness.
“There can also be a fake togetherness,” he said. “People come together and feel they are together and there is an element of sharing, but what they are sharing is darkness.”
2. “Be polite.”
Be sure to say goodbye as a respectful farewell, which “closes the lines of communication with a proper send-off,” readers are told.
Yet, if saying goodbye to a demonic spirit was all that was necessary to end a relationship with an evil spirit, exorcists would have a lot more free time on their hands. Father Patrick recalled a student who called him from college after using a Ouija board the night before.
“You were right, Father,” he admitted, referring to a warning the priest had given in youth group while he was in high school.
“He had woken up with scratches on his back,” Father Patrick said. “I told him to go to reconciliation. The Lord allowed him to see the seriousness of what he had done. At least he showed spiritual wisdom calling a priest.”
Opening up communication with the devil doesn’t end with just a mere goodbye, according to Msgr. Esseff.
“It always begins with fun,” he said, “but it turns out disastrously.”
Sometimes the help of an exorcist is needed although often just going to confession can bring relief. “One confession is worth more than 100 exorcisms,” Msgr. Esseff said. He further explained that it restores grace in the soul, while an exorcism is a blessing to move someone toward the sacraments.
3. “Set your boundaries.”
The Post’s false experts advised setting clear boundaries and keeping open communication between participants and spirits when using a Ouija board.
Setting boundaries for dark spirits seems akin to nailing jelly to a tree. Instead of crossing God’s boundaries to stir up spirits, Msgr. Esseff recommends praying for the dead and having Masses said for them to help them reach heaven if they are not there yet.
“The person who died is benefited by that Mass,” he said. “And when a person dies, a funeral Mass assures them they are being prayed for.”
4. “Maintain a positive and respectful atmosphere.”
The last suggestion says that treating “participants, and any potential spiritual entities with respect contributes to a positive experience for all involved. Happy Halloween and merry necromancing, one and all.”
A truly positive and holy experience while celebrating Halloween, according to the priests, would be to reflect its very meaning — All Hallows’ Eve, in recognition of the next day being All Saints’ Day. That includes choosing wisely for decorations and costumes.
“The reality is, that when we dress like something or wear something, we are saying that we support it,” Father Patrick said. “We wear a number shirt of our favorite football player, and we like that team. We are establishing a relationship with that number and with that team. With costumes, when we dress up as something in the spiritual world, we are establishing a relationship with that.”
Father Patrick shared that recently, he and another priest stopped at a restaurant for a bite to eat. It was decorated for Halloween full of macabre images. “I have a gift of discernment of spirits, and felt some dark spiritual activity there,” he said. “I broke all the ties and prayed prayers of protection.” Then, they found another place to eat.
“Don’t forget that demons are on a short leash,” Father Patrick reminded. “When you let God be in charge, he offers protection.” It’s up to us who has authority over our lives, he said. “Giving God authority also allows our guardian angels to protect us. God loves us, so therefore, the angels love us.” He also recommended saying the Prayer to Your Guardian Angel daily.
Msgr. Esseff agreed. “There are so many beautiful examples of dressing your children up for All Hallows’ Eve,” he said. “With the saints, we can imitate and follow holy men and women. The beautiful saints glow like lights in the darkness of life as beautiful examples of people we should be like.”