Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Toy Maker Targets Young Girls With Occult Board Game

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A pink version of a popular board game has some Christian leaders seeing red. The Ouija Board, which has been a staple of kid’s sleepovers and teen parties for years, incorporates a board covered with numbers, the alphabet, and other words and emblems, along with a pointer that “mystically” answers questions posed by participants.

While Hasbro, the toymaker that has manufactured the Ouija Board since 1967, said the game is nothing more than harmless fun, some Christian leaders warn that the device has roots in anti-Christian occult beliefs, and that the pink version, carried by the Toys R Us retailer, is nothing less than evil camouflaged as a kid’s toy. Parents, they warn, should not allow their children to have anything to do with the it.

Stephan Phelan of Human Life International noted the belief held by many Christians that there is a dark “spiritual reality” behind the Ouija Board, and “Hasbro is treating it as if it’s just a game. It’s not Monopoly. It really is a dangerous spiritual game….”

While the popularity of the Harry Potter book and movie series has led to a rise in interest by children for magic and occult themes, Phelan said that the danger of the Ouija Board comes from the “hands on” involvement of participants. “The difference is that the Ouija Board is actually a portal to talk to spirits and it’s hard to get people to understand that until they actually do it,” he argued. “I don’t pretend to know how it works, but it actually does.”

Hasbro insists that the Ouija Board is “intended purely for fun and entertainment,” and Chris Byrne, a toy industry expert who writes for the online toy site timetoplaymag.com, said he found “absolutely nothing” amiss about the board game. “If something doesn’t fit your value or belief system, you don’t have to buy it,” Byrne was quoted by Fox News as saying. “There’s absolutely nothing remotely Christian or un-Christian about it. I think people are projecting their belief system on it.”

Byrne said he wasn’t sure of where the notion came from that individuals using a Ouija Board can communicate with spirits. “That is something that people have made up and it became part of our culture,” he said. But one online site offering the board for sale confirmed the popular notion of the board’s occult connections. “Evil spirits! Wake the dead! Consult the board of omens!” the online ad copy reads. “The classic Ouija board has the answers to all questions, except the mysterious powers that determine its answers!”

Many Christians who oppose the use of the Ouija Board note scriptural references in both the Old and New Testaments that warn against involvement in occult activity. For example, they note that in Deuteronomy 18 God condemns the consulting of mediums or spirits, and they point out the prophet Isaiah’s warning against those who encouraged the people of Israel to consult mediums instead of relying on God for answers (see Isaiah 8:19). And in Galatians 5, the sins that the apostle Paul warns against include witchcraft.

One man with past involvement in the occult was prompted to launch a boycott of both Hasbro and Toys R Us when he saw their marketing of the pink Ouija Board. “This is the mainstreaming of the occult,” said John Cain, who said he first spotted news of the pink Ouija Board in late January and decided to investigate. His research led him to the Toys R Us website, which advertised the special version marketed just for girls.

“It has always been mysterious,” boasted the advertisement. “It has always been mystifying. And now the OUIJA Board is just for you, girl.” While a spokesman for Toys R Us said that the pink board is being phased out for newer toys, a glow-in-the-dark Ouija Board is still being marketed on the website, with the advertising copy, “Make up your own questions, and let the OUIJA Board satisfy your curiosity in virtually endless ways. OUIJA Board will answer. It’s just a game — or is it?”

Cain noted that his church’s strong stand against occult activity was a driving force behind his campaign against the companies selling Ouija Boards. “I’m a Catholic and I know it’s stated in the Catechism and the Bible that divination and necromancy are off-limits,” he said. “But the middle-of-the-road group, people who have either fallen away from the Church or don’t have any religious affiliation … think that when a big corporation like Hasbro and Toys R Us makes it appear so innocuous, it makes them wonder, ‘How bad can this be?’ So they buy it and introduce it to their children.”

Stephan Phelan of Human Life International applauded Cain’s actions and warned: “No responsible parent would want his or her child messing with this, and they need to be thrown out of houses and destroyed if you already have one.”

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Photo of Lana Turner and Susan Peters with Ouija Board in the 1944 film, "Woman's Army": AP Images