Picture of Animated 'Haunted' Ouija Board
This animated "haunted" Ouija board was made as a Halloween prop. This was made with mainly junk materials from my garage, but if you have none of the parts you should be able to source them reasonably cheaply enough. You need handy-man skills, some electronic know-how, and be able to program a microcontroller or pic (or know someone who can do it for you!)

Update Alert
The board can now say messages sent to it via a serial device - step 12 covers the changes I made!

This is part build-log, part how to. I hope I give you enough info to inspire you to make something similar.

Here is a video of the completed board with the lid off:

And here is a video of the completed box I had ready for Halloween 2007:

New Video

This new clip shows the serial communications link working:

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Step 1: Stuff you will need

Picture of Stuff you will need
A Stepper motor, with gear box, pulleys and toothed belt - I had a set stripped from a dead cheap scanner. You could modify this project to use a braided steel wire or even string instead of the belt, it shouldn't be too hard.

Some wood to suit your design. I messed up when I built mine, and used some poorly finished pine and my not so great woodworking lead to nasty corner joints, which left me needing to veneer the wood with a thin plywood... so keep this in mind, and perhaps use some nice ply to start with, and skip needing to do the annoying veneer finish. Alternatively, you could use the oldest and most worn timber, for that 'ye olde' antique look. Heck, be creative and make it your project!

Something to drive the stepper motor (I'll provide a sample circuit and the microcontroller code) but if you already have something else, or know what you are doing, then knock yourself out, you'll figure it out from the steps I have outlined....

A microswitch for the home position sensor (I got mine out of an old printer)

A power supply (12v 400ma plugpack or 12v worth of batteries if you want it cordless)

Some hookup wire

5 minute epoxy

Items I used but you can substitute with something similar: piano wire, brass tubing, a strong magnet from a broken HDD, brass shim, copper shim, brass split pins, brass box corners, rubber o-rings, scrap aluminium angle stock, screws, small piece of self adhesive felt, hotglue.

Basic tools: Pliers, cutters, soldering iron
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lucek3 years ago
Just saying this is a Fuji board and planchette. Don't want to get sued.
cornetz4 years ago
sir /mam; may i ask for specifications and prize for ur pulleys with diff sizes?thank you very much
frikkie4 years ago
you have great talent at what you build,but I wont build something like that,even though it aint real,the board itself.
This is an amazingly well written Instructable! Love it!
Wow, Jacob! This is a dazzling piece of invention. Apart from the incredible work you've done on the mechanical aspects, you've clearly thought out the 'psychic' aspect very well indeed!

The pauses, the path the marker makes... very effective in showing that there's a ghost going to extraordinary effort to make that damn thing move! Must be super-freaky to experience!

One piece of 'authenticity' your device has built in is the inability to reach certain letters. Kinda like there's a ghost that can't really spell. Maybe you could put in a 'frustration' loop when it's supposed to hit an 'l' or 'm' or whatever? Something like an agitated motion going to the pentagram, then back to the regular spelling out of the rest of the letters?

Great work!

Blue skies
If you watch the action of the puck, the builder has incorporated reverse correction so that it does end up pointing at the correct letter. The device is limited by the path of the drive belt. If it were built as an x/y plotter unit instead, then the extra movements that you suggest would be more easily implemented.

I like the way it is now, vaguely shuffling round--definitely enough to freak out a few idiots!
ktalex4 years ago
does it make a loud racket?
johnet3264 years ago
This is a great project. Lots of potential for add-ons. Pics are great too. I'm one of the peeps who need to see something to get how it works. I like that the electronics could be used for a robot until Halloween. Thanks for sharing, really enjoyed reading this.
philh774 years ago
would be better if you built it into a table and made it not look as thick. maybe just 1/2 inch above the table and the rest built in under the surface of the table, great idea.
askjacob (author)  philh774 years ago
That is true, it does not look like a "real" ouija board which usually are a cardboard sheet (like a monopoly game board).

I wanted to make a transportable prop though, so making it into a desk would have not been very easy to to. For fun, a version could be made with much more powerful magnets and the base unit attached under any desk, but again I had to make do with the magnets I had at hand (broken chips of HDD magnets).

My plan was to make it look like a seperate piece of victorian furniture, but did make it deeper (chunkier) than it needed to be - it could easily be 1/2 the height ot less and still fit everything in.

Thanks for the comment!
something that fits under the table would be great, I never thought of that.
then use a regular board. I would love to see that.
askjacob (author) 4 years ago
Just to keep you all updated - the board is still alive and kicking - or dead and writing 3 years on. Usually it is left in random mode, as in the usual halloween part environment no-one will really stand and see if the board is spelling out a message.

The message capability will be of more use for halloween games (spelling out clues) or a haunted house type of display/feature.

3 years on and I still am pretty happy with the project!
Treknology4 years ago
I love it! You just need to get the noise factor down so that dweebs who really have no f'g idea about this stuff have the $%^& scared out of them!
askjacob (author)  Treknology4 years ago
I really should add a new video. The noise factor was fixed after the video on here was tasken - there was sawdust in the stepper motor gear drive. Once cleaned up it runs quietly. The only sound with the lid off you can hear is the felt of the planchette dragging about - which makes people look for the source of the sound if they haven't seen the ouija board yet!

TheInventor6 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
askjacob (author)  TheInventor6 years ago
Sheesh. "Obviously" this is a fun project to make a prop. A prop. In case you had not noticed, I have steered clear of making any comment on Ouija boards in general, their use or what I think of them - I'm Ouija neutral here :) Thanks for the comment - I don't know the context of your comment so I'll take it as a friendly post. Oh, and no, I have not used a real Ouija board. But I have made a fake one :)
 If you could sink it down into the table, and put mirrors around the outside, people would be floored. They would have no clue. It'd be awesome!
it's a lot more fun to trick people this way!
dunnos5 years ago
do you have an overall picture of the setup? i will be making a chess board with my arduino someday soon :)
TED51655 years ago
Very well done.
znelson7105 years ago
I am wanting to make one and yours looks all complicated ans stuff. I had the idea to either use an etcha sketch or similar setup. you could replace the knobs with motors and set it doun in the bottom of the box with a raised shaft wiht a magnet. it would be able to reach all the letters and you could increase the speed. just a thought
askjacob (author) 6 years ago
It's getting to that time of year, and this project seems to be getting a bit of attention again. If you have any questions, best ask them here in the comments section for everyone to see. Anyone need further info, let me know and I'll add/update the instructable. Cheers Jacob
Jacob, I checked this out last year (still haven't built one though) and thought it was great. With your recent improvements, it is even better. Not sure if you realized it, but you can buy a bluetooth serial converter for $20 on eBay. I have one and they are super easy to use. You just gotta add a bluetooth connection for the full effect. The only other improvements I could think of would be voice recognition software and maybe some simple AI with "personalities" to really get the full effect. If "Alice" chatbots weren't so verbose, that might be an easy way to do it. I don't think people are going to be able to follow the puck for more than a 3 or 4 word sentence without losing interest. I know; always easier said than done. Just wanted to hound you to try it. :)
(removed by author or community request)
uh... ok... I won't? You can go back to watching your cartoons now. :)
askjacob (author)  RetroPlayer6 years ago
Nice one! I'll dig about a bit and try to get one. Sounds like an accomplice would be easier than AI and voice recognition... that would be another big project on its own :) Thanks for the comment! Cheers Jacob
Well, unless you can find something "prepackaged" for the AI and voice recognition, I agree that it wouldn't be worth it. But there are quite a few pieces of software out there that you could experiment with. I think (but I am not 100% certain) that "Alice" is actually configurable enough that you might be able to make it less robust. The neat thing about it being somewhat AI based is that after your initial personality set up, the responses should be a little unpredictable even for you. You just might get goosebumps yourself wondering if 'something else' is guiding it. Just saying it might be worth experimenting a little and seeing what's out there.
askjacob (author)  RetroPlayer6 years ago
Haha- I have just been "talking" with Alice. Wow things have come a fairly long way since I had "Eliza" on the system80 :).

I will have a play with the software soon. For those interested, you can chat with alice here:

Sorry, I meant "..less verbose" not "...less robust."
mycroftxxx6 years ago
This project should really go down in history - it has to be fairly unique amongst output devices.
sueman26 years ago
seems hard to build. i would add it to a huanted house, but for my own i do every year it seems like too much work, and people wouldn't wait around to see it. awsome instructable thoe.
askjacob (author)  sueman26 years ago
That is why I stick to 1 project per year for halloween stuff. Make 1 good thing a year, and over the years you will have quite a few items. Yes it was 'hard to build' in a way, but was very satisfying. There is no reason it needs to be as hard as the way I made it though :) Thanks for the comment!
bethehammer6 years ago
What is the CD audio input for? did you add a speaker? Nice job on the instructable... and the updates
askjacob (author)  bethehammer6 years ago
I recycled a CD cable - it isn't an audio input, it was used to make a serial connector for the laptop. cheers
askjacob (author) 6 years ago
Hey there! If you are leaving a rating for this, could you also please leave a comment? Let me know what is good/bad/whatever... Thanks! and thanks for looking at my instructable!
askjacob (author) 7 years ago
Heh! I should add that the motor is not noisy anymore... It is quite quiet. The sound of the felt sliding on the wood is the loudest noise it makes....
foobear7 years ago
gorgeous and scary. just put it in a room with loud music to hide the noise of the motors. impressive.
foobear foobear7 years ago
ooh, and I am the 13th rater and you have 13 steps. now I am creeped out. I'd better stay inside today.
Very beautiful AND technological. The pentacle is an excellent touch ;-).
askjacob (author) 7 years ago
Video is uploaded now of finished system with serial communications ability. Still to come is the code and schematics for the revised version. The code has some useful snippets for handling serial communciations interrupts which was something new I learned while building this project....
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