Alton Towers Resort has defended its sale of Ouija boards and other occult items after a formal complaint was made.
Both Ouija boards and Ouija skulls were recently available to purchase in the Halloween display at Gloomy Wood, a small “gothic” area of the Staffordshire theme park.
A complaint was made by Wendy McCann, a frequent customer at Merlin attractions, including Alton Towers, after her 23-year-old son returned to Alton Towers with friends and found to his amazement that the self-described “family-friendly” resort was now selling Ouija items.
Wendy McCann said to the Catholic Herald that, “knowing that mental health issues are big news these days, and good mental health is so important especially for our youth, I feel it quite inappropriate for such items to be sold and so readily available”.
“I really thought more people would be horrified at these things being sold in a family resort shop,” she said. “Surely I am not the only person who thinks that this is unacceptable?”
McCann added that she enjoyed celebrating Halloween, “but not to dabble with the occult or try to conjure up dead people or demons. These boards are not to be taken lightly”.
Ouija boards, often commercially known as “spirit boards” after Hasbro trademarked the name “Ouija”, were originally intended by Spiritualists as a way to contact spirits, including demons and the dead, by spelling out messages with a planchette.
The spirit board on sale, part of Nemesis Now’s “Witchcraft Collection”, is advertised online as being “one of the most powerful occult tools there is.”
The Nemesis Now website includes a “warning to use with caution,” because “the power of the spirit world is not something to take lightly”.
Though McCann is still awaiting a response from Merlin’s Head Office in Poole, Dorset, she did receive a letter from Kate McBirnie, Head of Product Excellence at Alton Towers, who defended the resort’s sale of the Ouija boards.
In the letter obtained by the Catholic Herald, McBirnie said that “Alton Towers Resort endeavours to sell a wide-range of souvenirs and merchandise to appeal to a variety of interests and guests during their visit.”
“The Spirit Board is part of our extensive ‘Spooks R Us’ range,” she explained. “This item is only sold to guests over the age of 18 and is labelled with a suitable warning. Spirit Boards are legal and widely available from numerous brands and high-street retailers. We understand that what is acceptable to one customer may not be to another and are sorry to learn this item has caused offense.”
Poundland similarly came under fire recently on social media for selling £1 Ouija boards in their stores’ Halloween sections.
One person tweeted that the “last thing we needed in 2020 was poundland to start selling Ouija boards”, whilst another commented: “open the gates to hell why don’t ya?”
Poundland initially brushed off the criticism: “Poundland is the home for Halloween and the Spirit Board is part of this year’s extensive Halloween Decoration range. We understand the spirits shook in disbelief when they were told it was only £1. Just wait until people see the Voodoo dolls.”
But on October 4, Poundland stores in Northern Ireland removed the item from all their displays. A spokesman said at the time: “We had a message from the spirits to make the handful that were left vanish.”
DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who has campaigned in the past for Ouija boards to be regulated, said: “I’m glad [Poundland] did withdraw them after complaints, but it’s a lesson for retailers to examine the product they put on their shelves before they have actually made it for sale.”
“Any responsible retailer has an obligation to look at the product they have for sale, especially if they believe young people might see something that would be attractive to them and could possibly be used to bring upon them an influence to dabble in other material that would be unsafe for them.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Photograph of Ouija items on sale at Alton Towers, provided courtesy of Wendy McCann.
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