I ran into an urban legend of sorts that I'd never heard of just yesterday, and this is apparently one of those rare ones for which the origin is actually known. The story is about the evil demon named...
Notwithstanding that "Zozo" sounds like something a rich old lady would name her toy poodle, Zozo is apparently a demon of incredible evil, according to the story on the subject over at Stranger Dimensions. Apparently the first mention of the evil Zozo was in Jacques Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal, wherein we find that an unnamed girl from Picardy, France was possessed by Zozo back in 1816.
Inferno by Gustave Doré (1863) [image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]
But back to Zozo. Once this method of "communicating with spirits" was invented, it wasn't long before the Zozo phenomenon really took off. He (or it) was an evil spirit, claims said, that was always hanging around looking for a means of ingress. The Ouija board acted to allow access, and once that avenue was open, Zozo wouldn't let go, but would torment the individual forever.
The whole thing has gained so much traction that there's a paranormal researcher, Darren Evans, who has a blog called The Zozo Phenomenon in which he documents hundreds of encounters with the evil spirit. He calls himself a "Zozologist." Here's one example of a story from his site:
Hello, I purchased a ouija board at a garage sale from an elderly couple. I have always had an interested in the spirit world and had a great interest in trying to make contact. I did not dare to play the ouija by myself so I just left it packed away until I had a friend convinced me to use it last night. For an hour we spoke to this woman spirit and as we went on with the session the word "zozo" kept being spelled out. As a newbie at this I had no clue what it meant until I looked it up and found it on your website. The energy on the oracle was wild and i am certain if we had removed our hands it would have flew off the board. several times it tried to spell out the alphabet. It was scary as heck and was terrified to see that it was evil… do I still need to cleanse the house even if we went to “goodbye”? I have children and am scared for them.Predictably, I still think the whole thing is nothing more than superstition and the aforementioned ideomotor effect, but of course, once this sort of thing catches on, it snowballs, just as Slender Man and Spring-Heeled Jack and El Chupacabra have. Even Rob Schwartz, in the article at Stranger Dimensions I linked earlier, said:
But what is Zozo, and why has it terrorized thousands of people around the world? This, I’m afraid, is not an easy question to answer. It’s difficult to tell which stories about Zozo are authentic and which are nothing more than urban legends. Some tell of murders and suicides, while others involve possession, physical ailments, abuse, curses, and other phenomena commonly associated with demonic forces... Could Zozo be a tulpa, a shared experience? Like the Philip Experiment on a much grander scale, or the countless stories (and real life delusions) shared about the Slender Man, Zozo could be our own creation.Well, yeah, I think that last bit is probably true, but not in the sense that he means. A "tulpa" is a created experience come to life -- i.e. real -- and I doubt seriously whether that is possible. As far as the "Philip experiment," I dealt with that in a post earlier this year, and I was (and am) of the opinion that even the people who participated knew it was a bunch of nonsense right from the beginning.
As far as Zozo, it seems to one of a growing number of paranormal phenomena that aren't misinterpreted natural phenomena, nor deliberate hoaxes, but purely human inventions that rely on credulity and a blurred understanding of the line between fact and fiction. But it does make me want to go out and get a Ouija board and try to summon him up. If Zozo is that easy to get a rise out of, it should be easy to settle the question of the existence of the paranormal once and for all, not to mention putting me in contention for winning the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge.