Exorcists and paranormal investigators are urging people not to buy the occult board game Ouija as gifts unless they want to invite demonic forces into their homes this Christmas.
The warning comes as Google predicted that the modern version of the Victorian-era 'spirit boards' will be a sell-out this Christmas.
The search engine company has confirmed the game, purportedly used to contact the dead through spelled-out messages, is one of the top trending gifts on its price comparison list this year following the release of the Ouija horror film last month.
While critics largely panned the film as cliched and horror-free, a Catholic priest based in Dublin who specialises in the occult, warned that messing around with the real thing can be horrifying,
"It's easy to open up evil spirits but it's very hard to get rid of them," the Vincentian priest and exorcist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Sunday Independent.
"People, especially young people and teenagers who are likely to experiment with Ouija boards on a whim, can be very naive in thinking that they are only contacting the departed souls of loved-ones when they attempt to communicate with the dead using the boards.
"It's like going to some parts of Africa and saying I'm personally immune to Ebola. But it does leave people open to all kinds of spiritual dangers. People don't intend any spiritual harm by it, but we live in a spiritual realm and you have no way to control what may impinge on you."
The exorcist said evil spirits, and even demons, will masquerade as departed loved ones as a means of gaining possession and, as a result, "people don't realise they can get infected".
Darren Ansell, one of the three-member team of paranormal investigators based in the North known as Paranormal Study and Investigation (PSI), said he personally "wouldn't touch an Ouija board with a barge pole". He told the Sunday Independent: "I've had too many scares over the years."
Ansell's team, which featured on BBC's Greatest Haunts, employs scientific methods and state-of-the-art technology to determine the natural or paranormal causes of unexplained phenomena.
Some of PSI's controlled experiments on groups using Ouija boards confirmed subconscious muscular movement responsible for answering questions put to the board. But he has also interviewed many board users - all of whom have reported very negative experiences during or after the sessions.
They include hearing demonic voices; unexplained feelings of anxiety and depression in otherwise mentally healthy people; relationship breakdowns; hearing noises; and seeing objects flung around or moved.
"I've witnessed tables walking down the hall on their own with just fingertips touching them," he said.