Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The creation of Zozo

We like to think of urban legends as a modern phenomenon.  As author Jan Harold Brunvand discusses in his wonderful book The Choking Doberman, word-of-mouth transmission of stories heard "from a friend of a friend" is a powerful way to spread memes; and of course, the internet has made it even easier.  Some of these stories are of modern provenance, given their mention of cars and other contemporary props.  But only for a few -- "Slender Man" being an example -- do we know exactly when and where the story started.

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...

... "Zozo."

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 it wasn't until the invention of the Ouija board that stories of Zozo really took off.  Yes, I know it was invented by some entrepreneurial game-designers in 1890, and any positive results -- if you can call them that -- almost certainly arise from the ideomotor effect.  This hasn't stopped the Ouija board from becoming one of the most feared occult devices (hated especially by devout Christians).  Hollywood, never shy of capitalizing on hype, even has a movie called Ouija due out this Halloween, about some teenagers "awakening evil forces" using an "ancient spirit board."

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.

23 comments:

  1. If "Zozo" is an embodiment of the dark side of human nature, it is something to be feared, paranormal or not, and impossible to avoid.

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  2. I suspect that Zozo has become so popular because it is a name simple enough that even half of the public school graduates are able to spell it on a Ouija board.

    Speaking of purely human inventions, it sounds like Zozo would make a good employee of the Internal Revenue Service once he has been put through desensitivity training.

    All hail Lord Zozo of the IRS.

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    1. Etymologically, the term (word/name) Zozo is interesting.

      The word Zozobra, in Spanish, means "anxiety," and the same term is employed to describe "old man gloom," which is burned in effigy each year in Santa Fe, New Mexico (it will happen this year, coincidentally, Tomorrow night) at an annual festival.

      It's not too far a stretch to believe the root of the term (name, in this instance) and the term Zozo found in the Dictionnaire Infernal (from the early 19th Century), come from the same source. Like so many things having to do with language origin, we may never know what the original source word was for sure. A demon named Zozo, in some culture long past, is as likely an answer as any.

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  3. I just bought a oujia board and decided to play with it. First it spelled out ZOZO. I knew I had heard this name so naturally I went straight to Google lol I've played with ouija boards my whole life and never really had any weird experiences with it but this name stuck out. I found some videos etc and I really think it's all fake

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    1. The board spelled out zozo right in front of you yet u say it's fake. That makes no sense at all if it's all fake how did that name get spelled out if it wasn't you that did it?

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  4. I just bought a oujia board and decided to play with it. First it spelled out ZOZO. I knew I had heard this name so naturally I went straight to Google lol I've played with ouija boards my whole life and never really had any weird experiences with it but this name stuck out. I found some videos etc and I really think it's all fake

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  5. I understand where u are coming from and a lot of skeptics say we'll he won't appear to us and the spirit board doesn't work. Well consider this even though you don't believe that demons are real well entertain this thought. If a demon is real and are really fallen angels they are gonna be intelligent far more than we are. Why would they appear on cue or do something in front of a skeptic or on camera.if so it would be shown and change people's beliefs. If demons are real atheists and other people would then know that god is real and people would turn away from evil and towards god. That is opposite of what the demon wants of this happens the demon has lost. I believe in the case of possession why manifest in front of people and potential help. The demon would hide and people would assume that the person has a mental health issue and then they would not receive help from the people that can help that would be the church and therefore god!

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    1. If demons or the devil were real, revealing themselves would do far more damage than being silent. Most atheists see the character of God as a brutal, petty, absentee monster hanging the threat of further brutality and damnation over our heads with the demand for eternal servitude and vane worship.

      If demons showed themselves today, atheists would know that there is a God who without a doubt allowed billions to suffer and fester for the last three thousand years.

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    2. And what has your god done to help?

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  6. I understand where he others think itsfake and want proof. Skeptics will say show me or how come it won't communicate or manifest in front of me. Well entertain this thought . If demons are real(which o do) and they are really fallen angels they are far more intelligent than we are and their goal is to turn people away from god. Now if a scientist a d or news agency were looking into it to seeing if it's real why would the demon manifest. If it did it would be proof that demons exist and if they exist then god must exist and people would walk away from evil and towards god, and that's the last things would want to happen. In the case of possession why would the demon manifest in front of skeptics or potential help. If it doesn't manifest in front of people than the thought would be that the possessed person has mental health problems and that they aren't possessed. In doing so that keeps the person from getting help from the people that can help,the church and therefore god . It's not something one can command to happen the demon bides it's time and will try to trick everyone into thinking its not real. As the saying goes "the devils greatest feat was convincing people he doesn't exist"!

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    1. Statistically speaking, atheists are less likely to divorce, have children out of wedlock, have abortions, steal, rape, murder, cheat friends and strangers, and less likely to inhabit a prison cell. We're more likely to be passed over for jobs, distrusted, blamed for wrongdoing, as well as being imprisoned and killed by theocratic governments.

      If a demon revealed itself today and proved God, the ones who rejected him in the first place, what evil are they doing that they'd walk away from to kneel before a genocidal, bloodthirsty, war hungry, misogynistic, xenophobic, rape supporting, racist pedophile baby killer that's allowed hundreds of millions to wallow and starve and suffer from diseases?

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    2. Statistically speaking, atheists are more prone to adjust statistics to yield their desired outcome, such as not factoring in logical variance. These conclusions are based on bias data and rhetoric that can achieve nothing more than a production of hyperbolic stereotypes and speculation. Pol Pot was a lovely atheist...

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  7. What happens it i call it a ho ho? Then growl louder then it?

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  8. Well it is real. I had no idea what zozo was and he did come through a ouija boad session and within a month he was full on terrorizing me. I've gone through paranormal teams, priests, demonologists and he's still here so for all you skeptics, get a board and ask for him.. But don't get upset when he decides he wants you and he puts you through absolute hell all day every day!!!!

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    1. miagail... i know it's real too. had it for 15 years. can't get rid of it. going to try getting baptized. Jesus please protect me. <3

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    2. it IS real. had it for 15 years. suicide attempts and death of friends and lost relationships and migraines and dark thoughts/visions. spoke to it and have seen it. it tried to convince me it wants to get back in God's good graces. It lies. DONT BELIEVE THE LIES!! Going to try getting baptized. Nothing else has worked. Darkness and "old man gloom" settling it. It will go away and come back a lot. It has nothing better to do than to wait for the right moment when you let your guard down. And it affects about 70,000 of us or more I'm sure. Busy busy busy. Anywhooo.... good luck my friends. Look out for yourself and your friends and fam, and don't EVER use a quija board!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    3. are all of these duplicate fake profiles set up by Darren Evans to sell more books and perpetuate the alleged "globalized" "phenomenon" of Zozo?

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  9. What are people, frigging idiots?

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    1. most yes. but not Us. ... maybe You though. God bless you anyways. I love you!!!!!!!!!!

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  10. Zozo sounds like it was made up by a bunch of morons on acid

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