Unmasking Zozo the Ouija Board Demon: The Making of a Modern Paranormal Myth

Who is Zozo?

When Ouija boards go wrong, Zozo the demon is increasingly to blame. Zozo has possessed people for centuries. Or, has he…?

More than any other tool used for spirit communication, the Ouija board attracts a special sort of fear. Many who use these boards report negative experiences with malevolent spirits. However, in recent years one particular entity appears to have been encountered at an alarming rate. It goes by the name ‘Zozo’.

This mysterious figure has acquired a dark reputation. Some people say that it is an ancient force of Hell. Some cry out in fear that utterance of the name alone can conjure the creature. Some have written that it can shapeshift into a raven. Almost all who claim to have encountered it agree that it is demonic.

Yet, prior to 2009 Zozo appears to have been unheard of. In regards to the entity’s online presence, the Google search term ‘zozo demon’ only trickled into life after this year.

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Google Trends: the search term ‘zozo demon’ received near enough no activity in the United States prior to 2009. After this year, the term trickles into life, then erupts around 2015.

Where did Zozo the demon come from?

It was in the March of 2009 that a man from Oklahoma called Darren Wayne Evans posted on a true ghost story sharing website.1His post began with a warning. Ouija boards ‘are not toys,’ he wrote. ‘And should be used with strict caution, and probably should not be messed with AT ALL’. He then went on to describe a series of terrifying encounters that he had with a spirit named Zozo. At one point, Evans supposedly asked the entity where paradise was. It spelled out the response: ‘H.E.L.L.’ Evans has even attributed the near death experiences of his daughter to this creature: one time she almost drowned in the bathtub, and another incident involving 14 days in hospital due to a life-threatening internal infection.

Many people were intrigued by Evans’ story. In response to the interest generated by his supposed encounter, Evans went on to set up a website2 and began styling himself as a ‘zozologist’.

Shortly afterwards, Darren Evans’ story caught the attention of aspiring filmmakers at One World Studios. The film I Am Zozo was released in 2012. Evans was even invited to star in the movie in a cameo role.

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The movie I Am Zozo is described as a psychological thriller, and tells the story of five teenagers who play with a Ouija board on Halloween. (Image source)

In 2014, Evans was once more asked on-screen to showcase his encounter with Zozo. The popular paranormal television series, Ghost Adventures, visited him in his home in Oklahoma. During the dubious episode, Evans elaborates on his original story, telling of the time Zozo allegedly made his daughter go blind for an hour.

However, Evans’ story does not end there. Since fame found him, the self-styled ‘zozologist’s’ story has changed every time he has told it.

It was in 2016 that a completely new facet of the Zozo story began to unfold. At this point, Evans had been working on a book with renowned paranormal author, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, for some time.

In May, Evans conducted a telephone interview with a New Jersey newspaper.3 It was then that he revealed that, in 1982, he had discovered a mysterious Ouija board underneath his then-girlfriend’s house. The board, according to Evans, was ‘weird looking’ and ‘menacing’. ‘On the front, it had ‘Zozo’ where ‘Ouija’ was usually written’.

Until this point, there had been no mention of this mysterious board whatsoever.

Upon the release of his book, The Zozo Phenomenon, shortly afterwards, the board was mentioned again. However, Evans’ story had altered once more. Now, the Ouija board had ‘Zozo’ hand-engraved on the back – not the front. His book even showcases a sketch of the supposed board, showing where and how the word ‘Zozo’ was written on the back.

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Like most details in Evans’ story, there is little which remains consistent over time. The supposed Zozo Ouija board was first described as having ‘Zozo’ written ‘on the front’, despite illustrations in his book showing it on the back. (Image taken from The Zozo Phenomenon)

In fact, in his book Evans explicitly states that ‘The front side bore the standard vintage William Fuld Ouija design’

Unsurprisingly, no photograph of the alleged Zozo Ouija board has ever surfaced.

Is there any truth in anything that Evans has said about Zozo?

It is difficult to put aside the abundant inconsistencies and muddled storytelling.

In his endeavour to present Zozo as some sort of repeated paranormal phenomenon, Evans has made attempts to establish historical credibility.

The first known reference to an entity named Zozo appears in 1818, in Le Dictionnaire Infernal,  a demonological encyclopedia written by French author, Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy. This extract has been used to provide historical evidence for the Zozo phenomenon. However, once what was actually documented is translated out of the French, the truth is far less demonic.

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First published in 1818, the Dictionnaire Infernal has been reprinted multiple times. Its last, and most famous, edition was its sixth. (Image source)

We have translated the following description taken from the ‘possessed’ entry in the book’s final edition, published in 1863.

‘The village of Teilly, three leagues from Amiens, in 1816 gave show to a girl who wanted to pretend to be possessed. She was, she said, in the power of three demons, Mimi, Zozo and Crapoulet. An honest ecclesiastic warned the authorities, recognizing that this girl was ill. We took her into a hospital, and he would no longer speak of possession … the King [Louis XVIII] immediately sent his surgeon… and two other doctors to examine the case. When the possessed girl was brought before these doctors she was interrogated. She rattled nonsense. The prior [of the Capuchins] asked her questions in Latin to which she responded badly. Finally it was found in some papers, that a few years earlier, she had been whipped in the public square for trying to impersonate a possessed person. She was condemned to perpetual imprisonment.’4

The author of this book regards the case as a complete hoax. He goes on to describe other – what he perceives to be genuine – cases of possession. Indeed, he even concludes the ‘Zozo’ extract with the sentence: ‘Nonetheless, there are real cases of possession.’

As for the entry for ‘Zozo’ itself, there is hardly anything at all. A single, unimpressed sentence which directs the reader back to the aforementioned debunking entry5. Considering that the dictionary is known for over fifty detailed descriptions and illustrations of demonic beings, the lack of anything more than a single sentence for ‘Zozo the Ouija board demon’ attests to its insignificance and dubious credibility.

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The level of detail which de Plancy assigns to the entry for Zozo shows how little evidence there was to support the existence of such an entity beyond the hoax of one girl.

In short, Zozo is thoroughly unmasked.

Unfortunately, it appears to be the case that those who have encountered this text have not translated it, and have therefore jumped to wrong conclusions.

So, what did Evans encounter?

In his book Evans offers no photograph of the Zozo Ouija board that he supposedly found. However, a sketch is provided, which shows ‘Zozo’ carved in stylised handwriting on the back of the board. This same stylisation is used on the front cover of the book.

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The front cover of The Zozo Phenomenon, which bears the stylised ‘Zozo’ text of both the alleged Ouija board and the insignia of Led Zepplin band member, Jimmy Page. (Image source)

Although peculiar, it is not unique. It is similar to Led Zeppelin member Jimmy Page’s famous insignia, ‘Zoso’. The curved tail of the ‘Z’ and the dots in the ‘o’s are identical.

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The insignia of Jimmy Page is strikingly similar to what was supposedly found on the back of Evan’s Ouija board.

In his book, Darren Evans even states that he instantly made the connection to Led Zeppelin upon apparently finding this board. Evans states that the ‘Zoso’ symbol has magical origins, as though attempting to suggest that it has been used for historic, nefarious purposes.

When one traverses the pages of history, this is what can be found:

The ‘Zoso’ symbol originally appears in De rerum varietate (‘On Natural Phenomena’), a 16th century book written by renowned Renaissance scholar, Gerolamo Cardano. The insignia is categorised as a astrological symbol relating to Saturn6.

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The ‘Zoso’ symbol (bottom, left) is described as an astrological symbol by Cardano. No mention of a demonic force is made.

Centuries later, in 1844, the symbol appears again, in a slightly altered form. This time it is classified as a protective, cabalistic symbol. It can be found on pages 30 and 31 of Le triple vocabulaire infernal : Manuel de démonologie ou les ruses de l’enfer dévoilées, by Frinellan.7

In short, the ‘Zoso’ insignia is not a demonic symbol. Led Zeppelin member, Jimmy Page most likely adopted the symbol as his personal rocker insignia as it can be linked to his astrological sign. Moreover, Saturn is linked to the metal lead – and so also the name of Page’s band, Led Zeppelin.

Above all, Zoso is not a word: it is a symbol. To use a Saturnian protective symbol as evidence for the existence of a demonic entity is beyond ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that the supposed entity is called Zozo, which is a different word altogether. Surely a demon of great malign power would be able to spell their own name correctly?

However, if that is not enough to make you question the reality of Darren Evans’ story, then consider the following:

Why has Evans never mentioned this mysterious Zozo Ouija board before? Surely his appearance on the television show Ghost Adventures was the perfect time to recall this discovery?

All of this makes it very hard to believe that this board ever existed.

Yet, the most condemning piece of evidence against Evans’ claims is that he is a devout fan of Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page. On his Zozo website, he even features the official Led Zeppelin website as a “cool” link, and advertises Jimmy Page’s autobiography. There are no stated links to Zozo the demon by Evans, just a side note to say that he is a fan. In his recent book, he also concedes that he is a devotee.

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Evans is not afraid to admit he is a big fan of English rock band, Led Zeppelin. He advertises their website on his own, as well as publicising Jimmy Page’s autobiography. (Screenshot of zozotheouijaspirit.blogspot)

Given the stylised similarities between the supposed Ouija board and Jimmy Page’s personal insignia, not to mention the lack of reference to the board prior to 2016, is the invention of the ‘Zozo Ouija Board’ simply Darren Evans’ silent tribute to his Led Zeppelin idol?

Further development of the Zozo story

In the years since Darren Evans came into the limelight, there has been other literature published relating to Zozo. One book which claims to be based on true events is unimaginably titled: ZoZo: Personal Encounter. However, when one visits the author’s website, one finds an appraisal of Darren Evans.8 The author states that none of what he has achieved would have been possible without him. Naturally, this book does not pre-date 2009 and Evans’ original story.

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Alex Ryken, author of Zozo: Personal Encounter, leaves a tribute to Darren Evans on his website. Whether there is a hint of Zozo, Evans is not far behind. The question is, without Evans, does Zozo even exist?

The more one looks, the more one finds these same sorts of links. Each time there is a mention of Zozo, it can be undoubtedly linked back to Darren Evans.

The same can be said in regards to the infamous Zozo video on YouTube, which achieved viral status after claiming to show real footage of a girl become possessed by Zozo after using a Ouija board. Its view count, on a YouTube channel titled Ouija Warning, currently stands at close to 5 million.

However, this video is owned by a film company called Starz Media.

Starz Media has links to the producers and owners of One World Studios, the studio which made the film based on Darren Evans’ story, I Am Zozo. If this video is genuine Zozo footage, then why are so many film studios and producers involved? And, why, once again, can it all be linked back to Darren Evans?

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Zack Coffman, One World Studios film producer of I Am Zozo, is proud to have ‘successfully negotiated sponsorships […and] branded content’ with Starz. (Screenshot of Zack Coffman’s LinkedIn profile)
 

The final piece of the Zozo puzzle is what happens in the aftermath of 2009. After Evans posted his story online, people began to search for ‘zozo demon’ on the internet. What followed were others coming forward with their own encounters with the supposed demon. After all, if Zozo is nothing more than Darren Evans’ invention, then how does one account for independent testimonies?

We have two theories.

First is that the ‘Zozo Phenomenon’ is a case of reality imitating fiction.

Zozo is not demonic, but human phenomenon: it is a being that has been imagined into existence by our collective psychology. This type of phenomena is known as a Tulpa. Similar to Zozo is Slenderman, who despite originating in a fictional creepypasta has been sighted all across the world in the years following his creation. In many ways, Zozo is the Slenderman of the Ouija board.

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One of the original ‘Slenderman’ images created by Something Awful user, Eric Knudsen in 2009. Despite originating in fiction, the internet meme has taken on a life force of its own in the years since. (Photo credit: ‘Victor Surge’ a.k.a. Eric Knudsen)

The more people believe in something, the more real something becomes.

Our thoughts may be having a physical effect on the world around us. Since 2009 an entire history has been invented and constructed upon – consciously or otherwise – by each individual who encounters the Zozo myth. Darren Evans was the catalyst for the this myth. Now we are in the midst of the snowball effect.

The other explanation for the sudden appearance of Zozo is personal testimonies after 2009 is darker still.

Demonic beings feed off our fears. Since 2009, the paranormal community has learnt to fear Zozo the Ouija board demon. Many believe that entities have the ability to read our minds. When users of Ouija boards pick up the planchette with Zozo in mind, they may very well be opening themselves up to being manipulated by malevolent beings who purposefully adopt the ominous name of Zozo. Through the fabrication of Zozo, Darren Evans has created the ultimate weapon for malevolent beings to use against us.

Either way, the story of Zozo always leads back to Darren Evans. As far as we can tell, there is not – and never has been – a demon named Zozo.

About The Paranormal Scholar 3 Articles
The Paranormal Scholar is run by husband and wife team, Laura and Erik, and was established on YouTube in the summer of 2015.