HISTORY OF THE OUIJA BOARD
In 1853, a French Spiritualist named M. Planchette (according the to the stories anyway -- it should be noted that "planchette" in French translates to "little plank", making this story a little dubious) invented a device that could do much more than tap on the table. The “planchette” was a small, heart-shaped table with pencils attached to its legs. Those who used it claimed that it operated by spirit force and ghosts were able to write out messages from beyond. The invention was often used by the mediums as a more elaborate form of automatic writing, but it really did not hold wide appeal for the general public.
However, a short time later, another invention would come along that could be used by everyone. No experience was required and no real psychic skills were needed. This new device would revolutionize the Spiritualist movement and have an impact that still resounds today. The Ouija board was born.
Shortly after the planchette came to America, a cabinet and coffin maker from Maryland named E.C. Reiche created a new method of communicating with the dead. He devised a wooden lap tray with the letters of the alphabet arranged in two lines across the center of the board. Below these letters, he placed the numbers 1-10 and the words YES and NO in each lower corner of the board. He used the planchette with his board but removed the pencil tips and placed wooden pegs on the bottom of it. In this way, the planchette was free to move about the board.
It was always believed that Reiche named his board the "Ouija" because the name represented the French and German words for “yes” (oui and ja) but this was not the case. He named it that because he believed that the word "Ouija" was actually Egyptian for luck. Needless to say, it's not, but since he claimed to receive the word from a spirit on the board, the name stuck.
But Reiche was more interested in spirits than making money and he sold the invention to his friend, Charles Kennard, who soon founded the Kennard Novelty Co. with borrowed money and began producing the first commercial Ouija boards around 1886. The first patent for a "talking board" was filed on May 28, 1890 and listed Charles Kennard and William H. A. Maupin, both of Baltimore, as the assignees.
Shortly after the company started, the shop manager, William Fuld, decided to go into business for himself. He forced Kennard out of the business and changed the name to the Ouija Novelty Co. He began producing the "Fuld's Talking Board" in record numbers and became a successful businessman. He was a member of the Baltimore General Assembly in later life and remained in control of the company for the next 35 years. Finally, in 1927, during a brief slump in sales, Fuld strangely took his own life. He climbed to the top of a Baltimore building and jumped to his death. Other versions of the story have it that Fuld died accidentally while supervising the replacement of flagpoles on top of the building. A support post that he was holding onto gave way and he plunged to his death. This is likely the more accurate version of events, although Fuld committing suicide gave the Ouija an eerie taint over the years.
The Ouija Board was anything but a curse to Fuld's company though. It became the most successful talking board manufacturer of all time, selling millions of boards as well as other toys and games. Fuld had created a new industry with the Ouija board, which he claimed to have invented himself. He started the apocryphal tales of the naming of the board (using oui and ja) and claimed many of his successful sales plans came from the board itself.
His heirs maintained the company until 1966, when they sold out to Parker Brothers. This company, also known for their success with toys and especially board games, produced not only reproductions of the Fuld board but also made a deluxe wooden edition of the board for a time. They hold all of the patents and trademarks to the board today and they still produce it in large numbers. In spite of the fact that it is now sold in toy stores, it remains a near duplicate (albeit a more cheaply made one) of the Spiritualist board that was sold many years ago.
USING A TALKING BOARD
Regardless, the boards have been both condemned and praised in equal amounts as a way to communicate with the spirits and as a direct link to the dark side. Many people ask if these boards are dangerous, but I think that this depends on the person. In all honestly, I can’t offer many clear-cut observations on the power of talking boards because my own experimentations with them have been uneven (at best). When asked, I usually just tell people that they probably shouldn’t mess with it unless they are prepared to handle whatever consequences may come up. However, I can offer instructions on the best way to use the board (should you wish to try it) and you can decide for yourself if you are actually talking to spirits or if you are merely taking part in an interesting experiment in psychic phenomena.
The board should be used by at least two persons at a time and can be placed on the laps of the sitters, or on a small table within easy reach of everyone. The sitters place their fingers lightly on the edges of the planchette, being careful not to push down too hard. If you should ever take part in a talking board session (or witness one) where you can hear the sound of the planchette scraping on the board, or it seems to be unusually loud as it moves, there is probably something fishy afoot. What this means is that someone is accidentally (or purposely) guiding the pointer and the session should be stopped immediately. Any information received from the board is bound to be false.
Once the session begins, it is recommended that the sitters invite a spirit to come through and speak to them. The sitters are advised to add that they wish to communicate with a “willing” spirit. The reason for this is that it’s been suggested that negative spirits will try to come through and confuse the sitters. For this reason, it’s best to state up front what you are looking for from the session.
Then, the questions should be asked and repeated in a slow and deliberate manner. Only one question should be asked at a time, and by a single person, to avoid confusion. The answers to the questions will be theoretically spelled out using the planchette.
THE STIGMA OF TALKING BOARDS
OUIJA BOARD STORIES AND EVENTS
- Arthur Henry Ward (better known as Sax Rohmer), the author of the famous "Fun Manchu" adventure novels, was also a member of the Golden Dawn and penned a number of occult books as well. According to his own account, he started his lucrative writing career on advice gained through a Ouija board. He asked how to best make a living as a writer and the board spelled out "c-h-i-n-a-m-a-n". The novels that followed brought him fame and fortune and franchise that is still popular today.
- A St. Louis housewife named Pearl Curran stunned the literary world in the early 1900's by channeling a spirit through the Ouija Board and producing thousands of pages and novels and poetry that allegedly came through a spirit named Patience Worth. Click Here to Read the Complete Story- Starting in 1919, author Stewart Edward White and his wife, Betty, spent 17 years studying Betty's mediumship with a group of entities who called themselves the "Invisibles". She made initial contact with them using a Ouija board and then continued the communications through automatic writing. The White's later produced the Betty Book to chronicle the events in 1937.
- In 1933, Dorothea Turley and her 15 year-old daughter, Mattie, were convicted of the murder their husband and father. On the witness stand, Mattie stated how the Ouija board, which had been directed by her mother, had told her that it was all right to kill her father so that her mother could marry "cowboy". Mattie later killed him with a shotgun. The jury determined that the crime had more to do with insurance money and Dorothea's lover than a Ouija board and Dorothea went to prison and Mattie for reform school, where she stayed until she was 21. Her mother was released on an appeal three years after the original trial.- In 1972, poet Jane Roberts founded the "channeling" movement when she had a paranormal experience that she described as "feeling her consciousness leave her body". She and her husband began experimenting with a Ouija Board and made contact with a being known as "Seth". The result of this was several popular books that were dictated by Seth himself, including Seth Speaks.
- According to legend (and boy, is this one questionable!) musician Alice Cooper allegedly named his band (and himself?) after the spirit of a 17th century witch with this name that he claimed to have contacted through a Ouija Board. He and his band mates thought the name so cool that they decided it was the perfect moniker for the group -- except for one hold out, who thought the name was stupid. It should be noted that earlier names of the band had been the Earwigs, the Spiders and Nazz, so perhaps "Alice Copper" was an improvement. Regardless, this was the first story of the band name's origin and there have been others since then. It's likely that they don't even remember what really happened!
- In 1990 (or 1991) several students allegedly decided to try out a Ouija Board at a small cemetery on the campus of Benedictine University in Chicago. One of the young men who participated in the session allegedly became “possessed”. He started screaming and howling uncontrollably and his companions were unable to calm him down or to keep him from kicking, biting and flailing about. Campus police were said to have assisted in getting the young man back to his room and he ended up being taken to an area hospital, where he was sedated and treated. The story of the incident was told, re-told and embellished around campus over the course of the next few days and interesting elements began to be added to the tale. One of the most popular was that the boy was taken to Benedictine Hall and locked in a room all night, in hopes that he might tire himself out. When the door was unlocked, he was sitting quietly in a chair and looking out a window that was covered with swarming flies! Unfortunately, the real story was not so chilling or exciting. According to reliable sources, the boy simply freaked himself out during the Ouija session. The spooky setting and the excitable nature of the boy combined for a disaster when one of his friends decided to play a prank and make everyone think the ghost was close by. The young man became hysterical and the events that followed were a result of his own overactive imagination.
Rather than the story of the “possessed” boy being a cautionary tale, Ouija boards became even more popular on campus in the weeks that followed. Some credited the boards with terrible powers, including one girl who blamed her sťance for a mysterious fire that started in her room on Neuzil Hall. She had left her Ouija board sitting on her sofa when she went to dinner but was called back to her room when the sofa somehow went up in flames. After the fire was put out, no trace could be found of the Ouija Board!
© Copyright 2003-2008 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.