The Mysterious And Strange History Of The Ouija Board

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The Ouija board, A method of contacting and communicating with the spirit world, is a simple board that has terrified countless people and served as a focal point in a number of major movies. Here’s where it all started.

The Ouija board, came straight out of the American 19th century obsession with spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living. The use of  ‘talking boards’ was  quite popular in Europe in the early 1800’s, but it wasn’t until 1848 that the boards became popular in America.

In 1848, the famous Fox sisters of upstate New York claimed to receive messages from spirits who rapped on the walls in answer to questions. They claimed these boards could recreating this feat and allow everyone to speak with the deceased. Newspapers published their story time and time again, giving America a whole new fascination with the spiritual boards.

Years later, in 1886, the New York Daily Tribune reported on a new talking board being used in Ohio. It was 18 by 20 inches and featured the alphabet, numbers, and the words yes, no, good evening, and goodnight; the only other necessary object was a “little table three or four inches high … with four legs” that the spirits could use to identify letters. The brilliance of the board was that anyone could make it—the tools suggested in the article are “a jack-knife and a marking brush.”

Operating the board was similarly easy:

You take the board in your lap, another person sitting down with you. You each grasp the little table with the thumb and forefinger at each corner next to you. Then the question is asked, ‘Are there any communications?’ Pretty soon you think the other person is pushing the table. He thinks you are doing the same. But the table moves around to ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Then you go on asking questions and the answers are spelled out by the legs on the table resting on the letters one after the other.

The ‘talking boards’ were heavily used by early ‘Psychics’ and ‘Fortune Tellers’. Many working in those professions were scam artists, and using the ‘Talking Board’ with clients, was a much easier way to portray that they were in fact communicating with the ‘spirit world’. The alternative was, making the table shake, knocking over items in the room and so forth.

Not every Psychic or Fortune Teller used the ‘Talking Board’ to scam people. Many truly believed that the board was an actual gateway to the spirit world and that one could easily communicate with the deceased. To this day, many still believe this to be true.

Now, some people believe that the messages that are received by the Ouija board are directly from spirits. However, a man by the name of William Benjamin Carpenter had a different theory. In 1852, Carpenter published a scientific paper analyzing how talking boards worked, theorizing that muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires.

Ouija Patent

Over the years, these boards became incredibly popular and in 1890, Elijah Bond, Charles Kennard and William H.A. Maupin had the idea to turn the board into a toy.

The pair filed patent paperwork and called the toy ‘Ouija Board’. The patent was granted in 1891.

The name, according to Kennard, came from using the board. They board was asked what they should call it and it replied ‘Ouija’. When asked what that meant, the board replied ‘Good Luck’. 

The Kennard Novelty Company manufactured the boards, which were made of five pieces of wood across the face braced by two vertical slats on the back; they retailed for $1.50.

In 1891, Kennard left the company. The Kennard Novelty Company then turned into ‘The Ouija Novelty Company’. However, company employee William Fuld eventually took over the production of the boards in 1901 and began making his own boards under the name ‘Ouija’. Fuld said came from a combination of the French and German words for “yes”.

Fuld went on to hold more Ouija patents than any one else in the world, 21 to be exact. In 1966, the estate of William Fuld sold the rights and patents to famed toy company, Parker Brothers. Then, in 1991, the rights and patents were sold to Hasbro — who currently hold the patents and rights to the Ouija Board game.

You can buy your own Ouija Board from Hasbro on Amazon for just $20.39!