Ouija: Mystery & History

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History and information on the Ouija board.

Brief History:

In February 1891, the first advertisement for Ouija: The Wonderful Talking Board appeared in newspapers. It was described as a magical device that answered questions about the past, present, and future with marvelous accuracy. It promised never-failing amusement and recreation for all classes. It was described as: A link between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.

The boards were similar to those in stores today. The only difference being that the modern boards are made of pressed cardboard and use a plastic planchette; whereas the original boards and planchettes were wooden.

The boards were designed to be used by 2 or more people. You would place your fingers on the planchette , ask a question, and then the planchette would move around and around and spell out the answers to your questions.

The original boards were sold out of a toy shop in Pittsburg, PA. The Kennard Novelty Company was the first to produce the board. They marketed it as both a mystical oracle and family entertainment. The idea for the board came out of America's obsession with the 19th century spiritualism movement. The movement had been popular in Europe for years, but didnt take off in America until 1848. This was around the time that the Fox sisters, from Upstate New York, were claiming to be communicating with spirits through knocks and rappings on the walls of their home.

People wanted faster results and an easier way to communicate with spirits, and thats how the board and the idea for it were born. Its been successful for over 120 years. In 1944, 50,000 of them were sold by one New York department store. When the Parker Brothers bought out the Novelty Company in 1967, 2 million boards were sold.

Odd Occurrences:

There are also strange stories surrounding the board.

  • In 1920, the National Wire Service reported that people were using the boards to try and solve the murder of Joseph Burton Elwell, who was a New York City gambler.
  • In 1921, the New York Times printed a report about a Chicago woman that was placed into a psychiatric hospital. She told the authorities that spirits in her board had told her to leave her mothers dead body in her living room for 15 days before burying it in the backyard.
  • In 1930, there was a news report about two women that killed another woman because the Ouija board told them to.
  • In 1941, a 23 year old gas station attendant told The New York Times that he joined the army because the board told him to.
  • In 1982, James Merrill won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his Ouija-inspired poem The Changing Lights of Sandover.

Scientific Explanation:

Scientists dont believe that the board is powered by spirits. They believe it's the ideomotor effect, which is automatic muscle movements that happen without conscious thought. One example of this is crying when you see a sad movie.

Dr. Chris French, who is professor of psychology and anomalistic psychology at Goldsmiths University of London explains it as: It can generate a very strong impression that the movement is being caused by some outside agency, but its not. So, it is essentially our minds playing tricks on us.

Final Thoughts:

Regardless of what you believe causes the phenomena associated with the Ouija board, it remains one of our great mysteries. Is it spirits communicating with us from beyond the grave? Is it our minds playing tricks on us? There are believers on both sides. Perhaps we will never truly know the answer, but the board remains a part of our history and a very fascinating one at that!

References & Resources:

  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/

  • https://www.fulcrum7.com/blog/2020/11/17/the-troubling-history-behind-the-ouija-board

  • https://nerdist.com/article/history-behind-the-ouija-board/

  • https://www.gaia.com/article/the-fascinating-history-behind-the-ouija-board

  • https://www.liveabout.com/is-the-ouija-board-dangerous-2593140

Added to on May 17, 2022
Last edited on May 17, 2022
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May 21, 2022
this very interesting the more i read the more i wanna know.

May 25, 2022
I'm happy you found this of interest!

Jun 08, 2022
I would like to know more about the ''entities'' surrounding the board and why my mother (previous practitioner) will not allow ANYONE she knows to even be in the same room as one.

Jun 09, 2022
There are no specific entities directly related to an ouija board. Whoever you call for, has a chance of showing up. Moreso if you call for a specific entity in a manner it finds appealing.

Most often though, people usually dabble in and start with some version of ''Anyone who is nearby, come say hello.'' ...Which is the spiritual equivalent of putting a sign on your door saying ''house party! The door's unlocked!'' ...Sure if no one is in the area, it might go unseen. But then again, it might not. And literally -anyone- who sees it might wander in. Good intent or bad, you just made an open invitation. No bouncer at the door, supply your own duct-tape and gags, knives are in the kitchen, here's the safe combination to the family jewelry.

As for why your mother is set against ouija It is usually safe to assume she tried it once under such an 'open invitation' session. Probably in youth, and had a bad experience because of inexperienced delving/dabbling.

Using a board is an act of opening your house, yourself, and others in your company to willfully allow an entity to enter and have influence. Most learn the hard way that such a thing needs to be respected as a source of consequences. When performed fully it looks like this; cleansing, beginning with prepared intent, doing a specific calling, engaging the session, giving thanks and dismissing, closing the door, and cleansing again. Many don't consider the process or ramifications beyond ''Let's see if we can make it talk!''.

My favorite line, ever, of any movie or book when it comes to magic came from 'practical magic'... ''You can't practice magic while looking down your nose at it.''

Apr 06, 2023
I had tried it once in my life and I felt as if someone was watching me, like a feeling of someone literally hovering over me and watching me.

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