Ouija Board

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Photo from Daily Dot

What is a Oujia Board?

According to Wikipedia, a oujia board is “also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0–9, the words “yes”, “no”, “hello” (occasionally), and “goodbye”, along with various symbols and graphics.” (Wikipedia)

To use a ouija board you must also use some kind of planchette. This is an object that is moved about the board to spell out words. Some people believe that you can use a ouija board to communicate with the dead. A ouija board could be referring to the game board made by Hasbro game company or it could literally be referring to any board similar to it that people use to try to communicate with other entities. (Wikipedia)

“In February, 1891, the first few advertisements started appearing in papers: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board,” boomed a Pittsburgh toy and novelty shop, describing a magical device that answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” – Smithsonian Magazine

Origins

A man by the name of Robert Murch is a Oujia board historian. He has been searching for origins of the board since 1992. When he first started asking people about the origins of the board, no one really knew. The ouija board became popular in America in the 19th century. There was a major obsession with spiritualism, which came over from Europe. It really hit America in the year of 1848. Two sisters, who go by the name “The Fox Sisters,” were a big part of this time. They lived in upstate New York and claimed to receive messages from the other side. They would say they would communicate through the tapping on their parlor walls. During this time, it was pretty normal to hold a seance at your house and then go to church the next morning. In a time when death came so early, it brought some reassurance to people, thinking they could still contact the people they lost. (Smithsonian Magazine) The outlook on ouija boards and other spiritual communication obviously changed as the years went on.

The first company to ever manufacture a board like this was the Kennard Novelty Company, started by Charles Kennard (a resident of Baltimore, Maryland). He also included four other investors. Among these men were Elijah Bond, a local attorney, and Col. Washington Bowie. None of the people involved were spiritualists but they were businessmen and knew this board would lead to profit.

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Photo from Science Based Life

Some believe that the name of the board came from one of the investor’s sister-in-law. She was a medium by the name of Helen Peters. They all sat down to play the board and when she asked the board what it should be called, “ouija” is the answer it gave her. Supposedly, when she asked the board what it meant, it replied, “good luck.”

This group also got the first patent developed for the game. They weren’t as interested in how the board worked, just that it worked in general. In order to get the patent, the group had to actually play the board in front of a chief patent officer. When they sat down to play the game something really strange happened. The board supposedly spelled out the patent officer’s name. They obviously got the patent after that. They left the patent officer pale and a bit shaken up. (Smithsonian Magazine)

“Ultimately, it was a money-maker. They didn’t care why people thought it worked.” – Smithsonian Magazine

The board has led to many strange occurences. They were right that it would make a lot of money. There ended up being multiple factories built to produce the board. Years later, the main investors were out. The company ended up being run for awhile by the long time employee William Fuld. It didn’t say how long he ran the company for but he did until the day he died, in the year of 1927. He died in a freak falling accident. He fell off of the top of one of his factories. It was said that he was instructed to build that specific factory by a ouija board. (Smithsonian Magazine)

Many years later the board is still popular but things have changed. They are no longer looked at as a toy. At least not by most people, even though it is sold by a game company. While the board is believed to be real by many. It is also criticized by many as well.

“The action of the board can be parsimoniously explained by unconscious movements of those controlling the pointer, a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect.” – Wikipedia

Some people believe it could be both. That sometimes it could be other entities and sometimes it could be our unconscious movements moving the planchette. There are some religious groups that are very heavily against the ouija board, believing it could be used as a tool to communicate with the devil.

There are some that believe that ouija boards aren’t always a negative thing but they have to be used in the right way. Often mediums give advice on how to use ouija boards the correct way. A medium by the name of Char Margolis came up with a list of warnings for future ouija board users.

Her first warning is that ouija boards are real. I think her reasoning behind this warning is, that you shouldn’t just assume it’s all fake and use it as a toy.

Her second warning is that it is a welcome mat for evil spirits. She is basically telling people that when using a ouija board, you never know what could be moving that planchette. She wants you take the game seriously.

Her third warning is that the board will lure you in by telling you something true. It could be information about yourself or another player. It could know things you thought no one knew.

Her fourth warning is that it may spell out the name of one of your deceased loved ones. She says this can be used as a trick. They could be someone else and just want you to believe they are someone you knew.

Her fifth and final warning is that it may tell you seemingly strange things. They may tell you really personal details about a loved one. Then they may tell you to take some kind of crazy action. (There are horror stories of people blaming ouija boards for the crimes they’ve committed.)

(Char)

 

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Photo from This Is Why I’m Broke

If you’re like me, then the warnings won’t always stop you. When I was in high school, I played the oujia a few times with my friends. I don’t know if I necessarily believe in ouija boards but I don’t really take them as a joke either. I don’t use them anymore. When I read about them as a teenager, there were a few things people gave warnings about. If you really want to use a board, here’s a few warnings I remember reading:

  1. Never do the ouija board in your house. This is based on the belief that a ouija board is a door. So you are essentially opening a door wherever you choose to play the ouija board.
  2. Never take your hand off the planchette or stop playing the game before you say goodbye. So basically saying goodbye out loud and then waiting for the planchette to move to the word goodbye at the bottom of the board.
  3. Never say stupid things. For example, never make fun of the game while your playing or make stupid comments if the game is in motion.
  4. Never welcome anything into your home. This is based on the belief that the game opens a door. So if you welcome it in, it doesn’t have to leave when you say goodbye.

As always I don’t make statements about what I believe in but I don’t think this is something that should be considered a joke. This is not just based on what the game is but also based on other people’s opinions. I know a decent amount of people who don’t like ouija boards and get offended by them. A lot of people don’t really believe in them but a lot of people also don’t take them very lightly. So if you want to get a group of friends together to play the ouija board, take it seriously and respect other people’s beliefs. But enough about other people’s beliefs. What do you believe?

 

Sources

Smithsonian Magazine

Linda McRobbie

October, 2013

Char

Wikipedia

April, 2018

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