The Ouija Board, or the talking board, is simply a flat board that contains a specific pattern of numbers and letters that can, in theory, be used to talk to the dead. The Ouija board is often tied to the occult but is also sold in mass amounts by Parker Brothers. The Ouija board is a mystery.
Ouija is a talking board first manufactured in the United States in 1890. A talking board is a board printed with letters and numbers that uses a sliding pointer to spell out messages in a mysterious way. The board that became Ouija was born in 1886 in Chestertown, Maryland and named in 1890 in Baltimore where it was first manufactured. Since Ouija’s inception, newspapers reported on its use as a way to communicate with the dead, predict catastrophes, solve mysteries, and even commit crimes.
As Ouija’s popularity grew in the wake of World World I, newspaper coverage spread about Pearl Curran, a St. Louis housewife who used Ouija to talk with the spirit of a 17th-century woman named Patience Worth. Mrs Curran went on to publish Patience’s writings, many of which were met with critical acclaim.
The strange and Mysterious history of the Ouija Board
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 marvellous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.”
This mysterious talking board was basically what’s sold in board game aisles today: A flat board with the letters of the alphabet arrayed in two semi-circles above the numbers 0 through 9; the words “yes” and “no” in the uppermost corners, “goodbye” at the bottom; accompanied by a “planchette,” a teardrop-shaped device, usually with a small window in the body, used to manoeuvre about the board.
The idea was that two or more people would sit around the board, place their fingertips on the planchette, pose a question, and watch, dumbfounded, as the planchette moved from letter to letter, spelling out the answers seemingly of its own accord. The biggest difference is in the materials; the board is now usually cardboard, rather than wood, and the planchette is plastic.
The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992; when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”
Despite being around for more than 100 years, Ouija boards (a wooden board covered with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9 and the words “yes”, “no” and “goodbye”) continue to be a popular activity – especially around Halloween. To work, all participants must place their hands on the wooden pointer (or planchette) and ask any present “spirits” to answer their questions by moving the planchette around the board to spell out their response.
While some see it as a harmless parlour game, others swear by the board’s ability to communicate with those who have passed to the “other side”. But though science suggests that ghosts aren’t behind the board’s mysterious movements, the explanation for how they do work isn’t as straightforward as you might expect.
Ouija boards at work
But do Ouija boards work? It depends on who you ask. For those who believe in the ability to communicate with spirits, the answer would be yes. But given there’s no conclusive evidence spirits exist, the answer from sceptics and scientists alike would be a firm no. And yet we often hear stories from so-called “non-believers” who say that they have felt the planchette move over the board, spelling out words and telling them things no one else around the table could know. So, if it isn’t ghostly messages from the other side, what is it?
Are Ouija Boards harmless?
The Ouija board is far from harmless, as it is a form of divination (seeking information from supernatural sources). The fact of the matter is, the Ouija board really does work, and the only “spirits” that will be contacted through it are evil ones.
It’s true that many people view the Ouija board as harmless. They often claim, “Oh, I don’t believe in it,” or something to this effect. However, disbelief in something does not necessarily mean that something isn’t real. The Ouija board has an objective reality that exists apart from a person’s perception of it. In other words, it’s real even if you don’t believe in it. And we know this because God himself tells us so.