Ouija Board History and Origins

Ouija Board History and Origins

What is a Ouija Board?

A Ouija board consists of a flat surface printed with letters, numbers, and other signs, to which a planchette or movable indicator points.

The Ouija board has two arced rows of letters, one above the other. The upper row goes from A to M, and the lower row runs from N to Z. Under these is a row with numbers One by Zero. On the upper left of the board is the information Yes, and at the upper right, the information No. Close to the bottom of the board is Goodbye.

A tiny three legged heart-shaped device rests on the board, which moves smoothly over the board’s surface. The fingers of 2 participants are placed on the planchette that then moves about the board, purportedly on its own strength, to spell out messages.

The Ouija board does not have a straightforward history, there are several varied hypotheses.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the first genuine ouija board was invented. There is meaningful disagreement as to who truly invented it – names brought up include Elijah Bond, E.C. Reiche and Charles Kennard.

The first patent for the Modern class of talking boards was registered in 1890 and listed Elijah Bond as the inventor with Charles W. Kennard and William H. A. Maupin as assignees.

Charles Kennard and associates set up the Kennard Novelty Company and began to produce and sell Ouija Boards commercially.

The rights to ouija board production were sold to Parker Brothers who own them to date. It is interesting – if not slightly dismaying – to think that what began as an instrument for spiritualists, psychics and mediums can be bought today as a children’s toy.

History and Origins of the Ouija Board

You slowly walk up and sit down to the dimly-lit dusty table with a mysterious board with letters of the alphabet, numbers zero by nine and the words yes and no on opposite ends. Sitting on top is a triangular wooden planchette. You place your hands on the indicator, close your eyes, take a breath, and ask the question. Suddenly your hands start moving without personal provocation, spelling out the answer to your question. The hair on the back of your neck sits up on end and you shudder to the event as a lone tear drops from your left eye… how could it know?

You have just experienced your first Ouija board – a paranormal method of contacting the spirit world! Also known as a talking or spirit board, the Ouija board itself is not but one hundred and fifty years old, but the practice of using talking boards date back in China over three thousand years.

Throughout the years, the basic concept of the Ouija board has not changed – typically with a few images of night / day and good / evil with letters of the alphabet, the numbers zero by 9 and both yes and no. Either by yourself or with a group, you would place your hands on the planchette, and ask a question out loud or let the spirits guide you to an answer.

Separately, the planchette was sold by itself as novelty in the mid 1800s. It was a simple device with coaster feet and a pencil attached to allow the spirits that were guiding you to draw or write out messages. It was not until 1891 when two businessmen, Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard, got the idea to group the planchette and the board together to first patent the modern talking board as a novelty parlor game. Instead of using a pencil, they would attach a point indicator that would direct the users. William Fuld, for whom the rights to the game were given by the first two inventors, did not add the name Ouija until 1901. Long after Fuld’s death, the rights to the Ouija board were sold to the Parker Brothers who, to this day, nevertheless keep up the rights and patents.

The origin of the name is not thoroughly known, but most believe it is made of the French information “oui” which method ‘yes’ in addition as the German information “ja” also meaning “yes”.

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