Oh, the Ouija Board. I’ll never forget my first encounter with the ‘talking’ board at a slumber party in middle school. We stayed up most of the night conversing with the board, which we treated like a person, while I heard all sorts of supposedly-true horror stories about people who kept playing after the board had bid “Goodbye.” Of course, it was all just harmless fun. Being raised in a free-thinking household, I’d never thought (and still don’t) that it had anything to do with the devil, possession, or anything having to do with Christianity, basically. And why should it? It stems from Spiritualism!
The First Mass-Produced Ouija Board by Kennard Novelty Company in 1890
Basically, with Spiritualism (I’m sorry, I don’t have time to define the whole belief system, but it’s based on the idea that the consciousness transcends death, which is just a physical change, and that the dead can communicate with the living [among other things]) came various ways of communicating with the dead through seances. As one can imagine, table rocking and turning along with mysterious rapping were some of the most common ways ‘spirits’ would make themselves known during a seance (or rather, some of the most common ways ‘mediums’ would get attention). One of the ways spirits would communicate with the sitters (people participating in a seance) was through a planchette used by a medium.
The planchette was a small roughly heart-shaped piece of wood with two wheels and a spot to stick a pencil through so the tip of the pencil points to/touches whatever surface the planchette was on. A medium could place his or her hand on the planchette and divine message from the great beyond. Unfortunately, the planchette was, I’ve read, a huge pain. It had a habit of straying off the paper and its writing was usually illegible. Mediums usually discarded the planchette in favor of their own hand, allowing spirits to guide the pencil through it. After a few overly complex versions of talking boards with letters, numbers, dials, and pointers came what we know as the Ouija board (yeah, that’s a brand name, but you know what I’m talking about). Basically, in its simplest form, the talking board was a card (or even just a piece of paper) with letters and numbers, and maybe “Yes,” “No,” and “Goodbye,” and a pencil-less planchette was used to point out which letter or number the spirit(s) wanted to communicate. Because Spiritualism had its origins in America, it wasn’t long before these talking boards were mass produced. Pictured above is the first of these, Kennard Novelty Company’s talking board. From there it evolved and today you can walk into your local toy store and buy a glow-in-the-dark version of one of these bad boys (pretty scary, huh?). For your amusement, I’m including a link to a Squidoo page full of “freaky” Ouija Board stories. Have fun! And remember, it IS just a game.