The Ouija Board: Our Fascination With It and Its Origins

Many people wonder about the origins of strange myths and legends. Anything with a hint of spookiness about it is sure to titillate and entice the public. For example, take a look at popular television series today: The Ghost Whisperer, Medium, and even Scifi’s Ghosthunters. The classic series Ancient Mysteries is still being shown in syndication on A&E. Nothing proves this point more than the world’s fascination with the Ouija Board.

The Ouija Board is an interesting cultural artifact. While it is available at your local Toys R Us, packaged in a benign Parker Bros. box, some believe it to be a means of communicating with the dead. Some even believe, if not used properly, it could prove dangerous for its users. So, is it a simple game board or is it something truly worthy of fear and superstition?
The Ouija Board is not a recent invention and the board available for purchase today is only a reinvention of a very old psychic tool. In the late 1800’s, Spiritualism became a popular trend. People were attending sÃ?©ances to speak to old loved ones and “mediums” were there to collect the money of grieving mourners. When parlor tricks such as knocking on or tipping tables became old hat, a new version of communicating with the dead came about.

Mediums started using what was known as “automatic writing” to let spirits speak through them. Many gadgets were constructed, some even involving pulley systems and a pen. Eventually, people settled on a simple board and indicator. Called a “talking board”, it is what would later evolve into the Ouija Board we know today. Although he was not the inventor of the talking board, William Fuld’s name would become synonymous with them once he took over the novelty business that mass-produced them.

William Fuld became president and owner of the formerly named Kennard Novelty Company, now the Ouija Novelty Company, in the 1890’s. Fuld proceeded to take credit for the creation of the Ouija Board, claiming the name is derived from the French and German words for yes (Oui and Ja). This is false, however. E.C. Reiche, Elijah Bond, and Charles Kennard created the Ouija Board. They in fact named the board, claiming it was Egyptian for “good luck”. (It isn’t.)

In the 1960’s the family friendly Parker Bros. bought all rights to the Ouija Board. Today, you could find it on the shelf of your local toy store, nestled between Monopoly and Clue. Some people, however, take the game very seriously. The fact remains, though, that the modern Ouija Board was not developed by any kind of paranormal expert, but in fact a group of whoopee cushion peddlers.

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