The Ouija Board – Toy or Gate to Another World?

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Every person with a little bite of interest in magic knows what an Ouija board is. Believed to be a gate to another world, this “talking board” or “spirit board”, as it was called, is a rectangular slate, usually made of wood or plastic, which is used to contact spirits or souls of various people who passed away. On the other hand, it is frequently used as a simple way to have fun and spend time with friends.

If you have ever wondered why the board was named “Ouija”, well you should know that it comes from the French and German versions of the word “yes” (“oui” and “ja”).

All the letters of the alphabet are arrayed in semi-circles on the board, along with the numbers between 0 and 9 and also the words “yes”, “no”, “maybe” and “goodbye” written in the corners. The board comes along with various symbols and graphics and a triangular object that resembles a very large guitar pick, about the size of a fist, which has three legs under it. One of its peaks is used as index during the game.

The Ouija Board was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. (Bettmann/CORBIS)
The Ouija Board was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

Well, this “game” of spirits exists since the 11th century, when it was played in a different way. Then, people used the board with a piece of paper and a pen. In the middle of the board there was a hole through which the pen was introduced, and through which people believed the spirits sent their answers in our world. Then, in the 19th century, a toy maker named Elijah Bond from Baltimore had the great idea to add to the board letters and numbers. He made his game and then started to sell it. It quickly became a popular parlor game after Isaac Fuld took over the business. Moreover, many people became obsessed with the board, especially after World War I, when everyone wanted to get in touch with their lost relatives.

Fuld in his attempt to not pay his taxes, tried to convince people that the Ouija board was not a toy, but a scientific device. He sustained his statements in front of the Supreme Court, where he lost the trial.

Currently, the toy-merchandising rights belong to Parker Brothers Company, after Fuld’s sons sold the family business in 1960. The toy is no longer manufactured, and those that exist on the market are not authentic Fuld boards.

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On the other, this “interesting and mysterious” object, as it was declared by a New York newspaper, was also used to create literature, starting with the 20th century. For example, the author of the novel “Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board”, Emily Grant Hutchings, said that the book was dictated to her by late American writer Mark Twain. And this is not the only “psychic” book written through an Ouija board.

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