Frazer Blog

Channeling the Dead: History Behind the Ouija Board

by | Oct 24, 2017 | For Families

Ouija Board

Many people claim they’ve encountered spirits through paranormal experiences.

But what about those who purposefully try to reach out to the dead? Yes, we’re talking about the Ouija board.

With Halloween coming up, we thought we’d set the spooky tone and learn more about channeling the dead.

Ouija Board Origin

The Ouija board dates to the late 1800s in America during the spiritualism era. During this time, there was a strong belief in and desire to communicate with spirits.

This may be partially due to the deaths during the Civil War. Many families didn’t have closure about what happened to their loved ones. So “talking” boards for communicating with the dead brought them hope for the closure that they desired.

For those who don’t know how the Ouija board works, it’s said to accurately answer questions about the past, present, and future. The board has the alphabet, numbers 0-9, “yes” and “no” in the upper corners, and “goodbye” at the bottom. Everyone puts their fingertips on the planchette, the device that “magically” moves around the board to spell out a reply.

Inventor Elijah Bond was the first person to patent the idea for a “talking” board. Once patented, he hired inventor William Fuld to take over the board production. Fuld originally worked at the Kennard Novelty Company, owned by Charles Kennard. However, Fuld took over the company in the early 1890s and changed the name to The Ouija Novelty Company.

Longtime Ouija historian and collector Robert Murch said the board has a mysterious and intriguing backstory. The name “Ouija” came about when Bond and his sister-in-law Helen Peters asked the board what it should be called. The board spelled out “Ouija” and then when they asked what the word meant, it spelled out “good luck.”

Fun Family Board Game

In February 1891, the first advertisement came out for the “fun family game.” Back then, they were just trying to market the board as a mysterious new board game.

To get the patent, they had to prove it worked. The patent officer said if the board spelled out his name then he would patent it, which it did. They supposedly didn’t know his name, but it’s possible that Bond knew it. But they didn’t ever explain how the board worked, just that it did work. So that part remained a mystery.

However, things started to get weird when Fuld opened more factories. In 1927, Fuld was on the roof of one of his new factories supervising a flagpole replacement. But he lost his balance and fell off the roof. He tried to grab a window sill on the way down, but it suddenly closed.

He only suffered some broken ribs. But on the way to the hospital, a road bump sent a fractured bone into his heart and he died. Did the Ouija board plan for his death or was it an unfortunate accident? It was most likely just bad luck, but you can use your imagination.

When Fun Took a Dark Turn

In 1973, the view of the board changed from a fun board game to an evil communication device. Why did this happen? That’s the year the movie The Exorcist came out.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a 12-year-old girl who becomes possessed by a demon after using the board. This frightened people and they began to fear the board and no longer viewed it as a joke. Since then, there are even more horror movies featuring the board, including the 2016 movie Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Theory for How the Ouija Board Works

Scientists say the board isn’t powered by spirits or demons but rather our own minds. They explain it as a phenomenon called the ideomotor effect: unconscious muscular movements. These are the automatic muscle reactions that we may not be consciously aware of doing ourselves. Some common examples are automatic writing, table-turning, and Ouija boards.

And these unconscious movements are more likely to occur when you know there’s supposed to be movements. For example, with the Ouija board, your unconscious mind knows the planchette is supposed to move across the board. And so the ideomotor effect comes into play.

You’re also more likely to answer questions correctly with the board versus with your conscious mind. This is because the unconscious mind knows facts that we don’t even realize we know. So the board technically “works” but it’s probably due to our unconscious movements and not evil spirits.

Despite this explanation, many people still believe they’re dangerous. According to LiveScience, 65% of Americans believe Ouija boards are dangerous. This is probably due to horror movie depictions of it as an evil device.

What do you believe? Is it possible to communicate with the dead, whether it’s through Ouija boards or another source? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Sign up for our newsletter and get tips, trends, news, and more sent directly to your inbox!

Pin It on Pinterest