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The History of Ouija Boards

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Ouija is a board that has the alphabet, numerical symbols, and a moveable planchette, all of which are used to communicate with spirits (“Ouija”). The etymology of the term Ouija is ambiguous, but it surmised that the word Ouija is a combination of two words “Oui” and “ja” (“Ouija”). “Oui” is translated from the French and means “Yes”; and “ja” is translated from German, which also means “yes” (“Ouija”). Thus, the term Ouija literally translates as “yes, yes,” and can be seen as an invitation for spirits to communicate. The term Ouija is further associated with the term of good luck in ancient Egypt, and some scholars note that the word Ouija is strikingly similar to the word Oujda, which is actually a Moroccan city (“Ouija”). The Ouija has an interesting history, at least as far back as the board can be traced.

The history of the Ouija Board is highly debated. Some people trace the history of the Ouija board back to the ancient Egyptians, while other’s trace it back to the Chinese. In Ouija Boards, Dr John Ankerberg and John Weldon explain that such tools were considered actual precursors to what is known as today’s Ouija Boards or “talking boards.” Ankerberg and Weldon also assert that the ancient Greeks used divination tools similar to today’s talking boards: “Divination was done with a table that moved on wheels to point to signs, which were interpreted as revelations from the ‘unseen world’” (Ankerberg and Weldon 1). The latter men also cite the now understood Ouija Board’s beginnings with French spiritualist M. Planchette – for which the planchette is named (Ankerberg and Weldon 1). The first notation pertaining to the Ouija Board appears in the American Stationer dated November 10, 1890 (“Ouija”). A company from Baltimore, Maryland known then as the Kennard Novelty Company began producing the Ouija Board and it was commonly referred to as the “Egyptian Luck Board” (“Ouija”). The Kennard Novelty Company came under the supervision of William Fuld in 1891-92 (Murch), and Fuld has since become known as “the father of the Ouija Board” (Murch). Fuld actually had more than twenty patents on the Ouija Board in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom (Murch). In 1891, the Ouija Board is mentioned in patent 446,054, by Elijah J. Bond: according to the patent, Bond was looking to make improvements to the already existing Ouija board (“Ouija”). Fuld was, however, more successful than Bond with the Ouija Board and in 1892, Fuld made further improvements to the Ouija; he suggested using magnetic devices with the board (Murch). Later, the Ouija Board became immensely popular and is still marketed today by Parker Brothers and other manufacturers as a toy for amusement purposes.

Since the Ouija Board is the subject of much debate, it is also the subject of many stories and legends. According to some, William Fuld’s death is suspicious – in 1927, he had fallen three stories while attempting to repair a flagpole at his factory (Murch). A support holding Fuld gave way and he subsequently fell (Murch). Some stories suggest that the board had something to do with Fuld’s death or that negative spirits or spirit possession caused him to commit suicide. The latter story is probably false since a witness that saw the incident testified that Fuld made serious attempts to prevent the fall, even going as far as clutching at a window frame while he fell (Murch). Badly injured upon landing, Fuld was rushed to the nearest hospital where he later died as a result of his injuries – his heart was pierced by a broken rib (Murch). Fuld’s business was subsequently handed down to his children and sold to Parker Brothers in 1966 (Murch). In addition, it should be noted that there is much debate about how to pronounce the term Ouija. Some individuals pronounce the term /WEE JEE/, while others pronounce the term /We Ja/. Precisely, what pronunciation is the correct pronunciation? Well, according to a trademark filed by William Fuld, Trademark 18,919, the correct pronunciation of the term Ouija is /We Ja/ (Murch). The latter trademark has been in effect and the term has been pronounced as such since 1890.

There are a number of theories pertaining to how Ouija Boards work, and there are debates on both sides of the prominent theories offered. Some people believe that Ouija Boards work via a form of automatism, and other people believe that Ouija Boards work because actual spirit contact is made with the deceased or other entities. Automatism is an involuntary act, where a person behaves in a certain way without consciously being aware of the behavior. When it comes to the Ouija Board it is believed by some that those that participate in an Ouija Board session affect the planchette with their hands because the subconscious mind causes the hand to move in subtle ways, thus the planchette moves.

When two or more people are using the Ouija Board, it is believed that the board is acted on via collective automatism. While collective automatism may account for some successful Ouija Board sessions, it is more likely that collective automatism can explain unsuccessful Ouija Board sessions even better. If two or more individuals are using a board, according to the collective automatism theory, each individual has a subconscious that is affecting their body in ways that the consciousness is unaware of. That being the case, it is possible that two or more individuals using the Ouija will witness a clash of subconscious efforts – which may explain sessions where weird spellings or incoherent gibberish or nonsensical messages are the result.

Some individuals believe that when an Ouija Board is used the individual channels a spirit, while other people argue that the spirit manipulates the board only. It is believed by some that the Ouija Board opens a doorway, one where spirits are permitted to enter. The danger therein lies in the fact that the users of the Ouija Board do not know what spirits are actually being contacted or what they are permitting entrance to. Many paranormal investigation groups do not condone the use of the Ouija Board, and ISIS Paranormal Investigations is such a group. We have witnessed repeated cases where our clients have called us in to investigate situations that become grossly aggravated after the use of Ouija Board.

There are paranormal groups and individuals that study the paranormal that contend that the Ouija Board is not dangerous, but the spirit communication conducted on the board is what creates the danger (Kaczmarek). According to The Ghost Research Society, the spirits that are reached through the use of a Ouija Board are spirits that exist on what is known as the “lower astral plane” (Kaczmarek). These lower level entities can be dangerous and deceptive, lying to the individuals using the board.

The use of the Ouija Board typically has varying results. Sometimes the users will receive clear answers from an individual entity while in other sessions there may be a number of spirits attempting to get through on the board at one time, which in turn, can result in an unsuccessful Ouija Board session. Many investigators compare the use of the Ouija Board to the act of making random phone calls – you never know who or what is on the other end of the line and what will come of the conversation. Some investigators warn individuals that use Ouija Boards to refrain from asking for physical proof from the entity of their existence, as the question becomes an invitation for more frightening phenomenon to occur. Further, some investigators assert that the possibility of spirit possession is a very real danger associated with the use of Ouija Boards.

The possibility that one or more users of the board will choose to manipulate the planchette are high. If a user is gullible, they can fall for the farce. What is worse is that what starts out as a joke on the behalf of one or more Ouija Board users can have serious results. At minimum, Ouija Boards produce a dangerous psychological affect on some users. Mentally unstable users are in particular danger when they make use of the Ouija Board. Some individuals may take the advice or guidance they receive from the board too seriously or follow out instructions offered by whatever is contacted, to the detriment of the board user:

It is common that people who get into this sort of game think of themselves as having been “chosen” for a special task. The Ouija board will often say so, either directly or by implication. It may speak of “tests” that the sitters must undergo to show that they are “worthy” of this otherworldly attention. I have not been able to figure out why this is so, but quite often the Ouija turns vulgar, abusive, or threatening. It grows demanding and hostile, and sitters may find themselves using the board or automatic writing compulsively, as if “possessed” by a spirit, or hearing voices that control and command them. This is no longer rare. I’d say it is now so frequent as to be common (qtd. in Ankerberg and Weldon).

Other individuals may become supersensitive to sights and sounds, and the psychological fear that is induced may actually cause issues with the physical body. People that have issues with anxiety or frighten easily are also in danger when they choose to use an Ouija Board.

Given the above issues, there are some rather frightening statistics pertaining to the use of the Ouija. A consumer report produced in 1994 revealed that the Ouija Board is the second most popular “game” played among children between the ages of ten and fourteen; The Ouija Board comes in second to the all time favorite game of Monopoly (Ankerberg and Weldon). The Ouija Board is now a “game” produced by Parker Brothers as well as other manufacturers. Although the game’s actual sales are not known, there are some estimates that fall between 20 and 25 million Ouija’s being sold.

It is believed that when one uses the Ouija Board, any preconceived notions the individual may have will affect the outcome of the session. The latter fact is not in the face of manual manipulation of the planchette, but rather, in terms of religious convictions. Some individuals assert that the board is harmless and report positive Ouija Board sessions, while other individuals that believe the board to be a source of evil report having nothing but negative Ouija Board sessions. Since the origin of the phenomena remains in question, it is highly recommended that people refrain from using the board in an attempt to communicate with spirits.

When it comes to certain religious teachings, the Ouija Board often loses hands down. There are people that assert that the Ouija Board is a tool of evil and that absolutely no good can come from the board’s use. Skeptics will argue that the Ouija Board is a complete falsity and that it is moved by the users of the board either purposely or unintentionally (Carroll). In truth, Ouija Boards are too easily manipulated by unscrupulous individuals, and some believe that it is easily manipulated by dangerous entities and spirits. There is no scientific way to prove that Ouija Board sessions have not been tampered with during the session and any experiences that one derives from the use of Ouija Boards is clearly subjective. With a lack of objective findings, potential dangers, the chance of increasing paranormal events and the frequency of such events, our team recommends that one refrains from using the Ouija Board at all or at any time ever. In today’s field of paranormal investigation, the Ouija Board has fallen out of favor and has no place in ghost hunting or paranormal study.

Works Cited

Ankerberg, John, and John Weldon. The Ouija Board—Part One. 19 Feb. 2008 .

Carroll, Robert Todd. "Ouija Boards." The Skeptic's Dictionary. 2007. 19 Feb. 2008 .

Kaczmarek, Dale. "Ouija: Not a Game ." Ghost Research Society. 2007. 19 Feb. 2008 .

Murch, Robert. "William Fuld." 2007. 19 Feb. 2008 .

“Ouija”. Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2nd ed. 1989.

Article written by: Dayna Winters and Patricia Gardner

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