Ouija: Source of Historical DebateSeptember 23, 2013
Modern writers and Ouija board historians claim that the Ouija board is strictly a modern invention whose popularity followed the rise and fall of the Spiritualist movement and was invented in the mid-nineteenth century. Why then, did Nandor Fodor, a respected researcher of paranormal activity and associate of Sigmund Freud say in his 1934, Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, that, “As an invention it is very old. It was in use in the days of Pythagoras, about 540 B.C.” Frank Gaynor concurs. In the Dictionary of Mysticism, he states that, “[Talking] boards of different shapes and sizes were used in the sixth century.” However, there is virtually no evidence that the ‘talking board’ existed prior to the 1800’s.
Ouija which may be pronounced WEE ja or WEE gee was initially thought be translated from ancient Egyptian and to mean “luck.” It turns out that the entomology or history of the word is simply derived from joining the French and German words for yes. Oui means yes in French and Ja means yes in German. Ouija directly translated is, “yes, yes.”
As a result, Spiritualists believe that the name is a beckoning, an invitation for spirits to engage and communicate. Because of this, many Spiritualist and mystics strongly caution against the use of the Ouija as a parlor game, despite that fact that it is being promoted and sold as one.
Researchers believe spirits on a lower astral plane are attracted to the easy entrée offered by the board. They warn us that Spirits at this level can be deceptive and dangerous.
Ouija was first marketed in the Baltimore area in the 1890’s by Charles Kennard, that much is generally agreed upon; however, many historians argue that E.C. Reichie was the original patent holder. Reichie is mentioned in court testimony and documents, but the first patent application shows only the name of Elijah H. Bond, a Baltimore patent attorney.
Bond assigned the rights to Charles W. Kennard and William H.A. Maupin before the patent was granted. Patent office documents show that the patent was finalized on February 10, 1891, giving birth to the Ouija-brand talking board.
Ouija was widely popularized throughout the U.S. and Europe by Spiritualist and novelist Pearl Curran. She credited her 6 novels and volumes of poetry to the spiritual guidance that the Ouija board provided her with.
After some controversy about leadership at the Baltimore plant, financial backers chose William Fuld over Kennard giving Fuld full control of the operation. He led the company through record profits until his untimely death in 1927. Fuld fell from the roof of the Ouija board factory while trying to install a flagpole, according to eyewitness accounts.
Mr. Fuld is reported to have consulted the Ouija on a regular basis and successfully promoted it by telling anecdotes about the board’s business advice, which he claimed to follow.
He did not, however, believe it was a tool of divination. Instead, he believed that the planchette (the heart shaped wooden plank with two castors) was directed by our subconscious, a belief supported in part by psychologist of the era who coined the term automatism to describe the phenomena.
Though its popularity has declined over the years among adults, the séance and the Ouija board remain a staple of American childhood. It reached its pentacle among teenagers’ ages 10 to 14 in 1994, as the 2nd most popular game for that age group. Many Spiritualists believe that age group is especially sensitive to paranormal activity. Despite controversies about its origin, the Ouija board lives on.