I’m aware that the Ouija board can be pretty controversial. So I approached this just as I would when writing a research article in college. Partially because that writing style is exciting and fun to me and because I believe it’s the most stimulating and educational. I love combining my spirituality with history and science!! So I thought bringing together a few different perspectives and points of view would be the most helpful!
This article is quite long so feel free to use the table of contents to jump around to the answers you’re looking for!
What is a Ouija Board?
A Ouija Board is a level and smooth panel or surface that contains the alphabet (typically curved), numbers, and the phrases yes, no, and goodbye. It also comes with a planchette which is typically a heart, triangle, or teardrop-shaped piece of wood on three legs which will point to a symbol or word on the board. Occasionally the planchette will have a circle-shaped open window in its center.
Two or more people will place their fingers on the planchette and ask the question, “Is anybody there”? The planchette will then move on its own and without the assistance from the participants pushing it.
The planchette will move across the board and pause over certain letters, numbers, or words to bring forth a message. Depending on who you speak to, this message can be from our subconscious or your voice is being sent out into the aether or ethereal plane where spirits can hear your questions and respond back to you.
Fun and Interesting Fact
A woman named Pearl Curran published many poems and writings by working with a Ouija board from 1913 to 1937. According to Curran the Ouija board wrote the poems through a spirit who said her name was Patience Worth and claimed to be a 17th-century English poet.
How Do You Pronounce Ouija?
Ouija is pronounced Wee-juh.
Ouija Board Game History
“The nature of the Ouija phenomenon is controversial; so too are its roots. No one person or culture can take credit for its development. Ouija origins are multiple and ancient, having been independently reinvented and rediscovered in a wide variety of locations.”
– Stoker Hunt in “Ouija The Most Dangerous Game”
Spirit Board, Spiritualism, and The Planchette
The history of Spirit Boards long precedes the Ouija Board and even has roots in China and Greece as far back as 600 b.c.e.
Some early instances are alectromancy (or alectryomancy) which is an ancient form of divination using roosters. The letters of the alphabet were placed in a circle with a corresponding piece of corn or wheat. Whichever piece of food the rooster picked up was meant to spell out the answer to the question asked by the medium.
Another trace of some such communicating mechanism is found in the legend told by the Scandinavian Blomsturvalla of how the people of Jomsvikingia in the twelfth century had a high priest, one Völsunga, whose predictions were renowned for their accuracy throughout the land. He had in his possession a little ivory doll that drew with “a pointed instrument” on parchment or “other substance,” certain signs to which the priest had the key. The communications were prophetic utterances, and it is said in every case they came true.Encyclopedia.com
Spiritualism (the belief that the living can speak to the dead) became popular in Europe during the early 1800s. Spiritualism made its way to America around the 1850s to 1860s which was believed to be due to the large number of soldiers dying in the Civil War. There were many families who were hoping to make contact with their deceased loved ones.
It’s important to understand that Spiritualism was not thought to be disconnected from religious views. On the contrary, it was thought to back the theory of life after death and the continuation of our souls.
One of the initial challenges with Spiritualism was the slow and monotonous process to communicate with the dead. Typically people would recite the alphabet and wait for a knock, sound, or movement to interpret or indicate a message. You can imagine how tedious and boring this was.
The solution was the planchette and was invented in 1853 by a popular French Spiritualist named Mr. Planchette. The early planchette was a wooden tool that was attached to a pencil so messages could be received from the entities or deceased loved ones. The name planchette translates to “small board” or “sketch board” in French. It worked similar to automatic writing and was typically done by a medium.
An American business called Kirby and Company started manufacturing planchettes with wheels on their legs which increased their popularity. I was unable to determine an exact time frame for when they did so, but it appears to be around the late 1860s.
Ouija Board History
The history of the men involved in creating the Ouija board can get quite confusing. It’s believed that many of them came to be acquainted through the fraternal organization called the Freemasons. However, several of them had family ties or deep friendships that spanned years and in some cases decades.
Stick with me here because the owner of the Ouija board patent and manufacturer rights moves around quickly. It’s also worth noting that many arguments broke out between friends and family over who was the “rightful owner” of the Ouija board.
The Ouija Board was originally patented by a lawyer named Elijah Bond on February 10th 1891.
Elijah Bond knew that he would not be able to obtain a patent if they could not prove that the board actually worked. So Elijah brought his sister-in-law and gifted medium, Helen Peters, with him to the patent office in Washington to file the application.
As expected, they were asked to provide proof by giving a presentation. Supposedly Elijah nor Helen knew the patent officer’s name. The officer said if they were able to accurately give his name he would approve their request for a patent.
All parties gathered around the Ouija board and asked it to provide the officer’s name, which it did accurately. It’s uncertain if the spirits actually did so or if Elijah Bond and Helen Peters actually already knew the officer’s name. Either way, the stunned patent officer, granted Elijah Bond’s patent request.
Back when Elijah Bond was in law school he met fellow student Harry Welles Rusk and the two became the best of friends.
After law school, Harry started his own practice that specialized in patents and trademarks. Eventually, Harry Welles Rusk, Charles Kennard, Williams H.A. Maupin, Col. Washington Bowie, and John F. Green incorporated the Kennard Novelty Company.
Harry Welles Rusk was the president of the company.
On October 30th, 1891, Elijah Bond assigned the Ouija patent to William H. A. Maupin and Charles W. Kennard. It’s unclear if Elijah sold the rights or was considered an investor in the Kennard Novelty Company.
The Kennard Novelty Company started production on the Ouija Board and decided to modify the planchette from its original design. The current design utilized wheels which they replaced with three legs. Each leg ended with a felt pad which allowed for it to glide more easily. They also sold the planchette with a smooth board that had the alphabet, numbers, and phrases yes, no, and goodbye on its surface. It was called the Ouija board.
How did Ouija get its name? What does it mean?
It’s commonly believed that the name Ouija is a combination of the French and German words for “yes” (oui and ja). However, according to Robert Murch, the president of the Talking Board Historical Society, that theory is incorrect.
Murch says, based on his research, it was Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was, Bond said, a “strong medium”), who supplied the now instantly recognizable handle. Sitting around the table, they asked the board what they should call it; the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” Eerie and cryptic—but for the fact that Peters acknowledged that she was wearing a locket bearing the picture of a woman, the name “Ouija” above her head. That’s the story that emerged from the Ouija founders’ letters; it’s very possible that the woman in the locket was famous author and popular women’s rights activist, [Madame Louise de la Ramee whose pen name was] Ouida, whom Peters admired, and that “Ouija” was just a misreading of that.Smithsonian Magazine
In 1892 the company’s name was changed to Ouija Novelty Company when Col Washington Bowie, decided to dismiss all the partners except his friend, Harry Welles Rusk. As you can imagine this caused a lot of contention between all the partners.
Harry Welles Rusk remained the company’s president until 1898 and completely ended his connection with the business in 1902 when he sold his portion of the company to Col Washington Bowie for $100.
Col Washington Bowie now had full control of the Ouija Novelty Company and the production rights of the Ouija board.
He decided to give control of the company to his friend, protégé, and fellow Freemason, William Fuld who was one of the original employees and stockholders of the Kennard Novelty Company.
Eventually in 1919 Col Washington Bowie assigned all rights to the Ouija Board to William Fuld for $1. William Fuld started construction on a large factory to manufacture Ouija boards after he says the Ouija board told him to do so.
“I’m not a Spiritualist! I’m a Presbyterian. I built this factory on Ouija’s advice, but I haven’t consulted the board since. Things have been moving along so well I didn’t want to start anything.” – William Fuld
On February 24th 1927 while overseeing the replacement of a flagpole, William Fuld was tragically killed by complications falling from the roof of his three story Harford, Lamont, and Federal Street factory. The iron support he was leaning on gave way, and he tumbled backwards off the roof, grasping and catching one of the factory windows and then falling to the ground. He suffered a “concussion of the brain, five fractured ribs, a broken arm, a fractured leg, and numerous cuts and bruises.” An employee who witnessed the fall picked him up and rushed him to the hospital where he later died from one of his broken ribs piercing his heart. Laying on his deathbed he made his children promise they would never sell the Ouija board.Williamfuld.com
Due to the declining health of William’s children, they did eventually sell the company to the Parker Brothers (who later became Hasbro) on February 24th, 1966 which was the 39th anniversary of Willam Fuld’s death.
It turned out to be a wise investment for the Parker Brothers because, in 1967 (believed to be due to the Vietnam War), 2 million Ouija boards were purchased outselling Monopoly which no other “game” has been able to do.
Fun and Interesting Fact
In 2007, after a 15-year search, TBHS [Talking Board Historical Society] founder Robert Murch located Elijah Jefferson Bond’s unmarked grave in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.
A year later, together with generous donations from Ouija enthusiasts, the cooperation of the cemetery itself, and the blessing of Bond descendants Walter Dent Jr. (Bond’s great grand nephew!) and his daughter Winifred Pierce, a new memorial monument was erected to mark Bond’s grave and commemorate his involvement with the Ouija.
The headstone was crafted by Tegeler Monuments, and its backside contains the Bond’s iconic talking board drawing from the original Ouija patent. It has since become the cemetery’s most-requested gravesite for visitors.Talking Board Historical Society
Ouija Board Rules
According to the instructions on Hasbro’s Ouija Board –
- Never use the Ouija board if you think it’s just a game
- Never use the Ouija board alone
- Never use the Ouija board in a cemetery
- Never leave the planchette on the Ouija board when you aren’t using it
- Never forget to say goodbye to the Ouija spirits
- Gently place the planchette in the center of the Ouija board
- Gather closely around the board, if you dare
- Each player, place two fingers lightly on the planchette
- Let the bravest among you ask the first question
- Always speak slowly and clearly, just as friendly spirits prefer
- Be patient. If the planchette doesn’t move ask another question – and focus!
- When you’re finished asking questions, move the planchette to GOODBYE to bid the spirits farewell!
I think it’s important to remember the Talking or Ouija board is a useful divination and channeling tool, but not a toy. For those in Nature Spirituality, Witch, Wiccan, or similar communities, I do think it’s important that you know how to properly close and banish just in case.
You want this to be a happy and pleasurable experience, but also it should be taken seriously. Please don’t be “that person” who pushes the planchette for a laugh. It ruins the experience for everyone and you’re not as funny as you think you are.
Turn off phones or any other distractions like televisions. You should also play sober.
Some feel it is necessary to operate in darkness with the only light coming from candles. I think this definitely helps set the mood but is not necessary. Some also prefer darkness due to a decrease in noise interference, which can help with concentration.
Some people like to sing to set a happy tone and attract friendly spirits. The choice, of course, is up to you! Avoid using when you are feeling unwell or emotionally vulnerable.
Sit quietly and meditate for a moment. Breathe deeply and imagine yourself filling up with white light. Think about the questions you’ll be asking. Avoid questions that may cause fear, panic, or anxiety such as “When and how will I die?”
Get the board warmed up by circling the planchette in a figure-eight before bringing it to a stopping point in the center of the board.
Make sure to keep notes! I like to use my Grimoire, Wiccan Book of Shadows, or spiritual journal for this!
Choose one person to speak to the spirits slowly and clearly. This helps to create less confusion for the spirits. Also, remember to keep the energy positive! Be patient, polite, and don’t rush too many questions at once!
If you’re trying to communicate with an ancestor or loved one, it can be helpful to bring a photo of them or an item they used or cherished.
One last suggestion I’d like to mention is using conductors. Some believe that different spirits or ghosts have various amounts of strength. Setting up different conductors can help those with weaker energy communicate with you and be very helpful. Some examples include candle flames, a glass of water (where they can ripple the water), or an EMF detector.
Use your head. Don’t run to the Talking Board expecting to get answers to all of life’s problems. The spirits don’t necessarily have the answers – they can’t necessarily see into the future, and they may be the last persons to give you good advice.Raymond Buckland “Book of Spirit Communications’
Are Ouija Boards real?
In 1973, a movie called The Exorcist was released which was about a young girl who was possessed by a demon after using it. The Ouija board promptly became known as a portal to evil and Satan. It was denounced by many religions and burned along with Harry Potter books.
Prior to The Exorcist, Talking and Ouija Boards were considered neutral and non-threatening. It was a way to connect with deceased loved ones or ancestors. Norman Rockwell even drew an illustration of a male and female playing the game, and the Ouija Board was featured on an episode of “I Love Lucy” when Ethel and Lucy attempt to do a seance.
The Ouija board “began its career with no taint of evil. The reason for this is that it emerged in a cultural context (in China and then ancient Greece) in which many gods were respected, and in which good and evil were intermingled freely and considered equally necessary parts of reality, expressed in the flows of seasons and in the cycles of decay and renewal, death and birth, that are acted out by all that livesThe Ouija Book by Gina Covina
Remember a Talking board is a divination tool, but not a toy. If you are really concerned it’s best to try other divination options. However, if you’re still interested here are some safety tips!
- Keep a happy and positive mindset! Feel free to use the tip listed above and sing a happy song to invite friendly spirits. Make it very understandable that only spirits of the highest vibrations are welcome in this sacred space.
- Completely cleanse the space and room you’ll be using in any way you choose. Some people feel casting a circle around the Ouija board can help keep out negative energy. Lit white or black candles are a great option as well! Others place salt in each corner of the room or around the board itself. You could also try grounding and shielding before using the board. Crystals like black tourmaline are also helpful for protection.
- If you have a specific god, goddess, or deities you honor ask them to keep you protected and free from harm.
- Try communication with only certain people or spirits like loved ones or ancestors. Like I suggested above, it can be helpful to bring a photo of them or an item they used or cherished
If you truly believe your Ouija session has brought on an unwelcome guest feel free to say so! Thank the negative spirit for its attendance to your session, but it’s now time for it to leave. If it still doesn’t leave and seems angry or aggressive, move the planchette over GOODBYE and stop using the Ouija board. End the session right there, simple as that! Remember, you’re in charge, not the spirit!
How can I cleanse a Ouija Board?
You can choose to use whatever method of cleansing works best for you, but here are a few ideas! Feel free to use more than one!
- Moon Water
- Crystals of choice
- Direct moonlight or sunlight
- Florida Water
- Praying or chanting
What’s the difference between a Pendulum, Ouija Board, or other divination tools?
The answer will be quite varied depending on who you speak to.
Many people believe that there is no difference at all between various divination tools like tarot cards, runes, pendulums, Ouija Boards, etc.
Others believe that certain divination tools only access your subconscious and others (like Ouija boards) access the ether or spirit world. However, some scientific studies (see below) believe that it’s possible Ouija boards are working through our subconscious.
So you’ll have to decide which answer you believe to be correct! I hope the rest of this article helps you feel informed enough to determine your choice.
Can you use a Ouija board to find or contact your spirit guide?
I’ve heard many stories from folks who say they met their spirit guides through a spirit board and it’s absolutely possible! However, if you aren’t able to make contact there are plenty of other ways to do so! You can try doing guided meditations, listening to your intuition, dream interpretation, automatic writing, other types of divination, and watching for signs and symbols.
How Do Ouija Boards Work?
It is widely believed by scientists that the ideomotor effect powers the mystery of the Ouija and Talking boards. In fact, several different case studies have been done on it.
What is the ideomotor effect?
The Ideomotor Effect is an unconscious, subliminal, unintentional motor action, and body movement that is generated by an individual because of previous notions, thoughts, or preconceptions. William Benjamin Carpenter, a British physiologist, introduced this theory back in 1852.
The most interesting and exciting aspects of the ideomotor effect are you may not be accessing spirits or the paranormal, but you are communicating with your own subconscious! This is so interesting and can potentially help you know yourself on a deeper level and may even be wonderful for use in Shadow work!
There are also some lovely and hopeful studies going on about Ouija boards and the unconscious mind.
Ron Rensink, a psychology and computer science professor, [and Sidney Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UBC] got the ball rolling about whether the [Ouija] board could serve as a tool to look at unconscious knowledge.
“We didn’t know if we’d find anything, but when we did, the results really surprised us,” Fels says. When study participants were asked to answer or guess at a set of challenging questions, they were correct about 50 percent of the time. But when responding while using the board—which participants believed had the ability to “receive” correct answers from another person teleconferencing via a robot Ouija partner—they scored correctly upwards of 65 percent of the time.
In actuality, the robot was a ruse; it was not responding to the video-conferencing player, but subtly amplifying the study participants’ tiny, unconscious movements. “It was significant how much better they did on these questions,” Rensink says. “If you don’t think so, consider the difference playing roulette when the odds are 50-50 versus 65-35.”
The implication is that one’s unconscious is much smarter than anyone knew, capable of pulling up bits of stored information not accessible to the conscious mind.
Results in a follow-up study replicated the findings, which they reported in the academic journal, Consciousness and Cognition.
Rensink believes the results open greater possibilities for further study. For example, is unconscious memory affected by Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases in the same way as conscious memory?Baltimore Magazine
I found this blindfold experiment very fascinating that you should check out if you so desire.
Also a very interesting psychology study done that tracks eye movements and shows how two individuals can create the Ouija effect. You can read more about this study here.
How to make a Ouija Board
Many people choose to create their own Spirit or Ouija boards and for many reasons! Some believe a homemade Ouija helps them connect more personally to the board. Others don’t like to buy the commercial Ouija board because they feel it’s cheap, don’t like how it’s marketed as a toy, or don’t feel connected to it. The option is of course, entirely yours!
There are also those that have found several problems with store-bought boards like the fact that the planchette legs move off the edge of the board. According to Raymond Buckland:
The design of the planchette. The instructions given (with the Ouija board) say: “The mysterious message indicator (planchette) will commence to move…as it passes over Ouija talking board each letter of a message is received as it appears through the transparent window covered by the message indicator.” This is not strictly true. Sometimes you receive a string of letters that seem to make no sense whatsoever – until it is realized that the planchette is no longer showing the relevant letters through its plastic “window” on the one line, but it is pointing to the letters on the line above with its tapered end! Consequently, you must often watch, and note, two sets of letters rather than one! To overcome this drawback, I suggest covering [over] the “window” and going solely by where the pointed end of the planchette indicates. Some other talking boards (and the original Fuld design) do not have the “window” – they are just a solid, heart-shaped pointer – and so it is a simple matter to see what letters are indicated.Raymond Buckland “Book of Spirit Communications’
Here’s a few ideas for those of you looking to create your own:
- Create your own planchette by using a CD with felt attached to the bottom portion to help it glide more easily.
- Try not using a board at all and print out letters, numbers, phrases like yes, no, and goodbye. Place them in a circle on a smooth tabletop and use a wine bottle or shot glass as a planchette.
- Using a wooden board from a craft or home improvement store, paint, or draw all the elements of a spirit board onto the surface. I would sand this very well and coat it with something (mod podge or resin?) to make it smooth. You can use a wooden triangle or shot glass as a planchette. Adding felt circles similar to those used for furniture pads will help it move easier.
- Using a thrifted wooden table try wood-burning or painting letters directly onto the table. A collapsible one would make storing even easier! You could also try using a TV tray or a serving platter. I’ve even heard of people painting or wood-burning it directly on their coffee table, desk, or dining room table!
Where can I buy a Ouija Board?
If you’re not interested in making your own, you can easily buy one on Amazon here. (affiliate link) There are many different beautiful options to choose from, but I’ve used this one myself and it’s fairly inexpensive.
You can find a downloadable and printable copy of the original patent for the Ouija Board and planchette here:
I hope you all found this helpful!! Lots of love to you and remember as always…..