Ouija Boards

There has been much said about the Ouija over the years, and not all of it negative. It has really only been in recent years, with movies like “The Exorcist” and “Witchboard,” that people have come to fear the Ouija. Ouija boards are also known as witch boards and talking boards. The boards are a form of channeling or mediumship.

Though its history is said to be much more ancient, the Ouija was a by-product of the spiritualist craze. It is said the ancient Egyptians used a device like an Ouija board, but descriptions seem closer to dowsing-pendulum use. A ring attached to a strand of thread was held over a circular table with symbols on it, and the ring would strike the table to spell out answers. Other sources state the Ouija Board has been around since the Roman empire of the fourth century, and it was also thought to have been used by the Greeks before the birth of Christ.

The Spiritualist movement of the early 1900s was founded by Kate and Maggie Fox. By using a series of knocks and raps that answered “yes” and “no,” they were able to communicate with spirits. Eventually they also assigned a code for letters of the alphabet. In this way, they were able to spell out longer and more detailed messages. As knocking and table-tipping began to fall out of fashion among Spiritualists, mediums tried a new form of contact called “automatic writing.” Ghosts would guide the medium’s hand and spell out messages for the sitters who were present. It soon replaced the slower methods of communication by rapping. Though many questioned the authenticity of automatic writing, in some rare cases, the messages received were jarringly precise.

Many feel that the messages provided by the Ouija board are the unconscious movements made by the people touching the pointer. If this is the case, the Ouija is operated by more the power of suggestion. Researchers suggested that the Ouija works using the psychic portions of the human mind, spelling out answers by precognition, telepathy, or mediumship. In this way, the answer given through a Ouija board are still under the control of a human being. The other theory is that the ghosts are either causing the Ouija users to move the planchette or are moving it through their own ghostly powers. This second, less popular explanation would take the results of Ouija board usage out of the hands of its human operators.

The modern Ouija Board has gone through many permutations to end up as the board we now know. It began as a combination of two tools used for scrying - a wheel of letters and a glass inverted and placed in the middle. The letters were usually written on small pieces of paper and placed in a circle around a table. According to folklore, M. Planchette produced the first planchette for the purpose of Automatic-writing in 1853. He created a device like a small table that stood on two small stilts with a pen or pencil at the third point. It should be noted however that "planchette" in French translates to "little plank," making this story a little far-fetched.

The Ouija planchette replaced the writing-planchette when the board replaced paper. Shortly after the planchette came to America, a cabinet and coffin maker from Maryland, E.C. Reiche, created the first Ouija Board. He used a wooden lap tray with the letters of the alphabet arranged in two lines across the center of the board. Below these letters, he placed the numbers one through ten and the words Yes and No in each lower corner of the board. He used the planchette with his board but removed the pencil tips and placed wooden pegs on the bottom of it. In this way, the planchette was free to move about the board. At this time, all three stilts on the planchette were covered with felt, making it easier to slide it in any direction and making communications fast, clear, and easy. This also moved this form of mediumship from a solitary activity to a group project. Ouija was meant to be done with a partner, a "gentleman and lady preferred."

It is said the word Ouija is a combination of two words, the French word "oui" and the German word "ja,” both words meaning "yes" in English. But the board is neither French, nor German. According to Reiche, "Ouija" was actually Egyptian for luck, information passed along to him through the spirits. Though this is untrue, the name stuck. Reiche sold the invention to his friend, Charles Kennard, who founded the Kennard Novelty Co. with borrowed money. The first commercial Ouija boards or “Egyptian Luck boards” were produced around 1886. The first patent for a "talking board" was filed on May 28, 1890, listing Charles Kennard and William H. A. Maupin, as the assignees.

Shortly after the company started, the shop manager, William Fuld, decided to go into business for himself and forced Kennard out of the business, changing the name to the Ouija Novelty Co. Producing "Fuld's Talking Board" in record numbers, he became a successful businessman. At that time, the board was not considered a game; people bought it with which to talk to their deceased loved ones. Its popularity soared through the two World Wars, but it was not until 1966, when its popularity was waning, that Parker Brothers bought it out from the children of William Fuld. At the time of the buy-out, Ouija sales had never been worse, and it took a Parkers advertising blitz to put the popularity back in the Ouija board. In its first full year of production by Parker Brothers, the Ouija Board outsold Monopoly. William Fuld’s name was printed on every Ouija board made for over one hundred years until Parker Brothers took it off in the late 90s. From the beginning, Ouija boards were large and made of solid wood. This includes the earliest boards made by Parker Brothers. But under Parker Brothers’ production, the boards went from hardboard, to tightly pressed paper, and now are made only in cardboard. Parker Brothers still holds all of the patents and trademarks to the board today and still produce it in large numbers.

As Ouija use has become more popular, and knowledge of the occult also grows, so too has fear of the spirits the Ouija might summon. Many methods and superstitions have arisen about the use of the Ouija and protection during its use. They really only differ depending upon whether you buy the Ouija in a store or make it yourself.

Ouija Superstitions

One Ouija superstition is sheer silliness. This is that the very first Ouija boards were made from coffin wood with a coffin nail in the center of the planchette window for the pointer. As if the maker of the boards would go to so much trouble to dig up a coffin to steal the nails and lid. This story probably comes from the profession of the true originator of the Ouija, E.C. Reiche who was a coffin-maker.

Many superstitions deal with the spirits themselves. Never let the spirits count down through the numbers or go through the alphabet. They can “get out of the board” this way and cause trouble in your home. Also if the planchette falls from the board, the spirit will get loose.

If the planchette goes to the four corners of the board it means that you have contacted an evil spirit, and if the planchette repeatedly makes a figure eight, it means that an evil spirit is in control of the board. If you should get an evil spirit, quickly turn the planchette upside down and use it that way. The board must be "closed" properly or evil spirits will remain behind to haunt the operator. Evil spirits contacted through the Ouija board will try to win your confidence with false flattery and lies. Sometimes an evil spirit can permanently "inhabit" a board. When this happens, no other spirits will be able to use it.

There are even superstitions that deal with disposal of an Ouija board. A board will scream if you try to burn it, and people who hear the scream have less than thirty-six hours to live. The only proper way to dispose of it is to break it into seven pieces and sprinkle it with Holy Water before burying it.

Famous Ouija Board Users

* A St. Louis housewife named Pearl Curran stunned the literary world in the early 1900's by channeling a spirit through the Ouija Board and producing thousands of pages and novels and poetry that allegedly came through a spirit named Patience Worth.

* Starting in 1919, author Stewart Edward White and his wife Betty, spent 17 years studying Betty's mediumship with a group of entities who called the "Invisibles". She made initial contact with them using a Ouija board and then continued the communications through automatic writing. They later produced the Betty Book to chronicle the events in 1937.

* In 1972, poet Jane Roberts founded the "channeling" movement after experiencing an Out of Body Experience. She and her husband began experimenting with an Ouija Board and made contact with a being known as "Seth." They penned several popular books dictated by Seth himself, including Seth Speaks.

Making and Using your own Talking Board

My advice to most people would be to make their own Ouija Board. It can be as simple or complex as you wish, but making your own board ensures that it is attuned to your energies and is more likely to work for you. It also ensures that you can work in your own protective measures, if you are so inclined.

The simplest board requires a smooth table, twenty-nine blank cards, and a glass. You can just cut up small pieces of paper, and any glass will do, though a wine glass is more traditional. Use one piece of paper for each letter of the alphabet, one for Yes, one for No, and one for Goodbye. Arrange all the paper pieces in a circle around the edges of the table and then stand with your partner(s) around the table. I suggest standing because the papers will be loose and sitting might cause you to knock them onto the floor.

A board of your own design can contain more detail than a mass-produced one, including colors, star signs and other sigils both protective and empowering. While the layout of the Ouija Board varies from country to country and production companies, the original placed the Yes at the top of the circle and the No at the bottom. On the basic board, the letters were placed in a circle starting with the letter A next to Yes and continuing around until the Z ended up on the other side of Yes. The numbers from zero to nine were placed at the bottom next to No. Hello and Good-bye were also included on the board.

To protect your board from wear, cover it with clear heavy sheet of plastic, find a store which sells the clear plastic adhesive used to protect books, or place it under a glass surface. You could even cover it with a layer of varnish if your board is made of wood. The only requirement is that it be slippery to facilitate the movement of the planchette. When designing your own board, be sure to leave lots of room around the edges so the indicator has room to move around without falling off the side. The indicator may be purchased from Parker Brothers, or you can use a wine glass.

Hints and Safety Precautions

If you make the Ouija yourself, you’re going to be able to build in your own protective measures. You can use a silver coin or ring as the planchette, or wear an article made of silver. Simply placing silver on the board ensures no evil spirits will be able to come through. The silver is supposed to protect you from harmful spirits. According to one source, to improve "reception" use a solid wood board. I would assume this is because the board would then be closer to nature (and more protected and grounded) than the paste and pulp used by Parker Bros. If you make your own board, you can make it in the form of a circle or put a circle on it. The circle is one of the oldest protective signs in use. Arranging the letters and numbers into a circle will also ensure that whatever is summoned by the board is trapped within that circle and can't escape. This does not prevent you from also drawing a circle or making a circle of candles in which to sit. A well-lit area is also said to drive away evil spirits, and yet, the Ouija is meant to be used at night.

Make your surroundings comfortable and free of negative energies. Spirits love flowers, sweet scents, and water. Try floating some blossoms in a bowl of water nearby, burning incense, or using some scented oils. Some people like to say a prayer over the board or perform a cleansing ritual. Remember if you go purposely looking for evil spirits or demons you might possibly get them, even if its just negative energy from your own mind or your friends around you. Ask your spirit guide or guardian angel to protect you and bring spirits who are on a higher frequency (i.e. benevolent). One of the first questions you might want to ask is the name(s) of your spirit guide(s).

Wipe your board with a clean cloth before you begin to remove any dust. You may also wish to write down the questions you want to ask before you begin so you don’t forget them in the heat of the moment. Start with general questions, and save the personal questions for later when you are comfortable with the board. You may even get thoughts and mental images as you talk to the spirit. Once an answer is given you can ask for more information or clarification of the answer, but it is rude to ask the same question more than once.

If there are two people using the board, they should sit opposite each other and place the tip of only one finger on the pointer. Their fingertips should only gently touch the glass. More than three participants can be a bit crowded, and most sources say four is the limit. It is helpful to have one other person present to transcribe the session. Some spirits move across the board quickly, while others go very slow. An excited spirit will move the planchette faster. Having someone with free hands would be helpful in keeping track of the conversation. If no one wants to sit out, you can have someone call out the letters to a tape recorder. You can use a camcorder if one is available, and using an infrared camcorder in a dimly lit room is a great way to see the energies of a spirit.

A word might also come through with all of the letters out of order. Not all spirits speak in your language, and some spirits have trouble spelling words or creating sentences. It should be noted that sometimes the communication will be in a foreign language or sometimes in English backwards. If you don’t understand what the spirit is trying to say, ask it to repeat its answer or ask defining questions. Above all, don't take anything the spirit says literally. Ouija boards are famous for lying or playing with its users as much as they play with it.

It is important to always be respectful and never upset the spirits. Treat a spirit the way you would like to be treated by anyone. Remember it has come by your invitation, so treat it as a guest in your home and always thank it for coming. An upset spirit is more likely to try sticking around to make you miserable. If an obnoxious spirit comes through, ask it to leave and call upon your guides to take it away.

If a spirit points the planchette to "good bye," let it go, and if you want to finish the séance place the planchette on "Good Bye" and say that you are now leaving. Everyone should then remove their hands from the board. Always say goodbye to the entity with whom you are talking when you want to end a session. If you or the spirit does not say goodbye, it may be trying to stick around. This can lead to poltergeist activity and worse. Leaving the planchette on the board means the board is still open and spirits can use it as a door into your home. Never explicitly invite a spirit to enter someplace. This will make it hard to get rid of it later.

Don't call upon specific people to come talk to you unless you have a good reason. A long deceased relative may no longer be residing near the earthly plane. He or she may even be reincarnated. If a deceased relative seems to come through, always seek confirmation. Ask personal questions about things that are not generally known, but remember not to be thinking of the answers in your head at the time or the spirit may pick your brain.

The Ouija board does not work for everyone. Some days the board may work for you, and on others, you may get no response. It works immediately for some people, while others never get it. Though this seems not to have any bearing on whether you have psychic abilities, many regular psychics can't work an Ouija Board. Channeling and mediumship seems to be a specialized form of psychism. If the board does not work, try changing participants around or excluding some members.

The board is a focus for all spirits far and near, so you may be contacted by more than one spirit. Sometimes the spirits will argue over who will come through at a given time. Ask for one spirit at a time and always get a name before you begin. If you get a “trapped spirit” that seeks help “going into the light,” ask your spirit guide to help the spirit to the next level of its existence. If the spirit asks you to help it with some task it left unfinished so it can cross over, tell it that you are not skilled enough to do this and send it away. It might be best at that point to stop for the day and even wait a few days before trying again.

Don’t ask a spirit to bring you things you want but would not have otherwise. Some spirits might be able to swing fortune in your favor or even bring you some small item, but all spirits have their boundaries. You are only likely to frustrate the spirit you are communicating with if you demand things it can’t provide. Conversely a spirit, which can bring you physical items, might also manifest poltergeist activity if you’re not careful. In the same vein, never ask spirits to harm others and never use the board to try to control others or get power over them. Do not let others use your board when you are not using it.

Using the Ouija when you are tired, ill, or in a weakened condition will make you vulnerable to possession should you contact a malevolent spirit. Never let anyone participate in a séance who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Non-believers and skeptics can also sometimes ruin a séance. Sometimes a malevolent spirit will create "wins" for the user. In other words, giving the user correct information or flattering him or her to cause a dependency. This is called "progressive entrapment," and it is an attempt at possession. For obvious reasons, never use a board in a graveyard (too many spirits) or a place where a terrible death has occurred.



More Resources

Witchboard World
Ouija Boards and Ouija Information
The Museum of Talking Boards
The Ouija and Spiritual Protection