- "Witchboard" - or JUST a game?

Witchboard, Spirit Board, Talking Board, Ouija Board, Mystifying Oracle

As I mentioned previously, the beginning of my personal experiences with the occult was with a Ouija Board. Although there are many variations of the fascinating tool, the one I remember most resembled the picture above - manufactured and sold by Parker Brothers as a toy, using the slogan, "It's just a game, ISN'T it?"

Most everyone knows what a Ouija Board is, or has heard the name. Although there are many versions of talking boards, "Ouija" is the registered name (the patent and trademark having been owned by Parker Brothers/Hasbro since 1966... hmmmm, I was born in 1966...) of the most popular one, and can be used synonymously when talking about any of them.

But, what's in a name??? Apparently nothing as the name Ouija has no seemingly spiritual connotations at all, although I will research this further. And actually there is speculation as to why the board is named this... the Egyptian word for "good luck"? the Moroccan city of Oujda? a combination of the French word "oui" (yes) and the German word "ja"... um, also yes...

Here's just a sampling of the different looks the board can have....

Original US Patent - February 10, 1891

Truly beautiful !!!

This board is an ORIGINAL from 1891
and is part of Dan Whitaker's personal collection

Drawing of the board that received US Patent #D056,449
for Toys - Issued to H. McGasson on Oct. 26, 1920


"Owl Wisdom" made and sold by DragonOak

History of The Board
There are theories that date the use of a form of spirit board to 1100 BC China, while others claim it was "invented" in ancient Greece or Egypt. The first patent was issued to Adolphus Theodore Wagner in London in 1854 as a "Psychograph, or apparatus for indicating a person's thoughts by the agent nervous electricity". Although I couldn't find a picture of what this first "modern" board looked like, I will not rest until I do.

The board was officially patented and introduced to the United States in 1891. There is controversy as to who actually invented the board itself, but all indications point to the first patent issued to Elijah Bond (above). Although Bond received the first patent, the board and pointer were "re-invented" a little more than a year later by William Fuld.

Fuld continued to improve the design, receiving 20 patents and trademarks in 3 countries, until ironically he died in 1927... ironic I say, as his death resulted from a fall off the roof of one of his Board factories. The business continued to be run by his children until they sold it lock, stock and barrel to Parker Brothers in 1966.

The Board
Despite the many different appearances the board itself can have, all Ouija Boards consist of the alphabet, the numerals 1-0 (0-9) and spiritual symbols. The symbols appear to be more decorative than not, but if you're planning to make your own board, it is suggested that you research the symbols and only include symbols that represent personal feelings and beliefs. The patented versions also include "Yes", "No" and "Good-Bye" (or a variation).

The Planchette
The Planchette is a what makes it all happen. It is a small wooden or plastic pointer which is used to spell out words to formulate a message. Simple yes or no questions may be answered by the Planchette pointing to "Yes" or "No" respectively. When the Planchette points, or normally slides off the board at the word "Good-Bye", this is an indication that the "game" is over.

How To "Play"

As depicted by this Saturday Evening Post cover from 1920, the board is placed between (usually) 2 people. My personal experience is that it "works" best when "played" by a male and a female. The Planchette is placed in the middle of the board. Each person LIGHTLY rests their fingertips on the Planchette and a question is asked. The Planchette will begin to move around the board to answer the question - by spelling the answer or by other means.

Just a game ?
Obviously, talking boards have always been marketed as a toy - a "parlor amusement" or "party game". I imagine sales would have been slow if they were marketed as "Ghost Boards" or Seance Boards", which is what many (myself included) believe they can be. And it is this very controversy that helped heighten their popularity over the years.

The "scientific" explanation of how the board "works" is derived form Adolphus Wagner's "psychograph" claim. It rationalizes that the questions are answered in a person's subconscious and their own energy directs the Planchette to answer the question on the board.

The spiritual explanation is that the board is a tool for contacting the spirit world and acts as a means for those spirits to communicate with us. Obviously, it depends on your beliefs and mind-set, but I personally subscribe to this train of thought - and it would certainly explain the use of similar "devices" in ancient times by peoples of extremely spiritual civilizations.

I won't push my beliefs on you but will share a question that the board answered for me. At 13 or 14 years old and all my family still alive, I was certainly "using" the board as a game - although I do recall being "somewhat" scared to delve deeper - but NOT nearly as scared as the friends I was "playing" with.

Anyway, innocently I asked who I would marry. The "board" told me when (although I don't recall) and said that her name would be Noreva and that she would be from Norway. No, none of it actually came true BUT.... I find it hard to believe that my subconscious answered that question having never even heard the name Noreva until that point in my life.... and I surely would have chosen a Swedish Bikini Team member...

Also worthy of note is that there are MANY documented stories by prominent people either warning of the powers of the Ouija based on personal experience and/or claim that the spirits you contact are "wolves in sheep's clothing" pretending to be friendly for the purpose of taking over your soul.

Others praise it's power, - using the board to solve otherwise unsolvable crimes, write songs or poems (even books) or recovering from alcoholism and/or depression based on what the board told them.

Mystical, mythical or simply marketing techniques? That's for you to decide. But, there must be a reason that Christian religions have denounced the use of and even the ownership of a talking board saying it's use is communication with demons., and claiming it is forbidden in the Bible. The movie "Witchboard" (of COURSE I saw it.. and NOT just for Tawny Kitaen) obviously helped precipitate such rhetoric.

So, whether or not you're a believer is up to you. But, a word to the wise... if you ever own a Ouija Board..... DO NOT BURN IT !!! You never know what can happen...

Although there are a bazillion sites concerning the board (I had up to 20 tabs open at once), I'll share the ones that had the most profound impact on my research..

Wikipedia - OBVIOUSLY !!! - although not very active posting, definitely was a help to get me started - phenomenal display of hand-crafted boards, altars, wands etc - for sale - INSTRUMENTAL for anyone with an interest
Witchboard World - Dan Whitaker's site and personal collection - even offers an iPhone app - um, YEAH I'll be visiting this site often

1 screams:

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