Tuesday, November 18, 2014

History of the Ouija Board by Cindie Harper

Some sites and experts claim that the Ouija Board has been around since the fourth century. It's also thought to have been used by the Greeks since before the time of Christ (Ellie Crystal, 1997). However, the earliest known patent for a talking board was filed on January 23, 1854 in the patent offices of London, England. The patent was filed by Adolphus Wagner, who described his device as a “Psychograph, or apparatus for indicating person’s thoughts by the agent of nervous electricity”. The patent identifies the device as a “Taking Board”.  According to Mr. Wagner’s full description, it appears that he believed that it was the unintentional movements of the participants, and not the spirits of the dead, that created the messages spelled out on the board (Karl, 2007).

The Ouija board was first introduced to the American public in 1890 as a parlor game. America saw a rise in the interest of spiritualism. This was most likely a result of people’s desperation to connect with loved ones who had gone away to war and never returned home. It appears that impatience in communicating with the dead grew as well. People were desperate for quicker methods of communication with the dead.

In 1886, the fledgling Associated Press reported on a new phenomenon taking over the spiritualists’ camps in Ohio, the talking board. In 1890, Charles Kennard, Elijah Bond, Col. Washington Bowie, and E.C. Reiche started the Kennard Novelty Company to exclusively make and market talking boards. None of the men were known to be spiritualists, but they were all known businessmen.

In 1891, U.S. Patent 446054 for the Ouija Board was granted to Elijah J. Bond and Charles Kennard. The men created a new design for the board and sold it along with a planchette.  Mr. Kennard’s company was eventually taken over by his former foreman, William Fuld, in 1892. William reinvented the history of the Ouija Board, making himself the actual inventor of the Board. He claimed that the name came from the French word "oui" for yes, and the German "ja" for yes.

Fuld refused to pay taxes on the Oujia sales stating that the boards were scientific instruments, not games. Fuld’s battle against the IRS went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1920, the Supreme Court decided to legally categorize Oujia as a game. Some would argue that Fuld classified the board as a scientific instrument to avoid paying taxes on the sale of the board. Others might argue that the Supreme Court determined the board to be a game so that they could collect the taxes.

In 1927, Fuld fell from the roof of his Ouija Factory to his death. His children took over the business and continued to sell the boards until they retired in 1966.  In 1966, the Parker Brothers purchased the rights to the Ouija Board and began manufacturing it in Salem, Massachusetts (Sharon Scott, 2007). Parker Brothers has always promoted the Ouija Board as a harmless parlor game. If the board was promoted as anything else, Parker Brothers would likely lose the support of the very profitable Christian family board game market. Think about it.


Cindie Harper is a paranormal investigator and Founder of Femme Force. Cindie has a Master of Social Work degree from West Virginia University and is also a certified Reiki Master Teacher.  Cindie is an intuitive and believes in embracing the unknown. She is interested in most things paranormal, spiritual, creepy or spooky.

You can find Cindie on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/femmeforce
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Femme-Force/251139875064663
Twitter: @thefemmeforce

Ellie Crystal, 1997, “Ouija Boards”
Karl, Jason 2007, “An Illustrated History of the Haunted World”
Museum of Taking Boards , 1996

Sharon Scott, 2007, “ Toys, Games, and Hobbies in North America” GREENWOOD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD POPULAR CULTURES

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