The Ouija board’s origins are deeply rooted in the Spiritualism movement of the 19th century, a period of intense spiritual exploration. To understand the history of the Ouija board, we must first travel back to the heart of the 19th century, when the Spiritualism movement was sweeping across America. Delve into the captivating history of the enigmatic Ouija board, a tool that has fascinated, terrified, and intrigued people for generations.
Seances and Talking Boards
In the wake of the American Civil War, the country was gripped by an overwhelming sense of loss and grief. Families were torn apart, and many were desperate for a means to reconnect with their departed loved ones. This despair led to the emergence of Spiritualism, a movement that claimed to bridge the gap between the living and the dead.
As part of the Spiritualism movement, seances gained immense popularity. Mediums would gather with those seeking contact with the deceased, holding sessions in dimly lit rooms filled with incense and mysticism. The movement was greatly influenced by the Fox sisters, who claimed to communicate with the spirit world through mysterious “knocks.”
The Talking Boards, also known as Witch Boards, made their debut during this period. These boards featured the alphabet, numbers, and simple “yes” and “no” responses. Participants would place their hands on a planchette—a heart-shaped or teardrop-shaped device with a window—allowing spirits to guide their movements to spell out messages.
The Birth of the Ouija Board
In the 1880s, E.C. Reiche, a Prussian immigrant and undertaker, began creating prototypes of these talking boards on the side. It was these prototypes that would eventually evolve into the Ouija board.
Charles Kennard, an entrepreneur with a keen eye for opportunities, actively promoted what he claimed to be his invention of the talking board to potential investors. His persistence paid off when local attorney Elijah Bond took an interest. Bond, who had a sister-in-law with strong mediumistic abilities, saw the potential in the talking board. The Kennard Novelty Company was incorporated on Halloween, 125 years ago, marking the start of mass manufacturing of Ouija boards as we know them today.
Helen Peters and the Ouija Name
According to legend, Helen Peters, the sister-in-law of Elijah Bond, was using the Ouija board when she asked the board what it wanted to be called. The board, under the influence of unknown forces, spelled out “O-U-I-J-A.” Intrigued and curious, Helen inquired about the meaning behind this peculiar name. The board replied, “Good luck.” Though, in reality, the name was written on her necklace locket at the time
With a desire to protect their invention, Charles Kennard, Elijah Bond, and Helen Peters sought to patent the Ouija board. However, their journey faced a roadblock in the form of the patent chief, who was skeptical of their claims. He agreed to grant them the patent under one condition: they must use the Ouija board to reveal his name.
Helen Peters took up the challenge, and with the Ouija board’s guidance, she successfully spelled out the patent chief’s name, securing the patent for the Ouija board. This peculiar incident cemented the board’s mystique and added an extra layer of intrigue to its history.