Communicating with the Dead
Communicating with the Dead
How Ouija Boards Work
One of the first mentions of the automatic writing method used in the Ouija board is found in China around 1100 B.C., and it is first recorded in historical documents of the Song Dynasty. The method was known as fuji 扶乩 "planchette writing".
The use of planchette writing as a means of ostensibly contacting the dead and the spirit-world continued, and, albeit under special rituals and supervisions, was a central practice of the Quanzhen School, until it was forbidden by the Qing Dynasty. Several entire scriptures of the Daozang are supposedly works of automatic planchette writing.
Similar methods of mediumistic spirit writing have been widely practiced in Ancient India, Greece, Rome and medieval Europe.
|The use of the method of using an actual board
first became popular with the Modern Spiritualist movement in The United
States in the mid-19th century.
Methods of divination at that time used
various ways to spell out messages, including swinging a pendulum over a
plate that had letters around the edge or using an entire table to
indicate letters drawn on the floor.
Often used was a small
wooden tablet supported on casters. This tablet, called a planchette,
was affixed with a pencil that would write out messages in a fashion
similar to automatic writing. These methods may predate modern
During the late 19th century, planchettes were widely sold as a novelty. The businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles
Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which
the alphabet was printed.
|Ouija is a trademark for a talking board currently sold by Parker Brothers.
It has become a trademark that is often used generically to refer to any talking board.
The patentees filed on May 28th, 1890 for patent protection and thus had invented the first Ouija board. Issue date on the patent was February 10th, 1891. They received U.S. Patent 446,054. Bond was an attorney and was an inventor of other objects in addition to this device.
An employee of Kennard, William Fuld took over the talking board production and in 1901, he started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija". Kennard claimed he learned the name "Ouija" from using the board and that it was an ancient Egyptian word meaning "good luck."
When Fuld took over production of the boards, he popularized the more widely accepted etymology, that the name came from a combination of the French and German words for "yes". The Fuld name would become synonymous with the Ouija board, as Fuld reinvented its history, claiming that he himself had invented it.
The strange talk about the boards from Fuld's competitors flooded the market and all these boards enjoyed a heyday from the 1920s through the 1960s. Fuld sued many companies over the "Ouija" name and concept right up until his death in 1927.
In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the entire business to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold all trademarks and patents. About ten brands of talking boards are sold today under various names.