The origin of the Ouija Board

Introduction to spiritualism through the ages

I am sure many of you are familiar with the phrase the Ouija board, but what actually is a Ouija board and what does it do? And how did it come about?

In this article we will take you on a journey through the history of the mystical talking board from the 1890’s to the present day, glimpsing into the different chain of events that led to its creation and how the talking board began to be known as ‘The Ouija Board’.

Fear and misconception of the Ouija board

The very words Ouija board may strike you with fear, as some believe it to be a doorway to a dark spiritual world where demons lurk, waiting to possess anyone who dares to place their finger on the planchette.

Or maybe you are one of the curious amongst us who wants to know more of this mystical object that has for over a century been shrouded in mystery. Maybe you want to determine whether there is in fact something more to this mystical object that many believe is linked to the occult.

The Ouija board is commonly used by paranormal investigators and researchers all over the world as one of the many forms of spirit communication. The premise is that any spirits in the vicinity of those that are holding a seance can communicate by moving the planchette over one of the 26 letters of the alphabet that are printed on the board, moving it one letter at a time to spell out words.

ouija board

The beginning - the 'talking board'

Firstly, let’s take a journey way back to the very beginning of the Ouija boards creation in the 1890’s, and see how the mystical talking board rose from a parlour game to a hugely popular, very much used communication tool in the paranormal field and a preferred method of spirit communication used by some mediums who hold sittings or circles as they are known.

Evidence suggests the Ouija board does indeed enable the users to speak with the dead acting as a link between the spirit realm and our own.

Records of some form of spirit communication seem to go way back to 12th Century China as the East had long held a belief that death was not the final destination we all believed it to be.

The East held a fascination with the afterlife and spirituality long before the Western world seemed ready to get to grips with the notion that death was not the final part of our journey of life as it had been believed.

In the middle ages and beyond, should you dare to even practice or speak of spiritualism/the occult in the western world you could very easily find yourself strapped to a dunking chair to see if you were a witch of some sort.

Death was inevitable when the dunking chair was operational so many spiritualists or cult groups kept themselves very secretive during this period.

It was many centuries before the Western world began to come to terms with the notion that there could be some sort of paranormal activity or spirit interaction happening around us in this reality we call life.

After the turn of the 19th century, the West was slowly awakening to the possibility that we could interact with those who had passed before us and it was documented in the newspapers of the time that in 1848 a pair of sisters were beginning to gain notoriety for mediumship and an ability to contact the dead.

The Fox sisters

The sisters in question were Maggie and Kate Fox.

The sisters claimed to have developed a unique gift for communicating with the spirits of the dead by using a method of tapping that was claimed to be the replies of the spirits they were in contact with.

The simple principle was one knock was for No, and two knocks for Yes, a form of communication that is still practised to this day.

After much media speculation, the sisters were very much in demand and were making money from the grieving families who paid handsomely for the chance to speak with their loved ones from beyond the grave.

The sisters would invite the particular spirit of the sitters family forward, and ask a series of yes or no questions that were predetermined by the clients.

Then the sisters would request the reply from the spirit they claimed to have invited forward in the form of knocking.

Many observers claimed to hear the knocking coming from the walls of the property the sisters resided in, and were in awe of the fact that the spirit of their loved ones could come back and communicate with them in this primitive way.

Naturally, as the sisters fame grew, so did the following of grieving families wishing to contact the spirits of their loved ones and the money began to flood in.

These famous sisters and their mystical powers could well have paved the way for mediumship as we know it today, and certainly pioneered the realisation that there was money to be made from this new spiritualism movements popularity.

The spiritualism movement

By the late 1890’s the spiritualist movement was in full swing. The birth of more mediums looking to profiteer from those whom were grieving was increasing at an alarming rate. 

The United States of America it seemed had very much taken to the idea that certain individuals could communicate with those whom had gone before us, and it was in the U.S that the Ouija board was soon to be invented.

The U.S were very much the early pioneers of the spiritualism movement, and paranormal research was in it’s infancy.

Maryland Virginia, events began

It was in Maryland Virginia that the very first ‘talking board’ or as we now know it, the Ouija board was born, seemingly by mere chance.

One evening a prominent businessman named Charles Kennard, an inventor and wealthy business proprietor laid claim that while sat idly at his kitchen table he began placing objects on the chopping board in front of him and to his amazement the objects appeared to move around the chopping board of there own accord. Had he been interacting with spirit that evening? And had he asked for any unearthly forces to move the objects? We do not know.

There appears to be no documented records of previous occurrences at the property so we are unsure if Mr Kennard had been dabbling in the occult or perhaps holding seances from the property. Clearly something must of happened before this particular evening at his residence for him to conclude the miraculous moving objects were being controlled by spirits.

We do know that Mr Kennard had already shown a great interest in the spiritualism movement and had been witness to some form of spiritual activity before due to the fact that his business partner Elijah Bond’s own sister in law was reported to be a highly gifted medium.

Mr Kennard must have been privy to some other form of spirit interaction prior to this event, therefore we must conclude he was open to the belief that spirits could interact with us in ways we had never dreamt possible, and as he had seen the surge of mediums popping up all over the country making handsome gains for their services, he must of realised the significance of this revelation and the potential profits his new invention could bring in.

So, after the chance event that evening in Mr Kennards kitchen, that he believed to have been caused by some form of spiritual energy, it gave Kennard an idea.

What if a form of spirit talking board could be created? Something that spirits could communicate with us through, by moving an object on a board over the letters of the alphabet.He had already witnessed objects moving of their own accord, so if he could recreate this event on a similar board that had letters on it, he could give the non gifted masses the chance to communicate with spirits from the comfort of their own parlours.

If this invention could be mass produced then he could really cash in on the spiritualist movements popularity, so he set to work and devised his new talking board, one very similar to the chopping board in his own kitchen but this would have the letters of the alphabet printed on, then a coat of varnish would be applied over the printed lettering to protect the ink that had been applied. He then made a smaller pointing devise that would sit on top of the board (now known as the planchette), so that any spirits present would be able to move this devise, and choose  specific letters they wished the players of his new game to see, and possibly spell out words and sentences.

This new talking board could revolutionise how people interact with spirit, and he could bypass the need for gifted mediums to operate the devise, anyone could play this parlour game! To him, the idea was genius.

The patent story

With production of the mystical talking board ready to begin, Mr Kennard now needed to obtain a patent license to protect the copyright of his new product and satisfy the laws of patent within the United States that would give him the permission he needed to take his miraculous spiritual talking board to market.

This is where the story of the Ouija board really begins to unfold and a chain of astounding events that would take place in Maryland Virginia would lead us to the Ouija board we know today.

Kennard’s attempts to patent his latest invention with the U.S patent office were not going well. Each official he turned to was unwilling to give Kennard his much needed stamp of approval or patent before he could begin selling the talking board,

Each patent official that saw the talking board sat before them simply would not believe the notion that this supposed spirit communication tool could somehow tap into the spirit world and give the user a means of talking to the spirits of the dead in their own homes. The very notion was ridiculous and each attempt to have the patent granted was thrown out.

By now, Kennard and his business partner Elijah Bond were beginning to feel the frustration of knock back after knock back, huge investment had been made up to this point. And as importantly they had witnessed the talking board in action thanks to the relation of Elijah Bond that we referred to earlier. This relation of Bonds was named Helen Peters and she was an integral part of making the Ouija board into what we know today.

Helen Peters Nosworthy

It was well known that Helen had quite a gift for mediumship and it was she who would prove instrumental in the Kennard company finally receiving the patent it so desired. Helen had already been using the board during her seances, and with aid of the pointer she was able to channel messages seemingly from the spirit world.

It was now the late winter of 1891, February to be more precise. The Kennard company had one last chance to get their patent granted as they had requested a meeting with the Head of the patent office himself in Washington D.C, whom had seemed to express an interest in this mysterious new talking board.

The story is told that Elijah Bond had arranged to take his sister in law to a meeting with the Head of the U.S patent office who had showed some interest in this talking board as it had been before the panel many times prior, unsuccessfully.

On the day of February 10th, 1891, the meeting was about to be held. Elijah was planning to demonstrate the talking board channelling spirit communication by using Helens gift for mediumship. The head of the patent office was said to have told Bond that if this talking  board could spell out his name then he would personally grant the patent himself, seeing that Bond and Mrs Peters did not know the officials name the official was confident that no trickery could be used by Mrs Peters moving the pointer herself, and if the talking board could indeed speak with the dead then it should be able to tell everyone in the meeting his name with no problem at all.

Reports state that Helen sat at the board and held the seance as she had done many times before with the talking board and asked the spirit to spell out the name of the official. To the Head of the patent office’s amazement the pointer slowly and accurately moved to each letter in turn and duly spelt out his full name. He was so in awe of this miraculous event he had just witnessed with his very own eyes, patent number 446,054 was duly granted and stamped onto the talking board that very day. The Ouija board or what was at that time known as the talking board could now officially begin to start trading.

To end our story we will now explain how the Ouija board got its name.

It is reported that at one now infamous sitting Helen Peters was at the board with a select gathering as she held a seance. Helen asked the spirit she was now channelling, “What would you like the board to be called?”, the spirit then slowly and precisely moved the pointer to the letters o, u, i, j, a. Bemused a little by the word Ouija, Helen asked the spirit “What does this mean?”, the reply came…..Good luck!

And so, the Ouija board got its name and is now one of the most infamous and commonly used inventions in the field of spiritualism and paranormal research.

A board that splits opinion greatly, some see it as a form of spirit communication, opening a link between our world and that of spirit, others see a much more sinister, dark object that has links to the occult and negative entities.

So, it is for you to decide, a magical tool for spirit communication? Or a mere piece of finely printed and varnished wood?

Good luck!

This article was written by The Ghost writer 09/03/19

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