Friday, October 28, 2022

I Ja, You Ja, We All Ja for Ouija

We had a Ouija board when I was a kid.  For some reason it layed on the ground in our furnace room.  And it freaked me out.  My sister had told stories of how it had predicted who she would marry, providing the initials of the person she did in fact end up marrying. I was pretty afraid of anything potentially ghost related. Yeah, I was a chicken.

I've gotten over that fear and had no problem buying this Ouija board.  In fact, I picked up 4 of them this season.  There was an odd run where I kept finding Ouija boards. 

Even when I was afraid of them, I always loved the art on these. This version dates from the 1960's.

Elijah Bond applied for a patent for the game in 1891, though "Talking Boards" date back further having sprung out of the spiritualism movement brought on by the casualties of The Civil War.  It's said Bond received the patent only after proving it worked by spelling out the patent clerk's first name.

An employee of Bond's, Willliam Fuld took over production of the game around 1901. It was sold to Parker Brothers in 1966 who gave it its now iconic look.

There are a couple different legends about the name "Ouija".  One being that it's simply the combination of Oui and Ja, the French word for "Yes" and the German word for "No".  Seems plausible.  Another says the board itself gave its name, spelling out the letters and stating that it meant "Good Luck".  Yet another story says that the woman that acted in the session where the board spelled out its name was wearing a locket with a picture of then-popular female author and activist Ouida and that it was simply a misspelling of that name.

This graphic particuarly freaked me out as a kid.  Something about that floating head behind the woman.

I picked up this 1972 version only a few weeks after the first. 

But let's get back to that 1960's box art.

The Fuld family referred to it as "The Blue Ghost".  Most people believe it was inspired by the grave of Dexter Graves over which stands a sculpture by Lorado Taft titled "The Eternal Silence".  You can see why that's likely.

Grave of Dexter Graves

The grave of patent holder Elijah Bond sports a representation of the board

Ouija has had impact in many mediums.

In 1916, Pearl Curran claimed she was in contact with a 17th century English poet named Patience Worth via a Ouija board and produced a number of novels, short stories and poems, many of which received high literary praise.

In 1920, Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a young couple using a Ouija board for the Saturday Evening Post.

In a 1951 episode of "I Love Lucy", Lucy seeks an apology from a big producer whom she had hung up on due to something she'd read in Ricky's horiscope.  Coming to his office, we find that he too is superstitious and even uses a Ouija board.

Even The Walton's used a Ouija-like board in the 1974 episode "The Ghost Story" in which John Boy comes in possesion of a "spirit board" that seems intent on warning him of impending danger to a young boy that's staying with the family.  That episode is worth a watch if only for the scene in which the Baldwin sisters use the Ouija to determine who they should source their moonshine jars from.

In 1973's "The Excorcist", it's implied that a Ouija board lead to the main character's possession.  This lead to the Ouija board being maligned as evil and capable of summoning demons rather than speaking with your dear departed. Since then, the Ouija has been shown as evil in a number of movies ranging from 1986's "Witchboard" through the 2014 movie entitled "Ouija" and it's 2016 sequel.

If you search YouTube for "Ouija", you'll find an inordinate amount of videos claiming they had summoned demons, in particular one evil chap named "Zozo", and which go on to explain why Ouija boards shouldn't be used at all. Personally, I'm using mine as a Halloween decoration.

The scientific explanation for the seemingly ghostly movement of the planchette on a Ouija baord is the ideomotor response.  Participants unconsiously and unwillingly move the planchette providing answers supplied by their own subconscious.

Enjoy this gallery of Ouija and variants I pulled from eBay.  And let me know if you've ever had a strange encounter with a Ouija board.

Ouija circa 1890's

Mystic Buddha 1920



American Novelty

Barrels of Fun Talking Board 1940s

Cardinal Swami Talking Board

Drueke Mystic Soothsayer

Hasko Mysic Board

J. W. Stanley Whitchy Board

Mystic Answer Board

Ouija Queen


  1. omg, now you've done it. i have SO much to say about Ouija boards. love them. i once saw a photo of someone who used them to make a backsplash in their kitchen, and i think it's a brilliant idea. i've long wanted to collect them! are all these pix ones you have collected, aside from the 1960s and 1970s ones? that 1960s one is FANTASTIC. the one with the Buddha on it is... troublesome... i mean, if it had a Catholic saint or Jesus on it, would that fit? kinda weird usage, lol. i've always loved the art on the original board.

    ANYWAY, you asked, so YES i do have a Ouija story! my first year down at SEMO my new roomates and i took one to the local cemetery for a bit of halloween fun. i don't recall where the board came from, and keep in mind i had only known these guys for about a month or two. we were goofing around with it, and getting answers to simple questions, and then we decided to put it to a real test. So i said, "ok, spirits, what's my middle name?" -- you know that it's a Japanese name, so it's not something you'd easily guess. They all knew it started with the letter J, but that's it. THE PLANCHETTE IMMEDIATELY SPELLED IT OUT. my new friends said, "what is that? is that right?" and i freaked out. I still have no idea how that happened. I'm not afraid of Ouija boards, but i'm definitely willing to admit that there's things we don't understand out there regarding such things as a spirit world and ghosts.

    1. >are all these pix ones you have collected
      No, unfortunately not. I've only come across the Parker Bros. version. The others I pulled from eBay.
      >the one with the Buddha on it is... troublesome..
      Yeah, I didn't think of that, but you're right. It dates from the 1920's and is probably just supposed to be a generic representation of "the Far East" and "mysticism".
      >YES i do have a Ouija story!
      What??? How have I never heard this story? Going to the cemetery with strangers and a Ouija board? It has all the hallmarks of a horror slasher film! And spooky! Thanks for sharing!

    2. it was college -- what can i say? it definitely was spooky. i'm surprised we haven't discussed this before! and yeah, i'm sure the buddha image was just some attempt to be mystical and "far east," lol

  2. Gorgeous - I love all those old boards. They are really works of art.

    1. Yes, they would look great as a displayed collection. There is a person that has a large private collection of them.

  3. They are works of art, as Lady M said. I have a pattern for one to stitch, just haven't gotten around to it.

  4. I remember these when we were kids too. I was going to get one for my niece because her birthday is in October and she has interest in this sort of thing but my sister said no because she is still afraid it will let the evil spirits in! Good memory-thanks


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