Last updated on April 21, 2023
The Talking Board, Spirit Board or more commonly known Ouija Board is a tool for communing with spirits that has much fear surrounding it. The biggest misunderstanding is that you will be “opening the Gates of Hell” if you use one. Why is that a misunderstanding? Because when people in the late 1800’s were using the Talking Board, this wasn’t even considered. And when The Kennard Novelty Company started manufacturing the “Wonderful Talking Board” in 1890, Hell was as far from their minds as possible. It was pretty standard for people of the time to talk to the dead and various other spirits in the tradition of Spiritualism, which was very much based in Christianity, so opening the “Gates of Hell” was the furthest thing from their minds. So why did we decide that this is its only result now? Because Hollywood put that imagery into our heads with fantastical movies about the horrors that happen from using a board.
But there are all those stories that are not based in Hollywood films, about people being possessed and haunted, driven mad and to their deaths. I can also invent some pretty interesting and elaborate stories, doesn’t mean they will be true.
One interesting little tidbit is in regards to the etymology of the word “ouija”. For a long time, and it is something I used to think was true, it was beleived that it came from the French and German words meaning “yes”. Robert Murch actually uncovered the true origin of the name, which is that it came about when the makers of the talking board at The Kennedy Novelty Company asked the board what they should call it, and the board told them “ouija” which, according to the board, meant “good luck”. This actually came through to Helen Peters who was Elijah J. Bond’s sister-in-law. She was said to be a very strong medium. Bond was the man who patented the first Ouija Board in 1891.
There have been various patents and trademarks for “ouija” over the years, in fact there was a patent for the board in 1892 which was registered by William Fuld himself (said to be the inventor of the ouija board although he never claimed that himself as the talking board was being used long before the 1890’s), which was a reinvention of the pointer and included the use of magnetized wires, which meant that the talking board didn’t just answer questions, it could also ask them. You can find all of the patents and trademarks here – https://www.williamfuld.com/ouija_patentsandtrademarks_williamfuld.html
The company went through some name changes, from The Kennedy Novelty Company in 1890 to The Ouija Novelty Company in 1892, and appears to have become William Fuld, Inc. at some point as Parker Brothers acquired the company and all of its assets in 1966, therefore taking the patent and trademark of “ouija”. Parker Brothers was then taken over by Hasbro, Inc. in 1991, they being the current holders of the trademark.
An interesting inclusion to this is that Harry M Bigelow registered a patent for a talking board in 1920, whereby the pointer was placed on a slider with the letters, numbers etc along the top. The pointer would slide from left to right and point to the letters above. You can see this design at https://patents.google.com/patent/US1400791A/en
As mentioned above, Fuld wasn’t the inventor of the Talking Board as it was being used long before the 1890s. It originated some time after the development of Spiritualism which first came about in 1848 with the discovery of the Fox sisters. For some time the method used to communicate with the spirits was table tipping, however due to the lengthy process of spelling out the alphabet and waiting for a tap, it was decided to come up with a method that was quicker, hence the talking board was developed.
“You pushed it”
One of the biggest things when working with the Talking Board, with people who are skeptical (and a healthy skepticism is good), is that you get told you pushed the pointer and spirits aren’t involved. This is always a possibilty, but when you are working the board and a spirit comes onto the board, you know the difference. But who is moving the pointer?
One explanation is that the spirit takes possession of your arms and hands and then moves the pointer that way. This has led to many stories of posession by the spirits, but is that really what is happening? When you are working the board you will feel something in your arms. It may be a tingling, or like things are shifting out of alignment and your arms aren’t really where they should be. It can be a very strange feeling but I don’t believe that it is the spirit taking posession. To get some answers on this we can look to an older method used by Spiritualists, table tipping.
Table tipping or table tapping is a method of communing with spirits via a table. The people present will lightly place their hands or just their fingertips on the top of the table and when the spirit comes onto the table, the table will tip and a leg or legs of the table will knock on the floor. This will give yes and no answers or you can spell out words by going through the alphabet and waiting for a knock.
Now, in reports of table tipping, we find such experiences as the table spinning or completely lifting off the ground. Yes there are scam artists out there who will use wires and such, but there are also genuine people who do this work with no assistance from illusion, and they will still have the table moving in ways that are not rationally explainable. All the time the table is lifting off the ground or spinning, the participants fingers are on the top of the table. Not below where they can lift, on top where they cannot possibly lift. As long as they keep contact with the table, it will continue to move.
So, what is happening? The sensation you feel in your arms and hands is a sharing of energy. It is this shared energy that allows the spirit to come through and physically move the objects, whether that is the table or the pointer. As soon as contact with the object is broken by the operator or participants, the shared energy is broken and released. To the best of knoweldge and understanding, it is not a possession but the allowing of a shared energy that allows the spirit to move the pointer. Your fingers are just along for the ride.
Close the door after you
If you wanted to move from one room to another, you would need to walk through a door. If that door is closed and locked, you can’t enter the other room, but as soon as someone unlocks and opens it, you can. When you are done with your visit in that other room, you say goodbye and you walk back through the door, which may or may not be closed and locked after you. If it is not closed, you can walk in and out at will, and so can anyone else.
When you are working with the talking board, you are working with spirits, and just like us, they need to move from room to room. When you begin a session you unlock the door and it open for them to be able to do just that. Here is where more of the horror stories come from because if this is not understood and used properly, you could end up with all sorts of problems.
If you were to cast a magical circle, you would invite the Gods and Goddess to join you, essentially opening doors to allow them to come into your space. So, when you are finished, what do you normally do? You thank them and bid them safe travels and a hearty fairwell, which then closes those doors. The same applies here. When you are finished, give your thanks and bid them goodbye. This will end the session and close the door behind them. You may notice that the board has a “goodbye” position on it. If the spirit doesn’t say goodbye, you do it for them.
This doesn’t need to be an elaborate ritual, but it is necessary. If this is not done, then, as mentioned above, anyone can come walking through, and that often includes astral parasites, and hopefully you know by now the difficulties astral parasites can cause. So, make sure you end the session properly.
Something has got my board
Possession of the board is another one of those problems that come into the view of the thrill seeking paranormal investigator. Again, we are working with spirits and direct communication, and if you attract an astral parasite or just someone who doesn’t want to go away, it can take hold of the board and start to wreak havoc.
To prevent this, do all of the necessary cleansing, protection, grounding and centering you would normally do with any form of magical rite or practice. And being magic users, we should be doing all of this anyway as part of our normal routine. If you want to ramp up the protection and make sure you don’t get anything come through the door that you don’t want, then ask someone to guard the door. By this I mean call on a guardian spirit, a God or Goddess, and Angel, or in my case a Daemon. I ask Bune to guard the door and make sure things stay orderly.
But what do you do if a spirit does take hold of your board and won’t let go? You may need to dispose of the board.
There is some good advise for this in S. Connolly’s book Daemonolator’s Guide to Daemonic Magick. You will need to burn the board, collect the ashes, and seperate the ashes into two or three containers. Take those containers to different bodies of running water and dispose of them in the water. This doesn’t mean throw them all into the same body of running water, it means disposing of one, and then go far away to another body of running water and disposing the next one there, etc.
I’m confused, is the board good or evil?
The board is just a board, it is a tool, how your use determines what will happen. If you are careless, you could find yourself in some trouble, just like if you start swinging an axe around in a room full of people. But if you use it properly and with respect for the spirits, then you can glean some incredible knowledge and do some wonderful healing, just as if you swung the axe outside with the proper intention of chopping wood or carving a beautiful statue.
Just like anything else, do your research, approach the practice with respect and learn how to use your tools properly. If you wanted to work with Fairy but can’t understand why they won’t be near you every time you pull out your steel athame, its probably because you haven’t done your research and learnt that they are allergic to iron. But it’s steel you may be saying. Do your research, steel is an alloy made of iron and carbon. Same thing applies, make sure you do your research and you will have a wonderful time.