When we talk about board games we think of Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo etc., asking any lurking spirits questions generally does not spring to mind – ever had a party and decided it was time to talk to the dead just for a laugh? Yup, us neither but this is the story of the Ouija Board: a popular pastime or parlour game of the 19th century. Nowadays, the Ouija board has a much darker association, but its origins were more innocent.

Ouija board consisted of a wooden or plastic board decorated with the alphabet, numbers 0-9, and the words ‘YES’ and ‘NO’; a planchette, either a heart or teardrop shape piece that was then moved across the board. The object being: participants sitting around the Ouija would all touch the planchette and then ask the ‘spirits’ questions. Depending on if there was a ‘spirit’ the planchette would then move around the board to spell out the answer. It was originally believed that the name Ouija was formed from the word YES in French and German (Oui and Ja). Although it is now believed that it was the first word that the board spelled during a demonstration with investors trying to secure a patent for the board; they asked what the board wanted to be called. A demonstration that the patent officer won’t forget in a hurry.

Spiritualism was becoming popular in America in the 19th century, especially after stories about the Fox Sisters of Upstate New York who would claim that they could communicate with the dead. This idea of talking to spirits was very appealing; during a period where life expectancy was far lower than that it is today, (averaging around 50 years) child mortality was common; childbirth was killing women; and of course, war – seances and Ouija boards provided many with solace or reassurance that their loved ones were still close by. Soon, speaking with the dead became an acceptable past-time.

Aside from entertaining at parties or providing comfort to the bereaved; Ouija has had more practical uses in the past:  police officers have used the board to help catch murders; or the murderers have used it as an excuse for their crime. There has even been a case of spirit, contacted through the board, been left a considerable amount of money in a will!

More recently the Ouija board can thank Hollywood for its association with the occult. The iconic horror film ‘The Exorcist’ shows the young girl, Regan asking a Ouija board questions which then ultimately led to her becoming possessed by a demon; the rest is history. What was once an innocent party game, favourable among even the strictest Christians, has now become taboo and demonised; even petitions for it to be banned! However, this new controversy surrounding Ouija did not harm sales of the boards -in fact, the added element of danger increased them!

With all this talk of spirits and talking to the dead, it is no surprise that science has tried to get involved in figuring out how exactly the Ouija board works. Again, no surprise that they do not believe that it is ghosts – instead, they believe that any movement or communication related to the board, is all linked to our subconscious. If like us you enjoy a bit of Ouija, head over to our online shop and check out our Ouija inspired products.