Jan 9, 2015

What's in a Name, Ouija Board

The Ouija board was created as a parlor game around 1890 by designer Elijah Bond, who patented it in 1891, then sold the patent to William Fuld in 1901. Fuld popularized the game and promoted it as a novelty. He sold the business in 1966 to Parker Brothers, which was acquired by Hasbro, which now owns it, along with Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, etc.  Ouija is a combination of two words: 'oui' and 'ja' which mean 'yes' in French and German respectively.

One of the first mentions of the automatic writing method used in the Ouija board is found in China around 1100 AD. The method was known as fuji, spirit writing or automatic writing using a suspended sieve or tray to guide a stick which writes Chinese characters in sand or incense ashes.

Despite being a trademark, “Ouija” is also used to refer to any kind of 'talking' board that uses automatic writing. Shortly after it was introduced, Pearl Curran, a popular 20th-century spiritualist began using the Ouija board during WWI as a tool for her divination. Some people thought it was kind of ancient mystical device used to communicate with the dead. It has also been associated with devil worship or spirituality, despite Hasbro’s insistence that it is just a board game. The 'automatic' writing is simply done by the ideomotor effect, people moving the indicator unconsciously.

Paranormal and supernatural beliefs associated with Ouija have been harshly criticized by the scientific community, since they are characterized as pseudoscience. There is a 'museum' of talking boards on the web at LINK.