According to Wikipedia:
A Ouija board, also known as spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with letters, numbers, and other symbols, theoretically used to communicate with spirits. It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) or movable indicator to indicate the spirit's message by spelling it out on the board during a seance. The fingers of the séance participants are placed on the planchette, which then moves about the board to spell out messages. Ouija is a trademark for a talking board currently sold by Parker Brothers.
Ouija boards as we know them came into existence as a game in the mid-1800’s, when spiritualism and channeling were fashionable. The first historical mention of something similar to a Ouija board is found in China at around 1100 B.C.
Adolphus Theodore Wagner first patented Ouija boards, or “talking boards,” in England in 1854. In the patent, Wagner called his invention a “psychograph” and it was supposed to read people’s minds. By 1861, a Frenchman named Allan Kardac, was describing the Ouija board as a tool with which to open communications with the spirit world.
Modern Ouija boards were developed by inventor William Fuld, who sold his patent to Parker Brothers in 1966. The Ouija boards sold by Parker Brothers consist of a rectangular game board with an alphabet; the words yes, no, and good-bye; and the numbers 0-9. Also included is a heart-shaped plastic planchette.When I was young, there was a Ouija board in the house we rented every summer at the Jersey Shore. We'd wait for the first dark and thunderstorm-y day, pull down all the shades for good measure, and try to contact spirits with the handy-dandy ghost communicator.
We always got a hold of someone. They answered our silly questions and tried to tell us things that we didn't want to hear. One time when we got too silly, a basketball flew off the shelf and bounced across the room, landing on top of the board. That was the end of it for the day, as you can imagine. But the next thunderstorm... we dragged it out from underneath the bed once again.
To this day, I'm not sure if it really worked or if Anne Weyman was teasing me by moving the piece around the board. But I was hooked.
By the time I got to college, I owned my own Ouija board and brought it with me. One of my roommates thought it was a goof on a Saturday night to Ouija after we came home from the bars downtown.
It was a small town. There were three bars. On two streets. That was the whole downtown. Drinking hard spirits and then trying to contact spirits. Not a whole lot to do in upstate New York. At least, not back then.
Two of the girls who lived down the hall from us were apparently very good at contacting spirits. One - Belinda Katz - told us she had promised her mother that she would never Ouija again. She said there was an "incident" when she was in high school. The Spirits got angry and threw the board across the room, breaking things.
The other girl, Nancy Walker, warned us of the dangers of talking to spirits. She was my guest one day for Ghost Tales, and if you read her post you understand why she was hesitant to "play" with the spirit world. Not all the ghosts Nancy met were benign presences. But we kept at it....
I no longer own a Ouija board. My kids have never used one, and I'm not even sure if Parker Brothers still makes them. But I've read plenty of spooky tales on the Internet to make me not want to buy one, and not want to initiate them into that particular aspect of the occult.
For a history of Ouija and an online Ouija board, click here.
And happy haunting!