Ouija, "The Mystifying Oracle," is a board game used to contact and communicate with spirits that exist beyond our physical realm. That is to say, if you subscribe to a belief in such things. It requires no special training or skills to operate, and can be used by anyone from "professional" mediums, psychics and other spiritualists to college students, teenagers and even children. It is a gateway into the world of the paranormal, much like a divining rod; it works for some people, and not for others.

Conceived by E.C. Reiche and Charles Kennard, the Ouija board was first marketed in its current form by the Kennard Novelty Company in 1890. Reiche received a message while using his new invention to call the board Ouija, after the Egyptian word for luck. Unfortunately, that isn't the Egyptian word for luck, but the name sounds exotic and mystical, so it stuck. Kennard's shop foreman, William Fuld, orchestrated a hostile takeover of the company in 1892, and began manufacturing the board game under his own name. Fuld reinvented the history of the Ouija, claiming that the name comes from the combination of Oui (French) and Ja (German, Norwegian, etc), making the name of the board "Yes, yes." While this doesn't make much sense, it is at least a somewhat better explanation of the name's origin.

The device itself consists of two parts. The first is a board (usually about 18" x 12" in size) with the letters of the alphabet, numbers 0 through 9, and the words YES, NO and GOOD BYE printed or painted on one side. If hand made, the board may be constructed of almost any material (including paper), but most commercially sold versions are made of laminated wood particles with a printed paper label affixed to it.

The second component of the Ouija is called a planchette (or "little plank"), allegedly named for the French spiritualist who invented it in 1853. It is a pointing device about the size of your hand, and generally shaped like a heart. It rests on padded feet to elevate it above the surface of the board, and usually (though not always) contains a window. The feet were originally made from pencils, as the device was invented as a means to communicate with the spirits via automatic writing. The planchette is made of plastic in manufactured versions of the game.

The Ouija is used by placing the board on a flat surface with the planchette in the center. It is meant to be used by two people, but can be operated solo or by up to four players (any more would be impractical). The players lightly rest their finger tips on top of the planchette. When more than one living person is present, questions to the spirit world are generally asked aloud. The planchette will move, guided by an entity or entities inhabiting the spirit world, and spell out answers to questions that are asked. There are a lot of variables at work here, and using the Ouija successfully often takes a good deal of patience and practice. An open mind helps too. As with many things in life, your mileage may vary.

That the Ouija actually works is a difficult faith to impart upon most people, even those who witness one in action. In spite of those who would casually dismiss the Ouija out of hand as a mere plaything, or those who might condemn it as an instrument of evil, I am relatively certain that it is neither of these things. The Ouija is quite simply a conduit. But a conduit to what? Some believe the spirits of the dead speak through the Ouija, while others contend that they are spiritual beings such as angels or demons. Most skeptics maintain that it is merely the subconscious minds of the players that produce the results.

I have owned my personal Ouija board since 1985 when it was passed down to me by my mother, who owned it since she was a teenager in the 1950s. My board was manufactured by William Fuld, Baltimore, Maryland, whose company was sold to Parker Brothers in 1966. I have used this board on many occasions, both with friends and alone, and I can attest to its authenticity. I have watched it reveal facts which were unknown to me, but which were verified by skeptical participants using the board with me, or by impartial observers. I have seen the planchette "freak out" when used atop a tomb in a cemetary at night, explaining only with a YES that there were too many spirits present to communicate coherently. I have seen its power amaze and frighten those who doubted its genuine nature, and have had the planchette physically yanked out of my hands by unseen forces communicating through it.

When using the Ouija with some regularity, it is unusual for you to end up communicating with the same spirit more than a few times, unless you commonly invoke the board in the same location, or unless you call upon the spirit by name. I have often experienced instances where multiple spirits would fight over control of the board, making it difficult to discern exactly whom you were "talking to" at any given moment. It has been my experience that the planchette becomes sluggish and quite unresponsive when it is being accessed by multiple spirits at the same time.

I have never spoken to any spirit through the Ouija board that I actually believed to be the Devil. As this is a construct of the many Christian religions, I do not know whether or not such an entity really exists. I have encountered many separate spirits using the Ouija who have professed to be the devil or a devil of some sort, but which did not appear to me to be what they claimed.

To expound upon this point, each spirit that communicates through the Ouija has a separate and distinct personality. They respond to questions differently, use different language and grammar, have different moods, and express an attitude that becomes clear after even the shortest period of conversation. For example, I have spoken with the same spirit (in this case, his name was "Waldo", although he is not the only example I have) on at least five separate occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While I could identify him not only by the name he claimed, but by his use of language and his general demeanor with regard to the responses he gave to my questions, his attitude and mood varied greatly from session to session. Still, both I and my Ouija player knew it was the same spirit; "he" had made references to earlier conversations and spelled out things which "he" had mentioned in earlier sessions, but also things which other named spirits had mentioned to us in other sessions. This leaves open the possibility that the same spirit can claim multiple identities and personalities, and for Christians at least, undoubtedly reopens the Devil factor.

Regardless of all this, I have never had a "bad" experience with the Ouija. There have been some frightening experiences (particularly the one in the graveyard), and some which were frustrating due to the inexperience and skepticism of the person participating with me in channeling the planchette's movements. Also, there are many times when the planchette is simply unresponsive, which I have attributed to location and other mitigating factors.

While my friend qousqous claims that his Ouija board is "horribly mean", I feel this perception is based on his relative inexperience with using it. While many entities who communicate through the board do express themselves as angry or unkind spirits (And why not? You've woken them up!), some are quite friendly and genuinely pleasant. It all depends upon location, the state of mind you and your partner(s) are in when engaging in communication using the board, and the willingness of the spirits to speak.

As an interesting side note, I have never had a Ouija partner that claimed to have intentionally moved the planchette, or believed that I was controlling it in order to fool them. In most cases, the planchette moved so rapidly and with such force that it would often be nearly yanked from my fingers while responding to questions posed to it by myself, my partner, or other observers. This in itself was enough to convince every skeptic I have ever run across that the power displayed by the Ouija was genuine.

Source information: http://azaz.essortment.com/ouijahistory_rltn.htm
Much of the personal information in this writeup was originally posted on Sun Apr 1 2001 at 08:04:09 UTC
Special thanks go to Ereneta for inspiring me to add actual researched facts to this writeup.

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