Hallowe’en is here again also known as All Hallows’ Eve, a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. And what better way to remember the dead than…

I thought this would be an appropriate time to give a look at the history and mystery of the OuiJa Board phenomenon.

From an article in Smithsonian

The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board

By Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

In February, 1891, the first few advertisements started appearing in papers: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board,” boomed a Pittsburgh toy and novelty shop, describing a magical device that answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” Another advertisement in a New York newspaper declared it “interesting and mysterious” and testified, “as Proven at Patent Office before it was allowed. Price, $1.50.”

The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992; when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”

The Ouija board, in fact, came straight out of the American 19th century obsession with spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living. Spiritualism, which had been around for years in Europe, hit America hard in 1848 with the sudden prominence of the Fox sisters of upstate New York; the Foxes claimed to receive messages from spirits who rapped on the walls in answer to questions, recreating this feat of channeling in parlors across the state.

The Spiritualist movement across Europe and into America goes hand in hand with the early years of modern medicine, and a growing awareness that people need not die for mysterious reason. We began to understand the reasons, and to realize people could be saved by knowledge. And if they could be saved by knowledge, why couldn’t there be some knowledge that allowed us to peer beyond the veil and communicate with those who have already passed. A concept already popular in the fiction of the time. Especially the fiction of writers like Edgar Allan Poe.

In The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, written in 1845,

Poe describes a process where a man is hypnotized on his deathbed, (also a relatively new practice.) Valdemar is then commanded through hypnotic control to speak from the dead and reveal what the afterlife is like. Read the story for yourself to find out what happens next.

Not long after came the bloodiest war in American History. No war is without loss, but a Civil War only causes losses on one side, the population of a single nation. No one goes without losing someone. Desire to contact the dead pervaded the country, all the way to the White House.

Robert Murch is the world’s foremost collector, historian, and expert on Ouija® and Talking Boards.

Even Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the venerable president, conducted séances in the White House after their 11-year-old son died of a fever in 1862; during the Civil War, spiritualism gained adherents in droves, people desperate to connect with loved ones who’d gone away to war and never come home.

“Communicating with the dead was common, it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” explains Murch. “It’s hard to imagine that now, we look at that and think, ‘Why are you opening the gates of hell?’”

But opening the gates of hell wasn’t on anyone’s mind when they started the Kennard Novelty Company, the first producers of the Ouija board; in fact, they were mostly looking to open Americans’ wallets.

There are stories about how the OuiJa board got its name, and who can say which is true, but here is the official version according to Robert Murch

Contrary to popular belief, “Ouija” is not a combination of the French for “yes,” oui, and the German ja. Murch says, based on his research, it was Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was, Bond said, a “strong medium”), who supplied the now instantly recognizable handle. Sitting around the table, they asked the board what they should call it; the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.”

One of our most popular GT threads
has revolved around a group of people contacting a spirit that calls itself Zozo, or alternately Zaza. It seems this entity is just sitting “out there” waiting for someone to dial up the OuiJa board and let it speak.

There is a long list of videos on YouTube of people claiming, or faking contact with Zozo.

So bring out your OuiJas and check your signal this Hallowe’en, Zozo seems to have unlimited texting.

[email protected]

Seek us on FaceBook for updates and more.

Henry Paterson