Depending on whom you ask, the Ouija board is a portal to the unknown, a tool of the devil, or a waste of everyone’s time. In any case, it has a long and interesting history.
For example, Ouija reportedly named itself.
That’s the Name of the Game
Ouija traces to the American spiritualism movement of the 1840s. Since life expectancy was around 50 years at the time, people were eager to see how things were going on the other side. Attempting to contact the dearly departed was oddly comforting, and séances were anything but spooky.
Indeed, they were often boring. Participants sat around in the dark waiting earnestly for a rap on the table or a sudden draft through the room. They were largely disappointed.
Unsophisticated Ouija prototypes were circulating throughout spiritualist camps when a Baltimore man named Charles Kennard heard about them. He saw dollar signs and got to work.
Kennard’s distinctive design featured numbers; the alphabet; and the words yes, no, and goodbye. Modern Ouija hasn’t deviated far from that, but the teardrop-shaped, footed planchette that delivers otherworldly messages originally had wheels.
As Kennard and his investors sat around a table admiring his brainchild, the sister-in-law of one investor — a woman who dabbled in mediumship — asked the board what they should call it. The planchette, it is said, spelled out O-U-I-J-A. When asked what the name meant, Ouija replied, “Good luck.”
A Fateful Falling Out
Ouija was wholesome family entertainment. It had no sinister or occult associations until William Fuld, one of the original stockholders, came to a bad end.
When sales of the novelty skyrocketed, Fuld ousted Kennard. Fuld soon reported that Ouija had told him to build a new factory.
In 1927, while trying to install a flagpole on the factory’s roof, Fuld fell to his death.