The Spooky Beginnings of the Ouija Board

It quickly made the leap from parlor game to demonic and dangerous.

By Alexandra HartNovember 1, 2016 11:52 am

Whether it’s Halloween, All Souls Day or Dia de los Muertos, people balance the grave and sinister with lightheartedness. But one board game made a clear jump from playful to demonic possession: the Ouija board.

According to Joe Laycock, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State, Ouija boards got their start when people became interested in speaking to the dead in the mid-19th century.

The advent of the board is centered in the spiritualism movement. Two sisters from upstate New York – the Fox sisters – claimed to be able to talk to ghosts. “This created a craze for talking to the dead,” Laycock says, “and this led to so-called talking boards.”

The boards started with a premise of moving a planchette across letters. The set-up was eventually patented as the official Ouija board and made into a novelty. Mainstream Christian critics of Ouija boards have claimed the game goes against the Bible.

“Paradoxically, the more people have warned that this is demonic and dangerous,” Laycock says, “the more exciting that actually makes it for teenagers.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How to correctly pronounce Ouija
– What led Ouija boards to eventually out-sell Monopoly
– The role of Ouija boards in 1960s counterculture

Post by John Flynn.