World's largest Ouija board in Salem

The Spiritual Meaning behind the Ouija Board

What happens when we die?

What happens after we die? Where do we go? Do we just stop existing? Are we bound to roam the world after to find peace? All of these questions because humans are naturally curious.  People want the answers to these questions for comfort or maybe just out of pure curiosity. I have fallen victim to this curiosity many times. There is no way I am alone in this battle. Due to this curiosity people will do extreme things to figure out what happens after we die. Movies, tv shows and books have proven this to be true. For example, Ouija boards.

Hearing the name can be unsettling. For instance, there are many people who avoid them like the plague. This is because there are many beliefs following what happens when using the Ouija b

Drawing of a seance
A drawing showing what a typical seance was like.

oard. Everyone I know will not use it, so instead let’s learn about it’s history and how this ideas have come to be. 

Spiritualism

Spiritualism is the belief a communication with spirits of the dead. The idea of speaking with the dead became popular around the 19th century. This started holding seances. A séance is what psychic mediums would do to be able to communicate with the dead. Since Spiritualism has been around for centuries it has been able to evolve over time. With that being said, today spiritualism is considered to be a religion, just don’t ask the Catholic Church. The followings of Spiritualism are “The Seven Principles” which are listed as;

  1. The Fatherhood of God
  2. The Brotherhood of Man
  3. The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels
  4. The continuous existence of the human soul
  5. Personal responsibility
  6. Compensation and retribution hereafter for all the good and evil deeds done on earth
  7. Eternal progress open to every human soul.

The idea of Spiritualism was the reason for coming up with new ways to continue and enhance communication with the dead. Since there was the need for better conversation this sparked the idea of the Ouija board.

Photograph of the Fox Sisters
A photograph of Kate and Maggie Fox.

The Fox Sisters

Maggie and Kate Fox are the sister who founded Spiritualism. On March 31st, 1848 was the report of actual communication. The two sisters at age 14 (Maggie) and  11 (Kate) were always hearing taps and raps in their household and considered it to be a spirit. So that night in 1848 the Fox family decided to ask the “spirit” to knock a certain amount of times. Then they heard the knocks with the correct number. This is what would be determined as an “intelligent spirit” to believers and a coincidence to skeptics.

Following that phenomenon the sisters moved in with their eldest sister, Leah, in Rochester. After finding bone fragments in the basement of the household they had been living in people wanted to see if they could communicate with others who had passed.

Afterwards the sisters communicated with another spirit in a different location. This was able to strengthen their creditability as psychic mediums. Following these successful conversations with the dead people became more fascinated with the afterlife and contacting those who have passed.

Séances and Ouija

A Modern Day Seance
A group of four people sitting by candle light having a Seance.

Since the rise of Spiritualism in the 19th century, séances were the form of communication. Seances are still popular today, but there is other forms of contacting the spirit world. There is a specific way that these are conducted. For example, during a séance a medium needs to be present. They act as the connector between the spiritual world and the real world. Bright lights effect speaking to the dead in a negative way, so little to no light is ideal. If you decide to do one I will give you bonus points if you hold it in a basement.

Strength is in numbers at a séance. Having one with less than three people can drain the group. I have also heard things about the number three being important with Spirituality. Three represents the Holy Trinity in Christianity. So this idea is not that far fetched, and it makes sense needing at least three people present for a seance.

Mother of the Ouija
A drawing of Helen Peters, also known as “The Mother of the Ouija”.

The First Ouija Board

For years before Ouija was Ouija there were other boards with the same concept. The person who invented Ouija was William Fuld in 1892 along with Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk. They worked together for several years creating the talking boards.

There are two parts to the game, the board itself which William Fuld is a part of, and then the planchette. Which is the piece in the middle where people rest their fingers while the spirits manipulate it to converse with the players. This was patented by Elijah Bond.

The meaning behind the word Ouija

It seems that the boards starts is as mysterious as what happens after death. Dates of seances and use of a tool to contact the dead go back years and years. The story of how the board got its name is said to be because of a woman named Helen Peters. She was a medium who was with others while playing with the board. The board had named itself. As one might know the way a Ouija board works is a pair or a group of people ask the board a question and wait for the response.

Following the board naming itself “Ouija”, they asked why it wanted that to which got the response “good luck”. For the people who are non believers and feel like its a hoax that people can contact the dead through the board, there is another explanation. The author Ouida is very similar to Ouija so unconscious the planchette spelled out “Ouija” unconsciously by one of the participants.

Ouija game play today

A picture of rules for Ouija
A picture of the rules for Ouija including “never play in a graveyard, do not ask how you will die, and do not levethe planchette on the board”.

The Ouija board makes sense at a Halloween party, it plays into the atmosphere. But it would still get mixed reviews from the people present. This is due to the rules that have been associated with the gameplay. These rules are to never use the board alone, the spirit needs to say goodbye, do not use it in the home, dispose of it properly, and do not use it if you’re sick.

Though I have never used a Ouija board, I have known about these rules through word of mouth. The reason for these rules is because there is the idea of possession. By following these rules people believe there is a smaller or no chance of angering the spirit world and becoming possessed by the spirit contacted through the board. This seems like quite a jump from the board that just contacted the dead, how did this come to be?

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a catalyst for the popularity among Ouija boards. Because of the death and disease this was a great pastime and worst that could happen was they were able to speak with a loved one. Similar to today there will always be people who are skeptical of the afterlife or the paranormal. It is also hard to tell when people are genuine about their abilities like mediums.

This became a problem around the time period of the Great Depression. Maybe was just desperation but people found a way to benefit off of others loss. They would conceal others and have them make noises in response to their questio

I Love Lucy episode with the Ouija Board
An episode of the show “I Love Lucy” which uses the Ouija board, premiered on November 26th, 1951.

ns. The lack of authenticity of the board started to decrease it’s use. While this discredits the “power” of the game, it was not the cause of it’s reputation as an evil spirit board today.

Occultism and it’s downfall of the Talking Board

Occultism is the theories and practices of believing in and having knowledge of supernatural beings and powers. This coincides with witchcraft and other forms, like ghosts and the paranormal. By the 20th century the Catholic Church had renounced the use of the Ouija board because it goes against the belief of the religion. While the decline was happening in purchases and use 0f the Ouija board in seances, it was starting to be showed in the media.

World War I

Though in the start of the 20th century like I had said previously there was a decline in the use of the board. What saved this was sadly the first World War. The Ouija board had taken over college campuses. And as time went on it reached it’s peak in the 1960’s. The Conversation states it “was boosted by counterculture and popular interest in occult, the Ouija board outsold Monopoly.”

Ouija board Controversy

There are believers and non believers of the Ouija board, and for good reason. It can be very easy to slightly manipulate answer to give off the sense that one is communicating with a spirit. I would love to have that opportunity, but sadly everyone I know is in fear of the Ouija board.

This poses the question, how did this happen? How was something that was a board associated with just talking to the dead and a fun parlor game turned demonic? People turned to the Ouija board for lots of reasons. Not just for fun. Sometimes officers in the 1920s asked the board for help in some of their tougher cases.

Ouija Board Solving Crimes?

Headline of the Ouija board convicting someone
The headline of the newspaper which reported the murder case being solved by a Ouija board.

This was not just the case in the 1920s, in 1994 jurors used a Ouija board to convict a killer. Stephen Young was found guilty of murdering Harry and Nicola Futter. While the jury was deliberating they say (after the fact) four of the jurors contacted the spirit world through the Ouija Board.

Only they made a homemade one on a piece of paper and used a glass in the hotel room as the planchette. This caused a new trail with a new jury due to juror misbehavior. So, do not use the Ouija board as a way to solve crimes.

Possession?

Also around the 1920s as well was when their were reports of unsettling instances involving the Ouija board. Smithsonian magazine gives many different violent stories involving Ouija. This is around the New England and New York City area. For example a woman from Chicago reported that the board told her to leave her mothers dead body in the living room for 15 days before burying her in the backyard.

Blaming the Ouija board for things was similar to how in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” Randle plead insanity because he thought it would be easier than going to jail. Or the board actually did tell them to do it. There were many other claims of the board telling people to do horrible things, but was it really the board?

Ouija Board, Fun or Evil?

Ouija used to be a fun game to play with friends and then after it started to fall off the media took control of it. It became a token in Halloween specials and cheesy scary movies. The depiction could play a part in why people are so hesitant to pick up a board and play.

For people who believe it really could be evil, I can’t help but think back to the jurors. They we

A Classic Ouija Board
A standard Ouija board one would find in stores today.

re able to make a homemade board and use a cup, how did that work? What makes a Ouija board any different from a piece of paper? The Ouija board itself is a mystery as we have seen. I didn’t know how the idea came to be or how popular they were I was just always amused with Spiritualism.

Maybe the communication in general is a hoax and the mind unconsciously pushes the planchette to speak. For the believers maybe the spirit manipulates the people to push it for their communication. Either way it remains a mystery, and at least people can decide wether or not they do want to play. Meanwhile I’m still going to try to find someone to play with me, though everyone I know cringes when I bring it up.

Leave a Reply