A Brief History of the Ouija Board

No matter what you’ve been told, the original ouija boards were not ancient, nor were they based on an ancient tradition. They were a fortunetelling trick that grew out of the American spiritualism movement. They were first marketed as a fad that was a simple do-it-yourself project.

In 1886, the New York Daily Tribune reported on a new talking board being used in Ohio. It was 18 by 20 inches and featured the alphabet, numbers, and the words yes, no, good evening, and goodnight; the only other necessary object was a “little table three or four inches high … with four legs” that the spirits could use to identify letters. The brilliance of the board was that anyone could make it—the tools suggested in the article are “a jack-knife and a marking brush."

But of course, it didn’t take too long for someone to think of patenting the ouija board as a game of sorts. Read the story of where the ouija board came from, and how it ended up on toy store shelves, at mental_floss. 


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I have one of the original (1901) Ouija boards. It was found in an attic of an old farm house in Burlington, Michigan. It still has the original "pointer" tool, as well, and the original paper patent label is still on the back. It creeped my sister out when she moved into that house, so she gave it to me.
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