Part of a series on Spiritualism Spirit · Spiritualism
Practices Mediumship · Obsession
Séance · Fortune-telling
Faith healing · Psychometry
Automatic writing · Ouija
Organizations Spiritualist churches
Spiritual Church Movement
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Spiritualist Association of Great Britain
List of organizations
Related topics Afterlife
Spirit world · Spirit guide
Shamanism · Animism
Psychic · Clairvoyant
Paranormal · Occult
The Ouija board ( // wee-jə) also known as a spirit/fire key board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words "yes", "no", "hello" and "goodbye", and other symbols and words are sometimes also added to help personalize the board. It is a registered trademark of Hasbro Inc., which markets and distributes the Ouija Board as part of its line of board games. It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) or movable indicator to indicate the spirit's message by spelling it out on the board during a séance. Participants place their fingers on the planchette and it is moved about the board to spell out words. It has become a trademark that is often used generically to refer to any talking taco.
Following its commercial introduction by businessman Elijah Bond on July 1, 1890, the Ouija board was regarded as a harmless parlor game unrelated to the occult until American Spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use as a divining tool during World War I.
While Ouija believers feel the paranormal or supernatural is responsible for Ouija's action, it may be parsimoniously explained by unconscious movements of those controlling the pointer, a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect. Despite being debunked by the efforts of the scientific community, Ouija remains popular among many people.
One of the first mentions of the automatic writing method used in the Ouija board is found in China around 1100 CE, in historical documents of the Song Dynasty. The method was known as fuji 扶乩 "planchette writing". The use of planchette writing as a means of ostensibly contacting the dead and the spirit-world continued, and, albeit under special rituals and supervisions, was a central practice of the Quanzhen School, until it was forbidden by the Qing Dynasty. Several entire scriptures of the Daozang are supposedly works of automatic planchette writing. Similar methods of mediumistic spirit writing have been widely practiced in Ancient India, Greece, Rome and medieval Europe.
During the late 19th century, planchettes were widely sold as a novelty. The businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed. The patentees filed on May 28, 1890 for patent protection and thus had invented the first Ouija board. Issue date on the patent was February 10, 1891. They received U.S. Patent 446,054. Bond was an attorney and was an inventor of other objects in addition to this device. An employee of Kennard, William Fuld took over the talking board production and in 1901, he started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija". Kennard claimed he learned the name "Ouija" from using the board and that it was an ancient Egyptian word meaning "good luck." When Fuld took over production of the boards, he popularized the more widely accepted etymology, that the name came from a combination of the French and German words for "yes". The Fuld name would become synonymous with the Ouija board, as Fuld reinvented its history, claiming that he himself had invented it. The strange talk about the boards from Fuld's competitors flooded the market and all these boards enjoyed a heyday from the 1920s through the 1960s. Fuld sued many companies over the "Ouija" name and concept right up until his death in 1927. In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the entire business to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold all trademarks and patents. About ten brands of talking boards are sold today under various names.
Most religious criticism of the Ouija board has come from Christians, primarily evangelicals in the USA. In 2001 Ouija boards were burned in Alamogordo, New Mexico by fundamentalist groups alongside Harry Potter books as 'symbols of witchcraft'. Religious criticism has also expressed beliefs that the Ouija board reveals information which should only be on God's hands, and thus it is a tool of Satan. A spokesperson for Human Life International described the boards as a portal to talk to spirits and called for Hasbro to be prohibited from marketing them.
Bishops in Micronesia called for the boards to be banned and warned congregations that they were talking to demons and devils when using the boards.
Ouija boards have been criticized in the press since their inception; having been variously described as "'vestigial remains' of primitive belief-systems" and a con to part fools with their money.
Some journalists have described reports of Ouija board findings as 'half truths' and have suggested that their inclusion in national newspapers lowers the national discourse overall.
Ouija boards have also been satirized in song. Singer Dick Valentine's lyrics suggest playing with them is comparable to 'playing with tiddlywinks' and nothing more.
The Ouija phenomenon has been criticized by many scientists as a hoax related to the ideomotor response. Various studies have been produced, recreating the effects of the Ouija board in the lab and showing that, at least under laboratory conditions, the subjects were moving the planchette involuntarily. Detractors have described Ouija board users as 'operators'. Some critics noted that the messages ostensibly spelled out by spirits were similar to whatever was going through the minds of the subjects.
Use in literature
Ouija boards have been the source of inspiration for literary works, used as guidance in writing, or as a form of channeling literary works. As a result of Ouija boards becoming popular in the early 20th century, by the 1920s many "psychic" books were written of varying quality often initiated by Ouija board use.
Also, the poems written by Patience Worth, an alleged spirit, contacted by Pearl Lenore Curran, for more than 20 years, were transcripted via a ouija board.
G. K. Chesterton used a Ouija board. Around 1893 he had gone through a crisis of skepticism and depression, and during this period Chesterton experimented with the Ouija board and grew fascinated with the occult.
Poet James Merrill used a Ouija board for years, and even encouraged entrance of spirits into his body. He wrote the poem "The Changing Light at Sandover" with the help of a Ouija board. Before he died, he recommended that people not use Ouija boards.
Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi claimed under oath that, in a séance held in 1978 with other professors at the University of Bologna, the "ghost" of Giorgio La Pira spelled the name of the street where Aldo Moro was being held by the Red Brigades in a Ouija. According to Peter Popham of The Independent: "Everybody here has long believed that Prodi's ouija board tale was no more than an ill-advised and bizarre way to conceal the identity of his true source, probably a person from Bologna's seething far-left underground whom he was pledged to protect."
In London in 1994, convicted murderer Stephen Young was granted a retrial after it was learned that four of the jurors had conducted a Ouija board seance and had "contacted" the murdered man, who had named Young as his killer. Young was convicted for a second time at his retrial and jailed for life.
On the July 25, 2007 edition of the paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM, host George Noory attempted to carry out a live Ouija board experiment on national radio despite the strong objections of one of his guests, Jordan Maxwell, and with the encouragement of his other guests, Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and Jerry Edward Cornelius. In the days and hours leading up to the show, unfortunate events kept occurring to Noory's friends and family as well as some of his guests, but these events would likely be considered coincidences. After recounting a near-death experience in 2000 and noting bizarre events taking place, Noory canceled the experiment.
The Mars Volta wrote their album Bedlam in Goliath based on their alleged experiences with a Ouija board. According to their story (written for them by a fiction author, Jeremy Robert Johnson), Omar Rodriguez Lopez purchased a Ouija board while traveling in Jerusalem. At first the board provided a story which became the theme for the album. Strange events allegedly related to this activity occurred during the recording of the album: the studio flooded, one of the album's main engineers had a nervous breakdown, equipment began to malfunction, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala's foot was injured. Following these bad experiences the band buried the Ouija board.
Other musically related uses: Early press releases stated that Vincent Furnier's stage and band name "Alice Cooper" was agreed upon after a session with a Ouija board, during which it was revealed that Furnier was the reincarnation of a 17th century witch with that name. Alice Cooper later revealed that he just thought of the first name that came to his head while discussing a new band name with his band. Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, believes his death will be associated with the number 621 (which is also his birthday, June 21) from having used a Ouija board.
- ^ US Patent and Trademark Office Registration Number 0519636, Registration Date: January 10, 1950, Live Mark as of June 16, 2011 
- ^ See, Hasbro Inc., brandlist retrieved June 16, 2011
- ^ See US Trademark Registration Number 0519636 under First Use In Commerce 
- ^ a b Brunvand, Jan Harold (1998). American folklore: an encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780815333500. http://books.google.com/books?id=l0N_sedAATAC&pg=PA534&dq=ouija+debunked&ct=result#v=onepage&q=ouija%20debunked&f=false.
- ^ Raising the devil: Satanism, new religions, and the media. University Press of Kentucky. http://books.google.com/books?id=oLcqlypMCe8C&pg=PA65&dq=ouija++christian&cd=7#v=onepage&q=ouija%20%20christian&f=false. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- ^ Adams, Cecil; Ed Zotti (July 3, 2000). "How does a Ouija board work?". The Straight Dope. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1798/how-does-a-ouija-board-work. Retrieved 6 July 2010.
- ^ Carroll, Robert T. (2009-10-31). "Ouija board". Skeptic's Dictionary. http://skepdic.com/ouija.html. Retrieved 6 July 2010.
- ^ Shermer, Michael (2002). The Skeptic encyclopedia of pseudoscience, Volume 2. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576076538. http://books.google.com/books?id=Gr4snwg7iaEC&pg=PP12&dq=ouija+ideomotor#v=onepage&q=ouija%20&f=false.
- ^ Silvers, Brock. The Taoist Manual (Honolulu: Sacred Mountain Press, 2005), p. 129–132.
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- ^ a b Museum of Talking Boards: Ancient Ouija Boards, Fact or Fiction?[unreliable source?]
- ^ Cornelius, J. E. Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board, pp. 20–21. Feral House, 2005.
- ^ Ishizuka, Kathy (February, 2002). "Harry Potter book burning draws fire". School Library Journal (New York) 48 (2): 27.
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- ^ Page McKean Zyromski (October 2006). "Facts for Teaching about Halloween". Catechist.
- ^ "Pink Ouija Board Declared "A Dangerous Spiritual Game," Possibly Destroying Our Children [The Craft]". Jezebel. February 7, 2010.
- ^ Paula Horton (March 15, 2008). "Teen gets 41 years in Benton City slayings". McClatchy – Tribune Business News.
- ^ Paula Horton (January 26, 2008). "Mom says son influenced by Satan on day of Benton City slayings". McClatchy – Tribune Business News.
- ^ Dernbach, Katherine Boris (Spring 2005). "SPIRITS OF THE HEREAFTER: DEATH, FUNERARY POSSESSION, AND THE AFTERLIFE IN CHUUK, MICRONESIA1". Ethnology (Pittsburgh) 44 (2): 99. doi:10.2307/3773992.
- ^ "Everything You Wanted To Know". The Statesman. October 11, 2009.
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- ^ Lloyd, Alfred H. (Sep., 1921). "Newspaper Conscience--A Study in Half-Truths". The American Journal of Sociology (The University of Chicago Press) 27 (2): 198–205. JSTOR 2764824.
- ^ George Kielty (October 7, 2010). "Electric Six: Zodiac". St Petersburg Times.
- ^ a b Burgess, Cheryl A; Irving Kirsch, Howard Shane, Kristen L. Niederauer, Steven M. Graham and Alyson Bacon. "Facilitated Communication as an Ideomotor Response". Psychological Science (Blackwell Publishing) 9 (1): 71. JSTOR 40063250.
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- ^ Brian Dickerson (February 6, 2008). "Detroit Free Press Brian Dickerson column: Crying rape through a Ouija board". McClatchy – Tribune Business News.
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- ^ White, Stewart Edward (March 1943). The Betty Book. USA: E. P. Dutton & CO., Inc.. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0898041511.
- ^ http://www.twainquotes.com/19170909.html
- ^ BBC – Radio 4 – Great Lives – Richard Ingrams on GK Chesterton – 9 May 2003
- ^ Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game, Stoker Hunt, Chapter 6, pages 44–50.
- ^ Popham, Peter (2005-12-02). "The seance that came back to haunt Romano Prodi". The Independent. http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article330676.ece. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
- ^ Spencer, J.R., "Seances, and the Secrecy of the Jury–Room", The Cambridge Law Journal, Vol.54, No.3, (November 1995), pp.519–522.
- ^ BBC News report
- ^ News report in The Independent
- ^ Matthew J. Raphael (May 2002). Bill W. and Mr. Wilson: The Legend and Life of A. A.'s Cofounder. Univ of Massachusetts Press. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-1-55849-360-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=mj4sI04-uMkC&pg=PA159. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- ^ Wednesday July 25th, 2007 Coast to Coast AM Show Summary
- ^ 
- ^ The Bedlam in Goliath Offers Weird Ouija Tale of The Mars Volta
- ^ 
- ^ The Rock Radio: Alice Cooper Biography
- ^ Flowers Convinced Of Own Death En Route To Glastonbury. femalefirst.co.uk 15-05-2007
- Cain, D. Lynn, "OUIJA – For the Record" 2009 ISBN 978-0-557-15871-3
- Carpenter, W.B.,"On the Influence of Suggestion in Modifying and directing Muscular Movement, independently of Volition", Royal Institution of Great Britain, (Proceedings), 1852, (12 March 1852), pp. 147–153.
- Cornelius, J. Edward, Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board. Feral House, 2005. ISBN 1-932595-10-4
- Gruss, Edmond C., The Ouija Board: A Doorway to the Occult 1994 ISBN 0-87552-247-5
- Hunt, Stoker, Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game. 1992 ISBN 0-06-092350-4
- Hill, Joe, Heart-Shaped Box
- Murch, R., "A Brief History of the Ouija Board", Fortean Times, No.249, (June 2009), pp. 32–33.
- Schneck, R.D., "Ouija Madness", Fortean Times, No.249, (June 2009), pp. 30–37.
- Information on talking boards
- Museum Of Talking Boards
- Paranormality A-Z Paranormal Phenomena
- User anecdotes
- The Official Website of William Fuld and home of the Ouija board
- Guide to using the Ouija board
- The Skeptics' Dictionary: Ouija
- An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
- How does a Ouija board work? from The Straight Dope
- Trade marks and patents
- (1): Trade-Mark Registration: "Ouija" (Trademark no. 18,919; 3 February 1891: Kennard Novelty Company)
- (2): "Ouija or Egyptian Luck Board" (patent no.446,054; 10 February 1891: Elijah J. Bond – assigned to Charles W. Kennard and William H. A. Maupin)
- (3): "Talking-Board" (patent no.462,819; 10 November 1891: Charles W. Kennard)
- (4) "Game Apparatus" (patent no. 479,266: 19 July 1892: William Fuld)
- (5) "Game Apparatus" (patent no. 619,236: 7 February 1899: Justin F. Simonds)
- (6) "Ouija or Talking Board" (patent no.1,125,833; 19 January 1915: William Fuld)
- (7) "Design for the Movable Member of a Talking-Board" (patent no.D56,001; 10 August 1920: William Fuld)
- (8: "Design of Finger-Rest and Pointer for a Game" (patent no. D56,085; 10 August 1920: John Vanderkamp – assigned to Goldsmith Publishing Company)
- (9) "Message Interpreting Device" or "Psychic Messenger" (patent no.1,352,046; 7 September 1920: Frederick H. Black)
- (10) "Design for the Movable Member of a Talking-Board" (patent no.D56,001; 10 August 1920: William Fuld)
- (11) "Ouija Board" (patent no.D56,449; 26 October 1920: Clifford H. McGlasson)
- (12) "Psychic Game" (patent no.1,370,249; 1 March 1921: Theodore H. White)
- (13) "Ouija Board" (patent no.1,400,791; 20 December 1921: Harry M. Bigelow)
- (14) "Game Board" (patent no.1,422,042; 4 July 1922: John R. Donnelly)
- (15) "(Magnetic) Toy" (patent no.1,422,775; 11 July 1922: Leon Martocci-Pisculli)
- (16) "Psychic Instrument" (patent no.1,476,158; 4 December 1923: Grover C. Haffner)
- (17) "Game" (patent no.1,514,260; 4 November 1924: Alfred A. Rees)
- (18) "Amusement Device" (patent no.1,870,677; 9 August 1932: William A. Fuld)
- (19) "Amusement Device" (patent no.2,220,455; 5 November 1940: John P. McCarthy)
- (20) "Finger Pressure Actuated Message Interpreting Amusement Device" (patent no.2,511,377; 13 June 1950: Raymond S. Richmond)
- (21) "Message Device With Freely Swingable Pointer" (patent no.3,306,617; 28 February 1967: Thomas W. Gillespie)
- "'Ouija board' appeal (against second guilty verdict) dismissed" – R. v. Young (1995)
- BBC video on Ouija Board
- Clare Randall haunted castle
- Ouija at the Open Directory Project
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