The origins of the Ouija board are shrouded in mystery, but there is evidence to suggest they may have arisen from ancient civilizations. According to occult historians, the first historical mention of something resembling a Ouija board was found in China around 1200 B.C. The Chinese would guide a stick around a tray filled with sand to communicate with otherworldly spirits. Other sources claim that Pythagoras, in 540 B.C., would conduct séances at “a mystic table, moving on wheels, moved towards signs, which the philosopher and his pupil, Philolaus, interpreted to the audience as being revelations supposedly from an unseen world.”
The first undisputed use of the ‘talking boards’ came when the spiritualism movement swept across the globe in the 1850s. It all started in 1848, when the Fox sisters reported to hear mysterious ‘rappings’ in their home in New York, which they claimed were communications from the spirit world. After a series of question and answer sessions, Kate Fox surmised that the noise was that of a previous tenant who’d been murdered and buried in the basement of the Fox house. The paranormal encounter was given more validity when human remains were reportedly unearthed beneath the floor of the small cottage. The news quickly gained national attention and the Fox sisters became celebrities. The desire to communicate with the dead became a national mania that soon spread all across the United States and Europe.
People began holding organized séances where they asked spirits questions that could be answered by a series of raps or knocks. It was said that over ten percent of the population began conducting these seances. Even Mary Todd Lincoln held seances, in the White House on a regular basis in fact, attempting to connect with her deceased children.
Methods of divination at that time included swinging a pendulum over a plate that had letters around the edge, or using an entire table to indicate letters drawn on the floor. In its early years the Ouija board was referred to as a Talking Board and looked very different from the packaged consumer goods we recognize today.
Then, on May 28, 1890, the businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed. He thus invented the first Ouija board.
In 1966, the rights to Ouija board were sold to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold all trademarks and patents.
Is the Ouija board connected to the paranormal?
This all depends if you believe in the spirit world or not. Paranormal investigators believe that there are many different types of spirits co-existing with us in the physical world. They see the Ouija board as having no intrinsic power in and of itself, but rather as a tool that can be used to contact spirits that reside on the lower astral plane. These spirits are often very confused and may have died a violent or sudden death. “Most of the recently dead, who are, in fact, ghosts, are never seen by the living again once they have passed beyond this twilight realm. Under some circumstances, however, the dead can be trapped in the lower etheric regions closest to our physical reality and many times they either do not know how or simply refuse to move on. Oftentimes, this reluctance is the result of sudden, violent death combined with negative emotions or circumstances which serve as tangible links – to the dead at least – to the physical world.”
If you don’t believe in ghosts than the Ouija board can be explained simply as a toy that can be manipulated by the subconscious or conscious mind of the players. The Encyclopedia of the Occult and Supernatural points out that when blindfolded, Ouija board operators are unable to produce intelligible messages.