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An English Ouija Board

An Early English Ouija Board

Ouija Boards—What Are They Really?

Almost all of us have seen, if not used, a Ouija (pronounced wee-ja) board. Game and toy company Hasbro, Inc., currently owns the trade mark, but around nine other companies produce similar products, calling them “spirit” or “talking” boards. Regardless of the names the manufacturers use, the public generically refers to all of them as Ouija boards.

In its contemporary form the Ouija board is a game board illustrated with letters, numbers, and the words “No,” “Yes,” and “Good bye.” The Ouija set includes a small, plastic table called a planchette designed to slide easily across the board on a trio of felt feet. The planchette usually contains a round window from the center of which protrudes a brass pin that serves as a pointer.

To operate the Ouija board, two or more people sit with their fingertips lightly resting on the planchette. The planchette then creeps around the board, supposedly unguided by the participants, pausing above individual letters, numbers, or words until a message has been spelled out, or a question from one of the participants has been answered. Many participants believe that the communications revealed by the Ouija board originate in the spirit world. Scientists, for their part, think that the subconscious minds of one or more of the participants may be responsible. In any case, Ouija boards often do produce some uncanny results.

The Ouija board is an American invention first patented in the late 1800s. It has since spread around the world, with tens of thousands of sets sold annually. The original boards and planchettes were made of wood, but otherwise the game has remained unchanged since the beginning. Although for most of its history the Ouija board has been viewed as a relatively wholesome form of family entertainment, in the late Twentieth Century the game became somewhat controversial as some religious leaders began to express concerns that Ouija board messages could come from evil spirits or even from Satan himself, and that players were making themselves vulnerable to demonic possession.

However, in spite of the fact that Ouija boards are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people each year, many of them children, there have been few documented reports of harmful effects.

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