Ouija boards, also known as 'spirit boards' or 'talking boards,' all have the same structure when it comes to their make. They all have the alphabet, number 0 through 9, 'yes' or 'no,' and either 'hello' or 'goodbye.' Elijah Bond patented the harmless parlor game on February 10th, 1891. The ouija board was not patented until after proving it worked. During a meeting, the board spelled out the attorney's name who was present at the time. After that, the patent was given for the ouija board to Elijah Bond himself.
The ouija board was originally marketed as "A magical device that answered questions about the past, present, and future with marvelous accuracy. Never failing amusement and recreation for all classes. A link between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial." It was a game for the whole family to enjoy and be entertained by. During the 1910-1920s time frame, contacting the dead was not bizarre or taboo in society. It was actually quite common to try to contact your loved ones who'd died from diseases, accidents, or even the war.
The only people who weren't fond of the new game were spirit mediums themselves. They were not satisfied at all because the game took away from their jobs. Ouija boards were spooky rather than spiritual, with a distinct frisson of danger. However starting in the 20s, ouija boards were used for more than just fun and entertainment. They became the influence of crimes, excuses for hysteria, and some even claimed the ouija board told them to do certain things.
For example, in 1920 crime solvers turned to ouija boards...Yes, ouija boards, for clues in the mystery murder of Joseph Burton Elwell. In 1921 a women being sent to a psychiatric hospital told the doctors that the ouija board told her to leave her mom's dead body in the living room for 15 days before burying her in the backyard. And in 1930, two women murdered another woman because of the ouija board's influence.
The board of course received religious criticism because of all the strange occurrences involving the game. The criticism came primarily from the Evangelical Christians in the US, where they believed the ouija board revealed information only God knows, and that it was a tool from Satan. In 2001, ouija boards and Harry Potter books were being burned and called witchcraft by certain religious groups.
The board also had infamous meetings with a few people that made it known they were contacting the dead. Pearl Curran, the author who claimed to be taking dictation from a spirit, related the board to the occult during World War I. The poet and author James Merrill used ouija boards for years, and even invited spirits into his body. And Joshua Tucker's mother, during his trial for murder, claimed he was possessed by the devil while killing his victims. She claimed he became possessed with the help of a ouija board she caught him using and playing with.
Even with all the negative and uncertain coverage regarding the game board, in 1967 the ouija board out sold Monopoly, which was one of the most popular games ever, and still is today. So with all the hype and buzz over the game, it was destined to be featured in a film sooner or later.
The huge blockbuster The Exorcist (1973) starring Linda Blair, hit theater screens everywhere. It was then the true horror of ouija boards was discovered, and spread throughout media everywhere. The ouija board now had a demonic tone. The film simply displayed Regan (Blair) playing with a ouija board, where she then becomes possessed by the Devil. The Exorcist was one of the most revolutionary horror films to hit theaters. It scared millions everywhere, and it just happens to be the film that put the ouija board into a demonic, almost negative light. The ouija board, after this film, was no longer a family fun entertainment board game, that's for sure.
After the huge success of The Exorcist, more horror films featuring ouija boards came to light. For example Witchboard (1986). The film was a about a college student who, after messing around with her friend's ouija board, is haunted and followed everywhere. Another more recent film featuring a ouija board is Paranormal Activity (2009). The spelling out of a character's name and 'goodbye' shortly after was a hint that a character was going to be harmed later on in the film.
The next film out is all about ouija boards. Solely titled Ouija, is about a group of friends who confront their fears when they awaken dark sprits using the ouija board themselves. Even though I feel as if we have all seen this "ouija board goes wrong" movie, I'm willing to give it a try. I can't wait to see what Stiles White has in store for audiences everywhere October 24th.