ByMichelle Siouty, writer at

I am still incredibly horrified by the fact that Ouija boards are sold in toy stores across the world. The possibility of opening the portal and allowing a malicious spirit into my home terrifies me, whether they really work or not.

It's not a risk I'm personally willing to take. But I am curious about the origins of the Ouija and how it came to be in the first place.


Let's Travel Back to 1891

The first advertisements described the Ouija as a "Wonderful Talking Board" and priced them at $1.50 each. It was a game meant to be played with anyone and everyone, regardless of class and age. It told you about the "past, present, and future with accuracy."

Although typically viewed as a harmless game, the Ouija board was tested in Patent Offices before released, and was found to actually work and act as a connection to the unknown. Even psychologist regard the mysterious board as a bond to the world beyond.

No Direct Record of Origin

For a game that sparked such fear and interest in America, during a very spiritual-obsessed period in history, it is eerie that so much is still unknown about its origins.

It was very common for the average American during the 19th century to hold seances to speak to the dead and then attend church the next day. Little did they know that they were possibly opening up the gate of Hell.

A Business Opportunity

The Kennard Novelty Company picked up on this fixation with spirituality and saw an opportunity to make some serious cash. They became the first manufacturers of the Ouija board.

He noticed this intense desire Americans had for direct and instant communication with not only each other, but with the dead as well. Along with four other investors, including lawyer Elijah Bond, Charles Kennard created the Ouija board to be supplied to the individuals wanting to communicate with the dead.

A Board By Any Other Name

Although there are rumors that the word "Ouija" comes from the French word "oui" and German word "ja" meaning yes, this is completely untrue. Helen Peters was a medium who was present when the investors came together to name the board.

When they asked what they should call it, it spelled out the word "ouija." When they asked what that word mean, it replied with a "good luck."

The bizarre part of the story is the fact that Peters wore a locket around her neck containing a picture of a woman with the word "Ouija" over her head.

America's Perception of Ouija Changes

Although regarded as an entertaining family game in which a person could chat with a friendly ghost or two, America's view on Ouija boards took a turn for the negative.

After the release of The Exorcist in the '70s, in which an innocent young girl invites the devil into her home after using a Ouija board, the harmless game suddenly became a sinister gateway for evil to become released into the mortal world.

No longer was the seemingly pure and humorous game considered a standard in the house, but soon Americans across the nation began to burn their boards for fear of becoming possessed.

This one appears to be burning itself.
This one appears to be burning itself.

If I ever head to a Toys 'R' Us (I don't know why I would at the age of 24 anyway), I will stay clear of the aisle containing the Ouija board game. I have never tried one, and on the off chance I could invite a vicious demon into my life, I think I'll continue to refrain from ever playing it.

Having younger demon siblings is enough, am I right?

Just kidding. They're not that bad.

[Source: Smithsonian]


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