Ouija or talking boards have roots that predate the modern spiritualism movement that began in the United States
in the mid nineteenth century. Methods of divination at that time used various ways to spell out messages, including
swinging a pendulum over a plate that had letters around the edge or using an entire table to indicate letters drawn on the
floor. Often used was a small wooden tablet supported on casters. This tablet, called a planchette, was affixed
with a pencil that would write out messages in a fashion similar to automatic writing.
During the late 1800's, planchettes were widely sold as a novelty. In 1890, businessman Elijah Bond and Charles
Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed. 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.
In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the entire business to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold the trademarks and patents.
A Ouija board is operated by one or more users. They place the planchette on the board and then rest their fingers
on the plancette. The users start moving the planchette around the board and speaking to the entity they wish to summon.They
then begin to ask question of the entty, Eventually the planchette will come to test on one letter after another, spelling
out a message. often an additional person records the messages on paper. These messages are often vague and open
to interpretation, or complete gibberish.
Many users feel that the spirit with whom they are communicating is controlling their motions to guide their hands, spelling
out messages. They see the board as a tool through which they communicate with the spirit realm.
Proponents of Ouija boards do not believe there is any harm in communicating with spiritual entities, provided basic
guidelines are followed. These rules often vary from user to user, but usually include things like never playing alone,
beginning and ending properly. Numerous superstitions surrond Ouija board use.
The skeptical view
Many people find it difficult to beleive that a piece of cardboard sold as a game can conjure spirits, evil or benevolent.
The accepted theory among psychologists and skeptics is that the particiapnts are subconsciously making small, involuntary
movements or worse case is it is being manipulated by one or both of the players. Many skeptics believe that blind folded
players are unable to produce intelligent messages and these failures indicate that people are simply willing to fool themselves.
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