What Is A Ouija Board, Talking Board Or Spirit Board ?

It is recorded that in China in 1100BC a method of spirit writing called Fuji was used, this entailed the use of a device with a stick that would write Chinese characters in ashes or sand. Likewise the Greek philosopher Pythagoras is recorded to have used a table on wheels adorned with letters and characters to contact spirits from beyond our plain.

Today a talking board or spirit board is recognised as a table top device with characters laid out that which, when combined with a triangular pointer, enables it’s user to contact the dead, or as the spiritualists would correct me, Spirits From The Other Side. So how did this come about and how did such a device in the twentieth century become recognised as a children’s parlour game ?

The history of the trademarked  ‘Ouija’ board however seems far better documented, although the actual inventor is still a mystery in itself.  There are two contended accounts for this title.

Ernest Charles Reiche, a cabinet or coffin maker from Chestertown who’s interest in the afterlife and need to have a more portable device to communicate with the dead brought about the creation of the first Ouija Board. This information is documented in a The New York World Magazine article written by Edgar Goodman on May 23rd 1920, where it is stated:

“Col. Washington Bowie, who was a leading figure in the company that originally manufactured the ouija board, narrated, while testifying in the case of Fuld vs. Fuld, that in the early part of 1890 Mr. E. C. Reichie, a cabinetmaker of Chestertown, Kent County, Md., invented the ouija board. In that year spiritism was in the flush of its early glory, and tables rapped and pranced on every side. Mr Reichie, although not a spiritist, noticed sympathetically that a large table was a heavy thing for a frail spirit to juggle about. His meditations, attuned to cabinetmaking, took a practical form. He devised a little table – the ouija board.”

The more documented Ouija history puts its creation down to Elijah J. Bond of Baltimore, who applied for the first US patent on 28th May 1890. He assigned the rights to two fellow masons and local business men Charles W. Kennard and William H.A. Maupin. The two combined forces with Colonel Washington Bowie and on October 20th 1890 they appeared in court to file for incorporation papers for the Kennard Novelty Company which went on to produce the first version aptly titled ‘Ouija : A Wonderful Talking Board’. The patent was granted on February 10, 1891.

This was to be a short lived company ownership and by 1892 the Kennard Novelty Company was to be taken over. A name now synonymous with Ouija came into the spotlight. One of Kennard’s employees, William Fuld and his brother Issac took over the company and renamed it ‘The Ouija Novelty Company’.

On 19th July 1892 the patent was re-issued to William Fuld, the company continued under the leadership of the Fuld brothers until nigh on nine years later. On 18th July 1901 the Fuld’s ended their partnership under somewhat of a cloud and the company was once more to be renamed. This was to give way to the name that would adorn the Ouija Board throughout it’s life span under William Fuld … ‘The Baltimore Talking Board Company’.

It must be stated that William’s brother Issac did try to hold onto some of his association with talking boards. He set up his own company called ‘Southern Toy Company’ making a talking board called ‘Oriole’ based on Kennard’s original design. After a legal battle with his brother William Fuld however he was forced to cease this production in 1920.

Williams association with the Ouija Board came to a tragic end when he died falling from the roof of his home, while overseeing  the work  on a flagpole . The company was then to be taken over by his sons William A. Fuld & Hubert Fuld.

The company continued under the Fuld descendants until 24th February 1966 when William A. Fuld sold the company to Parker Brothers, best known for the game Monopoly.

The board has gone through many changes over the years, as have the owners. In 1991 Hasbro took over ownership of Parker and so the patent of the Ouija Board.  They still make the board today in various guises included a green glow in the dark version, and a pink version sold through Toys R Us aimed at young girls. A version that caused much contraversy in 2010. An interesting issue when we consider since it’s introduction  it has always been marketed as a parlour game.

Many films have portrayed the Ouija board as a device to communicate with evil including the Exorcist, 13 Ghosts, Witchboard, What Lies Beneath, Paranormal Activity and most recently ‘Ouija’

The Ouija Board is trademarked to Hasbro, and the boards created by The Talking Board Company .co. uk are based on styles and design that have been popular over the last 100 years and are in no way  connected to Hasbro.

For more information on talking boards visit http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/

Article By Paul Griffiths Originally Published on Paranormal United