Perhaps you've used a Ouija board, know someone who has, or merely seen them being used in movies and television shows. Also called spirit boards or talking boards, they're a flat board with letters, numbers, the words yes, no, hello, and goodbye. The Ouija board goal is to summon the spirit(s) someone wishes to communicate with. The spirit then communicates by spelling out words using the planchette (the thing you put your fingers on that the spirit moves around the board pointing to the specific letters and numbers).
While the Ouija board's origins only date back to mid 19th century America during the age of spiritualism, the concept of holding a device that points out words from an otherworldly source is ancient. Early accounts of this date back to 1100AD in China. It was considered a valid method of contacting the dead.
In the late 19th century, the average lifespan was less than fifty years. The desire to communicate with departed loved ones at a séance wasn't that uncommon. However, those events were often frustrating and expensive. Spiritual mediums were unreliable and charged a lot of money to send and receive messages from beyond. That created a market for a cheaper method of contacting the dead from the comfort of one's own home.
And the Ouija board answered that need.
It was introduced to the public in 1890 by a businessman named Elijah Bond. His original product was called a Talking Board and was supposed to answer facts about the past and predict the future. It was introduced as nothing more than a fun throwaway game, completely unrelated to ghosts or the occult. By World War I, large groups of people were convinced that the movements of the planchette had an otherworldly origin.
The first person to rename the talking board as the Ouija Board was Elijah Bond's employee, a man named William Fuld. Conflicting reports say the meaning of Ouija came from the ancient Egyptian word for good luck or it was a combination of the French Oiu and German Ja, both words meaning yes.
Some Christian denominations believe Ouija boards lead to demonic possession. The scientific community has criticized the paranormal beliefs associated with Ouija boards. But—however you feel about them, they're thought of as being spooky.
If you believe that Ouija boards really do connect with the dead, you're in good company. Many famous and successful people during the last one hundred years have used Ouija boards—English writer G.K. Chesterton, rock musician Alice Cooper, Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Merrill, Italian president Romano Prodi, and Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson.
Have you ever used an Ouija board, either seriously or as an entertainment source?