By Thomas D'Agostino
I have spoken of Ouija boards in the past. Having a small collection of them, I find them quite fascinating, especially the history of the board and its encompassing role on our culture. From the moment they hit the market in the early 1890s to the present, the Ouija board has been labeled many things but whether you feel it calls demons to harvest your soul or just gathers friends for an evening of fun and mystique, remember, it was originally patented as a “toy or game.”
In the early 20th century the board was common in many homes. By the 1950s it was one of the most popular games in our society. In fact, during the 1960s the Ouija board at one point outsold the most popular game of the times, Monopoly. It was not until 1973 that the most evil stigma was placed on the board, thanks to the book and movie, "The Exorcist." Before that there were few but interesting accounts where the board was held accountable for incidents where the users claimed they were driven by the spirits they contacted with the "toy or game." Here are a few for you to peruse.
In 1921, a woman was sent to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation after authorities found her dead mother in her home. Although the mother may have died of natural causes, the woman explained that the spirits of the board told her to leave her mother in the home for fifteen days after she had passed.
In 1958, a Connecticut court refused to honor the will of Mrs. Helen Dow Peck. It seems a spirit called John Gale Forbes who Mrs. Peck talked to frequently via the Ouija board drew up the will. In the mystic will $1,000 dollars was left to her servants while the bodiless Mr. Forbes received $152,000. How he was going to use the money is almost as much a mystery as how Mrs. Peck conjured him in the first place.
In 1930 the newspapers wrote of an account where two women murdered another woman because the Ouija board told them to do so. There would be several cases of people creating this most heinous crime at the request of the "toy or game."
In 1934, fifteen-year-old Mattie Turley killed her father after a session with the Ouija board told her she had to. She served three years but was later released to a reform school until her twenty-first birthday.
Some people tempt fate by asking the board when they are going to die. One account states that two women were playing with the board when they were teenagers. They asked at what age they would die. One answer came back at eighty seven years of age while the other, more specific told them that one of them would not see their eighteenth birthday. Sure enough, according to the account, one of the girls died in a car accident two days before her eighteenth birthday.
In 1934 a young boy supposedly channeled the spirit of his grandmother. The spirit, according to accounts, was a malevolent one that tried to take over his body. Incidents included bed shaking, convulsions and other violent episodes, leading to an exorcism to release the young man from the hold of the demon. Sound familiar?
Not all stories concerning the Ouija board are of evil doing. Some folks have become famous or at least wealthy by channeling the spirits of the board and, unlike the bodiless Mr. Forbes, were able to spend the money earned from the board. Around 1916, Mrs. Pearl Curran wrote poems and stories she claimed were dictated to her by the spirit of a 17th century woman called Patience Worth. Emily Grant Hutchings, a friend of Mrs. Curran claimed the late Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, communicated her novel, Jap Herron, to her. Both credited the Ouija board as their mode of communication to the spirits.
James Merrill won a Pulitzer Prize for his acclaimed work. In 1982 his poem, "The Changing Light at Sandover" won an award. Merrill claimed the poem was inspired by the Ouija board, stating the board acted as a magnifier for the inspiration. Merrill wrote several works inspired by the board.
So as you can see, the Ouija board is not always a portal for demons to unleash their wrath. In fact, with some forty million boards sold and used frequently over the last 126 years, the amount of evil accounts is astonishingly low. Only since the movie in 1973 do we see the board become a continual catalyst for evil spirits. Does anyone remember a fear of showers after "Psycho" or constantly looking up at telephone wires after the movie "The Birds?"