When you think of the term “Ouija”, you probably think of the supernatural link between the known and the unknown, mostly because of the extremely popular board game, the Ouija Board, that came out in 1891 in Pittsburgh. The goal of the game is to make contact with surrounding spirits that may be invading your home by asking the spirits a question, and then placing your fingers on the planchette and letting it slide to either the letters, numbers, or the yes and the no for their response.
Today most people are very skeptical about such a thing, and even more people are against it, but about 100 years ago the game was quite popular. The Ouija board, in fact, came straight out of the American 19th century obsession with spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living. Spiritualism worked for Americans: it was compatible with Christians, meaning that one could hold a séance on Saturday night and have no qualms about going to church the next day. It was an acceptable, even wholesome activity to contact spirits at séances, through automatic writing, or table-turning parties, where participants would place their hands on a small table and watch it begin shake and rattle, while they all declared that they weren’t moving it.
Spiritualism offered comfort in a time period where the average life span was less than 50. Women died in childbirth, men died in wars, and children died of various dangerous diseases. The Ouija Board offered a way to communicate with dead loved ones, so it’s no surprise why it used to be so popular. Today communicating with the dead is considered to be a way to open the gates of Hell, but opening the gates of Hell wasn’t on anyone’s mind when they started the Kennard Novelty Company, the first producers of the Ouija board; in fact, they were mostly looking to open Americans’ wallets. Despite its past popularity, today the game is usually played as a test of courage, typically on the night of Halloween.