Article: The Ouija Board (and other fortune telling games)

Ouija Board
Ouija Board

Ouija Board usage will naturally rise in the month of October when daring Halloween celebrators look for some spooky fun. From the 1850’s to the 1950’s it was considered quite normal for the average person to communicate with the dead. It was the height of the spiritualist movement in the US and these practices were common. That’s why you can see older ads for the Ouija Board with whole families sitting around the living room, playing with the boards. It wasn’t until The Exorcist (1973) that the attitude toward Ouija Boards had changed. Nevertheless sales continue as curiosity sparks a need for answers to life’s mysteries.

Boards range from the basic Parker Brothers game sold at toy stores to elaborate wooden boards with fine wood-carved planchettes. However, anything can be used as a makeshift Ouija Board. A piece of cardboard box with the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ scribbled upon it, and another piece of cardboard cut into planchette shape can be used with the same effectiveness.

Using a Ouija Board

The players place their fingers upon the movable piece and ask questions. The belief is, in a successful reading the spirits will work through the energy of the ‘players’ and point the planchette to words or letters, in order to answer questions.

The Ouija board itself has no power. If it did toy stores across the nation would resemble Halloween haunted house attractions as ghosts and spirits spread from the confines of their little boxes and out into the aisles. The success of an Ouija Board reading is dependent upon the spirituality and openness of the individuals using it. Even a skeptic with a strong intuitive nature may get a good reading.

In using the Ouija Board, you are giving permission for spirits to use your physical body and to move your hands and fingers (partial possession). It is important to get information about not attracting negative entities through the board. Some advocate performing cleansing rituals before and after using a board, to clear the board of unwanted energies.

A brief history.

The use of planchette style writing dates back to the ancient Chinese, Song Dynasty, around 1100 AD. There is evidence that indicates items of this nature may have also been used in Ancient Egypt. The need for automatic writing involved not having to use a medium or oracle to divine messages from the spirit world. A sitting King who had little trust in others wanted to cut out the middle man, so to speak. Early modern versions of a planchette consisted of a small overturned wicker basket with a writing implement attached to the “front’ of it.

OuijaThe modern American Ouija board.

As early as the 1860’s, mediums and spiritualists were using a planchette for spirit contact to perform automatic writing. Soon mediums were using a large card (or board) with letters on it so the planchette could point to specific symbols on the card.  By 1886 the modern talking board was born. Letters, numbers, yes/no and hello/goodbye printed or hand written upon them gave the boards a standard format that could be easily duplicated. Elijah J. Bond of Maryland was the first to patent and promote the talking board / planchette combination as a novelty. His business partner would come to name it the Ouija Board. But it was William Fuld that made the Ouija Board company an even bigger name and would later be known as the father of the modern Ouija board. He took over the company in the late 1890’s and successfully maneuvered it through the later half of the American spiritualist movement. In 1966 the company was sold to Parker Brothers (later taken over by Hasbro).

A scientific look.

Physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter published a report on automatic movements of muscle groups called the ideometer effect in 1852. This would become the best explanation for why an Ouija Board Planchette moves. Skeptics explain the movement of the planchette as automatism or collective automatism, which is to say that the hands moving the planchette are being instructed directly by the subconscious, leaving the conscious mind unaware of the intentions or mechanics of the movement. The way they explain it is like when a person cries when watching a sad movie. They have no intention to cry, it just happens.


Other fortune telling games and boards existed but never reached the popularity of the Ouija Board.

Black Cat Fortune Game
Black Cat Fortune Game

The Black Cat Fortune Telling Game

The Black Cat Fortune Telling Game consists of 24 cards separated into 6 groups. Past, Present, Future, Love Matters, General Advice, and Danger. Each card has 24 short phrases on them. 4 cards are chosen and laid out before the player. The phrases on the back will align to make a sentence across the 4 cards by choosing the segments in a numbered order, 1, 2, 3, and 4. There are thousands of combinations that can be drawn making it seem like a personalized reading.

The game is said to originate in Salem MA, in 1897 and owned from it‘s beginnings by Parker Brothers. It is classified in the subgenre of Fortune Telling as Cartomancy, which is divination through playing cards, tarot cards, or oracle cards.

Gypsy Witch
Gypsy Witch

Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards

The Gypsy Witch Cards are a regular card deck with additional symbols and meanings printed in the middle or corner of the deck. It is a variation of a Lenormand deck, named for Mademoiselle Lenormand, who used regular playing cards to tell fortunes. She had some famous clients such as Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, Empress Josephine. The Gypsy Witch cards would eventually become the most popular fortune telling deck in America. Naturally the deck is also classified as Cartomancy.

Ka Bala
Ka Bala

Ka-Bala – the Mysterious Game that Foretells the Future


This Transogram fortune telling game from 1967 can provide three different readings. It can answer questions, read your fortune via Tarot cards (included with set) or it can read your Horoscope. What’s more, it glows in the dark and Eye of Zohar, watches from the center of the board. You roll a black marble around the board in its track and where it lands determines your fortune.

You can play a simple online version of Ka-Bala here:

3 Replies to “Article: The Ouija Board (and other fortune telling games)”

  1. Gypsy, I know exactly how you felt! And, I pearsnolly would never, ever use RED candles when approaching Spirit contact. (Just a suggestion. I use white or purple or gold, unless I’m doing a ritual that calls for a certain color such as green or blue for healing, rosypink for love, etc.) Decades ago when my son was 13, I had a Board. He wanted to use it with me, so one night we had it in the master bedroom on a small table between us. This story, BTW, is completely true, every aspect of it. I had done prayerwork and invoked the Light, and it was this experience that taught me we don’t know everything there is to know yet about self-protection! As we were sitting there, there was suddenly the sound of a tinkling glass over my son’s head, in the air, and then we both heard the sound, in the room but seeming from a distance,of a dog barking.The dog bark seemed to be in the middle of the king-sized bed. Both of us looked, and a tiny wet spot appeared in the center of the quilt. As we watched in horror, the wet spot spread and spread, giving off the distinct odor of urine. It stopped when it was about two feet in diameter. Goes without saying, I burned the quilt, and burned the Board, but didn’t burn the Board until that episode was followed by several days of terrifying events.That series of related incidents represents the only negative experiences I’ve had in my many years of Spirit contact, and they left me with the awareness that we must use caution and learn to recognize the energies of higher and lower vibrations! I leave Ouija use to others! Do you still use a Board, Gyps? I know Ruth Montgomery began with one and then switched to her typewriter. I write prolifically in a deeply altered state of consciousness, either with a pen or even on the computer. Different strokes for different folks, no pun intended! cj

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