OUIJA BOARD - PART 2
Yesterday I mentioned Charles Kennard and one of his more prominent investors in the Kennard Novelty Company, Elijah Bond, a patent lawyer. But in reality, it was Bond's sister-in-law, Helen Peters, who claimed to be a strong spiritual medium, that played a major role in securing the patent and giving the talking board it's now famous name.
On a day in late April of 1890, Kennard, Bond and Bond's sister-in-law, Peters, had a seance and and while communing with the spirits, asked the board what it would like to be called. The letters "O-U-I-J-A" were spelled out. When asked what the name meant, it answered, "G-O-O-D L-U-C-K."
According to letters of the founders and interviews with their descendants, Smithsonian Magazine reports, that Peters acknowledge that she wore a locket with author and activist, Maria Louise Rame Ouida's pen name Quida on it.
Was it a mis-spelling of an admired author? Or did the board actually name itself?
In order to get a patent, they had to prove the board worked. The patent officer, who's name was unknown (supposedly, but Bond was a patent lawyer) to both Bond and Peters, told them if the board knew his name, the patent was theirs. The three of them sat around the board as Peters spoke to the spirits, asking for the officer's name. To his complete surprise, the board correctly spelled out his name. A startled and somewhat unnerved patent officer gave them the patent that same day, February 10, 1891.
The Ouija Board was a success! By 1892, The Kennard Novelty Company had two factories in Baltimore, 2 in New York, 2 in Chicago and 1 in London. By 1893, Kennard and Bond left the company and William Fuld (one of the original investors) took over the company. In 1898, Col. Bowie, the majority stockholder, licensed the the rights to make the Ouija Board. The next few years were fill with fights and squabbles over money, who invented it and who invested in it. In 1919, Bowie sold his business interest to William Fuld (an early investor), who died in 1927 in an accident - during construction, he fell off the roof of a new factory - one that the Ouija Board told him to build...
Ouija's popularity grew. Norman Rockwell drew a couple playing the Ouija Board that graced the cover off The Saturday Evening Post on May 1, 1920.
In 1951, an episode of I Love Lucy called "The Seance" aired that featured a Ouija Board and a seance.
In 1960, in an episode of Dennis the Menace, Dennis wants to win a car raffle for his mother and buys the ticket number that the Ouija Board recommended to him.
In 1962 the Fuld family sold to Parker Bothers, who re-released The Ouija Board under their name and it outsold its most popular game ever, Monopoly. Eventually, Hasbro bought out Parker Brothers.
For the most part, The Ouija Board was regarded as a parlor game for everyone, families, adults - fun yet mysterious. There was some push back. Some Catholics who prayed to saints were drawn to the Ouija Board and the church warned against it. During WWI, the board's popularity spike on college campuses and some professors referred to it as a 'national menace.' But it wasn't until
1971 and 1973 when the book and movie of The Exorcist, scared the hell out of a lot of people.
Based loosely on a real exorcism performed by the Catholic Church in 1949, the book follows a 12 yr girl (it was boy in real life) Reagan who seems to become possessed by the devil or demon after playing with her Spiritualist aunt's Ouija Board.
And just like that, in less than a New York minute, the Ouija Board was suddenly a tool of the devil and opened the Gates to Hell to anyone who played with it. As recent as 2001 in New Mexico, groups had bonfires to burn Harry Potter Books along with Ouija Boards. In 2011 Pat Robertson assured us once again the demons can reach us through the Ouija Board. It's popularity waned, but thousands were still sold each year.
The last few years interest has been renewed. Ouija Boards popped up on newer shows like Breaking Bad, Castle, and Rizzoli and Isles and many paranormal and ghost hunting shows.
In 2013, Hasbro released a "mystical" board that replaced a glow-in-the-dark version. What ever your feelings are on The Ouija Board, I think and hope it's here to stay.
I played all the time when I was a kid. We scared ourselves, because we wanted to and it was fun. I've played as an adult as well, at Halloween parities, etc., but I never had anything bad or evil happen to me.
**I'd like to thank The Smithsonian Magazine, The Baltimore Magazine and Time Magazine for their interesting articles and fascinating information on The Ouija Board.
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