Ok. I admit it! I’m CRAZY about Talking Boards! Ouija… Weedja… Yogee… whatever the name or registered trade mark, I thoroughly enjoy these “toys.” I admire them as art. I admire them as an unexplained piece of PSI work.
I also like how Talking Boards often reflect the time in which the appeared. Here’s a 1921 Norman Rockwell illustration for The Saturday Evening Post:
Note the ethereal look on the face of the young woman… and the drooling lechery of the young man! In the 1920s, the Ouija provided an acceptable way for a couple to make a modicum of physical contact. Now here’s a clean-cut looking ad from the swinging year of 1968:
Not much had changed over the decades. Note also that Ouija was considered a wholesome game. Not until the 1970s and the movie The Exorcist were talking boards considered a demonic threat. In fact, sales of talking boards would skyrocket in times of war. WW1 saw a huge boom in sales – as did the 1960s at the height of the Vietnam War. In fact, that’s when Ouija boards actually outsold Monopoly to become the top-selling “game.”
Here is a Glow In The Dark board from WW2 – with the original planchette. Both from my personal, if modest, collection.
Continuing the theme of Talking Boards Through The Ages, here’s a modern take that illustrates what I mean about the boards reflecting their time:
Now HERE is perhaps the strangest manifestation of a Talking Board – it combines Ouija with Tarot – and it seriously upset many parents back in the 60s when it was marketed to children as a game! These, like most old Talking Board items are highly coveted and highly priced today.
More recently, Hasbro, the current maker of Ouija® products, seriously outrages a whole swath of the population when they made and marketed this cute pink board to little girls:
Today these boards turn a nifty profit if you can find one. I bought a few for under $10 each and sold them for a ridiculous profit. Who says occultists have their heads in the clouds?
That little pointing thing that moves across the talking board goes by the name “PLANCHETTE” – derived from the French word for “little plank.” Before it became part of the talking board, people used the Planchette with a stylus (later a pen or pencil) to spell out messages. Put the thing on a piece of paper, put your hands on it and watch it start moving – as it writes messages on the page.
Such items still exist! I have a beautifully made, hand-crafted writing Planchette created by a noted British artist, although I confess I have not used it much.
For a less expensive alternative to the hand-made Planchette I suggest The Ghost Writer kit. This has everything you need to get going, including an instruction book.
What Makes This Stuff Work?
So how do these things work? Nobody really knows. But the prevailing “scientific” explanation involves something called The Ideomotor Effect. This means that when we touch the planchette and it moves across the board, we do it subconsciously because of mini-muscle contractions in our fingertips. Nice try, but with a simple tool I have disproved this. Look:
Here is a simple, pocket-sized device that works by spinning a wheel. I tried it out one fine day by asking the all-important question: Should I go into the kitchen and bake some loaves of French bread?
Three spins of the wheel gave me the answer: Q…X…R.
Baffled? New Yorkers will recognize the call letters of our only classical radio station WQXR-FM. And how’s that any kind of an answer? This is how: owing to the peculiarities of residing in a city of steel and concrete, the only radio in our apartment that can receive that station is… the radio in our kitchen! Since the reading involved three random spins, that rules out the Ideomotor Effect. In a further experience, I once asked what I’d be doing in the immediate future. The device gave me the letters KW. And within 15 minutes I received a telephone call from a friend whose initials are… KW.
There’s nary a person alive who is not familiar with Talking Boards. They offer a rite of passage for young girls at slumber parties – and the myths associated with the board reveal a great deal about the fears of society. Or… they’re just fun! Here’s a piece of sheet music, the 1920 version of a Streaming Download, from one of America’s most prolific composers:
Harry Von Tilzer’s brother Albert composed Take Me Out To The Ball Game. Can anything get more All-American than that?
Collecting talking boards makes an excellent hobby and a sound investment. These items go up in value almost monthly. Remember that WW2 Yogee board and planchette of mine, shown above? I bought them just 8 years ago for less than the price of a movie ticket. Within weeks I sold a similar board for almost 5 times that. And if they don’t go up in value, you will still have a wonderful and artistic piece of Americana.
For completionists, here’s the original 1891 Ouija Board patent. For serious fans, click on the image to go to The Talking Board Historical Society – a monumental achievement in uncovering and maintaining the history of Ouija in particular and all talking boards in general.
For insight into using a Talking Board, here’s an old book recently reissued with an introduction by… me!
The board at the top of this page is the current version sold by Hasbro.
WINNING MOVES sells a more traditional board, made of wood. Click the image to see their site.
The Latest Ouija Technology!
Are you pushing that planchette? NO, I’M NOT! You are!
The eternal question – are your friends playing fair? In the past we could never know. Well now we can know! The iWay Planchette is an electronic device that will show us if anyone exerts too much pressure on the planchette to manipulate it. I don’t know if these are still in production, but they can be found at auction sites. Why, I may even be tempted to part with mine…