Victorian Ouija Board
Antique Victorian Ouija Board, c. 1890s. This is one of the first mass-produced talking boards which were said to allow communication with the spirit world.
Talking boards emerged out of the Spiritualist movement, in which mediums contacted the dead by various means. In the decades after the Civil War, Spiritualism surged in popularity and the use of talking boards became common practice in Spiritualist circles years prior to the “invention” of the Ouija Board, which was named and patented in Baltimore in 1890 by Elijah Bond. The name “Ouija” was supposedly shared through use of the talking board, and was said to be an ancient Egyptian word for “good luck.” However, it was probably just a fusion of the French and German words for “yes.”
Well over a hundred years old and clearly well used, this talking board was perhaps employed by multiple generations to attempt to contact the dead. Those people too are now dead, but this piece of stenciled and varnished wood remains, a strange toy which commodified both grief and belief. Is it a flimsy door between the realm of the living and the dead, as many hope? Or is it an impregnable temporal wall to which we the living press our ears, behind which each of its supplicants becomes silent in due time? As an object, this antique Ouija board itself exists in the afterlife, with perhaps hundreds of hands having all followed the planchette to a final “Goodbye.”
15 inches tall
22 inches wide
Very good condition, with some small chips on the edges of the wood, a well-worn surface from the sliding planchette, and slight warpage. The original planchette is lost.
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