Eventually my nephew started to show us youtube videos, in particular Lupus Creepus and his ‘Will it Kill Me’ series where he tests urban myths and legends to see… well, if performing the rituals described in them kills. Which presumably they haven’t so far as he’s still making these videos I believe. Unless he’s a ghost, in which case I guess he’s not in any more danger. I asked them if they had ever done anything scary, and my niece said that in school she had used a Ouija board. Apparently, someone called Dee murdered someone called Edd. That was it. She didn’t seem very scared or freaked out by it, and actually tried to get us to perform some of the rituals we were watching. In truth though, that’s probably the attitude most people had to Ouija boards back when they were first invented, in 1890.
You see, the Ouija board and the reputation it has today is essentially just the result of very successful marketing. It ‘works’ because of the ideometer effect, which has been known about for 160 years. In the nineteenth century, spiritualism was becoming very popular in Europe and the United States and a few people had started to use talking boards as a quick way of contacting deceased spirits. In 1890 a group of businessmen were brought together by a man from Baltimore and came up with Ouija board, marketed as a parlor game that all the family could enjoy, offering them never-failing amusement. But although they filed a patent, they were deliberately mysterious and vague about how the board worked and even the origins of the name ‘Ouija’, which they claimed had been given to them while using the board itself. It’s mostly likely just a typo of the name Ouida who was a well-known author at the time. The thing is, no one was really frightened by these things back then – it was mostly just a curiosity. It wasn’t until movies like The Exorcist that it became seen as demonic (I mean some people were already suspicious of them, and Ouija boards had been linked to ctimes and even murder with the perpetrators claiming the board had told them to do it. But there’s nothing like a movie to really popularise an idea and cement it in the public consciousness).
The rights to the Ouija name and brand were bought by toy and game maker Parker Brothers in the sixties. Parker Brothers are in turn now owned by Hasbro… yes, the same people who make My Little Pony also own Ouija. As if further proof of those things being satanic were needed.