Do Ouija Boards Really Work?

An early ad for Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board describes the product as “proven at Patent Office before it was allowed” -- a claim that's basically true, according to historian Robert Murch. Descendants of creator Elijah J. Bond told Murch that the chief patent officer demanded a demonstration, in order to verify that the board actually could bring answers from the spirit world. The patent official, along with Bond and his sister-in-law, sat down and asked the spirit board to spell the official’s name -- supposedly unknown to the applicants. When the planchette led to the correct letters, the visibly shaken official granted patent No. 446,054, issued in February 1891.

Casting a spell at the patent office:

  • The historian notes that Bond was a patent attorney and may have known the names of all the patent office officials in Washington, DC, especially the ones whom he was likely to encounter.
  • Murch adds that the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1890 states that there were 30 patent examiners working at the office at that time.
  • Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters, was responsible for the name, pronounced wee-ja. The family says that Peters asked the board what its name should be and the board spelled out O-U-I-J-A.
More Info: Smithsonian magazine

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"If there really is an afterlife, I'll bet the best way to contact it is through a plastic, mass-produced board game from Milton Bradley!" --Mad Magazine

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