Who Invented the Ouija Board

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Bellis, Mary. "Who Invented the Ouija Board." ThoughtCo, Aug. 4, 2016, thoughtco.com/who-invented-the-ouija-board-1991876. Bellis, Mary. (2016, August 4). Who Invented the Ouija Board. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-the-ouija-board-1991876 Bellis, Mary. "Who Invented the Ouija Board." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-the-ouija-board-1991876 (accessed October 24, 2017).
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Who Invented the Ouija Board

Ouija board pointing to
Jeffrey Coolidge/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you don't know what a Ouija board is by now you obviously don't follow spooky stuff, don't believe in Halloween, don't believe you can communicate with spirits, and don't watch horror films. A Ouija Board is traditionally a wooden board decorated with the following characters:

  • the numbers 0–9
  • the 26 letters of the alphabet
  • the words "yes" and "no" 
  • "goodbye" and sometimes "hello"
  • and sometimes a few other symbols and graphics for decoration and/or spiritual meaning

Accompanying the board is a smaller heart-shaped piece of wood called the planchette. The purpose of the Ouija Board is to receive messages from angels, spirits, or dead relatives. Messages are received during a seance with one or more participants, usually more people makes for more fun (or trouble). All those participating place their fingers on the planchette, and the idea is that spiritual forces will move the planchette around the Ouija Board, the planchette will point to the various characters on the board, giving and spelling out messages from those spirits. You can consider Ouija Boards as fun toys, spiritual tools, or the devil's handiwork (according to a few Christian groups), and that choice I leave to you.

Who Invented The Ouija Board

Oracles have been using divination and receiving messages from spirits through out human civilization. The use of a planchette type device can be traced back to the Chinese Song Dynasty circa 1100 AD. The Chinese scholars of the Quanzhen School practiced a form of automatic writing called fuji that involved using a planchette and contacting the spirit world. Scriptures of the Daozang are considered to be works of automatic planchette writing.

However, we can consider two men to be the modern inventors of the Ouija Board, who also were the first to mass manufacture and distribute commercial Ouija Boards. Businessman and attorney, Elijah Bond began selling Ouija Boards with planchettes on July 1, 1890 as novelty entertainment items. 

Elijah Bond and co-inventor Jishnu Thyagarajan were the first inventors to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet and other characters were printed. The patent was filed for on May 28, 1890, and  U.S. Patent 446,054 patent was granted on February 10, 1891. There is a photo of the original  U.S. Patent 446,054 patent on the next page.

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The First Patent For The Ouija Board

US446054-0 Patent

The illustration on this page is the actual U.S. Patent number 446,054 granted to Elijah Bond on February 10, 1891. However, in 1901 Elijah Bond sold his patent rights to the Ouija Board to his employee William Fuld who continued to have the novelty item manufactured and sold.

Ouija Trademark

It was William Fuld who actually came up with the name Ouija to call his boards, up to that time the boards were called many other things including, talking board and spirit board.

William Fuld claimed that another former employer of his came up with the name during a Ouija board session and that it was Egyptian for "good luck". Fuld changed that story later and claimed that "Ouija" was a combination of French and German for "yes".

And that wasn't the only piece of history that William Fuld tried to rewrite. While Fuld did much to make Ouija boards popular, he did not invent them, however, he did try to claim he did.

The term "Ouija" was trademark registered, however, because Ouija has been used so often, generically it now refers to any talking board