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Talking Board Illustration 1886

March 28th 1886
New York Daily Tribune


“Planchette is simply nowhere,” said a Western man at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, “compared with the new scheme for mysterious communication that is being used out in Ohio. I know of whole communities that are wild over the 'talking board,' as some of them call it. I have never heard any name for it. But I have seen and heard some of the most remarkable things about its operations - things that seem to pass all human comprehension or explanation.”

“What is the board like?”

“Give me a pencil and I will show you. The first requisite is the operating board. It may be rectangular, about 18 x 20 inches. It is inscribed like this:

“The 'yes' and the 'no' are to start and stop the conversation. The 'good-evening' and 'good-night' are for courtesy. Now a little table three or four inches high is prepared with four legs. Any one can make the whole apparatus in fifteen minutes with a jack-knife and a marking brush. You take the board in your lap, another person sitting down with you. You each grasp the little table with the thumb and forefinger at each corner next to you. Then the question is asked, 'Are there any communications?' Pretty soon you think the other person is pushing the table. He thinks you are doing the same. But the table moves around to 'yes' or 'no.' Then you go on asking questions and the answers are spelled out by the legs of the table resting on the letters one after the other. Sometimes the table will cover two letters with its feet, and then you hang on and ask that the table will be moved from the wrong letter, which is done. Some remarkable conversations have been carried on until men have become in a measure superstitious about it. I know of a gentleman whose family became so interested in playing with the witching thing that he burned it up. The same night he started out of town on a business trip. The members of his family looked for the board and could not find it. They got a servant to make them a new one. Then two of them sat down and asked what had become of the other table. The answer was spelled out, giving a name, 'Jack burned it.' There are, of course, any number of nonsensical and irrelevant answers spelled out, but the workers pay little heed to them. If the answers are relevant they talk them over with a superstitious awe. One gentleman of my acquaintance told me that he got a communication about a title to some property from his dead brother, which was of great value to him. It is curious, according to those who have worked most with the new mystery, that while two persons are holding the table a third person, sitting in the same room some distance away, may ask the questions without even speaking them aloud, and the answers will show they are intended for him. Again, answers will be returned to the inquiries of one of the persons operating when the other can get no answers at all. In Youngstown, Canton, Warren, Tiffin, Mansfield, Akron, Elyria, and a number of other places in Ohio I heard that there was a perfect craze over the new planchette. Its use and operation have taken the place of card parties. Attempts are made to verify statements that are made about living persons, and in some instances they have succeeded so well as to make the inquirers still more awe-stricken.”