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November 20th 1939
The Baltimore Sun
(Copyright © Reprinted with permission from the Baltimore Sun)
OUIJA — ALLEGED STYLUS FOR SPIRITS
It was interesting from The Sun of yesterday that the popularization of the Ouija board forty-odd years ago was the work of a Baltimorean, the late Mr. Isaac Fuld. This simple little device has in its time amused thousands with mild parlor experiments in automatic writing and prophecy.
Strictly speaking, the Ouija board is exactly that — it is a board marked with the alphabet, numerals and the words “yes” and “no.” The miniature table, usually heart shaped, which glides over the board without the conscious direction of the fingertips that are rested on it, of course, a much older toy. It is called a planchette and it made its really public appearance nearly a century ago. In its original form it did not have three legs or castors, but only two, the third point of contact consisting of a vertical pencil. Under the effortless direction of the fingers this pencil might slowly trace lines or letters; or even under more expert — or nervous hands, produce words and sentences. The more recent ouija game is simply a pencilless planchette that points to letters on the board.
Both have found favor as amusements and also as the objects of serious, often indeed, rather grim, purpose. There was a period when the planchette was treated in some circles in America as a jittery stylus for spirits or, rather, a mystical telegraph connecting mere humans with the vast unknown. Whole thick books, have (allegedly) been written with it, the operator obediently taking the dictation of his remote collaborator. If non of these works are popular today either as revelation or travel literature, it is not the fault of the little instrument but of the ghostly genius that used it. In the less sensitive and industrious hands of the ordinary person Ouija and planchette have experienced the usual cycles of favor and neglect and today have their own place in the little history of indoor entertainments beside such entertainments as cross-word puzzles, mah-jong, backgammon and anagrams.