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Ouija and Espirito Indicator

June 28th 1892
Manitoba Daily Free Press, Winnipeg, Canada

Minds Upset by a Toy of Wonderful Possibilities if All Stories be True—The Ouija and the Planchette Compared—The Espirito Board.

At the beginning of the holiday season last year a new toy called “ouija” was introduced to the public. It was believed that it might amuse small gatherings for a season and then be cast aside and forgotten. The retailers, however, reported after the holidays that a new use had been found for the ouija. The spiritualists had seized upon it as an excellent substitute for the planchette, they said, and what had been intended to be only a plaything for idle hours became a medium for communications between believers and alleged inhabitants of the “spirit world.” Since the beginning of the year the ouija has been used at many gatherings of the Spiritualists. In New England, and Boston especially, the use of the ouija has become almost a craze among the believers, and wonderful stories are told of its effectiveness as a communicating medium between the living and the dead.

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Planchette Indicator

According to some of the enthusiasts, the spirits have taken to the ouija with marvelous zeal. The planchette was utterly discarded, but as the difference between the two is chiefly in details; the theory is practically the same. The planchette consisted of a heart shaped board with two little wheels under the large end to enable the spirits to move it easily. Under the pointed end was a pencil by means of which the supposed spirits wrote their messages to living friends. Usually the board was about six inches in length and by about four inches in width. Occasionally, although not often, it varied from the heart shape. The upper surface was polished usually. Sometimes the wheels were little metal caters, and at other times they were wooden wheels. In either case, they were made so that the board could be wheeled in any direction. The pencil could be of lead, in which case the writing was done on paper, or of slate, when the message was written on a school slate.

Two persons operated the planchette, under the supposed influence of the spirits. The planchette was placed on the slate or paper, and the living operators sat on opposites sides of it, each one resting the fingers of both hands lightly on the polished surface. The planchette created a great furor, but the exposers of the unscrupulous operators destroyed the popular interest in it, although Spiritualists generally yet give it credence.

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Ouija Board Design

The ouija is very similar, but no writing is done with it. The ouija is a heart-shaped board of about the same size as the planchette. Instead of wheels or castors, it is supported by three little legs, two at the large end and one at the point, with little pieces of felt at the ends. The ouija is placed on the polished surface of a board about two feet in length and one in width. The letters of the alphabet and the words Yes and No are painted on the board. The operator’s sit on opposite sides of the board, with their fingers resting lightly on the ouija. The point of the latter is the indicator. It may move backward, forward, or laterally, to any letter or word on the board.

Some say that there is less chance of fraud with the ouija than with the planchette, while others maintain the opposite. Those who have faith in it tell marvelous stories of the operations of the ouija. They say that intricate questions, prepared by strangers to the operators, and known only to the former, have been answered correctly and rapidly.

The intense excitement that accompanies many of the ouija demonstrations has resulted seriously in a number of instances. Reports from various parts of the country where the ouija has been taken up how that a number of believers have had their minds upset by the nervous excitement. A recent dispatch from Liberty, Ind., said that John Chapman and his wife, a prosperous couple of that town, had gone stark mad because the ouija demonstrations had overexcited them.

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Espirito Board Design

A new arrangement, similar to the ouija, has been introduced recently. It is called “espirito.” The main difference between it and the ouija, as can be seen from the illustration, is that the former has a great many more words. Dealers say that this, too, has been taken up by the Spiritualists, who say it is an improvement on the ouija, dictated by the same inventive spirits that presented the planchette and the ouija to believers, through the medium of living persons. The inventors are merely the instruments of these spirits, the Spiritualist say.