In thanks for a most splendid time at the Willow Manor Ball on Tuesday, October 13, Kitty Mangleword and Bertram Wooster wish to present this original Charles Kennard 1891 Ouija board to the lovely lady Willow, herself. (Don’t ask where we found it. Let’s just say, poor Jeeves is now very familiar with the mystic voodoo culture of old N’Orleans, and leave it at that.) Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain Jeeves’s sanction – something about “curses”. Sorry Jeeves, Darling, but we don’t believe that tommyrot!
Also known as a “spirit board” or “talking board”, the Ouija uses a planchette (a small indicator in the shape of a heart) to allow spirits to indicate what they wish to communicate.
Incidentally, according to Wikipedia, the origin of the word, “Ouija” may come from one of three sources: the French word “oui” for yes, coupled with the German yes-word, “ja”. Alternatively, Wikipedia suggests that there is some story about Kennard, having had the word revealed to him during a Ouija seance, claiming it to be Ancient Egyptian for “Good Luck”. The third possibility is that the word was inspired by the Moroccan city of “Oudja”
Bertie and I just know that Willow and her family will have a marvellous time getting through to the Willow Manor ghosts (see her sidebar for links to WM Ghost stories).
Willow, you’ll love this: Apparently, in the early 1900s Pearl Curran, a housewife from St. Louis, who fancied herself a poet used the board to “channel” her poetry through a spirit called Patience Worth. Willow Dear, give it a go with the board and see if it works for you. If not, I’ll take a crack at it and see if it improves my work! If all else fails, it’ll be fun to channel something for TFE’s Poetry Bus (see MY sidebar for details).
Getting back to the history: In 1917 another woman claimed to have channelled a book from Mark Twain through her Ouija board! The Twain family sued, I believe.
Ooh! It gets better and better! (Kitty’s getting shivers now!) Sylvia Plath, (are you listening TFE?) has a poem called “Ouija” (you probably knew that, didn’t you, you Plathophile!) which came about as a result of Sylvia and Ted Hughes working with the board. Ooh! Very scary!
G.K. Chesterton, around 1893, consulted the Ouija board during a period of skepticism and depression and subsequently, became temporarily fascinated with the Occult.
American Poet, James Ingram Merrill also claimed to have used the powers of the Ouija board to create in the latter half of his writing career.***
Wow! Willow, I think this is the start of something! Keep us apprized of the results, won’t you?
Kitty, Bertie and (Jeeves, reluctantly)
Original Kennard Ouija Board (1891) (identifiable by the two arrowheads around the trademark name)
According to website, Museum of Talking Boards, Charles Kennard’s first planchette was not heart-shaped, but paddle-shaped and perched on 1/2 inch legs. It was quite large, being eight inches long. Directions beneath the planchette require that the board be kept on the knees of two persons – a lady and gentleman ideally, and the planchette kept on the board. Using a light touch, the fingers were placed on the planchette to enable it to move freely.
Here’s a good link to get you primed and ready to give it a whirl:
Ouija by Sylvia Plath
It is a chilly god, a god of shades,
Rises to the glass from his black fathoms.
At the window, those unborn, those undone
Assemble with the frail paleness of moths,
An envious phosphorescence in their wings.
Vermillions, bronzes, colors of the sun
In the coal fire will not wholly console them.
Imagine their deep hunger, deep as the dark
For the blood-heat that would ruddle or reclaim.
The glass mouth sucks blooh-heat from my forefinger.
The old god dribbles, in return, his words.
The old god, too, write aureate poetry
In tarnished modes, maundering among the wastes,
Fair chronicler of every foul declension.
Age, and ages of prose, have uncoiled
His talking whirlwind, abated his excessive temper
When words, like locusts, drummed the darkening air
And left the cobs to rattle, bitten clean.
Skies once wearing a blue, divine hauteur
Ravel above us, mistily descend,
Thickening with motes, to a marriage with the mire.
He hymns the rotten queen with saffron hair
Who has saltier aphrodisiacs
Than virgins’ tears. That bawdy queen of death,
Her wormy couriers aer at his bones.
Still he hymns juice of her, hot nectarine.
I see him, horny-skinned and tough, construe
What flinty pebbles and ploughable upturns
As ponderable tokens of her love.
He, godly, doddering, spells
No succinct Gabriel from the letters here
But floridly, his amorous nostalgias.
*Note: in the Faber edition of Plath’s poems, notes provided by Ted Hughes include a few pages of a poem based on the dialogue between two participants at a Ouija board: Sibyl and Leroy. This is the basis for the above poem. Chilling, isn’t it?
Some films that incorporate the element of a “Ouija” board:
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Long Time Dead (2002)
Only You (1994)
The Exorcist (1971)
***Information extracted from Wikipedia. Some details may be questionable, but still fun!