A Gift For the Grand Hostess, Willow – Ouija, anyone?

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:

How to use a Ouija.

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)

Awakenings (1990)

Witchboard (1986)

The Exorcist (1971)

***Information extracted from Wikipedia. Some details may be questionable, but still fun!


16 thoughts on “A Gift For the Grand Hostess, Willow – Ouija, anyone?

  1. Ooh Kat, these scare the bejesus out of me. I suspect that stems from Captain Howdy (I saw The Exorcist at a ludicrously young age due to an older brother and his girlfriend sneaking me into a cinema: suspect this scarred me for life) and the story (from another older brother) of the girl who got blown out of a window at school after using one. And probably subsequently died, or something.I see I shall have to think twice before inviting you for dinner!


  2. Kat, Bertie and Jeeves, thank you SO much!! You are exactly right! This magnificent vintage board is much needed at the manor! :DI knew nothing of the background of the Ouija board. Fascinating post. My favorite of the Ouija movies you have listed is “What Lies Beneath”, which I think is very scary!Now, I'm off to read Plath's poem again…


  3. Stephanie, it IS creepy, I agree. I had one as a kid and I'm actually surprised that I had one since “Santa” brought it and in our Catholic home that was quite the no-no, so I don't know what my Dad was thinking!Titus – I have yet to see The Exorcist in its entirety and doubt I will ever manage it. As for the ouija board, you won't find one in the Hyggehus!Willow – We are so glad you like our gift. We can't wait to hear what you summon up from the other world!I have added Plath's poem to the post so that others may “enjoy” it.Betsy, neither can I!Deb, I've never heard that term, “wimwams” – sounds native Indian. Where did that come from? I'd love to hear all about your university ouija experience. My friend Jane and her sisters and I practiced levitation in her basement once and it actually worked! Weird huh?


  4. What a fabulous post! This is right up my alley. My best friend and I had several odd experiences with her Ouija board when I was little…This makes me think I need to get another one. It's going on my birthday list!


  5. Excellent choice, Kat. It's interesting that the board was meant to be set on the knees of a man and a woman. A pretext for a little game of footsies, maybe? And of course, if the lady came down with a case of the vapours, her gallant companion could catch her as she fell. Oh, the possibilities!


  6. My son came home one morning after a night of heavy drinking, band playing and home made pizza and ouija . .his face was ashen . .he was convinced that the thing worked and has vowed NEVER to touch one again . . .great story but . .I dunno . .how do you know someone's not pushing the envelope! I'd leave the ghosts, no guarantee the residents will come through on the ouija . . .


  7. Ah, I love Ouija boards.;) I even tried to use one with some kids when I was a teenager, and it was a bit spooky. Loved all the history behind the name.;)Hope your weekend is lovely.:)xoxoZuzana


  8. I shall have to come back to read this one properly, Kat. I'm using a tiny netbook at home, and it's hard to read anything longer, but this really caught my eye. SOme other kids and I used to play with ouija boards when I was in elementary school, and thoroughly creep ourselves out!


  9. Love that post! I have a Ouija board but haven't really used it much. I prefer my Tarot cards. I didn't know much about the history of it, so thanks for sharing that. It was very interesting. I enjoyed the poem by Plath, very chilling! I'd never read that one before. Interesting that it was based on her experiences with the board.Have a great day!


  10. Hello Kat,Very interesting info on the Ouija!Thank you for sharing. The poem is very scary too. great poem. I'll have to click on the link you have and check out the Ouija info a bit further.Have a great evening,Lydia


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