Here’s what I learned last week at the Salem Witch Board Museum. This unassuming little one-and-a-half-room exhibition, hidden in the back of a souvenir shop, was surprisingly dense with information!
The earliest “talking” boards originated in Victorian times (around 1850), as Spiritualism rose to fame. Many Americans started to believe communication was possible between the living and the dead, and soon the Ouija became very popular as a parlor-room game.
The device got its official name during an 1890 seance with medium Helen Peters Nosworthy, who asked the previously nameless talking board what it would like to be called. It spelled out O-U-I-J-A.
The board is rumored to have correctly guessed the name of the patent officer, whereupon he immediately awarded the manufacturers their patent.
In 1933, Ernest Turley was shot and killed by his teenage daughter after the board spelled out “Daddy must die.” Later it was revealed that his wife, Dorothea, was manipulating the planchette.
The world’s largest Ouija board (pictured below) is 3,168 square feet (that’s bigger than most parking lots) and weighs 9,000 pounds. It was displayed in the Salem Common just last weekend, complete with a fully operational, 15-foot moveable planchette.
Photos by K.O.