Now the trademark of a “game” owned by Parker Brothers, it is simply a board that has letters, numbers, and perhaps a few words printed on it. In use, people put their fingers on a pointer known as a planchette, ask a question, and allow their minds to calm. Soon, the planchette starts to move, seemingly on its own, pointing to the symbols on the board to respond to the questions. Answers may come from spirits or from the participant’s unconscious minds.
The use of this type of spirit communication using a “talking board” was popular in the late 1800s, often using an overturned goblet to point to the letters. In the 1890s, two businessmen patented the planchette with a board and sold them as a novelty. Their employee, William Fuld, eventually started to market his own version which he called the Ouija (from the French Oui, and German Ja, both meaning “yes”) and claimed to have invented it.
Although Fuld’s version is the best known, others have marketed similar board and planchette combinations that have different appearances to about trademark disputes.