Welcome to Dread: The Unsolved. I’ve never owned a Ouija board. I’ve never owned a spirit board, nor a talk board. Of course, these are all three the same thing. I feel like I missed out on a crucial part of being a teenager. Maybe I’ve seen too many horror movies. I feel like a group of teens gathering to spook each other with a Ouija board is a kind of rite of passage. I missed out on that in a way.
Now I know you’re saying, “Hey Jans, you’re an adult, go buy a Ouija board”. To that I say, “Meh. Why?” I’m a thirty-year-old man now and of course I don’t have friends to get spooked with like I may have had as a teen. The Ouija board has passed me, like a deeply haunted ship in the night. Maybe one day I’ll get one, and see what the whole buzz is about.
I’m Jans Holstrom, and this, is Dread The Unsolved.
Pop quiz, hotshot: When was the Ouija board invented? If you said, “1890”, you’d be wrong. 1890 is considered the birth of the modern Ouija board used today. So you would, I guess, be technically correct (the best kind of correct). In 1890, lawyer Elijah Bond patented the first Ouija board. After being granted a patent on a game already played by spiritualists all around the world, he did the business-like thing and sold it to Kennard Novelty Company.
In 1907 Bond had established the most unfortunately named company on earth: The Swastika Novelty Company. Yes, it was actually called that. He made money marketing a Ouija knockoff called “Nirvana”. His story is not the story we’re focusing on today. For the curious, my research indicates that the Swastika Novelty Company only produced Nirvana boards for a short time before folding. Elijah Bond, father of the modern Ouija board. When he found his own nirvana, he was buried under a large headstone shaped like a Ouija board.
Cut back to 100 A.D., during the Song Dynasty in China. Necromancers and other sorcerers used what was called “planchette writing”. The general idea was using a planchette to let spirits pick out what they wanted to say. Sound familiar? Planchette writing, or a derivative thereof, is found in cultures all over the world reaching back hundreds of years. 1890 may have been when the world at large discovered spirit boards, but the small corners of the world have known about them for far longer.
Why is it called Ouija anyway? Well, that’s a hard question with a few answers. The widest-believed explanation is that Elijah Bond’s sister-in-law got the name from a Ouija board contact. A known spiritualist, she had asked the board what it was called. It responded with “Ouija”. When asked what that meant, the wayward spirit replied, “good luck”. So the Ouija board named itself? Kind of. Bond’s sister-in-law was an upper crust, high society-type of spiritualist, and a fan of a novelist who went by, wait for it: Ouida. She liked the author so much that she even wore a locket inscribed with Ouida’s name. Could a small letter change and a subconscious decision lead to the Ouija board we know today?
So has a Ouija board ever led to a murder? I’m not wondering if a board has ever become sentient and committed a murder. I’m curious if the diabolic instructions from a simple spirit board has caused unspeakable crimes. It’s a fairly reasonable curiosity, I think. There have been so many crimes attributed to the influence of a Ouija board. As I can’t write you a detailed breakdown of all of them, I want to touch on one case.
In Jupiter, Florida, teenager Rachel Hurley gathered with her friends for a sleepover. Like at all good sleepovers, (I’m told) the Ouija board was brought out for some spooky entertainment. Weeks later, what it told them would come back in the worst way possible…
“who will be the first to die?” She had asked.
“Rachel.” The Ouija board responded.
This is from Rachel’s childhood friend Sheri Duff, who recalled the incident in an interview with Dateline.
“Being Rachel, she yelled out ‘then do it, bitch!’ as we laughed and played along,” Sheri said. “But when we asked for a sign, the house alarm went off and we lost it. It was just… weird. Not long after that, she was gone.”
St. Patrick’s Day, 1990. 14 year old Rachel Hurley was hanging out with friends at a park in Jupiter, Florida. She broke off from the group and took a shortcut through a wooded area to go meet with her mother. Just 5 hours later they found her body in that small wooded area. Asphyxiated, covered with defensive wounds. Rachel obviously fought with everything she had. They never founder her killer.
Did the Ouija board reveal what was going to happen to Rachel?
Scientists have said that the supposed ghostly happenings when using a Ouija board can all be summed up by the ideomotor effect. The ideomotor effect is a psychological phenomenon wherein someone makes small, unconscious movements. Movements like, let’s say, operating a Ouija planchette. Science is great! But when it comes to the unsolved, I don’t always agree with science.
It’s very easy to lump these things in as “Oh, there’s a scientific solution”. I don’t buy that. I prefer my world to have a little mystery in it. So, dear readers, I leave this to you. Do you have a Ouija experience I definitely have to hear about? You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and right behind you!