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Ouija & Talking Boards

Date: 10-30-13
Host: George Noory
Guests: Robert Murch, Brandon Hodge, Karen Dahlman, Kane Hodder

Historian and expert on Ouija and Talking Boards, Robert Murch, was joined by collector and author, Brandon Hodge, to discuss the rich history of the Ouija Board and earlier spirit communication devices (see images below). Before the Ouija became synonymous with talking boards, there were numerous other boards and devices dating back to the 1800s (in fact Murch said he has some 500 items in his collection). In the 1800s, talking boards were an accepted pastime, and were especially popular after the Civil War, when so many soldiers died, Murch detailed. It was only after the 1973 film The Exorcist connected the idea of demonic possession with the use of the Ouija board that people started becoming fearful about its usage, he continued.

Hodge spoke about his interest in planchettes (a forerunner to the Ouija board), which were typically a heart-shaped board on two wheels and a pencil that was placed on a sheet of paper to allow for automatic writing and mysterious messages. One planchette in his collection is made of thick plate glass from 1868 and is ingenious because you can see the writing as you're producing it. After Charles Kennard's Novelty Company launched the Ouija board as a commercial product, the use of planchettes declined. Elijah Bond was the first to patent what became the Ouija board.

According to an account, in 1890, Bond, Kennard and others were seated around the board and asked what it wanted to be called, and it spelled out o-u-i-j-a, which it subsequently defined as 'good luck.' Interestingly, Murch noted that Bond's sister-in-law was present and was wearing a locket with a woman's face and the name Ouija spelled across it. Murch and Hodge speculated that the name was actually Ouida, the pen name for a British novelist popular at that time. The inventor and marketer William Fuld made improvements on the Ouija board and received his own patent, which led to the board's phenomenal commercial success. Discovered by generation after generation, Murch suggested that the simplicity of the board is key to its success. Spiritualists or those who believe in the Other Side would say you're putting your mind in a place to make contact, while scientists attribute the movement of the board's planchette as an ideomotor or subconscious response of the participants. Author Karen Dahlman briefly joined the conversation.

Kane Hodder & Horror Films

First hour guest, actor Kane Hodder, who played Jason in a number of the Friday the 13th movies, talked about his career and a new book about his life called Unmasked. He revealed that he was bullied as a child. Later, when he broke into the film business as a stunt man, he suffered from a horrific burn injury while on set. Hodder described his role as Victor Crowley, the killer in the Hatchet film series, as well as playing real life serial killers in films about Dennis Rader (BTK) and Ed Gein.

News segment guests: Mish Shedlock / Steve Kates 'Dr. Sky'

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Photo composite on the left: The talking board pictured at top is an early incarnation of a Ouija, likely from the Bond/Kennard era (1890-92), discovered by Robert Murch in London. The lower left item is an 1850s British automatic writing planchette from the collection of Brandon Hodge. The lower right picture features one of Dr. Robert Hare's famed "Spiritoscopes" from his experiments in spirit communication in the 1850s, also from Hodge's collection.

On the right: The upper left talking board is a rare Kennard "Volo" board produced by Northwestern Toy Company in 1892, from the collection of Robert Murch. It is flanked to the right by another prize from the Murch collection, an early Ouija Novelty Company "paddle" planchette from the 1890s. The bottom picture features the only known surviving "Wanda Tipping Table" from the 1920s, from the collection of Brandon Hodge.

Click on images to enlarge.

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