Heightened interest in the world of spiritualism during the 19th century ultimately led to the creation of the Ouija board, a commercialized form of "talking board" often used by spiritualists and psychic mediums. Two business partners named Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard developed their own version of a spirit board, combining the French and German words for "yes". Thus, the Ouija board was born. This type of board contains letters, numbers and common words such as "yes," "no," and "goodbye." Users hold a device known as a planchette and supposedly allow the spirit to move it around the board.
Although Bond and Kennard are credited with inventing the modern Ouija board, it was an employee named William Fuld who took over the commercial production of the official Ouija game. Fuld could not completely prevent competitors from marketing similar spirit boards, although the name Ouija was a recognized trademark. Fuld died in 1927, but his estate did not sell the manufacturing and trademark rights to the game company Parker Brothers until 1966. Although dozens of talking or spirit board games still exist, only Parker Brothers can call their product a true Ouija board.
The acquisition and use of a Ouija board has always been controversial, to say the least. Proponents of the Ouija board believe that the participants hands are guided by benevolent spirits. The board itself is only a medium between the spirit world and the players, although some enthusiasts claim the board itself cannot be destroyed. After contacting a willing spirit, players make light contact with the planchette and allow it to move across the board. Individual letters and numbers are often dictated to a non-participant for later deciphering. Simple yes or no questions can be answered directly.
Many critics of the Ouija board believe the planchette's movements are not caused by spiritual intervention, but by involuntary movements created by the players themselves. One or more participants may be forcing the answers, or the players' collective muscle tension could create movement, a phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect. A Ouij player desperately seeking a spiritual connection with a loved one could also be subconsciously guiding the planchette towards an idealized answer.
There is also a strong religious objection to the Ouija board phenomenon. According to mainstream Christian thought, Satan could disguise malevolent spirits as the harmless spirit guides sought out by Ouija users. These evil spirits could use the board as a means of possessing the user's thoughts or to cause personal harm. Prominent critics have documented evidence of lives permanently altered following malevolent Ouija sessions. One legend warns against playing the game alone, while another suggests that the spirits must be approached in a specific way to avoid encountering evil imposters.