Photos by Tedd Henn.
Put your hands on it. Wait for it to move. Holy shit did you feel that? Did you make contact ? Did it give you the answer you were looking for? Or was it just your mind playing tricks on you ? if you were at the Baltimore Museum of Industry Tuesday, you may have found answers to those questions. Or at least, heard some great history about an American cultural phenomenon known as the Ouija Board.
Everyone has a Ouija board story. It’s an American rite of passage. And for the majority of us, the board has long been forgotten due to lack of bone fide paranormal activity or because one of your parents was concerned that you might actually make contact and get sucked into the vortex of the undead never to return. For us the Ouija maybe gone but it’s not completely forgotten. Not for Robert Murch.
Robert Murch, the world’s foremost expert, took us to Ouija school tonight. He told us about the history of the Ouija Board and how it was concieved, born, and manufactured here in good ol Mobtown from the 1880s until the mid 1960s. He showed off about twenty of the boards he brought down from Boston. He has five hundred in his collection at home. He made mention of the Ouija Board’s impact on the entertainment industry; 130 movies, 66 TV episodes, and many refrences in songs and musical acts. Morrisey’s “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” was just added to my Halloween mix. Also, Google Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover that paid tribute to an American obsession. The guy on the cover seems to be transfixed on something other than the game. Did you know it outsold Monopoly in 1967? Robert went on to discuss the cyclical popularity of the Ouija Board which seems to peak during depression and war time. He discussed the philosophical side of our fascination with the Ouija Board and the three trains of thought when we play with this toy;
1.Do we really want to talk to the other side,
2. Is it our subconscious playing with us, or…
3. How much do we want to let our friends bullshit us ?
I thought this would make a timely piece tying in to Halloween and Baltimore. A brief history to start with – the Ouija board was created, designed and manufactured by a group of Baltimore lawyers and politicians in the late 1880s. A game that would let you talk to spirits and relatives that have passed on. Back then it was okay for politicians to publicize their idiosyncrasies or ties with the paranormal. Back then it wasn’t considered occult. It was a fascination, a love affair with a game. It seems like only in the sixties did it really get “tied in” with the occult and all the associated negativity with something like this damaging your soul. Can you imagine the headlines in 2011 if one of our beloved elected officials ran a company that manufactured Tarot cards ?
The biggest name synonymous with the Ouija Board is William Fuld. A Baltimorean who made millions from the sale of Ouija Boards. We are talking 1920s millions folks, not today’s millions. It was absolutely huge back then. All the concise history is at his website. I don’t want this story to become Ouija Bored.
Robert recently commissioned a gravestone at Greenmount Cemetery for Elijah Bond, the man responsible for the Ouija Board patent in 1891.
So, here it is almost Halloween in Baltimore. The kids in all the neighborhoods trick or treating and all the Halloween TV specials to look forward to. I think this year I will do something different and head over to the local toy store and see if I can get in touch with my departed grandparents to see if they know about any buried bags of cash they forgot about.