; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ouija Born in Baltimore

Despite the fact that I have little tolerance for Ouija, my city of Baltimore is known as the 'Ouija Capital.' Here's the story:

For 76 proud years, Baltimore reigned as the Ouija board capital.

Evidence from letters to the editor in The Baltimore Sun and the old Baltimore American indicates that the Ouija name was coined at the southeast corner of Charles and Centre streets, in a fine 19th-century residence now converted to condominiums.

An historical marker is to be placed at 529 N. Charles' ground level, in a 7-Eleven convenience store that was for many years a lunch counter called the Buttery.

The game's name and description, "Ouija, the Egyptian Luck Board," was coined there in 1890 by Helen Peters, a woman known by her family as a spiritual medium who was a devotee of the arts. She sat in the boardinghouse room of her brother-in-law, Elijah Bond, using a board and planchette. Also present was Charles Kennard, an entrepreneur who had lived in Chestertown.

Talking board games were popular, and Kennard and Bond had been making them for a few months. The night of April 25, 1890, Peters' planchette picked out the letters, O-U-I-J-A. They proceeded to name their talking board Ouija. In the game, players place their hands on the planchette, which moves to spell out a message.

With help from Robert Murch, the Boston-based chairman of the Talking Board Historical Society, I spent this past week tracking down the Ouija talking board neighborhoods, the places where it was made. The society is marking the Ouija board's 125th anniversary with a Ouijacon event at the Baltimore Harbor Hotel on April 23-25.

The first games were made at a location on St. Paul Street near Baltimore Street, today a Wells Fargo Bank and home of the Whiteford Taylor Preston law firm. The demand was steady; factories subsequently opened on South Charles Street, in the old Vitrano-Fava produce building, then others followed in Little Italy (East Pratt and on High Street).

William Fuld, one of the game's original investors and employees, made the board exclusively from 1901 onward. His descendants sold the business and rights in 1966 to game giant Parker Brothers, and manufacturing moved to Salem, Mass.

William Fuld knew a good thing. He built a large toy and game factory at 1508 Harford Ave. in 1919 next to the popular Apollo movie house.

The former Fuld factory remains in fine shape today in Baltimore's Oliver neighborhood. The building houses 30 affordable-rate senior citizen apartments and is named Harford Commons.

There is no marker to indicate its former life. Its residents enter the apartment house via a former loading dock described in a 1920 Sun article. That spot held "more boxes of ouijas piled up waiting for shipment than you can shake a stick at." For the record, Fuld claimed he was no spiritualist. He said he was a Presbyterian and attended Dr. Harris Kirk's Franklin Street Presbyterian Church.

"By 1919, Ouija was in its heyday," said Murch, the Ouija expert. "By far, the largest factory was the one William Fuld built on Harford Avenue, and he built it on Ouija board advice. The board told him 'to prepare for big business.'"

Fuld found prosperity, but not the good luck promised in the game. While on the factory roof in February 1927 replacing a flagpole, he stumbled backward and fell three stories. He died at the old St. Joseph's Hospital, then located nearby.

Fuld's factory also produced other toys and games, mainly of wood, including sand pails, wagons, pull toys and dollhouses.

The Ouija board was his top seller and the demand was steady, but there were sales peaks and downturns. By the 1950s, the big Harford Avenue plant had become home to Jacobs Brothers uniforms. Game production moved from the east side of the city to the west side on Warwick Avenue, not too far from the Mrs. Ihrie's potato chip factory.

Its final Baltimore days were spent on East Fort Avenue in Locust Point, not too far from Fort McHenry, at the site of a present-day Baltimore business entrepreneurial legend, Under Armour. - Origins of Ouija board are in Baltimore


As many of my readers and colleagues are aware, I'm not keen on the use of Ouija sets or spirit boards. Divination tools (tarot, runes, crystals, pendulums, etc.), in my experience, are fairly safe if implemented correctly and cleared of energy after use. But I would still advise that anyone interested in divination first become familiar with the protocol and possible consequences. Seeking guidance from an experienced practitioner is highly encouraged.

With that stated, I strongly bemoan the use of Ouija. There are a few friends and colleagues who disagree with my perception on the subject, but I refuse to modify my stance.

We have all heard or read the horror stories associated with using a spirit board. But regardless of the authenticity of a particular story, there is an underlying truth to the overall practice...actual evil, destruction and malevolent ramifications may result by employing Ouija. It has been my misfortune to have witnessed some of the pitfalls firsthand. Some people may think that the minor event I'm about to describe is merely a coincidence. You may be correct.

During my high school years, I was interested in a variety of spiritual and occult subjects. My heightened sense of intuition was usually on alert and this occasionally got me into a few odd circumstances...especially since I had never shared my empathic ability with friends.

One night I was at a medium-sized party in the club basement of a friend's house. Many of the kids were from other high schools, which wasn't unusual. I had been at this particular house before and my friend's elderly parents rarely interrupted us. I won't lie, there was beer and wine on hand.

I was sitting on the sofa, drinking a beer and talking to a girl I had just met. At the circular coffee table, there were 5 or 6 kids gathered around a Ouija board. This was the mid-1970's and Ouija boards were somewhat popular...in fact, my Dad sold these and other divination items in our family's hobby shop. Most people considered Ouija as benign entertainment. I had other ideas, even back then...but I watched in interest.

I don't exactly remember who or what they were attempting to contact, but it seemed that things were quickly getting out of hand. One of the girls started complaining that someone was whispering in her ear and that someone had grabbed her breasts. It was apparent that she was serious and upset. About the same time, I looked at the face of the guy sitting directly across from this girl. He had a strange grin and was staring directly at her...it seemed like he was going to spring across the table and attack her!

I became alarmed and remember looking at his eyes and saying to myself 'stop...now!' All at once, he shot an evil glance at me...he was really perturbed and his nostrils were flaring! He immediately got up and made his way towards me. The girl I was sitting with saw him coming towards us and screamed. His arms and hands were extended and he attempted to grab me. I was able to maneuver to my right and pull him down on the couch...as I held him, two other guys came to my aid. He quickly calmed down and we let him up. He apologized for attacking me...I could sense he had been influenced by something during the board session.

As we sat and discussed what had happened the girl, who had complained earlier, screamed and pointed above the Ouija board. The planchette was hovering freely about 2 ft. above the coffee table! Everybody ran towards the opposite side of the basement in an attempt to distance themselves from the hovering planchette. My friend and I stood nearby by the bar as I focused on the object. I had no sense of what was causing this amazing anomaly. My friend continued to say 'what is it?'...'what is it?' Suddenly the planchette crashed down onto the board with deliberate force, breaking one of it's legs. The bottles and glasses on the coffee table flew off in all directions. Those kids on the opposite side of the basement made a quick beeline towards and up the stairs...and out the kitchen door. Party over!

I have not disclosed names because some of those kids who attended that party maintain that this event has haunted them...even to this day.

The girl who was attacked during the Ouija board session had a short life. I don't know the intimate details, but I was made aware through other acquaintances that she died during a brutal attack and robbery in Texas in 1987.

I have had sporadic, but continued contact with a few of those people who were there that night. Most of them have had tough lives...at least one swears something evil attached to them that night at the party and harassed them for many years.

It's obvious to me that something malevolent was summoned during that party. I don't know what was said or requested by those participating...but I sincerely believe some of them suffered the consequences.

I have rarely conveyed this personal experience...leaving many of the details out of my narrative. I will disclose that many of the people who have sought my counsel and guidance have had experiences involving spirit boards. Is it coincidence? Possibly...but I have found that circumstances that involve the supernatural are rarely happenstance. Lon

Ouija Gone Wild: Shocking True Stories

Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game

Aleister Crowley and the Ouija Board

Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft (Llewellyn's Practical Magick)

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