The Mysterious Talking Oracle
October 20, 2014
“COME IN, CHARLOTTE. I am glad you came by. So you are thinking of moving back to our hometown, here?”
“Yes, Aggie, I am. Now that I am retired and alone, I thought it might be nice to move home and try to re-live childhood memories. I am scouting things out today and thought I would stop by.”
“I have some tea here ready to go, or I can go turn on the coffeepot if you’d rather,” Agnes said. “Have a seat and we’ll get you fixed up with something.”
“I want to look around at your room here, if you don’t mind, for a minute. You always have such fascinating things in your book shelves. You are a person of many interests.” Charlotte walked slowly about the room. “Oh, my goodness! What do you have this Ouija board sitting out on this table for? Is it a decoration, or do you use it? I admit they are pretty to look at, especially the old ones like this one.”
“It is an antique that I found in a shop. The ones now are made by Parker Brothers. William Fuld, one of the original investors ended up owning the company and Parker Brothers bought it from the Fuld Company in 1967. That first year, it outsold Monopoly,” Agnes explained.
“I wonder why. I guess people were trying to talk to dead relatives.”
Charlotte began to sip some tea with an uneasy look upon her face.
“It is not really out for a decoration. I am having a friend come over later and we are going to have a session. It is on a lark. Do you want to ask it a question, yourself? I’m game.” Agnes tried to tempt her friend.
“Lord, no. Those things scare me to death,” Charlotte replied.
“Oh, it’s not much different than that game we played as a kid, ‘Yes, No and In the Barrel.’ You remember that silly game where we would ask each other questions?”
“I had forgotten all about that until you mentioned it. Boy,that brings back the memories. My brother had a Magic 8 Ball, similar I suppose.”
“These Ouija Boards are quite controversial, for sure. I think the danger is only in how seriously you take them, but some people did take them very seriously. That St. Louis woman, Pearl Curran wrote several successful books and pages of poetry with the aid of an Ouija Board commencing in 1916, and she wasn’t even a believer in spiritualism. She rebelled against using such things for a long time but when she was finally goaded into trying it one time, the spirit of Patience Worth contacted her and started dictating the stories. Pearl was not even a writer, nor was she interested in writing. They have tried to disprove the source of her books but have not been able to.”
“I had no idea. You said books? That is a lot of note-taking.”
“Yes, at least three big novels, and she wasn’t the only one. A women named Emily Hutchings claimed that the spirit of Mark Twain was contacted through the Ouija Board and dictated a book called Jap Herron to her. It was not as successful as Pearl’s work, but it did okay.”
“It makes you wonder a bit,” Charlotte responded.
“In our own time, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, James Merrill, supposedly got his work, The Changing Light at Sandover from an Ouija Board. In 1982 it won the National Book Critics Circle Award,” Agnes explained.
“You wouldn’t be pulling my leg now, would you?” Charlotte asked. “Hey, wait a minute. You once told me you would like to write a book some day. Are you hoping this Ouija Board on the table will give you one?”
“No, truthfully, that never even crossed my mind, but I have a journalist friend that recently interviewed an author named Greenberry Baxter by telephone—he is a recluse, a hermit.”
“I am leery of asking what came up in that phone interview, Agnes dear.”
“Well, you know I am going to tell you. He was writing a paranormal fantasy, this Mr. Baxter, about the spirit of someone from the 1800s and he was stuck on writing the dialogue, so he got the Ouija Board out of his box of board games and started asking for the spirit to answer questions….and it did! He got most of his dialogue for the book that way. According to my friend, he at first had trouble. The Ouija Board only gave him individual letters that did not spell out any words, but he was able to use each letter that he got as the first letter in words of a sentence. He chained the words together, and that is how he did it. I think he used a pendulum for part of it to speed things up, but the Ouija Board got him started and was responsible for most of it. More tea?”
“No I am still good on the tea for now. These Ouija Boards are too spooky. Say, I have heard that the name ‘Ouija’ comes from some foreign words or something. Most mysterious. Do you know anything about that?”
“Here is what I heard. For the longest time, people said that the name of the board was a combination of the French word ‘oui’ and the German word ‘ja,’ which both mean ‘yes,’ joined together. Another story says that is not true. When the Kennard Novelty Company thought of developing the board to speed up talking to spirits—rapping out letters was taking too much time—one of the board’s developers had a sister-in-law that asked the board, itself, what its name was. The board told this woman, Helen Peters, that ‘Ouija’ is what it wanted to be called—it spelled it out. It was about 1890.”
“It was part of that huge spiritualism movement of the time, was it not?
“Yes, and of course, make no mistake, these original investors did not believe in spirits, but they wanted to make some money off of the movement, and they did. About the board’s name, another story has it that during the session, this Helen Peters read the name off of a locket she was wearing and that the name on the locket was Ouida, one of her idols in the women’s movement, and she misread it. Isn’t that a kicker?”
“It is all very strange, Agnes. I think it is probably hokum, but I don’t know how all these literary works came about. That is a mystery.”
“I have an idea, Charlotte, let’s ask the board right now. Let’s ask the board if it is real, or if it is hokum! Let’s see what it has to say, shall we?”
After three more cups of tea and some shortbread cookies, Agnes was able to talk Charlotte into asking just one question of the board. “After we put our fingertips on the planchette, let’s close our eyes, so we won’t be able to influence anything, and see where it goes,” Agnes instructed ahead of time. “Remember just touch your fingertips lightly on the guider—don’t bear down hard.”
The stormy sky outside had gotten dark, along with the room, and a scented candle on the coffee table was guttering. “Charlotte thinks you are hokum, oh talking oracle, mystic Ouija, Agnes chanted.” The women’s fingers on the planchette caused slight vibrations. “I think you are real. Are you real? Answer, yes or no. Are you real?”
The planchette vibrated again and then went straight for the “yes” and stayed there.
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