The Secret History of the Ouija Board
Observatory (543 Union St., Brooklyn)
Ouija! For some it evokes memories of late-night sleepover parties and shrieks of laughter as friends huddled with flashlights over the rectangular board. For others, Ouija Boards – known more generally as talking boards or spirit boards – have darker associations: Stories abound of fearsome entities making dire predictions, threats, and even physical assaults on innocent users after a night of Ouija experimentation. Yet Ouija has a history that goes beyond bumps in the night: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill vowed until his death in 1995 that his most celebrated work was written with the use of a homemade Ouija board. Ouija has also helped inspire our most significant fright fiction, from The Exorcist to Paranormal Activity. Now, Mitch Horowitz, author of the acclaimed history book, Occult America, explores how Ouija boards emerged from America’s atmosphere of séances and spirit raps in the nineteenth century, to become the most recognizable – and oddly influential – occult object of all time.
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