The ancient Egyptians used a device LIKE a ouija board. They used a ring attached to a strand of thread, held over a circular table with symbols on it, and the ring would strike the table to spell out answers.
The Ouija board, the kind we see in toy stores today, came about in 1889 when William Fuld of Baltimore, Maryland, and his brother Isaac, marketed Ouija boards to the American public. They had a small operation and the board was the hottest item they would ever produce. People bought the board not as a game, but as a device with which they would talk to their loved ones killed in battle (note the two World Wars happening; this was where the board’s popularity really soared). During this time, the fad spread, and so did Ouija’s notorious reputation as being more than just a “game.”
Finally in about 1960 or thereabouts, Parker Brothers approached the two Fuld brothers since they were having trouble making enough boards to satisfy the demand for them. PB then took over the rights to the ouija board and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ouija came about as kind of a by-product of the whole spiritualist craze that was all the rage in the early 1900’s, and during Houdini’s time as he debunked many ‘mediums’. Table-tipping was being done back then, and a Frenchman, who’s last name was “planchette”, produced a device that looked like a small table like a ouija pointer, that stood on two small stilts and a pen or pencil at the third point. The operator would sit with his hands as lightly as he could resting on the planchette, this device named after it’s inventor, and the thing would move, producing writing.
Ouija replaced the messy planchette (the writing was messy cursive scrawls) when a board was used in place of the sheet of paper, and all three stilts on the planchette were covered with felt enabling it to slide in any direction. This made the communications fast, clear, and easy. And specifically meant to be done with a partner, “gentleman and lady preferred.”
Eugene Orlando adds:
“William Fuld died in 1927, Isaac in 1939. Since Parker Brothers didn’t take over the William Fuld company until 1966, it would have been quite a trick to take it over from the brothers. But then it is alt.folklore.ghost-stories isn’t it? Actually, Parker Brothers saw a bargain when they saw one and bought the business from William’s kids. They had moved the factory into a smaller building and sold out not because there was so much demand for the ouija, but just the opposite. Ouija sales had never been worse. It took a Parkers advertising blitz to put the popularity back in the Ouija board.”