The title of this post is, admittedly, a bit “clickbaity”—William Fuld didn’t technically create the Ouija Board we are all familiar with. But like any Capitalist worth his salt, he recognized a good thing when he saw it; officially putting his name on the board, and suing everybody else who made one. Also…of course we all know there is no such thing as “curses.”
That said, I do have to ask: did the Ouija Board (“Ouija” meaning, depending on who you ask, either “Good Luck” or the combined French/German word for “Yes”) curse its “creator” with an untimely death?
The basic idea of a “talking board”—one that utilizes a planchette or similar for automatic writing, supposedly directed by spirits—goes as far back as ancient India, Greece, and Rome. The first written account of such a device was recorded in 1100 AD, in the Song Dynasty.
But it was in the 1800s, during the Spiritualist Movement, when the boards really took off. Basically, people wanted to communicate with all their dead loved ones from the American Civil War…and so sessions with these talking boards & a psychic medium were set up to do just that.
But in 1890 Baltimore businessman Julian Bond, noticing how popular these boards were, decided to patent one with preprinted letters; allegedly, his sister-in-law, a medium named Helen Peters, came up with the name “Ouija” asking the board itself. (The spot where this supposedly took place is now a 7-Eleven and has a plaque commemorating the event).
But while Bond might have received the patent for the Ouija Board, it was a one William Fuld, an employee of Bond’s, who took over the production of the boards…and basically became the defacto “creator” of them in the eyes of the public. After all…until recently, Fuld’s name has been printed on the top of every official board.
To be fair to Fuld, he is generally credited as the marketing mastermind behind Ouija, making it the sort of ubiquitous “board game” (which is how it was sold through Parker Brothers) that we are so familiar with today. And part of his marketing strategy was to apparently make references about he himself turned to the board for advice.
But the energy surrounding the board did not seem to produce a great deal of harmony within Fuld’s own family. He began to feud with Isaac, his brother and business partner. Isaac then left the company and began selling his own almost identical version of Ouija, “Oriole”; his brother of course then suing him, as he had so many other manufacturers of “fake” Ouijas.
Medium Helen Peters could also shed some light as to the rather troublesome influence of the Ouija Board, as she claimed that her family literally “broke in half” over allegations the board made regarding stolen Civil War artifacts in their home. Historian Robert Murch quoted Peters as saying: “Until her dying day, she’s telling everyone: don’t play the Ouija board because it lies.”
Now let’s go back to Fuld. Allegedly (and there are lots of “allegedlys” in this story, as various online accounts of it starts to take the shape of mild creepypastas), he was advised by the Ouija board to build a new factory—which he did.
And one day in 1927, supervising the repair of a flagpole atop the roof of said new 3-story factory, Fuld leaned upon a railing which collapsed. Thus the businessman fell from the factory roof, at one point catching himself on an open window—which spontaneously closed shut, continuing to send him down to the ground.
Fortunately, Fuld seemed to only suffer some broken ribs, and was expected to survive.
Unfortunately, on the way to the hospital one of the broken ribs pierced his heart, and he died. He was 57.
But Fuld leaves a formidable legacy behind him: mainstreaming a powerful instrument of spirit channeling which, on one hand, did produce the enjoyable Jane Roberts Seth books and the epic 560-page poem The Changing Light at Sandover, but, on the other, led some people (whether through spiritual coercion or not) to do some really dumb things.
As a footnote to this story, when I was researching on the Hasbro website (Hasbro bought Ouija manufacturer Parker Brothers) the latest iteration of the board, one of the few user product reviews caught my eye. With only one star, it said: “Stop making this game. It’s scaring people. Please.” (this review has since been, surprisingly, removed.)
Yours for only $19.99.