How the Ouija Board Got Its Name

These days, the word “Ouija” conjures up shades of mysticism, Satanic panics, and teenage bedrooms. The origin of the term is supposedly lost in the sands of time, or created out of a compound of the German and French terms for “yes.” But ask Ouija board collector and historian Robert Murch for the real story of the board’s name, and he’ll tell you a different tale — one that connects the board to two intriguing women.

As one of the world’s most active Ouija board collectors and historians, Murch has been researching the history of the object since the early 1990s. Its origins are cloudy, he explains, rife with he-said-she-said squabbles and family feuds. But at least one part of the story seems clear. Two years ago, Murch discovered a 1919 article in the Baltimore American in which one of the board’s originators, Baltimore businessman Charles Kennard, states how the Ouija got its name.

“For 20 years I researched the fathers of the Ouija board,” Murch said. “Turns out, it had a mother.”