According to Mitch Horowitz, author of the critically acclaimed Occult America,the origins of the device known today as the Ouija Board can be traced back to the late 19th Century — although not reliably further back than that. Horowitz cites a March 28, 1886 article appearing in the Sunday supplement of the New York Daily Tribune entitled “A Mysterious Talking Board and Table over Which Northern Ohio is Agitated.” The article included an illustration and description of an early talking board very similar to today’s version.
On March 31, 1848 — a watershed date in American séance history — Kate and Margaret, just 12 and 15 years old, conducted the first American séance.
Professor Black Herman died on April 17, 1934, while on tour in Louisville, Kentucky. In an obituary, The New York Age, a leading African American newspaper, described him as one of Harlem’s most colorful characters — a magician, seer, herb specialist and fortune teller; a man who, among his followers, “had risen to the standing of god whom they expect to rise out of his grave.”
Six years after the appearance of that article a patent for a “Ouija or Egyptian luck-board” was filed by Baltimore attorney Elijah H. Bond, who in turn assigned the rights to Charles W. Kennard and William H.A. Maupin. This early talking board (the patent was filed on May 28, 1898) was the first with the Ouija name.