Monday, April 27, 2015

Ouija Celebrates its 125th Anniversary in Baltimore: OuijaCon 2015 Wrap-Up


This past weekend in Baltimore, Maryland, an eclectic mix of individuals descended upon the Baltimore Harbor Hotel to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Ouija. Whether you're a skeptic, a believer, a collector, or undecided, Charm City was the place to be and I was lucky enough to be invited. Thanks to the efforts of Robert Murch and the Talking Board Historical Society (TBHS) along with paranormal researcher and author,  Jeff Belanger, their inaugural event, OuijaCon, was quite the success.

We all know that films like The Exorcist have given Ouija a bad reputation but delving into the rich history of the boards was the goal here. To quote from the TBHS page, "The Talking Board Historical Society began in 2008 as a loose affiliation of talking board collectors and enthusiasts, brought together by talking board historian Robert Murch to bring recognition to the forgotten founders and history of the enigmatic Ouija." This wasn't an event to scare, obviously, it was an event to educate, create discussion and, of course, celebrate. 

The event opened on the evening of April 23 with a meet and greet in the Talking Board Museum and  family members of prominent Ouija founders, including William Fuld were present. Just to be clear and honest, this was quite the education for me. I do own a beautiful Fuld board and when I was a kid, I did dabble with a board my brother and I got from the local toy store but other than that, I'm a Ouija novice. The variety of boards/spirit communication devices in this museum blew my mind. I see these pieces as not only bits of amazing paranormal history but as beautiful pieces of art.

Here's a small sampling, including the earliest board (upper left hand corner in the first pic):

Earliest Boards
Brandon Hodge's Collection 

Early boards
Board stencil

So many different kinds of boards!

Modern Boards

On Friday afternoon, reps from the mayor's office came by for a dedication ceremony to proclaim April 25 as the 125th anniversary of Ouija. Due to the unrest the city was experiencing at the time, the mayor, understandably, could not attend. An official plaque was unveiled and will be placed at the building (529 North Charles Street) where Ouija was named. Heritage is very important to any city and a rep from Baltimore Heritage (Jason Vaughn) mentioned that Ouija was, "Another story we can share with visitors...past, present and future." The proclamation was read and April 25 was deemed "Ouija Board Day in Baltimore."

Official plaque

Dedication  ceremony with TBHS members

Lectures, workshops, experiments (including one from Danish researchers who were looking at eye tracking/social interaction during board use) and of course, lots of fun permeated the remainder of the weekend. From Dave Schrader of Darkness Radio scaring (or maybe even scarring) us with stories of creatures that go bump in the night; to TBHS member, Calvin Von Crush discussing board facts and fiction; to psychic, Chip Coffey discussing his thoughts on the board plus a seance where connection with the spirit world was attempted, the event had something for everyone who is interested in not only the paranormal, but educating themselves on all things Ouija. Other notable lecturers included: Karen Dahlman; John Zaffis; Darren Evans; Rosemary Ellen Guiley; Jeff Belanger; Brandon Hodge; and, of course, Robert Murch.

Collector's Panel: Mike Zohn, Janet Mattei Romano, John Kozik, Calvin Von Crush, Andrew Vespia, Gene Orlando and Robert Murch. Moderator: Dave Schrader

Discussion of another event similar to OuijaCon came up but since this was an anniversary celebration, it would have to be broadened. Perhaps an event that would focus on including all forms of spirit communication both past and present? If you attended OuijaCon, please give us your thoughts on the event, if you did not,what would you, as not only a consumer, but a curious human, like to see done in terms of a future event. 

We know for certain there's a deep desire to learn more about the paranormal but given the success of OuijaCon, it's clear there's a definite thirst for learning more about the history of spirit communication. Thanks to all who made this past weekend such a success and letting me be a part of the celebration. 


harsh said...

I had a great time, my girlfriend and I drove from Milwaukee, WI to attend and it was totally worth the 14hour drive. We met some great people and made some new friends.

Plus I started my own collection with my first purchase of a 1940's Egyptian themed board.

High Style said...

People who works there are some of the sweetest people I've met. Save yourself some time and just go there. Everyone at the best sports bar nyc is sweet and ask how you've been, even though normally staff keep their heads down.