The Most Interesting Oldest Oracle Boards - The Shankara Experience

The Most Interesting Oldest Oracle Boards

The Mystifying Oracle

Ever heard of the Ouija board? Do you know where it originated from? What was its use? Is it still there to date? Well, the Ouija board that originated in the 1890s was prominently known for being a device that people used to communicate with spirits. Spiritualists used talking boards in the late 1880s, and these boards formed the basis of the original Ouija board. Interestingly, the Ouija board was not invented by spiritualists but by people in business who seized the opportunity to capitalize on these boards by mass production. After the production of the first Ouija board, several came after it and were created by the same people who, in some way, contributed to the creation of the first one.

The oldest Ouija boards to ever exist.

Some of the oldest boards include the Oriole talking board created between 1904 and 1920, Igili, the marvelous talking board of 1897 to 1899, Isaac Fuld & Brother created between 1898 and 1901 in Baltimore, Volo created in 1892 in Chicago, and Espirito talking board created in Leominster between 1891 and 1892.

After the production of the first Ouija board, the market had several rivals and knock-offs and was saturated with competition and imitations; therefore, more boards were not well documented, and there is not much to be said about them.

How the Mystifying Oracle Came to Be?

In 1901, William Fuld had a falling out with his brother, Isaac Fuld, and the following year, he decided to patent the word Oracle. Knowing how challenging and stiff the competition was in the talking board market, he decided to use a different approach to sell; he sold his talking board at a lower price when he launched it in 1915, and his strategy paid off for him because it gained popularity and following.

The Mystifying Oracle board is similar to the Ouija board; it was manufactured with veneer over pine and had a crescent moon, full face, and stars on the corners. However, the layout of the letters and numbers is a bit different from the Ouija board. The planchette of the Ouija board is heart-shaped, while that of the Oracle board is a black diamond-shaped one.

Various versions of the Mystifying Oracle board over the years

The name Mystifying Oracle was what William unofficially began calling his talking board in earlier years, and his customers noticed this. He used this name on planchette boxes and the back of his boards from 1915 and only trademarked it on April 6th, 1920. The name played an essential role in ensuring that this talking board beat its competitors and stayed at the top of its game. There was a slight difference in how the original Oracle taking board looked in 1915 and how it looked in 1920. The board in 1920 had the name Mystifying Oracle on the front in contrast to the earlier one that had the words “U.S. PATENT JAN 15TH 1915, MADE BY WILLIAM FULD BALTIMORE, MD U.S.A.” written in red and, the diamond-shaped planchette matched the color of the board better and was of lighter wood.

There was a decision in the mid-1920s at the Harford Street factory to streamline the production of Ouija planchettes with those of the Mystifying Oracle. The decision was that the words Mystifying Oracle would appear on the planchettes that would no longer be diamond-shaped but heart-shaped. Additionally, at the bottom of the board, the Canadian and U.S. patent dates that were initially there were removed. The words, “MADE BY WILLIAM FULD BALTIMORE, MD U.S.A.” There was also another noticeable difference, which was in the board’s design. The unique letter layout there before was replaced by what was originally on the Ouija board, the arc layout.

Directly underneath the name Mystifying Oracle, William Fuld added the word Ouija. The addition of the word Ouija killed two birds with one addressing two issues; to solidify the term Mystifying Oracle in the pop culture and to give assurance to the talking board consumers that even the Mystifying Oracle that is less expensive than the Ouija board, is still made by the same people making the Ouija talking board. Additionally, the veneer over pine construction remained just as it was before.

To keep up with the competition and lure many customers, many competitors and rivals in the talking board industry were using the name Ouija. However, this was unsuccessful because the name is in the dictionary, which could threaten William Fuld losing the Ouija trademark; luckily for them, they were still ready with Mystifying Oracle Ouija.

William Fuld’s first talking board patent was held in the Electric Mystifying Oracle, which started a new era for taking boards. Unlike its predecessors, the Electric Mystifying Oracle had a bat-like letter layout, the planchette had a battery, and the board was not made of veneer over pine but metal. The planchette was made of metal and was connected to raised metal buttons on the board. As the planchette rolled over the surface, it emitted sparks of light. William Andrew Fuld trademarked this particular version of the Mystifying Oracle on August 15th, 1933. This electric Mystifying Oracle was meant to be played in the dark and sold for more than two times what the Ouija and the original Mystifying Oracle cost.

However, the timing for this specific board wasn’t right. It did not do so well because of the Great Depression that had taken the nation by storm, the cost was too high for many to purchase, and after a few years of meager purchases, the electric mystifying oracle boards that did not sell were melted to scrap metal; today, there are very few left.

Another design that William Andrew Fuld patented on May 2nd, 1939, was a design that had some similarity to the electric Mystifying oracle. The drawings on the board’s lower corners differ from those found on the original mystifying oracle, which had stars, a full face, and a crescent moon. This version of the Mystifying Oracle and the electric version featured people playing the board. William Fuld made the drawings. For this version of the Mystifying Oracle, the boards were veneer and plywood and had the same red writings as the version in production in the mid-1920s.

According to William’s secretary, Hubert Fuld, the reason was that the manufacturing cost was increasing and wood was warping. Initially, Fuld printed directly on wooden boards; however, in 1938, he began printing on paper over a board-like material. The boards used were either rectangular or octagonal, made of thick hardboard, and the paper was faux bird’s eye maple. The paper covered both sides of the board, and the planchettes for this version of Mystifying Oracle were wooden and had a windowed hole in the center.

The last Mystifying Oracle made at the Harford Street factory was a thick hardboard version with paper over it. After this version, there was a board with octagonal corners with printing directly on what would be the last wooden board. The design of people playing at the bottom of the board was cleaner than in the previous versions. The full moon was replaced with a faced sun, and the crescent moon and star had a face. It was sold as a deluxe wooden edition alongside the hardboard versions and came with a windowed planchette made of wood. It came in two sizes, small and large, and had a wooden planchette.

After this, around 1950, William and Hubert Fuld were able to cut manufacturing costs and move to smaller offices. In the mid-1950s, they moved their offices to a rental space on Warwick Avenue. Manufacturing now happened in Pennsylvania and was shipped back to Baltimore; they replaced thick hardboard for thin rectangular masonite with sharp corners and paper only at the front. Additionally, the planchette was made of cream-colored plastic.

After this version, the Ouija board absorbed the Mystifying Oracle to become Ouija the Mystifying Oracle. What you know today as Ouija the Mystifying Oracle, was once just the Mystifying Oracle.

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Shri Krishna Kalesh
Author: Shri Krishna Kalesh

Shri Krishna Kalesh is a mystic who guides people as a Spiritual Guide, Intuitive Reader, Dharma Teacher, and Coach. He has served thousands of people toward their healing and expansion - through personal sessions, mystical readings, courses, and retreats. His mission is to help others source their own boundless creative genius and joy, embody virtue, find clarity, and master their lives. Shri Krishna Kalesh created The Shankara Oracle as a divine portal to The Unlimited, All-Knowing, All-Conscious Universe.

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