In my last post, I wrote about how homemade “spirit boards” or “talking boards” used by mediums in the nineteenth century Spiritualism movement had evolved into mass-produced board games marketed as wholesome family fun.
In this post, I’m going to unpack Ouija’s second transformation. How did Ouija boards evolve from pleasant parlour past-time to perilous portal to perdition?
The answer? The film The Exorcist (1973)
The movie is based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel The Exorcist. The book was a bestseller at the time of its original release. Since then, the novel has enjoyed a signed limited-edition “luxury” re-release in 2010, and a 40th anniversary re-edit and re-release in 2011 that included new scenes written by Blatty.
However enduring the appeal of the novel, it was the film of The Exorcist (scripted by Blatty himself) that gave the by-now-forgotten Ouija board game a new lease on its (after)life. Unlike the book, the film contains a scene in which Regan shows her mother how she’s been playing with a Ouija board.
Let’s pause here for a moment. It’s worth pointing out that the film The Exorcist is the ninth top-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Don’t rub your eyes, you read that right, here’s the list :
- Gone with the Wind
- Star Wars
- The Sound of Music
- The Ten Commandments
- Dr. Zhivago
- The Exorcist
It’s also the top grossing R-rated film of all time (adjusted for inflation). So suffice it to say nearly everyone who wanted to see the film back then, saw the film. Re-releases, rep theaters, videotapes, DVDs, and streaming services have continued to popularize the film.
Based on this, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the film spawned a thousand urban legends. That includes some of the ones that I heard as a girl in the 1970’s, such as “never play Ouija alone” and “Demons will enter your soul if you play with Ouija boards.”
Next time, I’ll post about the contemporary resurgence of Ouija boards and associated urban legends. Until then, G O O D L U C K.