Waddington’s dabbling in the occult

Ouija board published by John Waddington Ltd., Leeds in 1969

For a couple of years in the late 1960s those wanting to try and talk to the spirit world could buy a Ouija board from Waddington’s, the nation’s favourite children’s games company.

This was marketed as a bit of harmless fun by the company, who felt that they were just reviving a quaint Victorian past-time from a bygone credulous age and that no one would take it seriously in the 20th century.  However, 1970s films such as The Omen and The Exorcist showed that many people very much still believed in the occult (and still do today).  The game ultimately proved too controversial and the game was withdrawn from sale.

“Waddington Magazine” February 1968 states:

“The principal new attraction from Waddington’s in 1968 will be the re-introduction of the Ouija Board so popular in this country in Victorian times.

This board contains the words “yes”, “no” and “goodbye”, and set out in three lines are the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 0-9. It is operated by two people, who place their fingers on a heart-shaped stand, which in the centre has a round glass window. Together the two people can explore the mysteries of telepathy and seek the advice of those in another world. The stand moves mysteriously over the board and alights on letters and numbers, building up answers to the questions on participants. Ouija Boards will retail at 22/6d”

The game had initially been revived in the USA by Parker Brothers (Pallitoy) who worked in close partnership with Waddington’s.  The Leeds firm had famously been given the right to produce a British version of Parker’s game “Monopoly” back in 1935   and had reciprocated by giving Parker Brothers the rights to publish “Cluedo” in 1949. Further information about the origins of the Ouija board can be found at  William Fuld.com   The exotic sounding origin of the game’s name is actually just an amalgamation of the French and German words for “yes”.

Two examples of Ouija boards from Leeds Museum’s Waddington archive were displayed in the exhibition Fate and Fickle Fortune at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall in 2013.

A number of other Waddington games were on show, including playing cards, “Monopoly”, “Totopoly”, “Financial 500”, “Odds-on Football”, “Lose Your Shirt” and “Carlette”.

Oukja board published by The Copp Clark Publishing Co. Limited, Canada

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