As the Spirit Moves, Part II: The Age of the Ouija Boards

Dorothy Parker on the Ouija board, Part II.

"By means of her Oujia board Miss Thill has worked her way right into the highest intellectual circles of spirit society."
Illustrated by M.L. Blumenthal.

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Originally published in the Post on May 22, 1920.

A strong factor in the popularity of the Ouija board as a do­mestic utensil is the prevalence of Ouija­ board agencies throughout the coun­try. No shopping round is necessary; you can buy one any­where, from a notion counter to a used-car emporium. Its pur­chase used to involve much secret diplo­macy. You had to worm the manufac­turer’s address from some obscure acquaintance who was rumored to go in for all that sort of thing, and then you had to send to some vague place in the West, whence your Ouija board came to you, f. o. b., in a plain wrapper. Now there is not the slightest hitch—you can pick one up anywhere on the way home. Our own corner drug store has been celebrat­ing Ouija Week for the past month or so, and I understand that the boards are going like hot cakes—after all, you can’t better the old similes. They certainly make a taste­ful window display, combined, as they are, with garlands of rubber bath hose, with notes of color introduced by a few hot-water bags here and there. I imag­ine that the exhibit was arranged by the same person who thinks up names for the drinks served at the soda fountain.

What a simple matter this thing of com­municating with the spirits has turned out to be, since the Ouija board made its entrance into the great American family life. There is practically nothing to it-anybody can do it in the privacy of his own room. Look at the results that the members of our little circle have been getting, for instance, since we took up the Ouija board in a really thorough way. And we never had a les­son in our lives, any of us. It has been a rough season, locally, for the professional ­medium trade; I doubt, if the profession­als have even made expenses, since we learned that we could do it ourselves.

As the Spirit Moves
by Dorothy Parker
Originally published in the Post on May 22, 1920.
Part I: The New, Prohibition-Era Pastime
Part II: The Age of the Ouija Boards
Part III: When the Bridge Hounds Were Unleashed
Part IV: Henry G. Takes to Verse
Part V: Aunt Bertha’s Snappy Work
Part VI: Mrs. Couch & Mrs. Thill
Part VII: Too Much Is Enough

Home spirit communication has com­pletely revolutionized our local social life. I often wonder what we should ever do with our evenings if it weren’t for the spirits. Since they have taken to dropping in for an informal chat over the Ouija board we never lack a lively parlor game for one and all-metaphysical, yet clean.

And then just look at the money we save on amusement taxes! You know how it is yourself; the minute you leave home to make an evening of it, it runs right into expense. What with the cost of theater tickets, cabaret food and taxicab charter—good night, as the saying goes. Even such wholesome community activ­ities as inter-apart­ment poker games, wives welcome, come under the head of outgo sooner or later. Of course this is a relatively free country, and no one has a better right than you to your own opin­ion of the Ouija board as a medium of com­munication with the next world; but con­sidering it solely as a means of after-dinner entertainment you must concede that the price is right, any­way.

Where would our little circle be of an evening if the spirits had not grown so clubby? Sitting round, that’s where we would be, trying to figure out if the William Hart picture round at the Elite Motion-Picture Palace was the same one that they showed the week before over at the Bijou Temple of Film Art. Since we got our Ouija board I have so completely lost touch with the movies that Theda Bara may have got religion, for all I know about it.

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  1. William Hart and Theda Bara! How many of us would now know what stereotypes Ms. Parker was referencing in her remarks concerning these entertainment pioneers? Of course, it is only fair to note that Dorothy Parker was, herself, an entertainment pioneer.
    Truly enjoyed this post.


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