The mother of the Ouija Board: A Denver connection

DENVER – There’s a lot of mystery behind the famous Ouija Board.

Some people view it as a way to connect to the other side. Others view it only as a board game.

Either way, the game carries a lot of history with it. And some of that history can be found right here in Denver.

“Talking boards existed before Ouija,” said Robert Murch, the Chairman of the Board for the Talking Board Historical Society (TBHS).

The TBHS is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the history of the Ouija Board.

“When the Ouija Board was originally made, you were actually asking the board questions, you weren’t talking to the spirit world,” said Callea Sherrill, board member of the TBHS.

Some of the mystery usrrounding the game focuses on how the Ouija Board grew to what it is today.

According to the TBHS website, most Americans have heard of the talking board, which was first introduced in 1890 by the Kennard Noverlty Company. Today, it's sold by Hasbro, Inc. 

The website claims that Ouija Board faced fierce competition from other manufacturers who created other variations of a talking board. After they were enjoyed and discarded, the games were rediscovered by new generations who remade the games.

"Therefore, these boards represent an enduring pop culture phenomenon and an important lost art form," the website reads. 

The TBHS discovered that the Ouija had someone who helped give birth to what it is today. And she lived in Denver for 47 years.

"The Ouija Board was named and first manufactured in Baltimore,” Murch said. “But a woman named Helen Peters, who was the sister-in-law of the man who patented the board, was considered a strong medium.”

According to Murch, Peters was present on the night the board was given its name.

“They decided to ask the board what it wanted to be called,” Murch said. “And the board answered O-U-I-J-A. And when they asked what that meant, the board answered, G-O-O-D L-U-C-K.”

Murch said Peters, the sister-in-law of Elijah Bond, joined Bond to get the board a patent.

“Helen and Elijah go all the way up to the chief clerk of the patent office,” Murch said. “The chief tells them ‘I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but if that contraption can spell out my name, you got your patent.’ And with Helen at the board, the board spells out the man’s name, letter by letter.”

However, the board caused a feud in Peters’ family, Murch said.

“She moved to Denver,” he said. “She lived here from 1896 until she died in 1940. She’d basically been erased from history. No one knew that there was a woman involved at all with the Ouija Board.”

Helen Peters Nosworthy was buried in the Fairmount Cemetery.

Recently, the TBHS honored her by providing a headstone at her grave with the title, “The Woman Who Named Ouija Board.”

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