Lonely Planet Writer

Travellers can peruse an Ouija board exhibition at San Francisco's airport museum

Killing time at an airport is usually a mixture of shopping, flipping through magazines, and occasionally a pre-boarding pint. But if you’re heading through San Francisco, you can do something far more unusual and stop in at a new exhibit on Ouija boards at the international airport’s museum.

Mystifying Oracle Electric c. 1933 William Fuld Baltimore, Maryland design on metal
Mystifying Oracle Electric c. 1933. William Fuld Baltimore, Maryland. Design on metal. Image by courtesy of Eugene Orlando/Museum of Talking Boards

Ouija and talking boards, which are said to be used to communicate with spirits, are on display at the SFO Museum at the San Francisco airport.

Yogee: The Amazing Answer Board c. 1944 Lee Industries Chicago design on cardboard
Yogee: The Amazing Answer Board c. 1944. Lee Industries, Chicago. Design on cardboard. Image by Courtesy of Eugene Orlando/Museum of Talking Boards

The history of the boards dates back to around 1886, when “the press reported on a device used by some Spiritualists in Ohio—a talking board with letters, numbers, and a planchette-like device that pointed to the letters.  Spirits could spell out their communications with the living, while the living simply held their hands on the planchette as it moved towards various letters”, according to a press release from the airport museum.

The boards proliferated over the 20th century and a Norman Rockwell painting of a couple using one was even featured on the cover of an edition of Saturday Evening Post in 1920. The exhibition, which features boards and paraphernalia, is made up of items on loan from Eugene Orlando of the Museum of Talking Boards and Robert Murch of the Talking Board Historical Society.

The Mitche Manitou Board c. 1917 Wilder Manufacturing Company St. Louis, Missouri design on wood
The Mitche Manitou Board c. 1917. Wilder Manufacturing Company, St. Louis, Missouri. Design on wood. Image by courtesy of Eugene Orlando/Museum of Talking Boards

The Mysterious Talking Board: Ouija and Beyond is located beyond security screening in Terminal 2, on the departures level of the San Francisco International Airport. It is on view for free to Terminal 2 ticketed passengers until 7 May. However, if a trip through SFO is out of the question, there is also an online version of the exhibit.