Ouija boards are often viewed as occult tools for contacting the dead, but their origins aren’t so sinister. A novelty company patented the spiritualist parlor trick in the late 19th century, and Parker Brothers (which is now part of Hasbro) bought the rights to the game in 1966. It may seem like an odd fit for the brand, but the board game manufacturer treats Ouija the same way it does Monopoly or Clue. It even marketed the spooky toy to teens in the 1990s.
Below you can watch retro commercials that played up the Ouija board’s mystical reputation. In one TV ad from 1991, kids ask questions like “Will I ever be tall enough to slam dunk?” and “Will my parents let me go to the concert?” while arguing over who’s moving the planchette. Another commercial from later in the decade shows off a version of the game that glows in the dark. The product’s tagline—the mystifying oracle—still appears on boxes today.
Ads selling Ouija board to kids disappeared from airwaves after the 1990s. The toy has become a target of a new wave of Satanic Panic, making its image as a harmless slumber party game a harder sell. The toy is still advertised today, but the methods are more creative. Though they played like typical horror movies, Ouija (2014) and Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) were brand tie-ins just like Battleship (2012) and Transformers (2007).
If you’re intrigued by the commercials above, you can learn more about the eerie science behind Ouija boards.