The Ouija board is the standard when it comes to mass-produced boards that can speak with the spirit world. Not a new amusement, these “talking boards” have been around for over hundred years. Talking to the dead as a pastime began gaining popularity around the 1850’s, and this is also when society saw a rise in talking boards used to communicate with the other side. And as popularity grew over time, the boards quickly became more readily available, varied, and in some cases, more in depth. Such is the case of the 1970s ES Lowe creation, The Ziriya Board.
Edwin S. Lowe was a Polish toymaker who immigrated to the United States from Poland in the late 1920s. Lowe’s games have always leaned towards the more adult side. His company is responsible for the first mass-produced Bingo game as well as producing miniature chess and checkers sets that were extremely popular amongst servicemen during the second World War. In 1956, Lowe bought the rights to a game known as Yacht which he renamed Yahtzee. By the 1970s, the Ouija Board had gone from a mystical communication device that adults used in their candle lit Victorian parlors to a something that adolescents played with at slumber parties. By 1972, Lowe figured adults still wanted to communicate with the hereafter, but didn’t want to have the stigma of breaking out a “kids’ toy” to do so. That’s where the Ziriya Board comes in.
The Ziriya Board worked in much the same way as a Ouija board. Users sat around a large square and held on to a planchette and, just like most games of Ouija, accused the other players of moving it around while the board seemed to deliver messages. However, there are some major differences in the game’s design. The biggest change is that the spirits don’t have to spell out what they are trying to say. In addition to letters and numbers, the board is also covered with words that spirits can conveniently pick from, a relief for any spirit who happens to be a bad speller (or just lazy).
I wouldn’t look forward to seeing too many Ziriya horror movies this summer, it’s just not that kind of game. You’ll be more likely to summon a spirit wearing a 70s ascot who happened to die in a bizarre roller-disco accident then a vengeful demon. One of its box cover designs suggests something more swingerish than sinister, and one section of the board even allows players to ask the spirit what “their sign” is. “Oh, you’re an Aries, you sweet swinging spirit? That’s totally groovy.”