Planchettes, dial plates, or the Ouija boards developed and build up during the latter half of the 19th-century. It was the period when the age-old religious notions found challenge in sweeping scientific discoveries and industrial development which rocked the firm footholds of faith and believes in the people.

In the simple language we can say Planchettes means when we communicate with the dead soul which is also touted as the charismatic mesmerists, psychic healers, animal magnetists, and phrenologists plunged headlong into the new religious territory.

The word Planchettes get limelight earlier, in early 1848, when the young Fox Sisters claimed communion with souls via the mysterious raps heard in their Hydesville, New York home.

With the blanket that exists between the living and the dead seemingly fraction, the belief in and experimentation with spirit communications spread at a rate formerly was not at the time or period though, aided by advances in telegraph technology and an unprecedented cooperative media, people get to know about the between the living.

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This was a new age of both science and religion when Planchettes, became global popular which was also regarded as that period a common enemy which threatened the sanctity and the blessedness of both.

Against this backdrop, homegrown spiritual experimentation Planchettes was turned to be the most famous and the popular of parlor pastimes. Table-tipping was all the rage, as participants could now spread their outstretched hands on top of the nearest piano stool or dinette, where they actually, experience mysterious raps, unexplained tilting, and other strange movements as the tables exhibited apparently used to give some worth responses to questions.

The popularity of the pastime which is commonly known as the Planchettes was addictive and spread rapidly. In 1851, one Philadelphia observer reported that some 50 or 60 séance circles were formed in the whole town, and a Cincinnati newspaper editor estimated more than 1,200 mediums operating in this town was alone.

Though those western frontiers were hooked, and in 1853, another journalist said that “it was not by any means unusual on entering a log cabin to find the good, simple people seated around the rude table upon which the raps were being made.”

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The Planchettes, means the Table-tipping and spirit rapping was then reached in England and spread in the whole, and on both sides of the Atlantic, created and invent the new ways to communicate with the “so-called dead” people whom they  were imagined and made real, which was also touted as the very creative  and the resourceful.

With the establishment of the faith in soul and spirits who are indeed willing and able to communicate with the living via these unique gifted mediums or creative for of arts known as the Planchettes, so this planchette is also turned to be very popular globally as it is the new manner of communication with the dead people.

Simply knocked confirmation is often leading questions quickly which gave way to ponderous alphabet-calling, in which the raps or blow would choose a letter from a called-out alphabet in order to spell out messages one letter at a time.

But financial records from even the initial days of rapping mediums tell of alphabet cards and tiles used to make an easy way to have the faster communication for the people.

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Given such close antecedents to this classic talking board form, and the fervor with which inventors pursued devices which also bring massive craze of the art called Planchettes.

This is somewhat amazing that the aspiring spiritual consultant actually waits around 40 years for the first commercial realization of this ancient form of alphabetic communication which we got in form of the Kennard’s Ouija board which actually promotes the art called Planchettes.

in its place, this is touted as the alternate routes were taken, possibly since the proliferation of popular alphabet-learning cards and alphabet boxes full of lettered tiles were the routine place for the learning tools for children and readily at hand for impromptu séances also.

Whatever the case perhaps, long before talking boards ruled the roost, it is a kind of art planchette which turns to be popular and stole the hearts and minds of the newly-necromantic public.

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French and German cultures were mainly primed to accept the leap of faith from their popular belief in Mesmerism which was a way of the spiritual communion.

In fact, in spite, the collector’s viewpoint of planchettes being exceptionally popular and trendy in the American and British phenomenon, it is in France that devices not only received their name but originated and created.

On the 10th June 1853, it is the first known use of an impromptu automatic writer in the West, which was being witnessed by the Spiritist Allan Kardec, who attended the Paris table-tipping seance where its invention occurred.

AS per, Kardec, a “fervent partisan of the new phenomena” present at the seance made the suggestion which was touted as an alternative to the laborious process of alphabet-calling and tiresome rapped responses, and manufactured a small upturned basket, to which he secured a pencil, in order for a number of participants to participate in writing out messages from their spiritual controls. The device’s first message said sternly “I expressly forbid you’re repeating to anyone what I have just told you. The next time I write, I shall do it better.” No one now knows exactly who coined the phrase, but the name “little plank” was given to the device, or, in the original French, “planchette.”

However, this wasn’t the first time when the spirits had seized a host in order to write messages, as Isaac Post, an associate of the Fox Sisters, had done so years before with automatic writing.

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For the first time, But the planchette offered a cooperative session with multiple sitters, which open up intriguing new possibilities for aspiring spirit communicators. And the idea soon spread and turns to be global.

Other accounts of the planchette’s discovery are somehow different, though they lack Kardec’s reliable firsthand narrative. G.W. Cottrell actually, eventually, famous as the responsible for the manufacturing America’s first planchettes, which was also claimed in his 1868 book, that a sect of French monks was responsible for developing planchette writing techniques in a Parisian monastery.

As per the Cottrell, the process of their spirit writing was witnessed by the nephew of the Bishop of Paris, and he then introduced it to the seance scene in Paris, which perhaps have not directly contradicted Kardec’s own account, and, in fact, may identify the same “fervent partisan” as per the Kardec mentioned.

Reportedly, at the end of 1853, a pastoral letter penned by the Bishop of Viviers was railing against the make use of the art called planchette by the clergy.

Whether the planchette’s true origins migrated and come from the monasteries to the seance parlor, or vice-versa, the exact fact of the same is unknown, but there is no doubt that the device or this special kind of art called planchette is discovered by the French people.

The use of planchettes spread quickly in the whole Paris, By the end of 1853, a small cottage industry wishes to provide this new tool took root in France and England, with sympathetic surgical equipment and scientific instrument makers, which includes, Thomas Welton and Elliot Brothers providing the devices on a small scale.

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Though, planchettes still remain somewhat exclusive to Spiritualists from that medieval period which was not allowed on that period though, but eventually, planchettes turn to be the popular culture worldwide.

In the interim, other spirit communication devices had received massive limelight, all briefly blaze earlier than fading into obscurity.

John Rutter done experimentation with the animal magnetism with his Magnetoscope, a pendulum device was very akin to the later divination instruments. Isaac Pease of Thompsonville, Connecticut was the first American to manufacture a spirit communication device, which also produced the first “dial plate” boards with his invention of a clock-like dial face with an alphabet-lined circumference that assorted radial messages that spelled out messages by means of a manipulated index which display and pointed to selected letters when manipulated by a medium.

Dr. Robert Hare, the Famous chemist, also constructed very akin devices of his own, which customized, modified and adapted some of Pease’s dial plates which actually create foolproof machines meant to disprove spirit communication, but the veteran professor only succeeded in convincing himself of the truth of the tested medium’s claims.

Adolphus Theodore Wagner submitted his patent for a spirit communication device, that was regarded as the “Psychograph” or “Thought Indicator”, In 1854.

This was complicated tool that worked something like a draftsman’s pantograph, with the various sliding levered arms controlled by multiple sitters who placed their hands on wooden disks to manipulate the device, thus summated and positioned out letters and numbers on an octavo-sized alphabet card.

This was an incredibly complicated affair-not, unlike a writing pentagraph, only with the additional disks and even a glass plate which facilitate the sliding action-but with this new discovery and the invention, France had not only the world’s first patented planchette, but also the world’s first talking board patent!

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In 1858 marks a faithful milestone or a landmark year for the spirit communication devices. Like most accounts for the era, there are slight inconsistency and negation, but actually, in that year, the planchette crossed the Atlantic into America.

At that period, the famous Spiritualist, legislator, and social reformer Robert Dale Owen traveled to Paris, then London, then finally to America, accompanied by his companion Dr. H. F. Gardner, who was well-known Boston Spiritualist and paranormal investigator.

The Gardner’s account, as related by his friend and planchette manufacturer G.W. Cottrell, later on, recounted in a letter dated May 5, 1859:

“In Paris, I witnessed a method of communication of which I had not heard in America. The instrument used by them they call a ‘Planchette.’ The method of communication is by writing…I called upon the manufacturers of the above-mentioned instrument to purchase one to take home with me, and he informed Mr. Owen, who was with me, that he had made and sold several hundred in Paris alone ”

Another account comes from planchette maker Thomas Welton, which has a slightly different version of the pair’s trip and succeeding import of planchettes to American shores.

He recounts, a story of the 1858 trip, in London just before their return to Boston, Mr. Owen received a written planchette communication which delivered him some acquaintance, which instructed in writing to “Go to my son and tell him that I will be with him this day and month, to cause him to make such alterations as I wish in the book he is now writing, “; Rt. Owen.”

At the time when the message was shown, Mr. Owen claimed it was not only from his own recently-dead father, but also in his father’s handwriting, and about a book project formerly kept strictly confidential.

It was so impressive that the younger (and still living) Robert Owen, claims Welton, that he purchased six of the devices before making comeback to the Boston with them. Whether they were purchased from Welton is not cleared or known yet.


But this is perhaps disclosed that the contradictions of American versus British forms were founded in 1867.

Whether Gardner or Owen is responsible for the device’s import to America doesn’t matter indeed. But something which is very important was that after their comeback to the Boston, G.W. Cottrell, the bookseller had 50 copies made of a specimen provided him that was also available for sale in his stationary store at 36 Cornhill Street started in around 1860 which also catches a plenty of the eyeballs.

One writer eventually, remarked these early copies were “like the modern planchettes, despite the fact that,  not so graceful and stylish in appearance, without doubt, a reference to the more intriguing lines and sweeping cutaway of the Kirby & Co.

The art planchette, actually, dominated the market at the time of the writing. Probably, they were not heart-shaped, but rather of Welton’s distinctly British form, with a flat back and round nose. The public was not aware in that period, that what the planchette hope to deliver in that period which was just a new discovery in that time.

The popularity of planchettes stalled which was immense distractions of the American Civil War took over the public consciousness, and spiritual experimentation began slowly developing from its innocent parlor-pastime days into the more unified religion of Modern Spiritualism.

With all the polarization and resentment which break-away sect can ask for.

The Media attention shifted to the more serious news of the war, even as seances turn to be the more sensational, with the rise of superstar mediums, physical manifestations, and spirit voices.

Somehow the planchette was waiting in the wings for its turn in the spotlight, and eventually, common people started knowing about the planchette.

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