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a heart-shaped board on wheels, on which messages are written under supposed spirit guidance
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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A man and woman attempt to communicate with spirits, using an upturned wine glass planchette and a talking board, c. 1950. Orlando/Three Lions/Qetty Images.

Planchette; Pencil Planchette

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The word planchette means “plank; small board, or platform.” It is, in fact, a small platform used in Spiritualism as a tool to communicate with spirits. It is usually about three inches wide and four inches long, resting on three small legs. There are many different designs but an early, popular, design was heart shaped; the point of the heart working as a pointer. On a Ouija® Board, or similar talking board, the planchette slides about the surface of the board, pointing at letters to spell out messages. One, two, or more people lightly rest their finger tips on the top edges of the device, to channel into it the power to make it move.

The three legs are either tipped with felt so that they will slide easily on a polished surface, or have small castor wheels on them. Sometimes, if automatic writing is to be done, one of the legs is replaced by a pencil, the point of which traces letters onto a sheet of paper over which the planchette moves. This is known as a “pencil planchette.”

The moving platform was invented in 1853 by a well known French Spiritualist named M. Planchette. Fifteen years after its original appearance, it became widely used, thanks to an American toy manufacturer who started producing them in quantity. It is said that a similar form of communicating board was in use in Greece at the time of Pythagoras, about 540 BCE. According to a French writer this was a “mystic table on wheels,” that moved about indicating signs engraved on a stone slab.

There have been a wide variety of designs for planchettes, some of them connecting the platform to a clock-like dial with the letters of the alphabet on it, some allowing the platform to slide sideways in a track, to do its pointing. The board produced commercially by William Fuld, and then later by Parker Brothers, has a planchette on three legs whose shape comes to a point under the single leg. In the center area of the device there is a plastic window with a pin in its center, pointing down. The instructions that come with the set say “The mysterious message indicator will commence to move … as it passes over Ouija® talking board each letter of a message is received as it appears through the transparent window covered by the message indicator.” This is not strictly true. Sometimes a string of letters is received that make no sense whatsoever … until it is realized that the planchette is no longer showing the relevant letters through its plastic “window” on the one line, but is pointing to the letters on the line above with its tapered point.

A very simple, yet very effective, talking board can be made by writing the letters of the alphabet on pieces of paper and laying them down in a circle, around the edge of a table. A wine glass can then be upturned and used as a planchette, the participants resting their fingers on the now-top edge of the glass. The glass will slide over the table surface to stop in front of appropriate letters.


Buckland, Raymond: Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2004
Covina, Gina: The Ouija® Book. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979
Hunt, Stoker: Ouija®: The Most Dangerous Game. New York: Harper & Row, 1985
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
These Karoo or toe puppets strongly resemble the French marionettes a la planchette. Similar toe puppets are also found in West and Central African countries as part of street entertainments and fertility ceremonies (Blumenthal 2004, pp.
For example, as a white middle-class woman, Stowe typified her social stratum's interest in mediumship, mesmerism, and spiritualism by her participation in seances and her experimentation with a planchette, which Wardley describes as "a ouija-board-like instrument designed for extraworldy [sic] communication" (208).
Myers, 'Automatic Writing or the Rationale of the Planchette', The Contemporary Review, XLVII, Jan.-June (1885), 233-249, and his 'Multiplex Personality', reprinted in Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts 1830-1890, Jenny Bourne Taylor and Sally Shuttleworth, eds.
QUIZ CHALLENGE: 1 It provides our sense of balance; 2 A planchette; 3 Man - as a baby, an adult and an old person with a stick; 4 Martin Luther King Jr; 5 Thomas Cook.
With the aim of contacting 'the spirit world' during a seance, participants each place a finger on a pointing device, or planchette. The planchette is observed to move--propelled by 'metaphysical forces'--and so spell out messages from a purported 'spirit world'.
Leslie Stringfellow, a 20-year-old Texan who died in 1886, wrote (allegedly, let us remember) through a planchette to his parents, "I don't believe there are two parents in the world who have so constantly remembered their son as you have." He delights in their loving attention and contrasts himself to others who "never receive the gift of a single flower" and feel themselves alone and forgotten by their loved ones, to their great sorrow.
ANSWERS: 1 It provides our sense of balance; 2 A planchette; 3 Man - as a baby, an adult and an old person with a stick; 4 Martin Luther King Jr; 5 Thomas Cook; 6 B&Q; 7 A Soviet labour camp; 8 Oxer; 9 Avis car rentals; 10 Martello towers.
ANSWERS: 1 It provides our sense of balance; 2 A planchette; 3 Man - as a baby, an adult and an old person with a stick; 4 Martin Luther King Jr; 5 Thomas Cook; 6 B&O; 7 A Soviet labour camp; 8 Oxer; 9 Avis car rentals; 10 Martello towers.
The number of dead led to the appearance of what was called at first "planchette" ...
It is said that side saddle riding can be traced back as far as the 9th century, when a horse was the only means of transport and a lady would sit completely aside on a pad with her legs to the side, later developing into the planchette with a ledge for the feet, and gradually evolving over the years into the present day saddle.
Sometime after their marriage, the Lamberts, in company with Powell, were visiting Gerald Reitlinger, a mutual friend, when the host produced a planchette board.