A planchette is a device intended to facilitate communication with spirits and spirits of the dead. The planchette consists of a thin heart-shaped wooden platform with three legs. Two of the legs are on wheels and the third is a pencil with the point down. The user places fingertips on the platform and invites spirits to guide movements to write out messages or draw pictures. In this fashion, the discarnate are said to communicate with the living. In some cases, Mediums using planchettes have been alleged to reproduce exactly the handwriting of deceased persons.
The term “planchette” means “little board” in French. It is named after a well-known French spiritualist, M. Planchette, who invented it in 1853. The device became popular among French spiritualists and in 1868 it was discovered by American toy makers, who mass-produced it and sold it through bookstores. The planchette became a fad in America and the United Kingdom, and also was adopted as a tool by many of the physical mediums of Spiritualism.
Although credited to Planchette, the device probably has much older origins. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was said to hold Séances at which a mystic table, mounted on wheels, moved to point to signs inscribed on a stone slab. It has been suggested that Pythagoras discovered similar devices in use in the East during his travels there and adapted them to suit his own purposes.
Use of the planchette has declined along with the decline in physical Mediumship and the drop of fad interest in spiritualism. Most contemporary mediums prefer to use mental mediumship, in which they allegedly receive impressions of information from discarnate beings and convey them using their own voices. Other mediums allow spirits to communicate by making use of the mediums’ own vocal cords. Automatic Writing, using simply a pen or pencil, also has supplanted the planchette.
- Oppenheim, Janet. The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.