The Singular Taking Board brought to you by Decimononic is an attempt to emulate the genuine ‘Singular Talking Board’ designed by Dr. Miguel Vázquez around year 1856. Unfortunately not a single original talking board has been preserved to this day, but the main elements of this device have been inferred from texts of the time that described its use.
1.- Background: the device and its creator, Dr. Vázquez
1.1.- Early life and Parisian Studies
Dr. Miguel Vázquez (1819 Ferrol – 1877 Vigo) was a Spanish physician and spiritualist that spent almost 25 years studying the occult. It is widely believed that he was the shaper of The Singular Talking Board.
Son of French mother and Galician father, he spoke fluently four languages, played piano from an early age and became a promising student of Medicine at one of the oldest extant universities in the world, the University of Santiago de Compostela, in 1828. As student he became very interested in Psychiatry and decided to move to Paris after graduating, living with his aunt and uncle in a petite bourgeois house close to Saint-Lazare train station between 1839 and 1844. His mental illnesses and phrenology studies led him to meet Dr. François Magendie at Collège de France and everything suggests that he became disappointed and considered the scientific premises of phrenology refuted very soon. In addition, it is believed that he analyzed the practices of several magnétiseurs (energy healers) during this period, to come to the conclusion that this practice was scientifically unsound. He got married in 1845 and his first son was born a year later.
1.2.- Mesmerism meets spiritualism: the golden years
It is evident that Dr. Vázquez was a men of science. In spite of this, an unexpected and inexplicable experience was going to change his life in 1846, when his aunt introduced Dr. Vazquez’s wife to a medium of unknown identity, who had a deep influence in both of them. In fact Dr. Vazquez began his research on clairvoyance and mesmerism shortly afterwards his first experiences as séance participant.
According to certain sources, Dr. Vázquez chanced to lay his hands on a copy of The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind around 1849. This work of Andrew Jackson Davis had a shattering impact in his beliefs, turning him into a convinced spiritualist. In fact he merged mesmerism and spiritualism, developing his own doctrine.
Dr. Vázquez considered that the animal magnetism phenomena, linked to the concept of ‘ethereal medium’ (taking this as ‘life energy’ or ‘fluid’), was directly related to the idea of spirit and ‘spiritual communion’. Thus, any living creature had a unique life fluid, derived form its distinctive ‘soul’: this is what Dr. Vázquez called ‘singular spiritual footprint’.
“Atendendo ó devandito, non podo menos que rematar este ensaio afirmando a máis que probable existencia da pegada singular espiritual. Cada ser vivo conta con unha ánima única, unha enerxía vital característica e irrepetible”.
In light of the above, I can only conclude this essay stating a more than probable existence of the singular spitiritual footprint. Every living creature has a unique soul, a characteristic and unrepeatable vital energy.
Dr. Miguel Vázquez, Estudio da enerxía espiritual: fluxo e dinámica vital (‘Studies of spiritual energy: vital flow and dynamics’)
It is said that the study of the ‘higher phenomena’ of magnetism by Prof. Henry Sidgwick in the very prestigious ‘Trinity College’ of Cambridge in 1876 was influenced in some way by this theory.
1.3.- The Singular Talking Board sequels and the return to anonymity
Due to his interest in the communication with spirits, it seems that Dr. Vázquez designed an early talking board in 1856; this is, almost 35 years before the commercial exploitation of the Ouija board by Elijah Bond. Unfortunately there is no physical evidence of the existence of this device, but it is thought that the results of some of the séances were so disturbing that Dr. Vázquez found himself caught up in a maelstrom, pushed and pulled by his supporters and detractors. When the first threatening anonymous letter was delivered and public authorities began to show interest in his activities, Dr. Vázquez feared for the welfare of his family and decided to move back to Galicia in 1859, choosing an flourishing industrial town as place of residence: Vigo.
The lack of information from this moment suggests that Dr. Vázquez made his best to avoid public life. It seems that he decided to leave his research on occultism behind and destroyed most of his works, focusing on his activity as pathologist. However, a small part of his research archive was retained by his family and destroyed in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. All original manuscripts seem to be lost and only a few scarce copies have been preserved to our times.
2.- The Singular Talking Board
‘Spiritualism is the Science, Philosophy and Religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of communication, by means of mediumship, with those who live in the Spirit World’.
National Spiritualist Association of Churches (1919)
As you know, Spiritualism postulates that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Taking this as point of departure, the aim of The Singular Talking Board is therefore to facilitate this communication process.
The main elements of The Singular Talking Board are the following:
- Latin alphabet.
- Numbers from 0 to 9.
- The words ‘Hello’, ‘Yes’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘No’.
- Lunar phases.
One of the main peculiarities of this talking board is the inclusion of the lunar phases. This is due to the observed influence of the moon in the results of the séances, that Dr. Vázquez attributed to the fluid state of the ‘ethereal medium’. This approach is very close to the theories developed by the Babylonian astronomer Seleucus of Seleucia in the 2nd century BC, who believed that the interaction between tides and human beings was due to the pneuma (ancient Greek word for ‘breath’ and, in a religious context, for ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’). Let’s remember that William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) led the first systematic harmonic analysis of tidal records starting in 1867.
In addition, a planchette will be used as message indicator, sliding or pivoting along the surface of the board to spell out words.
3.- User Guide
There is a land where we all go,
Whence ne’er the frost nor cold wind blow,
And friends remembered reunite,
And those who hate, forget their spite,
In glow surround these gentle beings,
We call you now to bless our meetings,
Heaven’s promise, our spirits thrive,
.So now for the living, let the dead come alive.Greetings spirits, Speak thee to us?.Source: ‘The Spirit Speaks! Weekly Newspaper’ (1901)
This user guide pursues the objective of helping the users of The Singular Talking Board to make the most of it. The following instructions have been written upon careful analysis of:
- Two handwritten texts attributed to the designer of The Singular Talking Board, Dr. Miguel Vázquez.
- The few available reports of successful séances in which The Singular Talking Board was in use.
3.1.- Finding a suitable place
A private and quiet environment is mandatory in order to avoid undesired distractions and reach a proper state of mind. Any interruption may ruin a fruitful séance.
3.2.- The mood
Decide first what you expect from the séance as this is the only way to achieve a meaningful experience. Be patient, stay focused and remain respectful, concentrating on the questions.
3.3.- Preparing the board
Place the board on the table before you. The placement of personal items (tokens) on the board is not indispensable, but very recommendable. Personal belongings are useful to get better results and, sometimes, to protect the participants from unfriendly presences.
As stated above, the inclusion of the lunar phases is one of the main characteristics for The Singular Talking Board. Dr. Vázquez recommended to place over the image of the current lunar phase an object as ‘anchor’. Depending on the objective of the session, this token could be a personal belonging of the called on deceased person that the participants desire to contact. However, many times there was not availability of such an item. In this case, or if the séance had a different purpose, a personal belonging of the medium would be used. Some testimonies from participants in séances point out that Dr. Vázquez used often his pocket watch as anchor. The use of objects made of silver was very common, as silver was supposed to repel ‘evil energies’.
3.4.- Séance dynamics
This board is intended to be used by two, three of four people. This results from the fact that a larger amount of participants tends to hinder the achievement of an intimate and calm setting, whilst trying to use it without a partner is usually unsuccessful.
Opening and closing ceremonies may help you to properly concentrate in the séance. With practice you will develop your own ritual; some suitable options are intoning spirit invocations, reciting poetry, singing and speaking power words.
Place your fingertips (index and middle) lightly on the planchette. empty your mind and relax, the objective is to be wired in. Then, ask ‘is anyone there?’ or an intelligent question out loud. One person only should ask questions at a time, preferably by the one chosen as ‘channeler’ as this person is the ‘connecting link’ (spirits presumably need a physical “vessel” to move the planchette).
With your fingers in the proper position, give the planchette a few moments to work by itself. If nothing happens or it acts “asleep,” very lightly slide it around the board in a circular motion. Try to visualize, distance yourself mentally and watch things happen. You will steadily feel the urge to stop at certain letters. Note them down if necessary.
And remember: practice makes perfect.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, hence names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of our imagination or are used fictionally.