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From talking with deceased loved ones to conjuring spirits, many people have stories surrounding the Ouija board. John Kozik has probably heard them all.

Kozik owns the Salem Witch Board Museum on Essex Street in Salem, a testament to his 15-year pursuit collecting Ouija. The two-year-old museum houses a third of Kozik’s personal collection of talking boards — around 100 at any given time — an obsession that started with his grandmother. All in all, the museum collection totals 300 to 500 boards.

Kozik said his grandmother used her board alone — a feat some would consider bad luck, according to Ouija superstitions. Though a young Kozik was never allowed to be in the same room as her when she used it, he tried to spy from a top stair or through her window hoping to catch a glimpse of which letters and numbers her fingers darted across.


“I really was drawn to boards from the 1940s, specifically, through the different motifs and artwork that were on them,” Kozik said in a phone interview. “I started by buying one board to keep my grandmother’s board company. But as I got to learn about talking boards, it kind of became this obsession.”

Kozik searches high and low for additions to his Ouija board collection and has built up a large network of fans and friends who help steer him toward his next find. Typically, he finds boards at estate sales, yard sales, or flea markets. Whether it’s conversing at the local dry cleaners, convenience store, or even worldwide, Kozik said he leaves “no stone unturned.”

The Salem Witch Board Museum is a speakeasy of sorts, and patrons have to enter through the gift shop, Remember Salem, to access it. Inside, the 500 square-foot museum is ordered chronologically, detailing the history of talking boards from the Spiritualist movement in the 1800s to today’s pop culture references in a self-guided tour. Some boards hang on the walls, but some along with planchettes are encased in clear displays. And in its own special spot is Kozik’s grandmother’s original board, the one that started it all.


Despite his interest, Kozik has never used a board himself. In a way, Kozik says, he’d never be able to match his grandmother’s mastery.

“I don’t think I’m gonna have the same connection she had to the board, so I don’t really push for it,” he said.

Stories he hears from patrons are more than enough to keep him fulfilled. As the treasurer of the Talking Board Historical Society, Kozik has received numerous Ouija board donations. In one memorable story, Kozik received a Ouija wrapped in a black shroud with a small black Bible attached, a warning scrawled across the package as salt leaked out of it. (The salt is used to neutralize the board, Kozik explained.) The previous owner claimed the board caused violent and abnormal outbursts in a family member.

John Kozik, owner of the Salem Witch Board Museum, which displays hundreds of Ouija boards and takes patrons through the history of the board.
John Kozik, owner of the Salem Witch Board Museum, which displays hundreds of Ouija boards and takes patrons through the history of the board. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Kozik believes each talking board works differently for everyone depending on each person’s beliefs and rituals. One person’s good (or bad) results with a talking board does not affect someone else’s experience with that same board, he explained. But he does believe his museum has something for everyone and is more than willing to share the history and diverse stories of talking boards — which, in its current form, has roots back to the 19th century.


“There’s so many levels and layers to [Ouija board] history,” he said. “Regardless if you’re afraid of them or you don’t think you’d be interested in them, I think you’d be able to find something to connect to.”

Riana Buchman can be reached at riana.buchman@globe.com.