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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Ouija Board: Harmless or Harbinger


On Saturday nights, my parents always went out to dinner and my sister, Anne, babysat for the rest of us. Mostly we’d watch television and eat too much ice cream, but if my cousin, Jenny, joined us for the evening then she and Anne would inevitably come up with something more interesting. Often it would be prank calls, “Is your refrigerator running?” or “Do you have King Arthur in a can?” But every so often they’d turn off the lights, arrange candles around the dining room table and bring out the Ouija Board. I was never sure how I felt about this at eight-years-old. My mother always said it was just a silly game. But when Jenny and Anne sat at the table in veils and dresses confiscated from the dress-up trunk in the basement with the shadowy glow of candlelight dancing on the walls behind them and called on the spirits, I wasn’t at all sure that my mother was right.

As an adult, I’ve learned that the Ouija Board has been around for over a hundred years and most people, like my mother, believe it to be harmless fun. But there are others who question its use. Some fundamental Christians consider it the work of Satan. Many movies like Witchboard and The Craft have built on this idea and paranormal researchers won’t discount the possibility that it is a conduit to another dimension.

I’m still not sure where my opinion falls. I can’t deny that, as a kid, whenever I sat down to play and touched my fingers to the planchette, I felt a significant amount of adrenaline fluttering around in my chest.  And when the plastic disc moved along the board in answer to my questions, I honestly didn’t know if it was my subconscious moving it or if I was actually communicating with a spirit. In a poll I found on Paranormal Phenomena, 65 percent believe the Ouija Board to be a dangerous tool while 41 percent believe that the board is controlled by the user’s subconscious.

A couple of years ago, I found a board in an antique shop, one of the originals made by Hasbro, still in the box. Consciously or subconsciously, when I saw it, it brought back memories that made me stop and smile. And as soon as I held it in my hands, I knew I had to buy it. (Was that the spirit communicating with me?) The board now sits open, tilted against the wall, on a shelf above my desk and I sometimes wonder if, and how it influences me as I write.

In my new release, In the Shadow of Revenge, three young girls play out a ritual with their Ouija Board every Saturday morning. For two if them it’s harmless fun, but for Cecily, it’s much more….
The first time I knew that the spirits were truly in me had started out like any other Saturday. We’d met just like we always did. The board was laid out when Amelia and I arrived. Hilary started and then it was my turn. I placed the tips of my fingers on the heart-shaped planchette expecting to feel the heat that I’d become accustomed to. Instead, a jolt of electricity bit right into my fingertips, travelled through my wrists and up my arms until it was snapping against my neck like a shock collar on a dog. I snatched my hands away and looked at Hilary and Amelia, my heart clanging against my chest.
I’ve never told Amelia or Hilary that I have the Ouija Board, though Hilary assumes I do. I’d rather they think the police took it with them when they combed through the railcar looking for evidence on the day of the assault. And I’ve never touched it again since that time, except to pack it amongst my belongings when I moved from my mother’s house. But I’ve accepted that its spirit lives within me and that I need only touch the board to feel the current. And when it flows, I know the ground beneath me is about to shake.

How many of you played with the board as kids or maybe still do? Is it a harmless game or a dangerous tool? What do you think?

5 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

A Ouija board was brought out at a couple of slumber parties I attended. Not sure we ever got it to "work" or tell us anything significant, but I remember the creepy vibe it gave me. Or, maybe more than creepy, it was that adrenaline rush you mentioned, from doing the "forbidden." I was certain my parents wouldn't approve. ;)

Rita said...

Ohhhhh! Nooooo! Don’t mess with that crap. Seriously. If there are a bunch of people wandering around laughing when I get nekked I don’t want to know. Enough creepy stuff happens around here without asking it to. Spooky and nice excerpt.

Sheila Lowe said...

My daughter used to use one with some pretty scary results, including automatic writing by a spirit who identified itself as "Zulp." I still have the piece of writing. As a forensic handwriting analyst I can the difference in whether there is true automatic writing or the person's subconscious.

Ana Barrons said...

Ouija boards have always intrigued and scared the hell out of me simultaneously. Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing, or maybe it was the movie The Exorcist, but I got to a point where I didn't dare touch one. That said, I'm going to have to read the book now!

Holly said...

This is fantastic!

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