When I was a kid, my family acquired a Ouija board. We tried it out a few times, with minimal success, until one day, we ‘struck gold’.
Or, rather, my mother and older brother and family friends did, since I think I was bored with the board by then.
They had made contact with the spirit of a Ukrainian (I believe) nun named Sifka. Sifka had died during the Second World War and had been in some kind of concentration camp. I remember my mother telling her story, but not seeing the board itself doing so.
However, between that (especially as Mum was no liar), and seeing that scene in Witchblade* where Stephen Nichols (aka Mum’s giant crush from ‘Days of Our Lives’) gets an axe to the forehead, I was So. Done. with fucking with the unknown. I was a super ‘fraidy. I hid from windows until I was 12 or 13 when I watched ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ in case a ghost, murderer, or alien featured on the show was peering in at me watching their stories on television. I couldn’t even watch the commercial for the ‘Mysteries of the Unknown’ without getting scared (the slag heap disaster psychic was especially freak-out-making because it made me believe that any bad thing that I could imagine, even accidentally, could come true).**
However, my family continued to chat with Sifka a few times. She told them about a little girl (who may have tried to ‘make contact’ herself, but couldn’t read or spell properly because she was too young when she died) who had accidentally gone to a ‘bad place’ (Hell? Abitibi?) instead of a good one (Heaven? Kirkwall?), and I’m not sure if she made it clear that it was a friend of mine who had passed away when I was in kindergarten, or if I just extrapolated that, but somehow it was communicated that I had to pray for her in church to get her to where she belonged.
Specifically I had to do this. Why me? I have no idea. I had wanted no part in it.
And there were problems to overcome.
- My family did belong to a church, not a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox one, but one in the United Church of Canada, which is so lenient that one of their ministers has been presiding over her congregation as an atheist for 14 years. Sure, it wasn’t quite as liberal in the mid-to-late 1980s, but it really wasn’t far off.
- We rarely attended services. Instead, once a month, we volunteered in the nursery because cute babies and volunteerism and community and stuff.
- What the hell did a nine-year-old in a barely Christian family know about praying?
So, I’d sit in the hallway of the community centre-ish bit of the church building, hoping that just being next to a stained glass window would be holy enough, and ask some kind of higher power if they could make sure Catherine (my kindergarten friend) got to the good place. I did this a few times. Over those months, I had a few bad dreams about it, at least once involving the melty-face man from Raiders of the Lost Ark trying to stop me. I didn’t like think about it. It was a lot of responsibility.
Eventually, it was mostly forgotten. I had done the best a clueless kid could do. The Ouija board was put away and rarely made a reappearance. I tried to avoid opening the cupboard it was kept in.
A year or so later after all this went down, I was at a sleepover where I was much younger (literally and emotionally – they were 12 or 13 and I was 10) than the other handful of guests, most of whom I didn’t know. They took out a Ouija board. I refused to participate and tried to ignore the goings-on by playing Summer Games on their Commodore 64.
However, quite soon into their talking with the spirits, the girls said they had received a message for me.
I nearly ran out of the room screaming, terrified, but instead stayed perfectly still, repeating ‘Please say it’s just “Thank you”, please say it’s just “Thank you”‘ over and over in my head.
‘It says, “Thank you”? For what?’
I babbled out my story, but they didn’t understand or believe it, but hastily put away the board anyway and then moved on to talking about boys. (Ewww!)
But I felt a huge relief, followed by some doubt because who was thanking me, really? Some bad being because I didn’t pray hard enough?
Still, my fears dwindled and I put the whole freaky experience behind me.
Here’s the thing, though.
Ouija boards were invented in the late 19th century by charlatan spiritualists. The fucking design is owned by Parker Brothers and presumably they are mass produced in overseas factories by tiny children. The planchette is not moved by spirits from beyond the veil, but by the live, human participants, consciously or subconsciously. It’s a GAME and an A+, 100% load of horseshit.
So the scariest thing about this whole story is that this was the result of someone I knew dreaming this up. (Probably.)
Or I was sending the pointer all over the map WITH MY MIND from across the room/house/street to create my own little kid nightmare. (No.)
That having been said, I am in possession of that same Ouija board and still can’t seem to manage to throw or give it away, despite it not being used in nearly three decades. I still don’t want to look at it.
I may, however, try to track down a copy of Witchboard, though.
* I cannot believe I remembered the name of that Tawny Kitaen masterpiece, unprompted by the interwebs.