Posted in Features

Never say oui to Ouija boards

This iconic Halloween trope is not as fun as you think it is

Image Credits: Chris Ho

I wanted ghosts to be real. I wanted my fear of darkness be validated by the presence of otherworldly beings. Since the age of five, I would switch channels until I found a horror movie on the TV. I didn’t like horror that illustrated such grotesque monsters, but it validated me. This fed my interest in real ghosts; the ones that would make the air around me cold, the ones that would make me look around the room every five seconds, the ones that wouldn’t let me fall asleep the whole night.

I wanted to witness that kind of paranormal. I wanted to live it, so I went searching for that kind of presence. In boarding school, I easily fell into the trap the seniors set up for us: a hoax ritual, a sermon for the evil — all for a few laughs. So it was only natural that I nodded with alacrity when my friends in university asked me if I wanted to try out the Ouija board.

We picked a day, a time, and our favourite spot on SFU’s campus: the dugout. It was mid-spring and well under five degrees. We laid our Ouija board down on the ground and lit candles in a circle around us — you know, for the aesthetic.

We were all excited; excited for what might lay ahead of us, excited about the possibilities, excited because we thought this was silly.

Soon enough, the questions started to roll in: “Is anyone here?” “Is there someone around us?” “Can you hear us?” All of our fingers were placed on the planchette, and I giggled a little inside thinking that we all belonged in a cult.

Cults probably know the spirits they call upon. For us, this was just a way to spend our Thursday night. Someone suggested a different line of questioning, so my friend mouthed the words, “Is there a separate world for spirits?” The planchette pulled away from my fingers. It slowly dragged itself to “No.”

I looked around the dugout. It started to feel cold — maybe because there was a presence amongst us, or the lack of humour within us. The planchette was waiting for the next question as it moved back to the centre. We asked for the spirit’s name, and the planchette slithered to the letter “D” and across the letters to “N.” The only candle closest to the board flickered from the wind. I could hear my friend breathe as we all stared at the board.

We pressed further with another question: “Are you here?” I continued to gaze at the board in the little light we had, wondering if I was caught up in another trap by my friends. There was no movement of the planchette when my friend started to speak, “OK, guys, did anyone . . .” Her words faded away as she felt another movement. The planchette moved faster than before towards the corner of the board, towards me.

She no longer found the need to ask any questions. “Goodbye spirit. Goodbye.” She turned the planchette and the board upside down while instructing us to blow the candles out. I spilled the liquid wax onto my fingers and my coat; we didn’t realize how long we had waited for an unknown being to answer us. I saw my candle go out before I could put it out myself. What followed was darkness and silence.  

My friend finally spoke while we left the dugout. “When the planchette moves off the board, the spirit is trying to set itself free!” I thought something tugged at my hoodie. I cried while we sprinted for our life. Later that night, I was awake listening to every noise in my room — this was just another movie night in my life.

I can’t tell you if ghosts are real or not. My fear is real, though. That night confirmed that my fear might be well-justified.