We were not allowed to play with Ouija boards as children.
It was never my idea anyway. I was a wary, superstitious child, worried not only about whatever lived under my bed but how, if necessary, I would get rid of the vampires, werewolves, demons, or various other creature-feature types that may attempt to come through a window while our parents were gone.
The werewolves I thought I could handle – surely there was a gun somewhere in this trailer court? – and a vampire could be avoided entirely with garlic, something we always had plenty of; but I was always particularly concerned about demonic possession. My younger brother and sister – especially my brother! – looked like prime candidates for that sort of thing to me, and I kept a close eye on both of them every time my parents went out.
The odds of finding a priest in some of these trailer parks were pretty slim, after all; and have you met my brother?
He once tied me to a tree and left me there.
Everywhere we lived it seemed someone was staring into a mirror in the dark. “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody –“ Of course you’d have to be crazy to finish that, wouldn’t you? I don’t even recall the point of the whole thing. Why were we saying that?
All I remember is that those two words, repeated three times in a row, were enough to send pre-pubescent girls all over rural Minnesota screaming hysterically toward a light switch.
“But Mom, why can’t we play with a Ouija board?”
“Because a friend of mine had a friend who used it once, and the board told him that he would be killed by Time; and of course he laughed. But sure enough, one day he was out walking and a large clock fell off a building and killed him!”
Had she been smiling when she said that, my mother? Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if she was pulling my leg. All I know is that I’ve never looked at a picture of Big Ben without imagining someone crushed under it, their last thought being “well, I’ll be danged. That lousy board was right…”
I tried to explain this to a nephew once, the delicious-ness of fear, the dark room, a friend lying on a table, everyone gathered around with their fingertips under her body, chanting “light as a feather, stiff as a board” over and over until – oh, for cryin’ out loud! – the body began to rise, not seeming to weigh a thing...
“Why would you want to do that?”
“What? Why? Well because, see, there were only four TV stations and you had to go to the theater to see a movie…”
“So you turned out the lights and tried to scare yourselves?”
Hmm. Well, yes. Something like that.
We were just playing around.
And I’m still not allowed to use a Ouija board.
3 hours ago