If there’s a child anywhere in the world who hasn’t attended a gathering where ghost stories were told, I’d like to meet that extraordinary youngster. Scaring ourselves with tales from the grave is a rite of passage and given the number of horror films that are popular, we seem never to outgrow the habit.
When it comes to the spiritual world, I admit I’m a skeptic. The only ghost I believe in is a ghost writer. But I do recall my first encounter with the Ouija board. The night was dark and stormy and I was attending a slumber party where the hostess had just turned 11. One of her gifts was a Ouija board, and when she pulled it out so we could play, the rest of us giggled, covering our lips with our hands to hide our nervousness. None of us was certain about the power of the Ouija board but everyone wanted to give it a try. After a few minutes of squabbling, we decided upon a question. I don’t remember what it was, but I suspect it was some version of “Does Jimmy like Angie?”
The moment our fingers touched the planchette — the gizmo used to spell out letters — it began to move. All of us let out a squeal, sharp enough to cut through the plasma of any ghost, but the letters kept coming until they spelled out “Y-E-S.” Angie blushed with pleasure while the rest of us laughed, thrilled to have been scared out of our wits.
I know now the movement we experienced that night was random, a consequence of the ideomotor effect: small “automatic muscular movements that take place without the conscious will or volition of the individual.” (The Secret of the Ouija board,” by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, excerpted from the Smithsonian Institute in The Week, 2/14/14 pg. 36-37) But that doesn’t rob the board of its mystery which began as far back as 1891.
That was the year when Elijah Bond and Helen Peters turned up at the U S patent office to register their game. A skeptical chief officer eyed the contraption and demanded a demonstration, insisting that the board spell out his full name. To his astonishment, it did and once convinced of the board’s powers, the man wasted little time filing the paperwork.
Was some spirit really behind the planchette’s movements that day in 1891? Does the Ouija board really have the power to call up spirits? Maybe. Or maybe, Elijah Bond, a patent attorney, was aware of the agent’s name. We’ll never know. But since that day children all over the world have thrilled to the uncertainty of why things go bump in the night.
(Courtesy of spicenewyorkcity.com)