I spend a lot of time in airports. So, I appreciate it when airports have art for my eyes weary of looking at fast food chains and rows and rows of industrial chairs. I’ve seen paintings and sculptures. One airport recently featured large, ornate pottery. But, I never imagined an airport would have a display like this.

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Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a display of Ouija boards and it wasn’t just one small glass-enclosed case. The San Francisco airport features dozens of versions of the spirit-communicator as part of a unique macabre exhibit. Neatly layered with pictures and descriptions, there were Ouija boards from the recent to the far bygone eras, so many that I’d never realized it’s popularity over the ages. To me it was a silly toy or a bad horror movie. (They had ones that fit that conception too.)

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The display fascinated me and, honestly, sent a little chill down my spine. It reminded me of when I was a kid and two interesting encounters I had with the Ouija board.

The first story is one my mother likes to tell about me and my friend Natasha…

Story #1: A Haunting Imagination

Let me give some background. Natasha and I have been friends since we were two-years-old and we spent a lot of time together as kids. Frankly, she deserves a medal for putting up with me. I was not the easiest kid/teenager/adult.

I’m sure it was me and my fascination with all things morbid and scary that sent us into the closet that day. I’d started reading Stephen King at a young age and was a very big fan of all things scary. I imagine I probably convinced Natasha we could actually contact the dead.

20170203_010328Of course like any self respecting wannabe psychic/seance leaders, we got out the old Fisher Price Ouija board that had been shoved into a thin slot in a shelf in the basement. I actually have no idea what company made it, but it was definitely from the factory of some large corporation that doesn’t have a soul and certainly wouldn’t know how to contact one.

Now the other part of this story involves a closet. In the downstairs guest room of my parents house, there is a large walk in closet. It’s probably big enough to fit at least a twin bed. It’s important to note that this closet has a real door, not one of those sliding ones, that encloses you in near complete darkness with only the razor thin line of light coming through. At the time of the Ouija board incident the closet had a single, eerie light bulb attached to a dirty, frayed string. The sole means of turning said light off and on. At least it does in my memory.

Natasha and I both had pretty active imaginations. So, the outcome here is not very surprising. But, as a 10-year-old I didn’t have that kind of foresight. We were young, we were impressionable, and we were determined to contact the dead. With our Ouija board in hand, Natasha and I closed ourselves inside a small room with no windows. We pulled the string on the light and the room went dark. We likely had some sort of dim flashlight so we could see the board.

20170203_010431We set our fingertips on the planchette. (That’s the name of that white plastic teardrop shaped thing that is supposed to move around the board.) And we waited for something to happen. It was probably very quiet and still in that closet.

Now, I don’t remember exactly what happened. It’s been a long time. But, after a few minutes, the planchette probably moved a little. We both likely did that thing you when you accuse the other person of moving it. We probably then both started getting scared. What if it was real? Our heartbeats probably ticked up a little.

Then, it moved again. This time we both vehemently denied moving it. We gulped down scared breaths. It started to spell something, something terrifying. The room grew cold….Suddenly the flashlight went out and we felt something brush against our necks. We screamed and threw ourselves against the door, forcing it open tumbling out into the light.

Just kidding, the room didn’t grow cold and the flashlight never went out. But, the planchette did move. And Natasha and I did both suddenly burst out of the closet screaming bloody murder loud enough that my mother still remembers this event 20+ years later. And I’m pretty sure Natasha and I never played with the Ouija board again when we were together. Now, either one of us could have moved it and denied it or even convinced ourselves we hadn’t when we had. My money is on me. Sounds like something I would do. But, it’s really a mystery, forever to be hidden away because memory is fallible. So, we’ll never really know the truth. This is why closets make for good metaphors.

Story #2 – A Crack in Reality

20170203_010439Now I’d like to say that was my only strange encounter with a Ouija board but it’s not.

Years later, I was a teenager and with my best friend, Maria, who I just visited in San Francisco, where I saw the Ouija boards. (It all comes full circle.)  Maria and I were at a friend’s house with two other people, looking for something to do because we were teenagers and got bored easily. Someone decided to break out Mr. Ouija board. And I agreed to play. Why not? Clearly I pushed my terrifying ordeal when I was younger back in the closet. I don’t have the greatest memory.

20170203_010314So the four of us sat down on the floor, cross legged and surrounded the board. We were on the ground level of the house, the lights were dim, the night was dark.

We lit a candle, one of those smelly ones in a glass jar  and placed our fingers on on the planchette. Shockingly nothing happened. We sat back and laughed awkwardly. It was silly for us to play with a Ouija board, this was a children’s game. Still, for some reason, we decided to try it one more time.

We put our hands back on the board, fingertips shaking from trying to hold them still fearing we might accidentally move the planchette. Again, nothing happened. We shrugged at each other and silently agreed it was time to move on to something else. And just as we were about to take our fingers off, we heard a sudden sharp pop. We all flinched noticeably and looked down at the candle. It had a large crack down the side of the glass. Without saying another word, we pushed the board away and and moved on to playing a safer game, like cards.

This one actually happened like this or at least this is how I remember it. Who knows for sure. Either way, it makes for a good story. And, I must admit, when I see a Ouija board I do get a little chill.

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