Watching Paranormal Activity last night did have one rather unintentional effect on me – it got me to thinking about Ouija boards. As I mentioned in the previous post, the Ouija board scene in Paranormal Activity was one of the most genuinely creepy scenes in the movie and would have also been the point at which I threw all skepticism out the window had I been either of the two people in the movie.
I grew up surrounded by Ouija boards. There were no less than five boards in our house when I was a kid. With that number of boards around, you’d think that I grew up in a coven of witches and we spent our Friday nights communicating with the Great Beyond. You would also be wrong. We were much more likely to spend our Friday nights in front of the TV watching The Incredible Hulk with popcorn and ice water. Our use of Ouija boards was much less supernatural and much more humdrum.
We used them for lap boards.
I remember my mom and dad sitting on the couch or in the easy chair doing everything from grading papers to balancing the checkbook on top of Ouija boards that were balanced on their laps. I also remember my brother and sister being taught the alphabet and numbers with the help of the Ouija board. We kept the boards under the living room couch. It was not an uncommon thing to hear in our house “Hey, has anyone seen the Ouija board? I need to use it.” and never communicate with any sort of ghostly or, God forbid, demonic presence.
Although there are many different styles of Ouija boards, all of our Ouija boards were of this variety. Its image is burned into my brain.
My parents always either discarded or hid the planchette, so I never saw one. Consequently, I always thought the woman in the bottom corners was being handed a steak. I swear, that’s what it looks like! One of our boards had part of the top layer pulled back, and I spent one rainy Saturday afternoon with a pencil redrawing the letters in the places where it had been ripped. It wasn’t until I saw The Exorcist that I truly learned of the supernatural use of Ouija boards. I would be lying if I said we never tried to use it. Mostly we would ask it who so-and-so liked and stuff like that, but honestly, it never worked for me.
I don’t know if my parents still have Ouija boards in their house – it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. Heidi will not allow them in our house, which I’ll admit makes me a bit sad. But I will respect her wishes because she feels more strongly about their absence in our house than I do their presence.
Like most things of this ilk, my inner Fox Mulder is at odds with my inner scientist. I want to believe – desperately – but I just can’t. It’s a piece of wood or plastic and I can’t imagine that the dead would really have anything to say to us. The fact that so much of the mystery was stripped away from Ouija boards before I even got a chance to learn about their purported occult uses also killed my belief just a bit. But I reserve the right to think that maybe, just maybe, they can provide a conduit to something that science can’t explain. Just because science can’t explain it does not mean that there isn’t some element of truth to it. Rather, it may just mean that we haven’t yet developed the tool to measure it with.
But it also might be so much bullshit. Who knows. But to me, Ouija boards will always be synonymous with homework.