You’re probably going to think this story is fiction. But it happened.
It was a dark and stormy night.
That’s a pretty cliché way to start a story, I know. But in this case it actually was a dark and stormy night. I was living in a flimsy little house in the woods at the top of a hill, and there was a ripping rainstorm outside. The wind howled. The pine trees swayed. Rain lashed the windows.
So, me and Emily decided it would be a good night to try the Ouija board.
For those of you who don’t know, a Ouija board is a…well, it’s a board. It has letters and numbers written on it, along with a few other things like “yes” and “no.” There’s a little plastic pointer called a planchette, and two or more people put their fingertips on it and ask questions. And the god-damned thing starts to move around of its own accord, answering your questions. It could be your own subconscious, it could be the boogie man. I don’t know.
I’d had the thing forever. I got it for Christmas one year, ages ago, when I still lived with my parents. I used it once with my mom, and we asked it what I would be when I grew up. It answered with one word: Gambler.
It was right in a roundabout sort of way, I suppose. I’d used the board a few other times since then, but mostly it just sat with the board games and gathered dust.
Anyway, back to this dark and stormy night. Emily and I thought it would be a good night for some Ouija. It was just the two of us in the house. We turned out the lights and lit some candles, (which we had close at hand, in case the power went out) and set the Ouija board down on the floor. We sat cross-legged on either side and put our fingertips on the edge of the planchette.
“What should we ask?” Emily said.
“Let’s just see if anybody wants to talk,” I said. Then, to the board, “Is anybody there?”
The planchette twitched. Like always, in the beginning, the first reaction was disbelief. She smiled. “Are you moving it?”
“No, are you?”
The planchette picked up speed. That odd feeling of trying to keep up with this stupid little piece of plastic, the feeling of being led along.
The planchette stopped at “Yes.” Me and Emily looked at each other with that look of half-incredulity and half-excitement.
“Who are you?” I asked. The planchette slid around aimlessly for a bit. It didn’t make any sense. It was just random letters.
I tried another question. “Where are you from?”
Still, nothing but gibberish. We tried to make sense out of it, but it was still just random letters. The planchette seemed, hesitant, lost.
We tried a few more questions, with about the same results. Something occurred to me. I asked, “Can you write English?”
Slowly, the planchette slid over and stopped at “No.”
“Can you answer yes or no questions?”
“Are you a ghost?”
“Were you once alive?”
“Did you live here?”
“Was it a long time ago?”
We lived in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in a former gold mining town. I asked, “was it in the 1800s?”
Outside, the storm picked up a notch and rattled the window panes. The wind moaned. The candles flickered.
“Were you Native American?” I asked.
I can’t remember all the questions I asked. We went around in circles. It was evasive, whatever it was. It changed its story. It never did give a straight answer.
Finally, I asked, “What is your name?”
As Emily and I held our fingers on the planchette, it began to move one more time. It meandered across the board, almost sliding off the edge, then slowly, slowly settled on the letter Z. A moment’s pause. Then, just as slowly, it wandered over to the letter H.
“Z.H.?” I asked.
The planchette moved again, a little faster. Back to Z. Then back to H again.
It was really moving now. Faster every time. We could barely keep our fingers on the planchette. It felt like something was just dragging the damned thing across the board, yanking our fingers along with it. Z. H. Z. H. Z…H…Z…H…Z..H..Z..H..ZHZHZHZHZ just whipping back and forth and back and forth.
The planchette slid off the edge of the board. At the same instant, Emily and I both pulled our fingers away like it was hot.
And at that very second, the phone rang. And rang.
We didn’t answer.
But the answering machine did.
“Hi, you’ve reached Matt and Emily! We can’t come to the phone right now, so please leave your name and number at the beep. Thanks!”
And then there was a voice. A voice I’d never heard before, I’m sure of that. A voice so faint, so washed out in static, I couldn’t make out any of the words. I’m not sure I would have wanted to. Or maybe it was speaking another language. Or maybe they weren’t even words. It spoke through waves of static, rising and falling like a crashing surf. It kept going, on and on, until the machine ran out of tape.
The Ouija board went back in the box. We turned on all the lights and tried to laugh it off.
That house was a bad place. I can’t explain it any better than that. Something there was just wrong. In the years that followed, things happened in that place that I don’t even want to talk about. Even today, if I thought I could get away with it, I’d happily burn that house to the ground.
But whatever was there, feasting on all the pain and the misery that followed, I’ve always wondered: Was it there from the start, waiting for somebody to chat, or did I invite it in?