I Used A Ouija Board And Weird Shit Happened
One night many moons ago, probably after a few too many brews and bong-hits, I proclaimed to my two housemates, “We should use a ouija board here. You know, have a little séance.”
At the time we were living in a shitty rental in Joondalup, which is the spiritual heartland of Perth’s northern suburbs. My housemates, Mike and Chips, had done all the hard work to find the place and I’d snagged the last bedroom. The three of us, and the majority of our extended group of friends, were broke uni students.
Our rundown palace was on a street called Abitibi Turn, and hence the spot quickly became known as “Tibi”. On-campus frat culture doesn’t really exist in Australia, but we’d all grown up watching American college movies, and even though our neighbors were young working class families and not other debauched uni students, Tibi became the setting for our Animal House-esque antics.
I don’t remember how Mike and Chips reacted when I suggested some communal dabbling with the dark arts. There was a general sense of excitement and freedom during those first few months at Tibi. Even though our place was hilariously ramshackle, it felt incredible to be in control of our own environment. It was an extended sleepover with no definitive end. We had a lot of ideas about how to make the most of our new situation.
The next day I groggily hauled my arse to work. That semester I only had to be on campus three days a week, and on the other two weekdays I worked a full shift at a local sportswear retail chain. Luckily for me, it was an uber-cruisy gig, and on most days there were only a couple of customers every hour, so myself and the other employees would amuse ourselves with playful banter and infantile pranks. 5:30 rolled around. I jumped in my car and made the five minute journey back to Tibi.
As I walked through the front door my mind was focused on grabbing a frothy from the beer fridge, but I was distracted by some type of craft project that was sitting in the middle of the living room floor. Upon closer inspection I realized that it was a homemade ouija board. Someone had taped four empty beer cartons together to create a makeshift coffee table. And on top of this surface there was a piece of paper that had been marked with all the standard ouija symbols — letters from A to Z, numbers from 0–9, yes and no, goodbye and hello. A giant shot glass sat in the middle of the board.
Michael walked into the room.
“Did you do this?” I asked him.
“Yep,” he said.
I wasn’t surprised. We all liked coming up with ideas, me more than anyone, but Michael was the best at pulling the trigger.
“You still keen to give it a try?” Michael said.
A few butterflies spawned in my gut. I was a staunch materialist, but had never really put my skepticism to the test. Growing up, my father once showed me a skin tag on his arm and explained that it was the physical manifestation of a vex that a witch had put on him when he was a young man. I thought he was a kook, but I was just a kid, and had been protected by the warm cocoon of my safe suburban existence. If I started fucking around with a ouija board, would I be inviting malevolent spirits into my world?
But one cannot discount the power of peer approval. Being the only pussy in the house was not an option.
“Sure,” I said to Micheal. “Is Chips in?”
Turned out he was. And the wildcard was that another buddy, Luke, was planning to swing by Tibi after he was done with uni for the day. He arrived fifteen minutes later and we told him about the impending spiritual service. After some nervous giggles, Luke accepted our invitation to participate.
We discussed how to best conduct the ritual. It was agreed that getting on the same wavelength was important. To kick things off we’d sit around the board, hold hands, close our eyes and meditate. Then we’d make an opening address — a simple statement letting any potential spirits know our peaceful intentions. After that we’d all put our fingers on the shot glass and start asking questions.
Chips lit up a joint and offered me some. I refused. Although I was confident that we weren’t about to convene with anything unexplainable, I didn’t want to be high just in case we did.
It was time. We all sat around the board, That 70s Show style, and listened to a Radiohead song, I think it was something off of Amnesiac. It definitely put me in the mood — my heart was thumping out of my chest. Michael turned the music off and took care of the opening address. We all put our fingers on the shot glass.
The exact timeline of the following events is a little difficult for me to recall. From memory, we started asking some general questions, and nothing happened for a little while. But then after one particular question, the shot glass miraculously started to move.
As the thing slowly crawled across the board I looked up and scanned the faces of my three friends. A snicker or a smirk in one of them would suggest that they were responsible for the movement of the glass. But unfortunately for me, everyone looked genuinely petrified. A few rapid fire questions were hurled at one another, all along the lines of “who the fuck’s doing that?” Everyone denied culpability, and I believed them.
The most terrifying part was how the glass was moving — it felt like it was emanating some type of unexplained energy. Again, I turned to my frat brothers for an explanation. But like myself, all the others seemed to only be lightly touching the glass. It didn’t seem possible that someone could be controlling it with such a weak grip.
I began paying attention to where the glass was moving on the board. We were asking simple questions such as “is anyone there?”, “what’s your name?” and “how long have you been here?”. Even though the glass was moving to different letters and numbers on the board, it wasn’t communicating anything legible. A possible explanation popped into my head — maybe we’d connected with an old Aboriginal spirit? Someone who’d never properly learnt the white man’s tongue.
After the initial shock wore off, I can’t express how quickly the supernatural becomes super natural. When the shot glass first started moving, I thought my internal panic was going to result in a seizure. But then less than a minute later, I found myself calmly observing the glass moving around the board, and strategizing with my buddies about what questions to ask. It was like Sean Bateman from The Rules of Attraction was living in my head. “Yes, you’re communicating with a spirit life force,” Sean said to me sardonically. “Deal with it. Rock and roll.”
At one point, the glass got caught in a groove between two of the beer cartons, and it lacked the inertia to overcome the obstacle. It looked a bit like one of those creepy-crawly vacuum cleaners struggling to transition from a smoothly tiled kitchen to a thickly carpeted games room. So we all gave it a little push over the slight ridge, and it continued humming along at it’s steady, alien pace. There was something comical about the misstep and we all let out a brief involuntary laugh.
After a couple minutes we still hadn’t received any tangible information from the spirit. Someone asked it, “what do you want us to do?” The glass promptly moved to the letter G. Then it moved to the letter W. Then it went back to G. Then back to W. G-W-G-W-G-W. Again and again and again.
Chips’ stoned face was white as a sheet. “Fuck,” he said. “GW. Do you think that means ‘go way’? As in ‘go away’?”
This was the most sinister moment of the whole experience. We’d awoken something, laughed at it, and now it was telling us to fuck off.
We all agreed that it was time to call it quits. Someone said “goodbye”, but the energy had already dissipated. The four of us moved the lifeless shot glass over the ‘Goodbye’ symbol on the board, in a token effort to close whatever door we’d just opened.
The rest of the night was weird. We recounted the experience multiple times, going over every detail. Everyone swore that they hadn’t manipulated the glass, and agreed that it felt like it was moving by itself. I went to bed that night wondering if I’d be terrorized in my sleep. But nothing bothered me. I woke up the next day, and the whole thing just felt like a strange dream.
I eventually got round to telling all of my close friends about the experience. Each time I told the story, it got less spooky and more funny. Just over a decade later, I haven’t witnessed any other objects defy the laws of physics, and I still don’t know exactly what happened that night.
I’ve also learnt more about how ouija boards work, and how easy it is for sneaky weasels to manipulate the experience with some clever sleight of hand. Or how multiple innocent parties can move objects through accidental group collusion. If I had to bet, I would put my money down on one of these options.
But, I’m also open to the fact that maybe I did commune with something truly mysterious that night. If I did, it didn’t fuck with my life, so what have I got to complain about?
Either way, I’m okay with ambiguity. Maybe we spoke with a ghost, maybe we didn’t. Maybe one of my friends will eventually confess, maybe they won’t. Sean Bateman always gives the same firm but practical advice. Deal with it. Rock and roll.