This story is based on a true experience that occurred in the spring of 1980. All names have been changed.
I met Marlene during our first year in high school. Her soft Quebecois accent complimented her modest demeanor and gentle smile. I rarely saw her upset.
I can’t recall how long she’d been in the U.S. Her mother had moved Marlene and her older brother from Canada to Texas for a job opportunity. I knew other people like Marlene at the suburban Dallas high school we attended and I always wondered how people like Marlene’s mother found their way to our isolated community from other countries. But I’m glad Marlene did.
Marlene’s best friend at the time, Kristin, lived in a neighboring community and attended the local high school. They had a mutual friend, Ryan, who attended the same school as Marlene and I. I never got to know Ryan very well, but he was more outgoing and better-looking than me. He also had his own car – a sporty red coupe that he liked to drive fast with the stereo blaring. He was the proverbial “ladies’ man”; the type who thought girls would orgasm at the mere sight of his face or mention of his name. As a naïve teenage boy, I was naturally envious. But, although Ryan and I didn’t know each other very well, we still got along.
On a few Saturdays throughout the 1979-80 academic year, Ryan would pick up Marlene and I in his car and drive up to Kristin’s house. We’d do normal teenage stuff: go to a movie; drive around in Ryan’s car; visit a local mall (very popular in those days); talk about family and school; the girls would sometimes roller skate up and down Kristin’s street (I never could get the hang of roller skating); Ryan and I would talk about girls; and I’m sure Marlene and Kristin would talk about boys. In some ways, I suppose, things haven’t changed for teens in the following decades.
But one Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1980 stands out more prominently than any other. The four of us did something completely different on that particular Saturday afternoon; something that seemed innocuous at first, but quickly became frightening. It’s something that remains terrifying to me – even all these years later.
After a day of doing much of the same things we’d done during previous gatherings, we ended up back at Kristin’s home; our young minds wondering what we could do next.
“I have an idea,” Kristin said and asked if any of us had played with a Ouija board.
None of us had.
Kristin hadn’t either, although she had one stored in her room. I recall her saying another friend had given it to her some months earlier, but neither Kristin nor anyone else in her family had used it yet. In fact, I don’t believe Kristin’s parents even knew she had it.
She skipped into her room to retrieve it, and the four of us gathered around the dining room table. No one else was home. Kristin’s other friend had explained briefly how to utilize the Ouija board. This one was essentially brand new, but Kristin said she didn’t know why her friend had suddenly decided to give it to her.
With light from both the chandelier above and a nearby window, we all placed our hands on the planchette. And waited. And waited. And waited.
Then, after a few minutes, we collectively felt it moving; sending a nervous tingle through each of us.
I asked if anyone was actually making the device moving, and my friends responded with a chuckle and unified ‘No’.
“What is your name?” Kristin finally asked.
The planchette stopped, before slowly sliding onto the letter ‘M’. That it had been moving on its own prior to the question didn’t make us pause. It then glided onto the letter ‘I’. After several minutes, we got the name ‘Michael’.
Kristin then asked if ‘Michael’ was dead, and the planchette moved up to the word ‘Yes’ on the board’s surface. Ryan interjected by asking if ‘Michael’ had died in that particular house, and the planchette coasted rightwards onto the word ‘No’.
Kristin asked another question, but I can’t remember what exactly. I do remember, however, an odd sensation coming over me. Kristin made yet another inquiry, but again, I can’t recall what it was specifically.
That curious feeling metamorphosed into a barbed needle slowly injecting itself up into my spine, and I abruptly lifted my hands off of the planchette and leaned back.
“Why’d you stop?” Kristin asked. She and the other two looked at me with surprise, almost irritated. “Why’d you stop?” Kristin repeated.
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I literally couldn’t. I had never been the talkative type, but at that moment, I was rendered speechless – not out of shame or embarrassment. More out of fear. I truly felt paralyzed. I could only smirk – that peculiar teenage reaction when you can’t explain yourself – and waved a hand on front of my face.
One by one, the other three looked down at the planchette, before slowly retracting their hands from it. Like me, each of them sat back with a wide-eyed glare. We all studied the planchette for a few minutes; the eerier sensation that had crept over me now enveloping the entire room like a cold wet blanket.
“Well, hey,” Kristin suddenly blurted; startling us somewhat. “Let’s go back outside and see what’s going on up the street.”
“Sounds good!” someone said.
Kristin stashed the board back in her room, and the four of us left the house for a short while. Nothing was going on up the street, but it felt good to get back outside.
At school a week or two later, Marlene told me that Kristin had decided to cut up the Ouija board and toss it in the trash.
“Is she okay?” I asked; genuinely concerned about Kristin’s welfare.
“Oh, yeah!” Marlene replied with a nervous laugh.
Although I remained in touch with Kristin via telephone and letters, I don’t recall us ever gathering at her house again. And I never discussed the Ouija board incident with either Marlene or Ryan.
I keep thinking, in retrospect, whoever Michael was, I hope he forgave us – a quartet of stupid teenagers – for disturbing his rest. And I realized even then that it’s always best just to leave people alone – no matter where in the world they are.