I have a pathetic obsession with the paranormal that often gets me in trouble with my husband because of the plethora of ridiculous programs on tv that I’m fairly certain nobody else on the planet watches except for me. (In my defense, I don’t watch them quite so much anymore since it seems that increasing the number of series decreases the quality of programming. Like, a lot.) I don’t know exactly when it started, but I do remember winning my choice of book in a fourth grade spelling bee (the word was “sincerely” and half the class got eliminated by spelling it wrong, sometimes the same wrong way the student before them had just spelled it) and picking out The Thing at the Foot of the Bed which was a collection of spooky stories. I also remember getting money for my birthday when I was maybe nine and buying Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark which has some of my absolute favorite seriously creepy illustrations. In fifth grade I saw Poltergeist in the theater and it was my favorite movie for many years (except maybe for Mommie Dearest, but that’s a different kind of horror movie.)
While I’ve never personally experienced anything profoundly supernatural, I’ve had some smaller incidents worth noting. I’d say that the my first encounter was in elementary school with a neighbor who claimed that she was talking to my friend’s deceased grandfather, but even at the young age she had a flair for the overly-dramatic and I’m certain she was full of it. My friend would end up crying because she missed her grandfather and, really, the whole thing was just cruel.
Another elementary school experience was at a slumber party. People were supposedly being hypnotized (because who’s more qualified to hypnotize a melodramatic ten year old girl than another equally excitable ten year old?) and answering questions about the other girls in attendance under the guise of ‘being under’ that obviously resulted in tears and hurt feelings. Because girls are rotten. However, at this same party, we participated in the “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” ceremony and I will tell you that it totally worked. (One girl lies on the floor while everyone else sits around her with one finger from each hand under her chanting “light as a feather, stiff as a board” until she rises off the floor.) The room was very dark and I did have my eyes closed, but I know I felt that girl lift right off the floor with just our fingertips. In trying to rationalize what I experienced, I’ve often wondered if what I felt was a similar to the sensation of levitating arms after standing in a doorway and pushing against the frame. (If you’ve never done this, stand in the center of a doorway with your arms by your side. Lock your elbows and raise your arms until the back of your hands touch the door frame. Push as hard as you can for one full minute and then step into the room and relax your arms by your side and see what happens. Be a little freaked out but totally amazed.) While I don’t recommend the “Light as a Feather” business because it’s never a good idea to dabble in things unknown and potentially otherworldly, you totally have to try the doorway thing. The human body is all kinds of amazing.
So now I’ll take you to middle school and the Ouija board closet incident. My best friend had a Ouija board. We apprehensively wanted to experiment with it, but because it was the middle of a sunny day, the only place that was appropriately illuminated was the hallway closet. We sat in the darkened closet with the board between us and I don’t remember what we asked, but I do remember we both knew it was a bad idea and gave up after a short time. We were back in her room putting the board away, discussing how we shouldn’t have taken it out in the first place, and wishing the neighbors car alarm would shut up (this was when it was first standard for new cars to come equipped with car alarms and, although no one paid attention to them except to be irritated by the noise, they apparently had no time limit after which they’d shut off on their own.) My friend has the bright idea of replacing the small pin in the center of the planchette (according to Hasbro, that’s what the disk that moves around is called – a planchette) with a stick pin of the cross that was attached to a favor from her cousin’s christening. She said to me, “What do you think will happen if I replace the pin with this cross?” I respond with, “Watch that car alarm outside stop.” She puts the cross pin in the planchette. The car alarm stops. Silence. We look at each other and immediately bolt out of her room to the other side of the house and join her father in watching Miami Vice (because he videotaped every episode) too freaked out to leave the room. So while we didn’t make contact with any belligerent entities that day, we did experience enough to reinforce what we learned in Sunday School and didn’t mess around with the Ouija board again.