TALES OF TERROR by Harry McAvinchey


Dear…dear…dear. They’re raving away on the radio about Ouija boards.Perfectly normal people are telling tales of horror about their awful supernatural experiences with this  board game ,with its  numbers and letters of the alphabet. Of course all the stories are predicated on the fundamental beliefs of the people involved .Simply put: if you believe in a spirit world in the first place , your mind  will be already open to the possibility that these spirits “out there” might want to get in touch…. or you might want to get in touch with them.In other words you leave yourself open to having the life frightened out of you.

It all really hangs on  the beliefs of those involved.Of course it does . If you considered what they were talking about was a rectangular square of cardboard or wood with the letters of the alphabet and numbers on it. it’s an abstract concept to believe that a “spirit” from another zone in time and space would use this method as its own personal telephone system to get in touch with the living. You might say , why not use the telephone, the cellphone , the internet  or the television or radio …and simply cut to the chase.You’d imagine there’d be easier ways to communicate than to  laboriously move letters and numbers around a table with  a group of people, wouldn’t you?

Of course ,that didn’t  stop all the crazies coming out of the woodwork to expound their tales of terror and madness. Many of them seemed to really believe this stuff without question.I have to admit  that I have a soft spot for this kind of pulp fiction.This belief in the spirit world is our ultimate work of the human imagination and we as humans are very susceptible to anything that smacks of the weird, wonderful and other-worldly. It is the “Wizard of Oz”  deception that we love to play on ourselves.We love the vampire myths  and tales of mummy’s curses. You’d say we were hard-wired to get the bejabers scared out of us .The facts are never as entertaining as the  myths though .We might all have played with the Ouija board as teenagers and enjoyed the frisson of chance and coincidence  that was played out  as the group mind moved a glass together from letter to letter , “spelling” out our futures or pasts.

The ouija ,also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet; the numbers  from zero to 9, the words “yes”, “no”, “hello” and maybe “goodbye” are usually included too. It is usually presented with illustrations of some old and arcane graphics   such as the sun , the crescent moon and  possibly  pentagrammic stars . The kind of symbology  used on old tarot cards. There is usually a small , sometimes heart-shaped piece of wood, or maybe  latterly , plastic , used as a moving pointer to indicate the “spirit’s” message by spelling it out on the board. During a game or  “séance”, participants or players  each  place a finger on the pointer and  when a question is asked this is  collectively moved about the board to spell out words.

When we played the game as teenagers, we usually used a small  upturned glass on which we each placed our fingers and cut out letters of the alphabet arranged on a smooth table.

The board was initially introduced commercially by a businessman called Elijah Bond in July 1890. It was regarded as a harmless parlour game and had no connection to any other-worldliness, or the mysterious occult, until an American “spiritualist” called Pearl Curran made it  a popular part of her paranormal performance during the First World War of 1914-1918. This was a time when there had been an uncommon number of deaths and people were in trauma over the loss of their loved ones . Many thousands had died horribly during that war and a lot of people were open to any respite  from that awful loss . They were ripe to believe that it was possible to still reach out to their lost dead .Many obviously believed in some form of  life after their mortal death and believed they would meet their loved -ones again,  so it followed , in that mindset , that there might be a possibility of life of a sort and  contact from  the real living world, beyond that physical death to a “spirit world” somewhere away “out there” or “up there”….

In these things  logic is not required ; only need, wishful thinking  and faith in the unknown are required.

“Ouija” has become a trademark that refers to any “talking board” and is made by different companies, having come through a convoluted history since its invention.It is currently marketed by the toy company Hasbro but there are about ten similar boards on the market today.Scientists have been very scathing about the gullibility of believers in the paranormal and supernatural beliefs associated with Ouija. They believe the workings   of the board can be  explained by  the unconscious movements of those controlling the pointer.

Some religious  groups, such as  some Christians, have reservations  about the use of Ouija boards, believing that they can lead to “demonic possession” but that is also tied up with the  old belief in religion of “evil spirits”, “devils” and the general belief in a  satanic anti-god.Probably more importantly, it is the mental health of the participants that is  at risk. Much like those pre-disposed to have problems  of addiction with alcohol  or to have mental issues  stimulated by the use of a particular drug. There are obviously also those who are also  pre-disposed because of their own religious and social  conditioning  to have  mental  problems stimulated by believing in  anything other-worldly or “occult”.

The newspapers will soon be full of  horror stories  along these lines because a new film “Ouija” came out this year and the publicity machines will be sowing stories all over the press and media to stir up some interest .

Get ready and  watch the sales of these talking boards  begin to soar heavenwards.

2 Responses to TALES OF TERROR by Harry McAvinchey

  1. Colm December 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    More shades of your “tiger” post here,Harry. I mean “Harry”. I don’t have any particular experience of, nor interest in, ouija boards but i love how the good old scientists are omniscient in all matters deemed “otherworldy” or “supernatural”. I love science. It explains everything, keep the insights coming 🙂

    • paddykool December 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Hi Colm .It’s only my point of view in the end.but we humans are very creative creatures and we do like to poke about in things we know little about and try to understand how they operate.Keep an open mind …at all times…even when someone is trying to close it .We can do no other…