In 1893, apprentice architect George Wyman consulted his dead brother through a Ouija board before beginning construction on what would become the Bradbury Building, a Los Angeles architectural spectacle used in movies like Blade Runner and Se7en. George had little experience and lacked confidence in his abilities. His dead brother did not. According to George, through a Ouija board his brother spelled this message:
T A K E B R A D B U R Y B U I L D I N G I T W I L L M A K E Y O U F A M O U S
George Wyman built it. It made him famous.
From 1913 to 1937, Mrs. John Howard Curran, through a Ouija board, channeled an entity named Patience Worth and produced six novels, two thousands items of blank verse, and hundreds of poems. Her creative productivity was so extensive a magazine was devoted to her, named Patience Worth’s Magazine. Mrs. John Howard Curran denied that the Ouija board was responsible, though many of her admirers refused to believe this.
On August 10, 1949, The Washington Post reported an incident involving a Mt. Rainer, Maryland boy. The boy began displaying unusual symptoms after his family experimented with a Ouija board. Symptoms like speaking in a low, guttural voice, bodily twitching, the movement of room furnishings from their usual positions, violent flare-ups, his bed shaking. Several articles followed, elaborating on the boy’s tribulations, the failure of medical science, and his cure via a Catholic priest. In 1951, Fate Magazine featured a follow-up article about the boy, which inspired William Peter Blatty to write a novel about the case. In 1971, Blatty released the heavily altered story under the title The Exorcist.
In 1991, inmates in Santa Clara County Jail created a Ouija board from a Scrabble set. The prisoners, Latino gang members from southern California, believed a demon possessed them after a session with the board, and caused such a ruckus that prison officials called a priest to perform an exorcism. A guard remarked on the prisoner’s ingenuity: “On the back of a Scrabble board, they created the moon, the sun, and the letters—all components of a Ouija board.”
The prisoners vowed never to dabble in such things again.
In Minco, Oklahoma, grandmother Carol Sue Elvaker, following a Ouija session, stabbed her son-in-law twenty-seven times. She then packed her daughter and two grandchildren into her Chevy Impala and drove to Tulsa on Interstate 44. Along the way, she slammed into a road sign, attempting to kill herself and her family. Despite two broken ankles resulting from the accident, she vaulted a freeway median barrier, ripped off her clothes, and then ran naked into the forest. Police arrested and charged her with first-degree murder.
The jury verdict was not guilty due to insanity.
Among the plethora of superstitions and unofficial rules Ouija board users have, the ultimate and most sacrosanct rule is you do not play alone.
In Plathmore, Massachusetts, little Missy Taylor sneaked into her older brother’s room to steal one of his board games. She had little else to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Her older brother, Michael, was staying with a friend that night and had already left. The room smelled like the cigarette she caught him smoking one night when she ran into his room wanting to play Sorry. It was always cold in there, like the basement she wasn’t allowed to go into alone, but went to anyway whenever she could.
Little Missy Taylor loved board games, especially playing them with Michael. However, when her older brother was not available, Missy would play the games by herself, sometimes reinventing rules to fit her solitary needs. When he wasn’t home, and Mommy and Daddy weren’t paying attention, she would bring them to her room and play them.
She opened the closet door and pushed aside Micheal’s button-down shirts, sweaters, and winter coats to get at the shelf behind. His wool sweater with the crisscross white and navy blue pattern made Missy itch every time she encountered it. She pulled the sleeve of her shirt over her hand to push the sweater away to reveal the board games overloading the back shelf. Her snooping hazel eyes darted over the countless games like HeroQuest and Omega Virus and Monopoly (which Michael loved but Missy despised) until stopping at the pinnacle of the cardboard stack.
The word printed lengthwise on the top box perplexed her. It was unlike any word she has encountered before in her young life. She tried sounding out the odd word in her head. She tried sounding the word aloud.
“O…ouu…oui…oui…ji? Gee? Ou…ou…oui…gee? Ou-i-ge?”
She snatched the box with the odd name and gingerly put everything back the way it was, closed the closet door, and the door to the room.
She passed by the living room, where her mother watched a news report, oblivious to her little munchkin calmly strolling by with a grownup’s board game underneath her arm. She passed the kitchen, where her father cooked pork chops.
Inside her room, little Missy Taylor placed the box on her bed and closed her door. It was much brighter in here. Smelled a lot better, too. When Mommy made her clean it this morning, she sprayed stuff to make her room smell like lilies. Her curly hair, trapped by a pink scrunchie, came out when she yanked the scrunchie out and threw it on the dresser. She put on a Red Sox sweatshirt Mikey once wore when he was Missy’s age.
She lifted the Ouija box up by the sides and let the inner part slide out onto the bed. She heard the thunk of the air escaping or getting sucked in, she didn’t know, when the bottom fell out. She liked that sound of opening a board game. She looked into the box and stood back, frustrated: how can this be a game and not have any dice; only a board, directions, and some funny white thing with a glass in the middle of it?
Little Missy Taylor sat, legs crossed, on the floor, and placed everything in front of her. She ran a hand over the letters, the moon, the sun, the YES and the NO. She took the funny white thing, which in the directions was a word that Missy had difficulty sounding out, and placed it on the center of the board. She wondered what she has to do now, so she looks at the directions again.
As she perused the directions, the funny white thing twitched.
Missy, little Missy Taylor, not frightened by anything, leaned over the board. She leaned to her side. She lied down on the floor, trying to find any angle that would show her how it moved. She tapped it with a precocious finger. She pressed down with that finger. Little Missy Taylor felt a quivering.
The funny white thing moved again.
She read the directions again. Missy knew, sort of, how this was supposed to work, that when the funny white thing (or planchette, she figured out the word) passed over a letter, then another, it spelled a word out. She was supposed to be talking to someone, and she had to ask questions. She looked around her room. It’s not spooky enough. This should be fun. She never talked to a ghost before. She read about them in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. She thought the pictures were better than the stories.
She picked up the planchette and shook it. The glass rattled in its housing. She put it back down on the board, by the moon, and crossed her tiny legs and put her hands on her round knees. “Who’s there?”
She thought the temperature should drop if a ghost will be around. Or the gooseneck lamp on her desk should flicker on and off. She was about to get up and turn the gooseneck light on, thinking a ghost could turn it on and off if it was on first, when the planchette scratched across the board, stopping at one letter, then another letter. Little Missy Taylor tried keeping track of the letters.
I A M T H E G H O U L O N T H E M O O N
She tilted her head slightly, trying to puzzle it together.
“The what?” she said, almost involuntarily.
T H E G H O U L O N T H E M O O N
“The ghoul on the moon?”
Y E S
She laughed. “That’s such a silly name!” She winced and clasped her hands over her mouth. She said that too loud. Don’t wanna be caught by her parents. They would see the board and know she snuck into Mikey’s room. Which means Mikey would find out, and she would be in big trouble and didn’t—
A loud thump made her jump. She shook her head at her bedroom door when she heard Mommy ask from the hallway, “Munchkin?”
Missy heard the planchette moving again. It circled around the board, not stopping at any letter. Missy looked at it. The planchette stopped and begins spelling out:
W H A T I S Y O U R N A M E
“I’m fine, Mommy.”
“Who were you talking to?”
The planchette spelled out again:
T H E G H O U L O N T H E M O O N
Missy leaned over the board and shushed it. The planchette sat over the moon.
“I was talking out loud at my book, Mommy.”
“Okay. Dinner in a few minutes.”
Missy listened to her Mommy’s footsteps return to the living room. She should’ve brought this to the basement. Then it would have been really spooky. She settled herself, her back against her bed, and said to the board, “I’m Missy.”
H E L L O M I S S Y
Missy giggled. “You have a funny name. Don’t you have anything smaller?”
The planchette pointed NO.
“How did you get such a funny name?”
I T I S N O T M Y N A M E I T I S W H O I A M
Missy twisted her mouth around, as she always did when she met someone for the first time. She tried to think of questions to ask, since that is what the directions said she should do. So she went with the usual questions that she asked any new person.
“How old are you?”
F O R E V E R
“That’s not an age! Use the numbers, silly!”
The planchette remained on the R. Missy cradled her head in her hands.
“So, ghoul on the moon, where are you from, I’m from Plymouth, this was my hometown, and it’s America’s hometown. Do you live in your hometown?”
The planchette didn’t move.
“Are you there? Hello?”
The Ouija board’s box fell from the bed. Little Missy gave the fallen box a cursory sideways glance, but quickly looked away when the planchette moved.
I A M H E R E
“There you are. So…” She searched for something to say. There was a boy in her class, Joe Cesarini, who kept pulling her hair when Ms. Dinsmore wasn’t looking; maybe she could ask the ghoul on the moon what—
W H A T I S A M O M M Y
“You don’t know?”
The planchette pointed at the NO.
“Well, it’s a lady that takes care of you and she’s the most special person in your life because she’s always there for you. Just like Daddy.”
W H A T I S A D A D D Y
“It’s the same thing, except he’s a boy and smells funnier.”
I D O N O T U N D E R S T A N D
“It’s kinda hard to explain. But that’s the best I can do. So, do you have a mommy and daddy?”
The planchette stayed motionless for a moment, then:
“Oh.” She felt bad. She should’ve figured that out already. “Are you…dead?”
I A M N O T D E A D I A M T H E G H O U L O N T H E M O O N
“I know that, Ghoul, but…are you a ghost?
I A M N O T A G H O S T I A M T H E
“I know, I know,” Missy interrupted, stopping the planchette with a little finger. “You’re not a very entertaining, whatever you—”
The Ouija board slid violently on the carpeted floor toward Missy until it barely touched her minuscule knees. She shrunk against the bed, unknowingly crushing the cardboard box. The planchette began making circles around the board, faster and faster, and then stopped dead center. Missy crept over to the board.
T H A T W A S N O T N I C E
Little Missy Taylor, so intelligent that she might skip fourth grade, undaunted by anything, who had never, ever been afraid of anything in her young life, was terrified.
In a tremulous whisper, Missy said, “I’m sorry, Ghoul. I didn’t mean to be rude. My Mommy says I butt in all the time and it’s not lady-like.”
Missy heard a rattle, a minute shuffling, emanating from her closet…a gentle tap…tap…tap…tap from under her bed. She jumped on her bed and grabbed a pillow and clutched it to her heaving chest. She peeked over to edge to look at the board. “Is that you?”
No reply. Missy darted her head around the room, which had grown exceedingly quiet. A curtain fluttered, like a hand splaying its fingers from behind.
The planchette shuddered, and circled the board again in slow, even rotations, the legs on the planchette gliding over the board. Missy heard whispers, miniscule utterings she couldn’t make it out, couldn’t tell if they were male or female. She didn’t feel cold, but when she breathed through her nose, she felt her nostrils freeze. Something bitter-smelling fouled her bedroom. The pink walls rippled, like a dead fly dropping into a puddle.
The gooseneck lamp flicked on and off.
Everything stopped. No one behind the curtains. The tapping ceased under her bed.
Missy, little Missy Taylor, pillow against her chest still, wide-eyed yet still curious, leaned over the bed again. She whispered at the board, “Where are you?”
I A M H E R E
And little Missy Taylor’s closet door opened.
The front door to the Taylor home opened and Michael tiptoed in, making sure he didn’t close the door too loud. He looked at his watch. Three a.m. He felt a cough coming on and buried his face into the crook of his arm. He peeked out the window, saw his friend’s Impala idling at the end of the driveway.
He slowly climbed the stairs and turned down the hallway, and stopped.
His little sister’s room was open, the light on. Dad laid half in the hall, half in Missy’s room. Michael hurried over to him and slipped in something and landed on his ass, his back to the wall, giving him a look into Missy’s bedroom.
Dad’s legs were the half of the body sticking out the bedroom. Had Dad been the other way around, Michael would have seen the head was gone before rushing over. Instead, he got to see Dad’s head stuck onto the gooseneck lamp like a pike. Michael buried his face into his arm again. Dad’s head. The sickly glow, the look of bored surprise, the eyes melted jelly.
All Michael could smell was hot pennies.
He lifted his head up. Mom was in the room, too. On the bed. Michael didn’t look long enough to get the detail of how much blood there was, how big the hole in Mom’s chest was, the splatter.
Michael tried standing up, and slipped in something brown and fell on his knees and the impact forced the six slices of pizza and seven beers he’d had tonight from his stomach onto the hallway floor. He spit until his mouth was dry and lifted his head once more to look into the room.
In the center of Missy’s bedroom sits the Ouija board, with a human heart resting atop the planchette.
He doubled over and stopped himself by sticking his hands in the gummy blood.
A giggle came from the darkness down the hall.
Michael choked, “Who’s there?”
And Missy Taylor, blood dried around her mouth, her jaw moving up and down, stepped into the ugly light and stood over her brother. Little Missy Taylor swallowed what she was chewing.
Michael wiped his eyes clear of tears. “M…Missy?
Little Missy Taylor smiled.
“I am not Missy. I am the ghoul on the moon.”
Daniel Brophy: Daniel Brophy has been writing for nearly ten years. He has finished less than that number of stories and books. He has had one short story published, but that was six years ago and the name of the now-defunct publication escapes him. Born with a thirst for words and stories, Daniel owns enough books to open a small library, or to re-enact the ending of the Twilight Zone episode where the bookworm breaks his glasses at the end (spoiler alert). Thankfully, Daniel has eyes like baseball legend Ted Williams, so broken glasses are not a problem. It should also be noted that his pop culture acumen borders on worrisome, due to a Tarentino-level of knowledge. Dream projects for Daniel include: writing a book set in the Alien universe; building a life-sized replica of the TARDIS and setting it into a wall to act as a door to a room, giving off a ‘bigger on the inside’ illusion; and making a low-budget horror movie about a graveyard.