One of the joys of being at my Grandparent's house was going upstairs, to the attic bedrooms. They had the scent of old wood, I think the windows were only opened when we stayed overnight. There wasn't a great deal of things in those rooms: a bed, a crib, a nightstand and a dresser with a colorful shell on top in the first room; the second room only had two beds and a Grain Belt Beer poster of a jumping Northern Pike on the wall. But in the nightstand were old photographs and some magazines; underneath these things was a Ouija Board. My sister asked my grandmother how it worked- it was merely a piece of Masonite with letters and symbols silk-screened on it, there was a little heart-shaped table with felts on the bottom of its three legs. Grandmother told us that you and a partner would sit on opposite sides of the board with your fingers lightly resting on the table. Someone would ask a question and the Ouija Board would move the table under your fingers and point at the letters or numbers to spell out the answer. When the Ouija was finished, it would point to "Au Revoir."
When my sister and I tried it she asked what the name of her future husband would be. I don't remember what, if anything I asked. The little table seemed to move around on its own accord, but I was old enough then not to believe 100% in anything my sister said or did.
Once I asked my Grandmother if she had ever used the board.
"Oh, yes! Your aunt Selma and I could really make it work! But one of the legs broke off and when we re-glued it it was never the same again."
"What did you ask it?" My grandmother looked a little bit mysterious.
"Well, one time, during the war, your Uncle Bobby was home on leave. He didn't believe in such things, so he asked the Ouija to spell the name of his commanding officer. Selma and I sat down and the board spelled out the name right away. Bobby got mad and walked out the door!"
My grandmother was born in Sweden, she didn't talk much about the spirituality that we heard about in church. She didn't talk about the Ouija after that one day either.
We got a Ouija board for Christmas (?!) the next year, it was new, and its table was made of plastic. I don't recall it working too well either, but we had fun pretending that it did.
First published February 15, 2007