At age 13, I played with a Ouija board.
By then, all memories of my childhood Halloweens had been buried deep within my mind. Puberty hit me like a ton of bricks and I went from being a perfect little angel who always said please and thank you to a wannabe bad girl. The fairies had taken my eye only five years previously and yet, at that age, 8 seemed a lifetime ago. Whenever people asked about my glass eye, I’d tell them the truth. I’d tell them what I thought was the truth. What the doctor with the deep warm voice filled with knowledge told me.
“I slept walked into the woods one night as a kid and scratched my cornea on a twig or something. It got really infected so they had to remove it.”
“That is sick!” Carolyn said, her eye only an inch from mine as she examined it. She sat back down onto the rubber surface of the trampoline, her face lit up with morbid curiosity.
We had met only a few week previously during orientation at Williams Cove Middle School but we had an instant connection. I had thought she could be my best friend. I guess, on some level, I thought she already was.
Jackie sat beside us, shaking her head. “That’s fucked up, man.” She said, sucking on a cigarette before passing it to me. Carolyn reached into the back pocket of her black bondage pants and pulled out the rest of the pack that she had stolen from her dad.
The three of us were a pack of misfits. While my preteen rebellion involved listening to the Dead Kennedys and trying to convince my mom to buy me a leather jacket, Carolyn went a different route. By Halloween of eighth grade, Carolyn’s goth phase was at its peak: white foundation, corsets, ripped fishnets, and jet black hair. She even began to make everyone refer to her as Lilith. And like her family and other friends, I indulged her. Decked out in latex gloves, I spent a Saturday afternoon helping her dye her natural auburn curls. Her mother was pissed with us, but that was part of the fun. I went with her when she got her tongue pierced and ended up getting my nose done as well. Despite my more punk inclinations, it was fun discovering Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson with her.
Jackie on the other hand was way cooler than either of us. She didn’t dress up to piss her parents off and she didn’t spout delusional preachings of preteen rebellion. Her life focus was to become an artist and that was who she was, through and through. She didn’t waste time at the mall or Hot Topic. She wore loose ripped jeans and baggy sweaters she mostly got from Goodwill, and her long blonde hair was always tied back into a loose messy bun. She smoked cigarettes with us and shoot the shit, but most of her free time was spent in the art wing of the high school working on projects. Everyone knew fancy art colleges from all over the country were already looking at her, keeping tabs on her artistic genius.
Carolyn – at the time, Lilith – and I were desperate for her attention. We shared an unspoken disbelief and excitement that someone so cool, so adult, would want to spend time with us.
“You guys should come over tonight for a Halloween sleepover! We’ll play games and watch movies! I’ll order pizza and we can steal some of my dad’s vodka!” Carolyn said, her face bright with excitement.
A small pit at the bottom of my stomach made me pause.
“I dunno, Lilith.” I said, “it’s a school night.”
“Ah, come on! It’ll be so fun! And it won’t kill you to stay out one night!”
The pit, now more of a voice or feeling, tried to pull me away from the warmth of acceptance and validation. Don’t do it. The feeling said, tendrils of fear slowly crawling up my sides like snakes.
Jackie giggled and I looked at her. She was smiling at Carolyn, that huge, warm smile of hers where the corner of her mouth rose just a little higher than the other one. Her blue eyes crinkled with the gesture.
“That sounds awesome, I’m down.” She looked at me as she tilted her head to the right and away. It was a look she gave me sometimes. Mostly when asking a question but sometimes just when she was looking at me. Like she was examining me but was too close, like she had to adjust her head so she could focus better. “You sure you don’t want to?” She asked, the crinkles in her eyes fading slightly.
The pit in my stomach fell away into oblivion, immediately forgotten, and I smiled at her. “Fuck it, I’m in.”
That night, the three of us sat on the floor of Carolyn’s room. My head was thick with vodka and cigarettes and my skin buzzed. I was browsing through Carolyn’s DVD collection, trying to find something to watch, when she stopped me, clapping her hands in excitement at a sudden epiphany.
“Oh my God, you know what we should do?” She asked. I looked to Jackie who was watching Carolyn with a small smile on her lips. Without waiting for a response, Carolyn jumped up from the floor and walked to her bookcase. “We should perform a seance!” She turned back to us, presenting a cheap mass-produced Ouija set.
I rolled my eyes and Jackie snorted in laughter.
“I’m serious!” Carolyn said. “We should do at least something scary! It is Halloween afterall.”
I looked at the clock. “Only for another twenty minutes.”
“Even more reason to do it now!” Carolyn fell to the floor, taking the lid off the box.
“Have you ever done this before?” Jackie asked hesitantly.
“Not really.” Carolyn admitted. “I mean, I tried to once but I was alone. I think it only works if you have a coven.”
I raised an eyebrow to Jackie who shrugged.
Carolyn placed the planchette onto the cardboard game as she sat back, her legs crossed in front of her. She sat there, back straight, and waited. After a few seconds of nothing, she cleared her throat, throwing us both pointed looks.
“Fine.” I sighed as I placed my fingertips on one edge of the plastic triangle. “But never call us a coven again.”
Jackie’s fingers joined ours, her hand brushing softly against mine. My heart beat sped up with excitement. We looked to Carolyn who smiled maliciously at us as she closed her eyes and began to speak. Her voice was unnecessarily deep, like she was trying to impersonate Boris Karloff.
“Oh spirits, we call upon you tonight on All Hallow’s Eve. Come to us. Speak your truths through us and share your knowledge.” Carolyn began to sway slightly, her shoulders rocking back and forth. Jackie sighed beside me and I bite my tongue to stifle a giggle. Carolyn didn’t notice.
Slowly, the planchette began to move under our fingers. Jackie jumped before snickering quietly as she looked at me to roll her eyes at her own reaction. Carolyn, her eyes still closed, pushed the planchette forward. It hovered over the letter H before sliding to the letter I, where it stayed.
“Really, Carolyn?” I asked in frustration. “Hi?”
Carolyn’s eyes popped open. “It’s Lilith!” She scolded, her brow tight with anger. “And I didn’t do that! It was the spirit of the house! I had my eyes closed.” She added, pointing to herself as if that alibi was airtight.
“Alright,” I sighed, “Hi, Mr. Ghost.” Despite the sarcasm, Carolyn closed her eyes again and continued.
“I can sense the spirit. It is not a man, but a woman. She wishes to speak more. Please, tell us your story oh great spirit!”
Subtle vibrations began to rise from the plastic beneath my fingertips, as if the planchette was pulsing. I opened my mouth in confusion and looked to Jackie, who was watching the planchette wide eyed. I looked back at Carolyn, trying to figure out how should was doing it.
The planchette moved again, hovering this time over D. Carolyn’s eyes were still closed, so I took it upon myself to read the letter out loud. It moved to the E and this time Jackie joined me. Together, we chanted the letters into the air.
“Death.” Jackie finished.
“Appropriate.” I said.
Carolyn began to sway again, this time humming loudly as if she was meditating. She spoke again, her voice booming forward into the now chilled air of the room. “Oh great spirit, we implore you. Tell us how you died!?!” Her words sounded scripted. Forced, as if she were reading Shakespeare on a stage.
The planchette moved and Jackie and I read the letters aloud.
“Who killed you?” Carolyn cried.
“What the fuck!?” Jackie yelled, her hands flying from the planchette as she shot back away from the Ouija board.
“Carolyn, stop it!” I scolded as I sat up and crossed my arms. “That’s so not funny!”
Carolyn didn’t acknowledge us, her eyes remaining shut as a continuous moan spilled forth from her lips. The planchette moved again.
“Stop it!” I cried.
But the planchette didn’t stop. It kept moving furiously over the same letters. Kill Taylor. Kill Taylor. Kill Taylor. Carolyn opened her mouth wide and began to chant along with the words spelt on the board.
“Kill Taylor. Kill Taylor. Kill Taylor.” Her voice grew louder and louder. “Kill Taylor! Kill Taylor!” She was screaming now. I crawled away from her, towards Jackie who reached out and pulled me towards her. I clung to her tightly, silent prayers forming incoherently in my mind. Her parents would hear her. They’d come find us. They’d be here at any moment. They’d save us. They’d save me. “Kill Taylor! Kill Taylor!” Jackie and I held each other as Carolyn continued to chant.
“Fucking stop it!” Jackie screamed as she lunged out of my grasp towards Carolyn. She landed on her, pinning her quickly to the ground. Jackie shook her by the shoulders as the other girl kept screaming.
“Kill Taylor! Kill Taylor!”
“Jackie!” I yelled, my voice strained with fear. She whipped around to face me, her hands and knees still pinning the screaming, squirming form of my best friend. My arm shook as I pointed towards the Ouija board.
The planchette hadn’t stopped.
Jackie turned back to Carolyn. “Stop it! Stop Carolyn! What the fuck is wrong with you!?”
The noise of the planchette scraping across cardboard filled my ears. It was too loud, as if it were right beside my head. My body buzzed as I watched the blur. Each movement echoed in my mind and the buzzing grew and grew. Like molecules in boiling water my skin buzzed so fast that heat began to spread across it. I started screaming, tears flowing down my cheeks in pain and fear.
There was a snap and Jackie screamed. Her body flew back across the room, smacking against the bookcase with a painful thud. I looked at Carolyn who had sat up and was now staring at me, her wide eyes glowing blood red, her pupils no longer visible. She bared her teeth at me and seethed. Her chest rising and falling as her breath cut in and out with a sharp hissing noise. Drool formed at the corners of her mouth and flew forward with each sharp exhale. Her gaze held a hatred that I had never seen before.
She continued to chant. “Kill Taylor! Kill Taylor! Kill Taylor!”
Before I could react, she lunged forward. Her hands wrapped around my throat and she squeezed. I flailed my arms, punching and slapping her, desperately trying to get her off of me. I tried to kick but she was straddling me, her weight on my thighs. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breath. I thrust my arm at her face and scratched her. My nails dug deep into her flesh as I scratched again and again. Red lines formed across her cheeks, her blood making the skin slippery beneath my fingertips, but her grip around my neck held fast.
My body screamed for air. My lungs throbbed and my mouth gaped as instinct tried to save me. Flashes of a tub full of water shot through my mind with an electric sting. Things in the water bobbed and spun around me as I tried to escape. A sweet juice crackled on the tip of my tongue and I tried to scream but instead came back to the present. Blood was rushing to my head, which felt unnaturally heavy.
Carolyn’s face fell to mine, a red eye filling my vision. Warm spit hit my skin as she breathed ragged breaths above me, the warmth of her breath smelling like blood, death, and decay.
And then, she screamed. Her terrible chants replaced with a pained screamed that hit my face with heated anger. I inhaled sharply as her grasp loosened. She began to slide away, that red eye blissfully leaving my vision.
White flashed behind her as the planchette flew from the board, hitting the far wall with a loud plastic crack. I swallowed air desperately, my lungs expanding painfully with each breath. Carolyn fell forward onto the carpet like a rag doll, revealing Jackie standing behind her holding a thick black candlestick. The dried purple wax was still visible from where the candle had recently been.
Jackie fell to the ground beside our unconscious friend and wept.
The three of us stood in the living room as Jackie and I waited for our parents to pick us up. Carolyn held a towel to the back of her head, the fabric now damp and stained with blood. Her parents were in the other room putting on their boots and jackets, preparing to take Carolyn to the hospital. The bleeding had stopped but she needed to get checked out. The 9-1-1 receiver had warned that she may have a concussion.
“I remember everything turning red and all I felt was hatred. It was like in a dream. I felt the emotions so real, so tangible. But they weren’t really mine. It was like…..” She hesitated. “It was like I was possessed.”
Jackie, face wet with tears, shook her head violently. “Fuck you.” She spat, her voice quaking.
“I’m so sorry.” Carolyn said as she reached out towards her, but Jackie flinched away from her touch.
Jackie wasn’t at school the next few days. We didn’t see her for another week and when she did finally come back, she avoided Carolyn and I, outright ignoring us if we tried to talk to her.
Of course, everyone asked us what happened. Parents, doctors, friends, the guidance counselor. But none of us could answer. We couldn’t explain why I had bruises around my neck or what had happened to Carolyn’s head. The truth was too fantastical and we were too traumatized to think of something more believable to say. They continued to ask for weeks and months later but, to my knowledge, the three of us never told anyone what we experienced that Halloween night.
I immediately cleaned up my act. I started focusing more on school and less on a social life. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since and didn’t drink another drop of alcohol till college. Instead of going to parties, I began enjoying the quiet and comfort of church. And I never spent the night at a friend’s house again.
While my parents were, and still are, indifferent to religion, that night made me believe. I believed in the supernatural. Believed in good versus evil, heaven and hell. In the power of prayer and magic. But I gave all the credit of what happened to the Ouija board. To the devil.
Carolyn and I never hung out again after that night. I became too busy with school and church and she became too busy with drugs and parties. We drifted apart pretty quickly. Church helped make me feel safe again and through it I was able to recover from my past trauma and move on. In high school, I found a healthy balance between teenage fun and respect for the forces of our world that I didn’t understand. I was able to make new friends and to even start dating, all while under the protection of Christianity. The protection of God and Jesus Christ.
When my high school boyfriend wanted to watch scary movies, I didn’t want to. Not because I thought it contradicted my religious lifestyle. I knew I could still be a good Christian and watch horror movies. Just like I could still be a good Christian and date. Life, as my pastor always said, was about balancing. Be good and keep God in the forefront of your mind and you will be kept safe.
I didn’t want to watch scary movies because of that little pit in my stomach. Those little tendrils of fear that climb up my skin. That little voice that warns me.
Don’t do it.
But movies can’t hurt you. Not like demons can.
At age 16, I watched Child’s Play. And just like the other years, Halloween used fear and mischief to attack me. Like a trickster god, it used its powers to warp and twist reality for the pure pleasure of torturing me. That was the night it all started to make sense. The night all the pieces fell into place. With sickening horror, I realized that Halloween hated me. That Halloween wanted to make me suffer, and still does. This one night a year, this holiday, has created unseen laws of order. Laws it put in place when I was only a child. Laws that it used as reason to punish me when I unknowingly broke them. It took sixteen years, but I finally learned to respect those laws.
Unfortunately, my story doesn’t end there. By college, I thought I understood the rules. I thought I knew the laws instilled upon me. And in a moment of desperation, I thought I knew how to play the system.