A Story for Halloween

In the late 1960s with imagination fuelled by Dennis Wheatley books like ‘To The Devil a Daughter’, the Rolling Stones and ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ album and Christopher Lee in Hammer Horror films like ‘Dracula’  there was a short time when a group of us used to dabble with the occult which might have been considered reckless.

At this time it was possible to buy a Parker Brothers Ouija Board which supposedly helped people to make contact with spirits on the other side.  This turned out to be completely irresponsible and a number of people were permanently psychologically affected by the experience of speaking to a dead grandparent or the Goat of Mendes and eventually it was removed from sale.

This didn’t matter because it wasn’t at all necessary to have a merchandised version because it was relatively easy to arrange a séance for ourselves without it because all that was needed were the letters of the alphabet on some scraps of paper together with the words ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ and the numbers 0 to 10 arranged in a circle on a smooth table top and an upturned glass and with that speaking to the spirits turned out to be rather straightforward.

These days you can probably do it on a Smartphone!

seance children's game

To get the mood exactly right this had to be done in the dark and preferably with a spooky candle flickering on the sideboard and of course parents had to have gone out for the evening.  When everything was arranged and everybody had got a glass of Woodpecker cider then the fun began.

Sitting around the table everyone would put a forefinger on the top of the glass and someone would assume the role of Medium and in a Vincent Price sort of voice ask the question ‘Is there anybody there?’  This usually had to be repeated a couple of times because I don’t suppose spooks are just hanging around people’s front rooms on the off chance of someone looking them up for a chat but after a minute or so you could reliably expect the glass to start to wobble and then then move towards the letters and spell out ‘Y, E, S’.

No one really knew who they wanted to call up but generally speaking we didn’t really want a poltergeist unless we were in someone else’s house.

ghost Wales Cottahe Llanuwchllyn

Once a spirit had made contact then the Medium would try and establish a name, if the spirit had a special message for someone in the room and whether they were good or bad.  If they had a message then the glass would move towards that person and when that happened believe you me the hairs really stood up on the back of the neck.

It was most likely of course that someone was playing a prank and was pushing the glass around to try and scare the shit out of everyone else but I have to say it did seem to glide rather effortlessly and had sufficient self momentum to be convincing.  If it slowed down the Medium would ask ‘Do you need more power?’and then the glass would speed up and dash around the table in a circular movement until the spirit had supposedly built up sufficient energy to continue.  The equivalent really of  taking a high energy glucose drink mid way through a football match.

Anyway, that’s the background so I will move on to the point of my story.  On one occasion a spirit in the glass claimed to be Donald Campbell who had died on 4thJanuary 1967  in an accident whilst trying to set a new water speed record on Lake Coniston in Cumbria in the Lake District.  I think we asked the question about more power but as it was this that had killed him in the first place Donald was understandably a bit reticent on this point.

We asked him some questions that anyone around the table could have answered, such as did it hurt when you crashed? and how fast were you going? but then a really spooky thing happened.  Because of the impact of the crash Campbell’s boat disintegrated and his body could not be found so we asked where he was and the glass replied with some map co-ordinates, 54°21′N 3°04′W, which, when we checked the school atlas just happened to be right in the middle of Lake Coniston!  What the ….

Now, it is quite possible of course that someone could have planned all of this in advance but I’m not certain that any of my pals around that table was capable of organising such an elaborate deception and I am sure that we collectively panicked at this stage and brought the séance to an abrupt end just in case this really was happening.  Perhaps one of my friends went home that night smirking all over his face but that is something I shall never know.

Anyway, the fascination with séances and devil worship quickly passed and I thought no more about it until one night in 1977 when I was spending an evening with next door neighbours Neil and Nettie and the conversation turned to the subject of the Ouija board.  I told the Donald Campbell story and Neil laughed it off as nonsense and just to prove it set up a séance table.

Sure enough we managed to make contact and Neil was dismissive of everything that happened.  Then I suggested that I should take my finger from the glass and ask a question only I could know the answer to.  We all agreed and I asked the spirit if he could tell us my middle name.  Without hesitation the visitor spelled out ‘J.A.C.K.’ and I had to admit that this was wrong so we wound the session up.

While we poured more drinks Neil looked up  the name Jack in a dictionary of names and read out its foreign language equivalents and when he got to Russia he read out IVAN and I had to stop him right there because Ivan is my middle name.  Perhaps Donald Campbell was talking to us that night after all?

I haven’t ever bothered with spooks again but one night in 2004 something strange happened in the middle of the night.  For some reason I used to keep my driver (golf club) in my bedroom and this particular night it fell over and woke me up with a bang.  It didn’t slide down the wall or slipped, it had turned over on itself and fell over.  The odd thing was that it was propped up in a corner and if you are familiar with the design and shape of a driver then it is physically impossible for it to fall over in this way!

I have often wondered since if it was Donald Campbell getting his own back on me for disturbing him in the underworld that night!

29 responses to “A Story for Halloween

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl

    We had a boatload of fun with the ouija board as a kid! I had a few crazy “holy crap” moments with it revealing info ‘no one’ would know, but we shrugged it off as chance.


  2. Chills and thrills. Great stories. Strange happening and Ouiji boards are spooky. We’ve had some weird moments with them as well. o_O


  3. Ah! Woodpecker, Woodpecker, Yes I would!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was certainly a blast from the past. Ouija boards were quite the rage back whenever. Wish I could remember the name of the guy I was supposed to marry! 😉


  5. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of……


  6. Oo-er! Happy Halloween! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not been on here for a while, an entertaining read Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Never had an ouija board, but certainly did the paper version, Andrew. However, never got anything like you did with Donald Campbell or that spirit knowing your middle name. I suppose it must have been a Russian spirit?

    Not sure what you think about fortune tellers but, the one and only time I ever went to see one, she got a lot right not only about my past but also about my future. I saw her back in 1993 (and it was all recorded on tape which I had to pay extra for) and, to this day, much of what she said about my future has come true.


    • That Russian spirit may well have been vodka!
      I have never been to a fortune teller Hugh because I am a little uneasy about it. Other people have told me similar stories to you.
      On the other hand I always think of the story of Princess Diana who apparently consulted a psychic just days before she died and I can’t help wondering why she didn’t warn her not to go to Paris that weekend?


      • I do wonder if they would ever tell you bad things, Andrew. The one I saw just warned me to avoid certain situations and people. Of course, you often don’t get the chance to ask any questions whilst there, but she was certainly someone who seemed to have the gift of seeing both the past and the future. However, I’ve never ever been back to see another fortune teller.


  9. After this, Andrew, I may just have to check out a ouija board the next time I see one. I wonder what spirits I can stir up. Since last night was Halloween, I tried to persuade a ghost or two to rise from the old Chinese cemetery next to our Inn in Mendocino when we walked by. It was dark and rainy. Peggy was not happy about my efforts. Nothing appeared, however. Sigh. –Curt


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  12. Maybe it was Carol Ann Park, and not Campbell, and that’s why she knocked over your driver . . . for being sexist and assuming it was Campbell instead of her.

    And before you mention the timing is off, remember that spirits don’t keep calendars or watches, and can travel freely up and down the river of time.


  13. In my experience as a teacher, your group of friends were an extremely select and clever and bunch if any one of them could do latitude and longitude and get it right !
    Why shouldn’t Ouija work? There must be a real reason that so many people give you dire warnings about it.


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