In early December 1974 while living in Tampa, Florida, I was out shopping for gifts when I was attracted to a display of Ouija boards. Thinking that one would make a good choice for my teenage niece, I purchased it, brought it home and laid it on the dining room table to later wrap and mail it. Earlier that evening three friends, Bonnie, Dale and Gwen arrived to pick me up for an evening out. As I dressed, Bonnie noticed the Ouija board on the table and inquired about it.
"I have one at home." she said to me. "When I use it I contact the spirit of a man who died a few years ago and had lived in Ybor City (a Tampa suburb)."
"That stuff is bull." said Dale, the ex Marine sergeant that Bonnie was dating.
As I explained how I came about making my purchase, Bonnie interrupted to ask if she could open the box and show Dale how the board was used. Gwen's bright eyes showed interest and excitement at the prospect and was soon busily following Bonnie's instructions. Nothing happened!
Dale's sarcasm increased rapidly. Then, suddenly the planchet began to move, rapidly spelling out coherent words and complete sentences.
"Are there any messages for anyone here?" Bonnie asked.
"Yes." the board indicated, and launched into a complicated message involving Bonnie's cousin in another state and ending with a dirty joke. I was amazed. The joke was one none of us had heard and I thought it was certainly an unexpected finale.
"If these things were real they could tell you something nobody using it could possibly know." said Dale.
"Go ahead and ask." said Bonnie, leaping to the challenge.
"OK, what's my mother's middle name?" said Dale, and took his hand off the planchet, relinquishing control to Bonnie and Gwen.
The board rapidly spelled out a name that Dale watchedas the letters appeared. He blanched! The one year out of Vietnam veteran actually turned pale.
"Well?" we asked cautiously.
Dale mumbled something about, "Nobody knew that." but never actually confirmed the truthfulness of the information.
Since Dale wasn't the type of person one pushed for answers and we had spent over an hour on the board I suggested we head out for dinner. Later, when Dale left the table, Bonnie asked if Gwen and I would like to get together sometime next week and try her Ouija board without Dale's negative presence. We agreed to meet without him. I did notice that Dale drank even more than usual that evening, but he never mentioned the Ouija board incident again.
Three nights later the call came. I had half forgotten our discussion, but Bonnie said she had already called Gwen and if Sunday night was OK it was set.
Sunday evening was still warm even though by seven o'clock the sun shortened December day had changed to darkness. When Bonnie greeted me at the door I could see Gwen sitting on the floor of the living room leaning over a Ouija board. Bonnie had lit several candles and a small lamp behind the sofa completed the ambience.
"We contacted the guy Bonnie was telling us about." Gwen said. "He's been telling us about his no good son who lives in Tampa and is in jail for a rape he committed."
Gwen, who lived across the street from Bonnie, had dropped by first and the two had gotten the board out and started early. I sat next to Bonnie and watched as the planchet started to move under their fingertips. Bonnie asked me to get the pen and paper and take down the letters as they were indicated. As we began, the words, though correctly spelled, followed a dialect one would expect from an uneducated person. As we continued, Bonnie asked if there were "messages" from or to anyone. It was then I began to notice changes in word usage and sentence structure, as if different personalities were communicating to us. The planchet was often moving much faster with the new personalities. I switched places with Bonnie, then with Gwen and back again. With the speed and forcefulness of the planchet's movement I could hardly believe they were not consciously directing it. As the skeptic in me started to question what was happening I began to impose rules so they could not possibly see the position of the board or planchet. I had them both turn and use one hand behind their backs. I rotated the board. I raised it above their heads. Still the planchet indicated sentence after sentence.
B o n n i e y o u r g r a n d m o t h e r i s s i c k a n d i s g o i n g t o d i e. Y o u r p a r e n t s h a v e t a k e n h e r t o t h e h o s p i t a l.
Bonnie's expression changed to total disbelief.
"That's impossible. I was raised by my grandmother. If anything had happened to her my mother would have called me at once."
What had been light and fun took on a different tone. We tried to comfort Bonnie and turned back to the board writing down a few more messages from different "personalities". Bonnie's worry showed clearly.
"If anything were wrong, my parents would call me." she said as if convincing herself.
D a l e w i l l b e i n a c a r w r e c k o n N e w Y e a r s E v e i n t h e p a r k i n g l o t o f M i c k e y 's B a r.
H e w i l l b e s e r i o u s l y i n j u r e d.
(Dale's car sustained about five hundred dollars damage on New Year's Eve while parked at Mickey's. Dale was not in the car nor had we mentioned the message to him.)
A difficult to describe but very definite cold chill invaded the room. Bonnie got up and closed the windows and pulled the blinds and curtains. She sat back down and looked morose.
"Look", I said, "I'll go out and get us a bottle of wine. Why don't you turn the lights up and put the board away."
When I returned, Bonnie was on the telephone to her Mom and Gwen was looking ill at ease. I caught the last part of the conversation as the tears rolled down Bonnie's cheeks. She was trying to convince her mother that she had just happened to call and everything was fine, but she really had to end the call then.
"Her parents had just gotten back from the hospital. Bonnie's grandmother was admitted for observation." Gwen explained as she comforted Bonnie.
We sipped at the wine in a low keyed way. Gwen and I exchanged looks that indicated it was time to leave and Bonnie made noises about having a long day tomorrow. Gwen and I were both off on Mondays. She owned a retail business and I worked at a large corporation where Bonnie was a junior executive. Gwen and I had been dating for a few months and had ideas on how to spend the rest of the evening.
"I'll just be a minute." said Gwen walking into Bonnie's bedroom heading for the bathroom.
Bonnie and I made small talk and I tried to reassure her about the night's events. A cold, depressing chill had invaded the room and Bonnie pulled a comforter off the back of the sofa and wrapped it around her shoulders. Even with the lights up something seemed gloomy and foreboding about the room.
I looked toward the bedroom door, wondering about Gwen.
"She sure is taking her time." said Bonnie rising up from the sofa and walking into the hall to the bedroom.
"Jim!" Bonnie yelled my name.
Gwen seemed to be passed out on the floor of the bedroom. I shook her and told Bonnie to get me a cold wet washcloth. As a former police officer I knew my first aid training and treatment for shock came immediately to mind although I had no idea what she could be in shock from. Gwen was twenty nine years old, in great health, five feet three or four inches tall and around one hundred pounds on a small frame. She had consumed one small glass of wine. I could not awaken her. I laid the cloth across her forehead, told Bonnie to get me some pillows to elevate her feet, then changed my mind and decided to put her on the bed.
Was this a bad joke? The thought crossed my mind. Bonnie's sewing table was next to me. I reached up and took a needle from a pincushion and to test Gwen's reaction stuck her arm with it. She didn't move nor flinch. I stuck her again, hard. Nothing. I kneeled beside her and lifted one eyelid. I still shudder when I recall the horrible animalistic sight her eye had become. It was the bloodshot eye of a vulture like demon. I swallowed hard and glanced at Bonnie. Good, she hadn't seen it.
"I'm going to put her on the bed. She'll be more comfortable there. Has she ever had a fainting spell before?" I asked as I slipped my arms under her back and knees.
Gwen's vulture eyes opened in a snap. The nails of her left hand raked my face leaving four angry wounds that bled copiously. In a flash she was up and running out of the bedroom and toward the front door, screaming gutturally. Reacting, I think, out of instinct and training I was only a step behind.
"Gwen, Gwen, wait, what's happened?" I cried.
Gwen jerked open the door, I slammed it before she could move. She turned and attacked me furiously. I had to protect myself, but I would not harm nor injure her in any way. Only our great difference in size and my training saved me. I immobilized her arms, hugged her to me from behind, and dropped my one hundred eighty pounds of body weight on top of her, pinning her completely. Again she became completely comatose. Again I could not awaken her. Bonnie stood in the hall half hidden in shadow, wide eyed, biting her knuckle. Her face was a blank stare.
"Help me get her into the bedroom." I said.
I knew I had to get Bonnie involved in doing something or I'd lose her. Because of the suddenness of the attack I felt we wouldn't have any advance warning if Gwen, or this thing that was Gwen, decided to assault us again. I also knew that it wasn't playing games; I had been in enough altercations to know that Gwen was giving the fight all she had. We decided that I shouldn't let go of Gwen's wrists, so I asked Bonnie to carry the weight of her legs. Together we managed to get Gwen onto the bed with all the gentleness possible.
"Oh God," said Bonnie, trembling violently. "Itís something from the Ouija board." Itís inside Gwen."
She was correct. But, right then every belief I had was being ripped away from the core of my being. Things I had known were impossible were happening and they were happening to me. I was strangely silent as the realization of these conclusions hit me.
"What happened? What are we going to do?" We exchanged the question a dozen times a dozen ways in the next few hours. Who to call, what to say.
"If we call a hospital, what can we tell them?" said Bonnie, then changed to a practice voice. "Our friend is possessed by something that came out of a Ouija board. She's unconscious now, but she was grunting and drooling and trying to kill one of us."
"They'd send an ambulance, if they believed you, and the police. If she became conscious and was still possessed they'd put her in a mental ward. It would be on her records forever. We can't do that to our friend."
I knew what the police would say. "Some squirrel call." I'd said it myself when I got the naked man out of the rain who screamed that Martians were beaming down through car antennas.
The investigating officer would take one look at us and I would probably be in jail for assault and Gwen would be at the emergency room for drug tests and then into the psycho ward. Back to square one.
"This stuff doesn't happen, Jim." said Bonnie, sobbing deeply.
She looked terrible. I was sure I did too.
"How about a priest? I was raised Catholic. They do exorcisms." said Bonnie.
"Do you really think the modern church believes in possession?" I said. "A priest would think you were drunk, on LSD, or crazy."
"How about a psychiatrist?"
"Psycho ward, for sure. Those people have to protect their reputations. If they admitted she was possessed they'd be laughed out of the profession."
Several hours had elapsed since the episode and Bonnie's exhaustion was taking its toll. Her eyes had closed and I thought she was dozing. I sat on the edge of the bed half turned uncomfortably toward Gwen, still holding her wrists. The room had been getting stuffy from the lack of ventilation. Why had I felt uncomfortable about opening a window? Sweat from my forehead ran through my brows and I felt the droplets on my eyelids. I shrugged my shoulders and tried unsuccessfully to wipe them away on the top of my sleeve. The wet washcloth lay temptingly on Bonnie's lap. A drop of sweat rolled past my lashes as I tried to blink it away. Slowly, I relaxed my grip on Gwen's arms. Her breathing remained steady as I slipped my thumbs from beneath her wrists. I paused and watched her carefully. There was no change as I let my hands rest on hers for a moment then leaned forward to get the washcloth.
Gwen leaped up and off the end of the bed in a blur, again heading toward the front door. I yelled for Bonnie as I began pursuit. This time was much the same as before, but both Gwen and I were more experienced and more wary.
"Gwen, wait." I pleaded.
But it wasn't Gwen. Gwen was unreachable. This diabolic creature only resembled Gwen as some caricature of humanness. I half twisted sideways and blocked a vicious kick, grabbed her arms and bearhugged her. She twisted violently and spit in my face as I dropped with her to the floor. The nails of one hand dug into my side and ripped a short distance before I pulled away and immobilized her. Helpless now, Gwen collapsed back into insensibility.
Bonnie, help me!" I hissed through clenched teeth.
Bonnie, I was afraid, was beginning to lose it. Deathly white and wide eyed she helped me carry Gwen back to the bedroom. She was sucking in air and crying.
"Dear God, Heavenly Father, help us please. Please get rid of this thing that has taken our friend Gwen. Please God, please."
Bonnie dropped to her knees at the side of the bed in supplication. Her fingers interlaced in prayer. "Please take it from her."
"If there is this much evil, there must be a force equally good." I prayed too. They say there are no atheists on the battlefield and I too, wanted to appeal to all the powers of good that there were.
"Please help us, anybody." I hadn't said a prayer since I'd had the measles when I was six. A lot of changes were taking place in my thinking tonight.
"My crucifix." gasped Bonnie. "I was raised Catholic." she reminded me again and rushed to her dresser and began going wildly through her drawers. She was trembling and crying with those deep sucking breaths a person makes just before getting hysterical.
"Bonnie,' I snapped harshly "don't you flake out on me. Don't you leave me." It began as an order and finished as a plea. The thought of facing this alone was terrifying.
Bonnie held the tiny crucifix triumphantly in the air for a moment and dropped to her knees again. We both resumed our prayers, she to her God, I to any and all who would listen.
"How did I get on the bed?" My head snapped toward Gwen's face. Her eyes were open, clear and serene. Her voice was calm and normal. Instinctively, I released my grip.
I don't know if we ever quite convinced Gwen of what had truly transpired. My bloody scratches and the corresponding skin under her nails seemed proof of the violence we recounted and our state of shock and disarray was obvious, but she remembered nothing. Her last memory was walking toward the bathroom.
"Oh, no." she said, looking at the clock. "It's three in the morning. I have to go home right now."
Bonnie's eyes widened. "You're not leaving me!" Bonnie said forcefully.
No, I thought, I certainly wasn't going to leave her. We all lay down on Bonnie's bed. Soon Gwen was snoring peacefully. I knew Bonnie needed the rest and comfort so I pulled her close to me and held her in my arms. We lay perfectly still without speaking. Much later I turned my head slowly to see the clock. 4:30.
"Bonnie." I whispered.
"Yes," she answered quickly. She was wide awake. I hugged her gently. Neither one of slept or moved until the first cracks of light appeared around the bedroom window.
ďJim, I have to get up. Watch me. Don't take your eyes off me."
Bonnie opened the blinds fully. I followed her into the living room and kitchen. She carefully opened every blind and curtain to its fullest. The light seemed to begin a slow purification.
"I'm going to take a shower. Please don't be embarrassed, but just watch." She pulled the shower curtain back too. The water splashed on the floor.
Bonnie dried her hair for a long time, put on her makeup and dressed unselfconsciously. She looked beat.
Gwen yawned and stretched. She said she was fine.
I walked Gwen across the street to her place while Bonnie waited near her car. The full daylight seemed to help a lot. I followed her a brief distance and cut off at my street. Later that afternoon I checked on Gwen and went by Bonnie's office. She looked at me with dead eyes and pale exhaustion.
"You gonna be OK, tonight, Bonnie."
"Did it really happen, Jim. Did it really happen?" she said slowly.
I just looked at her. Maybe denial is a form of healing, I thought.
Bonnie and I never spoke of the incident again. Not even once. I don't know why.