Friday the 13th Challenge: Summon a spirit

Over the last two years or so, I’ve received a heap of emails from people (some mostly curious, but others with paranoid fear or outright vitriol) about my talking (Ouija) board. Now, I don’t normally pay any heed to the vitriol and try to calm down the paranoid and fearful folks with explanations on what’s actually happening. Alas, my efforts were mostly in vain.

Today, I’m issuing everyone who has been on my case a challenge:

Put up or shut up

You say a spirit, ghost, demon or other such entity has attacked, plagued or otherwise been connected to you since you used one of these boards? Show me proof. Better yet, summon a ghost, spirit, demon or whatever and record it. Show me some evidence of books flying, chairs moving, loved ones (or yourself) possessed or otherwise influenced by another entity. I dare you!

I’m not responsible for actual damage including, but not limited to, direct, indirect, special, or consequential damages arising out of, resulting from, or any way connected to the use of the talking board. I’m only interested in evidence.


Minimal pattern for non-discerning spirits


The Stranger in the Hall

When my mother was 13 years old, she was attending a Buddhist prayer chanting session with her parents at her local temple. The priests carry out the chanting while the patrons listen. It was around 1AM and these sessions last well into the morning with attendees strewn about the hall and near the two opposite exits, many half-asleep.

Ordinarily, even in those times, young girls weren’t sent alone anywhere let alone in the wee hours of the morning, but this was a simpler time and she was in a community where everyone practically knew everyone else. So there was little concern when she was sent back home, just down the street, to bring something back. It was a blanket, she believes.

She was out of the temple gates and walking past a street light and a willow tree that she had passed countless times before, when she saw between the willow and the parapet wall of the neighboring house, a woman standing barefoot on the grass.  It wasn’t unusual for people to be without footwear those days, especially in Sri Lanka, even at night.

The woman looked to be in her 30s or 40s wearing a beige or off-white dress with an unremarkable yet very tired looking face which she didn’t recognize.

Odd, she thought to herself, as she imagined the whole village was either asleep in their homes or at the temple. But as not to waste time, she elected not to dwell on woman’s motives and hurried home.

On her way back, she passed the same willow and street light and found the woman had gone. Possibly to bed.

Thinking nothing of it, she walked back through the gates of the temple and went up the stairs to the hall and back to her spot with her parents and continued listening.  She turned around at one point and found the tired looking woman among the attendees sitting a few yards behind. My mother could have sworn she didn’t see anyone else enter the hall from the opposite exit or come up the stairs behind her.

The chanting continued.

In front of the strange woman was a toddler who was writhing about as toddlers often do and his mother was right next to him already fast asleep. The strange woman drew closer to the toddler. At first she only looked at him and then, quietly, lifted him and placed him on her lap. Still, my mother thought nothing of this.

But this was all it seemed everyone else needed to take note of the toddler and the strange woman. The chanting stopped and a soft murmur went about the hall and my mother was confused. In the company of so many people in a close community, it wasn’t unusual for strangers to pick up other people’s children back then either.

The toddler’s mother had now woken up, looked about, then at her son. At this point all color had left the boy’s mother’s face. My mother asked her parents what was happening and all they had was a puzzled look. “Can’t you see? There’s nothing below!”

One of the priests who was participating in the chant called over a gentleman among the attendees. He told him, “there’s someone here who doesn’t belong” and gave him a small container of holy water. The gentleman proceeded to sprinkle holy water all across the hall starting where the strange woman holding the toddler was and then from exit to exit.

My mom looked back at where the strange woman was seated after following the man sprinkling holy water only to discover the woman had gone. There are only two exits to the hall and she didn’t see her walk out of either one. The toddler was in the same position.

Except now he appeared to be in mid-air.

The boy’s mother grabbed the child, and he began writhing as he did before the incident. She quickly hurried near the priests with her child and the chanting resumed.

My mother asked her parents, “what happened to the woman?” Her parents asked…

“What woman?”


This is the story of an “entity” that my mom once encountered when she was a girl living in central Sri Lanka. The family since moved to Colombo, yet the memories of the old village and this encounter in particular were quite strong.

No one else saw anyone entering the hall, except for my mother, or anything strange until the toddler inexplicably started rising above the floor and then began hovering in a prone position a foot above the ground. Apparently the one priest who gave the holy water to one of the attendees, sensed there was an entity present in need of cleansing, but was not a danger anyone.

As for why no one else saw the entity and why only one other person, the priest, sensed that there was even something else there with them? She’s still at a bit of a loss.

According to my mother, she still didn’t understand what happened until after the session and after she was listening in to everyone talk about the event. This entity, which was evidently not malevolent, had followed her to the temple and entered the hall during a part of the chant that specifically gave merits to those who have passed away and in need of guidance.

None of the people my mother had spoken to afterwards recognized the woman based on her description, but everyone agreed that she was probably a mother.

It’s not in my nature to believe stories like this, but I’ve always found them intriguing enough to share. After all, who doesn’t like to hear good a ghost story on the weekend.

I was prompted to share this after reading Kelly’s post on perceptions.

Virtual Talking (Ouija) Board

It’s starting to become one of the most popular posts on my entire blog and I’m frankly surprised (and a bit embarrassed). A while ago, I created a set of three talking boards available for download and I’m not sure if it was the ease it could be found on the internet, the fact the design was as simple as possible or whether it came with no license strings attached, but they were the most downloaded images and “printable ouija board” was routinely the top search hit for the past year or so.

Well, not that I want to encourage this sort of thing, but I have been getting a few email requests to make a virtual version of the talking board. When they say, “virtual” apparently there’s a demand to get rid of ideo motor responses and confirmation bias. Well, I can help with the first, but the latter is impossible for me to fix since that’s completely in the domain of the end user and, let’s face it, if you’re using a talking board, you sorta have to believe in them to begin with.

So today, I created a virtual talking board with a bit of a twist. It’s basically a simple script that randomly selects coordinates within a board image (the “minimal” version from the ones linked above) and moves the planchette there. This happens every second and if it lands on a character or word, it gets added to a textbox below.

Pick your gibberish

Of course, this method is ripe for confirmation bias since any random set of characters will jump out at anyone desperate to find a pattern, but I’ll leave that to the user’s discretion.

Open Paranormal Association for Research (update)

It’s been two years since I announced that I’ll be forming an organization dedicated to paranormal research on this blog, but until now it hadn’t had much momentum.

The fault is entirely mine as I’ve been far too occupied with other affairs to give much thought to it beyond the initial idea. Well, a few contacts past week provided me with the opportunity to advance this further. Namely, I’ll have a chance to create an archive system to document any research in order to present them in a meaningful way and, being a programmer, this will be naturally based on a searchable database.

So far, I have started work on a case management system that will store all documents and research information using an EAV paradigm since I have no way of knowing what type of materials I’ll come across, but still implement thorough record-keeping.

And finally, like all aspiring organizations, a logo will be needed. I chose an encircled, 12-petal, chrysanthemum for cultural and historical reasons. 12 Is an important number in several cultures of the Middle East and subsequently, the West through the spread of religion, and the chrysanthemum is a similarly important symbol of the East. Both, I think, represent what I’m trying to achieve with this.

Open Paranormal Association for Research

Following the choice of color, there will be no doom and gloom associated with this and, by extension, the website for the project. I’m not sure why many other paranormal research organizations insist on darkness as a theme, but just because you may conduct your research at night, doesn’t mean it should be a color choice as well. This organization will stand for knowledge and openness, hence lightness not darkness.

There’s no date yet on when I can start on actual research since I first need the infrastructure in place. The last thing I need is disorganization even before any work starts.

Printable Talking (Ouija) Board

I was watching a TV movie today called “Possessed”. It was based on The Exorcist by William Blatty where a young boy plays with a Ouija board that eventually leads him to be taken over by a demon. I don’t particularly fancy these types of movies, but it had Christopher Plummer so I stuck around.

Well, I got cheated on Plummer time, but it wasn’t a total write off. It did make me think of how much people get into these types of “talking board” toys. And let’s face it, it is a toy no matter how you look at it. A piece of wood or cardboard with another wooden or cardboard base with writing on it. Why would you spend money on something like this? Surely the “spirits” are more concerned with contacting you than the quality of the board you’re allowing them to use through you.

Well here’s a few you can print off and use yourself. I wasn’t sure on other people’s tastes, so I made three versions. Mind you, “Ouija” is actually a brand name, but the concept itself is quite a bit older. The overall design is from a patent from the 1800’s so please consider these images to be in the public domain.

Update 12/24/2011

There is now a virtual version of this available.