“Thou shalt not worship false gods before Me.”
This commandment was drilled in my head while, I swear, I was still in the womb. There were nine other commandments embedded in my brain at tender ages, as well as a host of other rules and regulations I needed to learn if I was ever going to be serious about following God, at least from the perspective of the ever-watchful eyes of the Catholic church.
Growing up, I didn’t mind Catholicism so much. I was a kid whose aim was to please and following these rules seemed to make my parents very happy so that worked for me.
Movies and TV shows I watched had to be pre-approved by the Pope himself (I will never forget my profound disappointment as a 6 year old when the local priest declared “The Three Stooges” as forbidden.).
Anything that had to do with the occult was doubly and triply forbidden and I kept myself sheltered from anything that smacked of the devil.
Leaving the nest at the tender age of 17, I went off to college, a large California state university, a university that was consistently on Playboy’s Top Ten List for biggest party schools.
Soon after my arrival, I forged a strong friendship with another girl who was to become a close friend for years to come. She was much more exciting and daring than me and I loved her wild ideas and rebellious musings.
Early in the fall, we decided to go to a palm reader to get a cheat sheet on our futures. The palm reader was harmless enough, despite the fact that she told me I would be married twice and because of my loud protestations to the contrary, the brow beaten palm reader conceded that maybe I would be engaged once, and married once. She wasn’t a palm reader with a strong spine.
Our brief foray into things unknown led us to the next level: a Ouija board. We would pull out the Ouija board and close our eyes and ask sincere and important questions like who would we date and where would we live. The small plastic piece (a planchette) was a willing accomplice in providing answers that would make us scrunch our noses and groan in unhappy anticipation.
One lazy Saturday afternoon, we were dinking around on the Board and slowly our room was filled with curious onlookers who wanted to know what the heck we were doing. One of them, a girl named Susan, was skeptical. “Okay, ask the Ouija board which school I’m transferring to next year. I haven’t told a soul. It’s been a huge secret.”
Easy enough. We asked the Ouija board, “What school is Susan transferring to next year?” The quick response was “U…C…L…A.” Susan was dumfounded. “Who told you?” she demanded from us and we both could only shake our heads and said that we hadn’t had a clue.
Several girls started getting nervous and antsy and someone called out, “Ask that board who it is.”
My girlfriend and I could barely keep up with the cheap plastic piece as we asked the question once again out loud, “Who are you?” “S…A…T…A…N” it spelled as the piece whipped across the board, flew across the room and hit the closet on the other side.
Suddenly, the room was drained as girls ran out screaming and yelling. My girlfriend and I sat on the bed looking at the board, each other, and the plastic piece that now sat innocently on the floor on the other side of the room.
What were we doing and who were we dealing with?
I was excited, ramped up and strangely felt quite powerful. The Catholic guilt was gnawing at me for exposing myself to dark forces, but I pushed the thoughts away. I was away from home and the priest and the nuns who pointed their fingers and shook their heads in disapproval. I could now do what I damned well pleased.
I went down the hall to go to the restroom and a strange loner of a girl approached me. “Mary, I have to tell you that all summer I had a recurring dream that two girls would be very powerful in the dorm and that they would lead others down a dark path of devil worship and evil. You are one of those girls.”
Holy Mary Mother of God! Wait just a minute here, I thought. I’m a good girl I am and I wanted no part of leading anyone down a path that would lead straight to hell. I got humble real quick and assured her that I would no longer be a part of the Ouija board, palm readers and anything else that might smack of the demise of the civilized world as we knew it.
My roommate had opposite plans. When I returned to the room, I told her about our dormmates recurring dream and she laughed and scoffed and said, “Whatever! I’m having a séance in our room tonight and we’re going to get to the bottom of this whole Ouija board thing.” I told her that there was no way in hell I would participate in anything that smacked of satanic involvement.
On a dark spooky October evening, while I was safely ensconced in the TV room surrounded by the safe warm bodies of young college men, my roommate and at least a dozen girls were in my room with candles burning and hearts pounding.
About an hour later, screams were heard down the hall as hysterical young women were pouring into the TV room. They were hard to understand. My roommate, the only calm one, stepped forward to report that the Ouija board had identified itself as a dead college student who had overdosed on drugs. A name was given and the girls freaked out.
I sat there shaking my head in obstinate disapproval. I had suddenly developed a strong case of self-righteousness and looked knowingly at the girl who had had the ominous dreams. I silently said a few “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s” for added security measures.
My roommate went down to City Hall the next day and indeed found the name of the deceased student.
I’ve long since left the hauntings of the Catholic Church which were far scarier than the antics of the Ouija board. But some things, despite our best intentions, stay ingrained in us for years. I’ve never touched another Ouija board or sought the counsel of a psychic.
I will always remember the day the Ouija board spelled out where Susan was transferring schools and the letters “S…A…T…A…N” were spelled out as the planchette flew across the room. My now doubting mind has no answers for how that happened or how the name of a dead student that no one knew was spelled out on a board that cost $12.99.
But stranger things than this have happened and all I can say is, “I don’t know.”