“Is there a spirit in the room?” I asked in a voice I thought appropriate for a novice medium. I was conducting a seance with neighbours Gayle and Steve in my new Port Melbourne home. “If there is, please move the glass to YES.”
We sat around my candle-lit kitchen table, upon which we had laid out a homemade ouija board. This consisted of note-size pieces of paper bearing the Texta written letters of the alphabet; the figures zero to nine; and a YES and NO, all set out in a circle. I had placed an overturned whisky glass in the centre of this arrangement, upon which we had all placed a finger.
We were attempting to make contact with the spirit of a person who had ‘passed over’, hoping that it might be able to move the glass about our ouija board to spell out answers to our questions. Our decision to conduct an impromptu séance had come from a conversation regarding spiritualism during an ongoing dinner.
After about five minutes of trying, I asked for the seventh time “Is there a spirit in the room? If there is, please move the glass to YES.”
Still nothing, just the sound of a late night train hightailing it’s way into the city.
As the candles fluttered their light about, Gayle mimed what do we do now? that instantly changed to surprised shock as the glass seemed to absorb an energy that imperceptibly slid it, with our fingers on top, across to the YES, where it hovered momentarily before returning to the centre.
“Are you having me on by moving the glass Steve?” I asked, taking my finger away. “Mate, let me tell you, I am most definitely not moving it.”
“OK, seems like we’ve made a contact then.”
I put my finger back and asked, “Is there anybody in the room whom you would like to speak with?” The glass returned to the YES, and then took us to R, A, and Y. Here a slight pause, followed by an O, an F, and continued on to spell SUNSHINE, returning once more to the centre.
“There’s no Ray from Sunshine here”, I said, “Would you like to try another name?” The glass quickly moved across to NO.
“But there is no Ray from Sunshi …” but before I could finish the glass began to move again. We were all fully engrossed in our seance now, and watched spellbound as the travelling glass carried our fingers to: A . N . D . R . E . W
“Jesus Andy”, Gayle said, taking her finger off, “The spirit means that you are like a ray of sunshine with your sense of humour, and being a fun person, stuff like that. But bloody hell, it knows your frickin’ name for Christ’s sake! Freaky! Maybe we should stop?”
“Yeah, believe you me I understand, but let’s not be scared away too soon, eh? I know it’s a bit spooky, but we’ll stop if anything weird happens. OK?”
Gayle slowly put her finger back on the glass.
“Did you know me when you were alive?” I asked, and the glass slid across the laminex to NO.
“Then how do you know my name?”
It moved about the encircled letters: I . R . E . L . A . N . D
The weird happened.
The thing was that I had only been in the Port Melbourne house for a couple of months, and had only known Gayle and Steve for that long. So in the unlikely event that they were both having me on, and were in fact moving the glass, they had no idea whatsoever that I had recently travelled to Ireland.
I had been to the town of Toomebridge, some 28 miles north east of Belfast, from where my Irish forebears had migrated to Australia in 1868, and, touched by the experience, I had in fact lingered beside the churchyard gravestones where some of my ancestors were buried, some dating back to the 1600’s.
Rich pickings for a seance.
Our spirit was that of a woman, Oonagh, who claimed that she had found me at her grave, and had followed me. She said she had belonged to a troupe of strolling players in 18th Century Ireland, travelling through towns and villages, performing the popular plays of the day.
Was it just coincidence that I was also a thespian, having acted in some twenty plays in Melbourne’s amateur theatre scene?
I asked her if she ever had children, and at this point the glass stood still – it was as if the energy had suddenly been sapped. I tried to find another contact, but had no luck in doing so.
We decided to take a break, during which time Gayle said that she’d had enough and went home. Steve and I wondered whether a seance might be faked for gullible people wishing to contact loved ones who had passed over, and was it therefore possible to move a glass around with just two fingers touching it.
We returned to the table to give it a go.
It was easy enough to push the glass away from you, but almost impossible to slide it towards you. We then tried moving it sideways, with little success, when the glass began to creep towards me.
“Don’t be a dickhead Steve, I can see you pushing it.”
He quickly pulled his finger away, and the glass kept moving. “Mate, I’m not moving the fucking thing, so don’t you be a dickhead.”
It began to travel the circle, slowly at first, but soon gathered speed. The candles died in its wake, and in the near darkness the ouija board letters were swept aside as Steve jumped up shouting “Andy, take your finger off!”
I heard him clear enough, but I was mesmerised by the whisky tumbler as it hurled itself around in it’s circled frenzy, my finger seemingly super glued to it’s upturned bottom in what had changed from being a fun and scary thing to one of growing horror.
Steve grabbed the kitchen broom and whacked the glass on it’s side, shooting it across the room to shatter against the pantry door. He pulled me up from the table, “Are you alright mate? Christ, that was really scary.”
He gathered up the broken glass and our scattered home made ouija board and flung it into the kitchen tidy bin.
“Not a word to Gay about this, alright? We’ll just say we talked over a coffee after she left?”
“Absolutely mate, not a word. And never again Steve, never again!”
After asking me if I would be OK on my own, he went home to his wife. I went to bed, more for the security of its confines than for sleep. My mind was locked on to this ‘unexplainable force’. Was it the house? Had something bad happened here? And more importantly, was I safe?
I was awoken by a loud crash that seemed to come from the lounge room. It was just after 2:30am, and I had little choice but to investigate it. I warily switched on the lounge room light, almost expecting to be confronted by some ghostly apparition, but I saw my new pot plant had fallen off the mantelpiece, and had dumped it’s damp soil all over my carpet.
I had bought the maidenhair fern to brighten up the bathroom, and had left it on the mantelpiece until I finished tiling the shower. The pot was wider than the mantlepiece by about a third – which perhaps might explain it’s fall – but then again, not really, as it would need to be overhanging by more than half before toppling.
So, if this was a further visitation from my worrisome spirit, it was unclear.
Just what kind of Pandora’s Box had I opened in my new home? For the second time that night I was unable to explain an occurrence, to clearly comprehend what had taken place before me.
I cleaned up the mess on the carpet, and gathered up the ouija letters from the bin, and placed them on a baking tray. I struck a match and set fire to them. I put the ashes and the broken whisky glass into a plastic bag, and left the house for a walk along the beach to clear my head, dumping the bag into a council bin along the way.
I was done with that.
But overall, the most frightening aspect of the whole experience was, and still remains, the all-encompassing uncertainty of … what?