Whenever my friend and I were bored during the long, winter nights of the early 1980s – when we were restless teenagers, fed up listening to Tears For Fears and there was only Bergerac on the telly – our thoughts inevitably turned to talking to dead people. Out would come the little table, the Scrabble pieces would be arranged in an alphabetical circle, and we’d complete the set-up with a lop-turned glass and a torch, because candles were dangerous – unlike disturbing the spirits of the dead, obviously. Then, we’d begin to terrify the living jobbies out of ourselves with our earnest enquiries of, “is there anyone there?”
I remember, quite vividly, the first time we tried it. Another friend joined us for the occasion, a lad slightly younger than us, which would later get us into trouble from our parents – his nightmares that night were quite hideous, apparently. Anyway; be it intervention from the other side or straightforward nervous pushing from us, our polite call to the ghostly land beyond was soon answered.
We had been advised (by some dubious, inexperienced ‘expert’) to always ask, “are you a good spirit?” – which is quite the most absurd question, as evil spirits would surely rather lie through their decaying teeth than remain trapped inside our glass. So, obviously, our first ‘spirit’ replied, “Yes”.
“What’s your name”
We probed further and established where “Rebu” had lived; he did not, though, have a message for anyone, so we left it and said our goodbyes. Straight after this, we grabbed the telephone directory and looked to see if there were any ‘Webmans’ in the village. There were none anywhere in Strathclyde, apparently. We had been the victims of a hoaxer from the beyond the grave… possibly. Or maybe just the line from our overactive imaginations to the tips of our fingers.
However, a few months later, I was at a different friend’s house doing much the same thing, and things went rather differently. It was the last time I went anywhere near this sort of thing.
Without going into too many details, what we witnessed was a death foretold. The person concerned, someone I considered to be a local ‘tough’ was “told” by the spirit he had summoned that they had a message for him. He asked if the message was good. There was no reply. When asked what the message was, the glass moved: First to ‘D’. Then to ‘E’. Then to ‘A’.
“You know what that’s going to spell…” he said. He was convinced the spirit was genuine. It was the first and only time I’d ever seen this boy properly scared.
The appropriate action in these circumstances, they said, was to smash the glass containing the spirit. As they tried to do so, a sudden (and pretty inexplicable) gust of wind came from nowhere, blowing out the candles on the table and plunging the room into darkness. It was beyond terrifying to witness. I just wanted to go home.
I remember reading an interview with Suzi Quatro during the ’80s, where she said her most frightening experience had been with a ouija board but she didn’t wish to elaborate on that. I just wished our childish messing around had carried on simply being harmless fun. It’s true what they say; never meddle with things you don’t understand.
Not long after that night, the lad in question was found dead, the result of a tragic accident. Of course, logic tells you it’s coincidence. I’ve been trying to convince myself of this ever since.