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My Six Months in a Haunted House

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 Ouija boards . . . You can find them in the toy section, along with Monopoly and other games.

Yes, games. And that’s all I considered Ouija boards.I never believed all the weird tales about them or bought the idea of them being spooked by the devil.

And then something happened that made a believer out of me.

Cher and I had been married eight years, and though we were still quite young, we felt that it was time to settle down and buy a house. Apartments are OK, but when you have three kids running around like so many wild monkeys, it’s time to move into a larger place of your own.

“What a beautiful house, and so English!” Cher exclaimed as she danced circles around me. “Just look at the shutters. And it’s so big. It even has an attic large enough to be a third story.”

It made me happy to see Cher so excited.

“I can’t imagine why we got it so cheap,” I pondered. “Cher, did you get the same impression I did? That the Cooks had a strange air about them?”

“Well, I thought they were a little different. Remote or something,” she mused, “but everyone is strange in some way or another.”

Todd, our oldest, came barreling down the hall. Cher grabbed him and turned him around. “Have you hung up your coat?” she asked him, and sent him back to do it. To me she added, “I’ll get acquainted with the neighbors, and if I find out anything strange, you’ll be the first to know.”

Cher gradually got the house in livable condition and became acquainted with a few neighbors. One night as I came in from work I could tell she was bursting with news as she put supper on the table.

Heavy air
“OK, what’s the good word?” I laughed.

“Just wait till you hear!” she bubbled. “Mr. and Mrs. Cook were really weird. Today, Sally, next door, had a few of us girls in for lemonade, and you should have heard about the things going on in this house.”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I nearly shouted. “You’re talking so fast your words are tumbling together.”

Cher slowed down. “All right. Sally said that many nights about midnight big, long automobiles would pull up to this house. At least five or six cars.” She lifted a lid on a pot of stew and stirred it deliberately.

“Go on,” I prodded.

“Well, the house was always real dark except on the top floor, where a light would come on. Then this light would go on and off, and about an hour later these cars would leave and the house would be dark again. “

Sally said that she lay in bed many a night and could see the top floor. She said this happened several times a week. And it gave her an eerie feeling. Sally told me it was like the air was heavy with evil spirits.”

“Your friend Sally sounds like she has an overactive imagination,” I teased. “Unless she’s telling the truth.” I carried a handful of silverware across the room and began putting it by the plates on the table.

“Unless the Cooks were having séances,” I added. “Do you think they were the kind to do that?”

“How would I know?” she questioned. “They seemed nice enough. You know, Mr. Cook told us about that attic closet with toys in it that their grandchildren had outgrown. He said our kids could have them. That was thoughtful, don’t you think?”

“Surely was,” I nodded. “By the way, we haven’t even looked at them yet. Maybe next week when I take my vacation we can sort out and finish arranging the house.”

Scary surprise
“All right, this is a vacation that is a work vacation,” I said the next Monday morning as I dragged myself out of bed early to make a long day count. “Let’s start with the third floor, Cher, and maybe fix up a nice place for the children to play.”

Todd, Jody, and Marie scampered up the stairs ahead of us, excited that this was the day we were going to fix their playhouse, as they called it.

We’d attack the closet first, I decided; and we sorted out stuffed animals, a purple cow, balls, and a big drum. Then we saw it—standing right there in the closet. A Ouija board.

By this time I didn’t like the looks of it, not after the things the neighbors had told Cher. And that wasn’t all. We had been spooked ourselves already.

Like the footsteps we heard at night. Always up on the third floor. Sometimes it sounded like someone was dragging a chain around up there.

I cleaned the closet out real well, and without saying anything to the children I took the Ouija board out to the backyard and put it securely in the trash can. I didn’t want to mention my fears to Cher, as she was already getting more and more frightened from the strange noises at night.

I kept all my thoughts to myself. After all, I was a six-foot, 200-pound Irishman, and I wasn’t supposed to be afraid of anything!

But then a Bible text came into my mind: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, KJV).

Well, anyway, I had thrown the Ouija board away, and as far as I was concerned, that was that. I forgot about it.

How . . . ?
Two months later Cher and I decided to see whether we could fix up the third story—our attic— and rent it to some young couple. We were very happy living there despite the sounds at night, which we blamed on the wind.

We’d been working in the attic for a while when all at once Cher screamed, “Jim, look!” She had her hand over her mouth and was pointing with the other hand to the open closet. Nothing was in there. It was just as we had left it—except that lying in the middle of the floor was the Ouija board.

There’s got to be some explanation, I thought. And we talked in circles around the subject. But we couldn’t come up with an answer.

The children were too small to dig in the garbage can. Nevertheless, we questioned the two older ones; their blank stares showed they knew nothing about it.

This time I took the Ouija board to the alley, found a large trash can, emptied it, and placed the board on the bottom. Then I filled the rest of the can with trash. I watched for the garbage collectors the next morning and saw them empty the trash into their big truck. I heaved a sigh of relief.

After that the footsteps and other sounds that we blamed on the wind and on the moaning and creaking of the old house grew more frequent and louder. One night the noises were so loud that we called the police. They came out and went all over the top floor, but found no one.

We decided to close the third story off, so we bolted the door with a heavy lock from within the house and determined to enjoy our home despite what we laughingly called the ghosts in our attic.

About six months passed, and the incidents had been forgotten. Now we could tell others and laugh about it.

One night my brother, David, was visiting us, and we began talking about the house.

“Jim,” David said, “I need a place to live this summer before I go back to school. How about letting me stay up on the third floor? You have a bath up there, and all I’d need is a bed.”

I talked it over with Cher, and she thought it was a good idea. Maybe if someone was living there it wouldn’t seem so spooky to her when we heard the wind moaning through the house.

I found the key to unlock the attic door, and David and I went in. We were arranging the bed and nightstand in our minds when David opened the closet.

“Hey, Jim,” David called, “what are you doing with a Ouija board in there?”

For once in my life I was speechless. When I regained my thoughts, I told David all about it. That was the third time we had found the same board there. We closed the closet door and went downstairs to talk about what to do with it.

We decided to take an ax and chop it up and try to burn it. Back up the stairs we went, into the attic, and opened the closet door. David bent forward to pick up the Ouija board. But the closet was empty. The Ouija board was gone!

David did not move in with us. Instead, we put our beautiful English home up for sale. We felt we did not want to raise our children there. Besides, we knew we wanted to stay far away from evil spirits!

Whether or not Ouija boards are from the devil is not an issue with me anymore. I no longer have any doubt! This story originally appeared in the May 20, 1975, issue of Insight. Jim Blake is a pseudonym. Pauline Estes was a homemaker in Dallas, Texas.

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