Is There Anybody There?
by Catherine Cavendish, author of Damned by the Ancients
In my novel, Damned by the Ancients, a little girl with a special gift is targeted by the evil and long-dead Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. She even becomes possessed by a dead woman. In real life there are numerous well documented cases of demonic possession and many involve the use of ouija boards or another spirit game called ‘Charlie Charlie’. More of that one later but, for now, let’s have a look at some of the alleged evidence levelled at the use of ouija boards.
Three or four years ago, there were a number of separate cases of students who apparently fell into a trance while playing with the board. They were believed – or believed themselves – to be possessed by malignant spirits. Fellow players saw them behaving oddly, speaking in strange voices and generally acting contrary to their normal natures. Needless to say, as is the way of things, the more the stories circulated, the wilder they became.
One such case dates from November 2014 and involved a group of 35 school students from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. They were playing with an ouija board when they began to suffer from a range of maladies, resulting in hospital treatment. The children exhibited mental distress, trance-like states, rapid pulse rates and profuse sweating. Central and South America seems to be a hotbed for ouija enthusiasts and reports of demonic possession and mass fainting abound – Mexico being a particular centre.
In fact Mexico currently holds the record for the largest outbreak of ouija-attributed illness so far recorded. In 2006-2007, up to 600 children at a 4,500 girls’ only, strict, Catholic boarding school near Mexico City began to show alarming physical symptoms. Headaches and difficulty in walking without the help of a fellow student were just two of the problems reported. The symptoms would vanish and then recur.
Psychiatrist Nashviela Loa Zavala investigated and concluded the cause was mass hysteria (or in his words, mass psychogenic illness). She discovered that a student at the school had used an ouija board to try and influence the outcome of a basketball game. The student, called Maria, had been summarily expelled for using the game but, in her extreme anger, had allegedly cursed the school. The psychiatrist learned that, shortly after this, two of her former friends and fellow ouija board enthusiasts began to exhibit the symptoms. It seems belief in the supernatural power of the board and the existence of demons and evil spirits, along with rumours that Maria’s mother was a witch, led to the mass hysteria Dr Zavala diagnosed.
Now, what is the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game?
Here we can blame social media (can’t we always?). In 2015, this simple form of ouija, originating many years ago in Spain, along with Spanish speaking countries in Central and South America, spread quickly thanks to the power of Twitter and the odd Youtube video. All that is needed is to draw a simple grid as shown on the illustration. In the centre of the grid, place two pencils on top of each other. Now ask closed questions (i.e. those that require a simple ‘yes or no’ answer). You are summoning the supernatural entity called Charlie. First ask him, ‘Charlie, are you there?’ Watch the pencils. The top pencil is the one which will indicate whether a spirit is in attendance. If it begins to pivot, watch where it points and you have the answer to your question. Charlie is communicating with you. Or, of course a draught may have wafted through the room, someone may have breathed a little too heavily, a truck may have thundered past the window, setting up vibrations…
A hundred and one things could be responsible, but belief that a spirit really had joined them was enough to cause four Columbian students to wind up in hospital, ‘screaming and babbling’ as a result of playing ‘Charlie Charlie’. In the same month (May 2015) in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St Lucia reports flooded in of school children playing the game and ending up falling unconscious, slipping into trances and experiencing confused mental states. The following month, in the Dominican Republic, it was alleged that several young children in a primary school had been ‘possessed by the devil’ while playing the game.
Of course as with any belief in the supernatural, proving the link between Ouija boards or the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game and evil (or even benign) spirits is impossible to prove (or disprove actually!). Those who are convinced they are in contact with a demon will not be swayed. Those who remain skeptical will point to the laws of science. The two positions are polar opposites.
What do I believe? Whether there is truly anything in it or not, my own experience has made me extremely wary of playing with occult games. When I was eighteen years old, two friends and I had a pretty scary experience with a home-made Ouija board and a heavy-duty water glass that shot across the room and shattered against the wall. This was only after it had spelled out a stream of abuse and obscenities – the like of which none of the three of us would ever use in conversation.
Best to be safe. Leave spirit games to the movies and books.
Not that this would have helped poor nine-year-old Heidi. Here’s what to expect in Damned by the Ancients…
INFINITY IN DEATH
Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .
The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.
Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .
Damned by the Ancients is available from:
Barnes and Noble
Catherine Cavendish, Biography –
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.
Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife
She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.
You can connect with Cat here: