Cold Hands: My Ouija Board Story

This story is true. Given that I write primarily creepy fiction, this is gonna sound like something I made up. It’s not. This absolutely did happen to me. The only things I’ve changed are the names of the people involved.

I haven’t had a lot of paranormal experiences. In fact, this is the only incident in my life that I cannot attribute to a reasonable, non-paranormal cause. It has confused me and creeped me out for years.

I’m skeptical-but-hopeful when it comes to the paranormal. I like the ideas of ghosts and cryptids, time loops and glitches in the Matrix. I really, really, really want The Loch Ness Monster to be real. When folks give me the side-eye, I give them the example of the coelacanth.

(I will admit to you right now that I find the trope of UFO sightings, abductions, butt probings, and late night visitations incredibly boring. Nothing will make me close a book or stop watching a movie faster than gray aliens. Except maybe flat earth conspiracy theories.)

So… while I enjoy these ideas as thought experiments, I always try to look for a rational explanation. Is it carbon monoxide? Electrical fields? Low-frequency “brown note” uneasiness? Investigating real-world explanations is just as interesting to me as contemplating the unexplainable. The universe is a crazy place and we can’t know everything. It’s just not possible.

I have no explanation for what I’m about to tell you.

When I was in high school, my friend Margaret and I had a few months where we played with a Ouija board. I never thought Ouija boards were a gateway to anything. I believed people (including me) were pushing the planchette around the board without realizing they were pushing it. But, playing with the board was fun anyway. Making believe we were talking to spirits who had the free time to answer dumb questions about crushes or teachers or what movie we should rent next at Blockbuster. We would always use the board properly, though. We knew enough to say Hello when we began, to say Goodbye when we were done, and to wait a moment for the planchette to drift off the edge of the board, before we put it back in its box.

Eventually Margaret and I moved on to doing something else to amuse ourselves. We started writing an epic fantasy series. The Ouija board went back to the top shelf of the hall closet, stacked with the other dusty board games that nobody played anymore.

Then I went to college. My friends and I would have hang-out parties in somebody’s dorm room. We sat around and talked, for the most part. When the hour got late, the conversation turned (as it usually does) to spooky topics. One evening, somebody suggested using a Ouija board. It might even have been me who suggested that.

We didn’t have a board. But, we got the bright idea to pull a poster down from the wall, flip it over, and write on the back with a Sharpie. For a planchette, we used an empty cassette tape case. (Yay for the 1980s!) On the back of the poster, we wrote out Hello, Goodbye, all the letters, the numbers from zero to nine. Also the names of some professors and, I am sure, other ridiculous things that I’ve forgotten.

My college roommate Kendra had used a Ouija board extensively. So much so that she had a spirit guide, whom she called Rickie. I don’t remember how she said she had encountered Rickie, but Rickie had died quite some time ago. I don’t think I really believed in Rickie, but none of us were impolite enough to call Kendra a liar. It was clear that she believed in Rickie.

The group of us played with our homemade Ouija board several times, asking questions of Rickie. The cassette case worked very well as a planchette, siding easily across the slick surface of the poster. Nothing weird or evil ever happened, even when Rickie wasn’t around to talk with us.

It was a fun game, and I remained hopefully skeptical. I’ve been to several places that were purportedly haunted, or infested with dark energy. I’ve felt absolutely nothing. I have never seen a ghost. The only times I’ve been creeped out were times when I creeped myself out. But, when I was one of the people with fingers on the planchette, the planchette always seemed to move more, and faster. I didn’t even notice this; it was another friend who pointed it out. I just assumed I was subconsciously pushing it harder.

Then came the night when the Ouija board game stopped being fun. (I am actually tensing up a bit as I type this.) We were goofing around with our homemade board as usual. I had my fingers on the cassette case. I began to notice, slowly, as the planchette traveled around the board, that my fingers were getting cold. Very cold. I don’t mean they were a little bit chilly. They were ice cold. I mentally shrugged, chalked it up to me just having cold hands as usual, and continued on with the Ouija session.

The cold began to move up from my fingers, to my hands, and climb my wrists. Something in my mind told me to stop immediately. I did. I said to my friends, “I’m sorry. We need to close out the board and say goodbye.

Of course, my friends asked me what was wrong. I said, “You guys this is really weird, but… feel my hands?” I remember my friend Michael taking my hands in his own, and being very surprised at how cold they were.

We put the Ouija board away for the night and I decided I’d just freaked myself out. My college was in upstate New York. It’s cold there. I got cold. That was all. Nothing supernatural about it.

A few days later, my friends and I pulled out the Ouija board again so we could talk to Rickie. When it came to my turn using the planchette, again my fingers got really cold. Then my hands. Then my wrists. I told my friends I had to stop. Then I told them I didn’t want to put my hands on the planchette any more. They could still play with the board, but from now on, I would sit and watch. I didn’t like the creepy feeling I was getting in the pit of my stomach.

My friends opened the board again and asked if Rickie was around. Meanwhile, I sat on my bed across the room, eating Doritos or whatever. And the same thing started happening again. My fingers. My hands. My wrists. Freezing cold. I was overwhelmed by the certainty that if this cold crept all the way up my arms and into my heart, it would kill me.

I told them to stop. I told them why.

That was the last time we used the Ouija board.

A few times since then, a Ouija board has come out at a party. I’m like, “Bye. I’ll be in the kitchen. Don’t want to see you using that thing. Don’t want to hear what you’re asking it.” People want to know why, of course, and me telling the story has always been enough to stop them from using the board. (Not because they get scared, but because at that point, we all start talking about spooky stuff instead.)

I’ve lost touch with all of my college friends except for Michael. Many years later, I told this story at a Halloween party. Michael was there, and he remembered the Ouija board incident. He said to me, “You know, Joan, the real way to test this would be if you were in another room and people started using a Ouija board without you knowing they were using it. If your hands started getting cold, then you would know for sure.”

Luckily — as far as I’m aware — Michael has never enacted his plan. I can’t prove any of this. The only somewhat-verifiable evidence I have was my cold, cold hands, and Michael’s recollection of touching them. It could’ve been me convincing myself, even though I had no reason to fear a Ouija board before then. I don’t know what really happened. I’ll never know.

But, I will never, ever, ever touch a Ouija board again.

Artwork by the author (RIP Grumpy Cat!♡)