Campfire Ghost Stories

I’ve recently been sucked into a show on the cable channel BIO called “Celebrity Ghost Stories“. I’m not prone to watching these types of shows, but I’m kind of addicted to this one. Based on my history, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

When I was a kid I loved spooky, macabre stories. My tween years were spent immersed in Stephen King novels between episodes of Tales From the Dark Side, Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, and Friday the 13th: The Series. I enjoyed Edgar Allen Poe and before him Alvin Schwartz, author of such gems as “In a Dark, Dark Room“, “Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark”, “More Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark” and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones”. I want to lead off this post with a story from one of his books, which I remember to this day called “The Green Ribbon”. The narrator’s voice alone makes me want to hide under a blankie.

As an adult I don’t subscribe to the traditional idea of “ghosts” but as a young kid my friends and I were always on the lookout for them. It took awhile to make the connection between slamming doors, open windows, breezy days, and the idea of vacuum – we were convinced it was ghostly stirrings. And there was always a nagging suspicion that all dolls, especially the blinky-eyed ones – were pure evil and moved around at night. I know that was the reason why I sent my creepy doll to my Grandma’s house when I was 7. I wanted no part of it. Ghosts, devil dolls, poltergeists, axe murderers – all fell into the “serious threat” category as a kid.

The movie The Children of the Corn (heck, the movie poster alone) kept us at a respectable distance from the cornfields we lived next to, in tandem with the understanding that summer camp was out of the question (the fix was in with that Jason Voorhees fella). Summer months meant being on the lookout for hauntings because fall and winter provided too many turkey-filled events chock full of glad tidings, sledding, and marshmallowy mugs of hot chocolate to make any paranormal associations (with the exception of The Shining).

My friends and I loved thrilling each other by exchanging tales which we were CERTAIN were 100% true. Slumber parties and campfires in the woods provided occasions for that yarn-spinning goosebumpery whose only opportunity to shine occurs in that narrow window between “just-enough-understanding-to-be-credulous” and “enlightened-by-science-disbelief”. Ages 7-11 would be the most emotionally intense as far as supernatural paranoia, I’d say.

When I was 11 I attended a slumber party at which I was exposed to (for the first time) a game that I thought was cool, so I CLEARLY remember being upset and shocked as I got chewed out by my parents at the mere mention of “Ouija Board“. I was yelled at because it “wasn’t a game” and “didn’t lead to good things”. I was shocked by their reactions. I haven’t played with one since. Odd that the nervous kid in me walks the fence on whether or not I’d play if the chance ever presented itself again. I think I probably would.

However, the Ouija Board issue surfaced years later.

When I was in college a good friend came up to stay with me in Chicago. She said in the weeks after her stay she was in the presence of a girl who’d often play with the Ouija Board by herself. When my friend found herself in a social situation with this girl (a friend of a friend), in a casual capacity, she called “bullshit” on her silly board-playing. So, the girl played the ‘ask-the-board-anything-and-see’ card. My friend (who was not touching the board or the planchette) asked “Where did I go for spring break?” I was told that C-H-I-C-A-G-O was spelled out.  She asked it “Who did I stay with?” I was told it spelled out S-A-R-A-H. I was to understand that there was not familiarity between my friend and this girl – that she couldn’t possibly know these things. Now, because I wasn’t there I can’t vouch for all the situational nuances, but at the time I wasn’t happy about my name being dropped and got a few chills. I guess that’s why one episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories” piqued my interest as it pertained to a Ouija Board incident as told by actor Michael Urie in (Season 2, Episode 14).

Science points out that it is most likely the psychological underpinnings that cause a player to move the planchette with their own hands. I’ve read the debunk reports and there’s plenty of evidence against any authenticity. The skeptic in me disbelieves that the Parker Brothers Company is actually in cahoots with the “other side”, but the wide-eyed 11-year-old in me shivers and secretly wonders if they are.


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