Ouija Boards, Roller Blinds and the Mysterious P

As a kid, I was obsessed with supernatural stories. I loved all sorts of tales of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties...

Also Snoopy.

But mostly, the kind of stuff that would leave me afraid to put my foot over the edge of the bed at night. (Y'know, because every kid is innately aware that Evil has a serious foot fetish.)

My best friend Josette felt much the same way as I did about the things that go bump in the night. Together, we exhausted the mystery, horror and occult sections of our elementary school library...

Plus, Josette also owned a Parker Brothers Ouija board.

Now, I'm a pretty practical gal these days. I mean, I still love tales of the strange and unusual. But I also know the Salem Witch Trials were a result of mass hysteria and a need for attention...

That psychic Miss Clio and her chums won't enlighten me to anything but the missing money in my bank account...

And that Ouija boards work on the scientific principal of idia... ideo... er...

Subconsciously pushing the triangle thingie with your own hands.

So looking back, I'm amused at how very serious we were about this.

I believe it all started with the idea that we would contact Josette's Grandfather's ghost Beyond The Grave. Because that sounded good and dramatic, and Josette was really into watching "Dark Shadows" at the time. Everything's dramatic when you're 12 and watching "Dark Shadows."

Heck, grilled cheese can take on mysterious, ominous tones with enough imagination...

"Look!-- at the CHEESE! Do you see it? It's... MELTING! I've never seen cheese behave that way before. What does it mean?"

"It must be... HAUNTED!"

(insert scary organ music here)

So initially we asked the Ouija questions in the general "Josette's Grandpa, can you hear us? Is that you?" sort of vein, because we'd seen that done on various thriller Movies of the Week and it was usually really effective within the first few moments of the scene.

But surprisingly, the Ouija wasn't forthcoming with any real answers.

Mostly it seemed to wander around the board in a confused, unspecific way, like an elderly person in a shopping mall parking lot who forgets where the car is parked.

Then we decided that since it probably wasn't Grandpa-- or if it was, he didn't know where his car was, so he was unlikely to be of much help from the Spirit World on other topics-- we'd better just ask general questions of things we wanted to know.

And to demonstrate to ourselves that we weren't running the Ouija board ourselves subconsciously, we wanted to choose questions we couldn't possibly know the answers to.

So we conferred a bit and came up with the question that had been plaguing us both for a few years now.

Was it about the potential for world peace? Or who our True Loves would be? Maybe about the possibility of life on other planets? Or whether we'd live long, healthy lives?

Are you ready for it? To hear The Question that would be a true test of the Ouija board's vast supernatural powers?

Because this gives a lot of deep insight into the mind of a 12-year-old in the early 80s, I think...

Okay, here goes. The question that we most wanted to know, and felt the spirits on the Other Side could tell us was....

"What does the P. stand for in Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane's name on The Dukes of Hazzard?"

Yep, that's right. We'd drag a spirit presence all the way from some other realm to ask them questions about a lisping, bumbling television cop's middle name.

Ah-- but this time, the triangular planchette quivered under our fingers! It began to move! Josette and I exchanged wide-eyed glances as it rushed to the first letter.


"Oh, my gosh, it's going to tell us!" Josette breathed.

Then the next letter.... "A!"

We were going to get our answer, finally, after all these years! The tension was almost unbearable. What was it? Patrick? Payton? Paul?

And another letter... And another letter! And another!

And there, the planchette settled into the middle of the board, seemingly exhausted. It's work now done.

Hearts pounding in our chests, we exhaled with excitement and we put the letters together in what, to this day, never ceases to send me into fits of giggles when I think about it.

Because according to the Ouija board, the answer to "What does the P. stand for in Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane's name on The Dukes of Hazzard?" was...


Rosco... Panda... Coltrane?!

It was a little disillusioning.

Well, at the time, once we stopped laughing, we decided we'd better to turn back to more serious matters. You know, to call forth the spirit of Jon-Erik Hexum or someone else we thought was cute who'd passed on.

And so renewed were we in our activities-- trying to put the unfortunate "Panda Incident" out of our minds, I believe-- that we'd neglected to notice a summer thunderstorm rolling in, dark clouds pressing down on the house from above.

So when we asked the Ouija board to give us a final sign regarding some critical point-- which, I'm afraid, is now lost to the memories of both Josette and me-- well, thunder clapped loudly overhead in a entirely coincidental but perfectly-synchronized moment.

Which rattled the blind of Josette's room enough to cause it to flip and roll skyward.

That was enough. We shrieked and leapt away from the Ouija board like it was a some giant hairy spider, never to dabble in the Parker Brothers' occult again.

But even in spite of the well-executed meteorological activity, as I returned home sleepy and watching the rain steam down the windshield of my mother's Family Wagon, I realized: the Ouija board had taken a real hit on its authority for me that day.

Panda... Honestly!...

Sometimes the supernatural wasn't quite so super.

Vote for this post at Humor-blogs. Immortalize the spirit of James Best, the actor who played Rosco P. Coltrane, forever!


Anne Coleman said...

Grandpa lost his car!! ROFL Jen, this is too funny. I love the whole Panda thing, too. We got odd words out of our Ouija as well.

Da Old Man said...

My cousin's pointer thing moved by itself. Scared the crap out of her. She threw out the board. And then she died.

Ok, it was 30 years later, but it's still spooky and coincidental.

Unknown said...

Anne- I'm glad to have other folks enjoy the "Panda" story. It still tickles me so much.

DaOldMan- Those pointers are really slippery, though-- any little vibrations can get it going a bit. I can imagine you all wanted to head for the hills when that happened!!! :)

Anonymous said...

"Panda," gotta love that. But you got me thinking, so I looked it up. In case you hadn't, Roscoe's middle name is Purvis.

It's a lot like needing to hit that last note in the chord.

Unknown said...

Anonymous- Heh- thank you for the comment- :)
I did actually look it up-- (Ah, Purvis-- how... melodic, eh? I think I shall name my first born Purvis)... But I was sort of hoping folks would want to discuss the trivia aspect of it, so I didn't want to ruin that by sharing too soon. :)

Anonymous said...

Rosco panda - What a pansy!

A bottle of vodka, a haunted cemetery and some scared girls clinging for assurance, and that was high school.

I’ll never forget the time a conservation officer confiscated our bottle of vodka. While we were lined up by the car, my friend ***** was being given a breathalyzer. As scared as we were - we all laughed when heard the officer exclaim, I said ‘blow not suck’
Though some of us were a little buzzed, he let us go – thankfully.

I use to play Ouija with some people from a creative writing class as an exercise in creative writing.

When I got into the business of creativity and read books like “Cracking Creativity” that introduced all kinds of exercises such as mind maps, brainstorming, etc. etc. I was somehow inspired to go out a buy a Ouija.

Unknown said...

Kevin- Heh, even as kids, we knew "Panda" probably wasn't the right answer. :)

Interesting point you bring up about using the Ouija board for purposes of brainstorming. I can see where that might work, since the ideas that come out really are unfiltered stream of consciousness.

Glad to hear you were able to overcome your teenage brush with the cop. His name wasn't Rosco, by any chance, was it? :)

Anonymous said...

Panda?!? Well, that proves that Ouija board messages can't be trusted. Stupid dead people!

As an aside, I just felt the urge to Google 'scary organ' to see what images it came up with.

Unknown said...

Tiggy- I know, seriously! What is WRONG with those dead folks?!

I bet you're sorry you Googled "scary organ." I can only imagine what the wide, wide world of the internet offered you with that one.

Alice said...

I went through the whole occult thing growing up, and scared myself silly in the process.

I have NEVER done a Ouija board and don't think I ever could. My sister has some scary stories from her time in college with one.

Now I just watch Ghost Hunters International occassionally to get my fill. It's just cheezy enough not to scary me too badly.

Anonymous said...

Ahahahahaha!! I was never into Ouija boards, they scared me. That thunder thing would have had me completely freaked and unable to function.

I love the analogy of old people wandering round the mall not being able to remember where they'd put the car. LOL!

Unknown said...

Alice- There's something so fun when you're a kid scaring yourself silly, isn't there? Gosh, the things I was allowed to watch on TV, too...

I ended up hooked on GhostHunters when my dad had it on while I was visiting. Very entertaining!

Jay- Heh, I probably shouldn't have limited it to older people, as I myself have lost my car occasionally if I happen to park in a different area. :)

ADDED NOTE: In speaking to Josette today, who I'm still friends with, I had some clarification that we were apparently trying to contact Mae West, not Jon-Erik Hexum.

I guess we thought that would be cooler to try to get a hold of an early motion picture star.

Greg said...

Jon-Erik Hexum, that was a tragedy, tho--he was kinda hot!

I recall a particularly amusing evening of drinking and Ouija-ing in college, when our friend D, the apparent Queen of Gullibility was led down a darkly amusing path.

Of course, she was an easy mark...she'd already fallen for the haunted typewriter and flying Opus-doll tricks. Man, we had fun living in the haunted dorm!

"Panda"! I'm smurfing myself here.

Unknown said...

Greg- Haunted Typewriter? Levitating Opus? SHHEEESH, you guys were GOOOD.

Ah, makin' 'em laugh with "panda" one blogger at a time. :)

Barry said...

Not putting your foot off of the bed... reminds me of Bill Cosby's Black poisonous Snakes that were invisible (from Chickenheart)

Meg said...

I think the supernatural has a great sense of humor.

Unknown said...

Barry- Oh, I missed that particular skit from the Cos, but I can totally imagine him tackling it that way. And he's right, too. As a kid, you know SOMETHING is under that bed, waiting. Even if you can't see it. :)

Meg- Heh, yep, those wacky, wacky dead guys. :) "Panda..."

Wendy said...

Maybe since you were asking it about TV it was trying to give you some other brilliant future insights into popular media hits. Kung Fu Panda! That's what it was trying to tell you and you missed it!