Crimson Ghosts

Halloween season also happens to be football season, specifically college football. Where I originate from, the great state of Alabama, the latter season is sacred.

Most colleges have their share of ghostly tales. But the multi-national football champions from the University of Alabama could claim another national title…most haunted campus!

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Crimson Tide Ghosts – Hauntings at the University of Alabama

To anyone who even remotely follows college athletics, if you hear “Roll Tide Roll” you know exactly who and what it means. University of Alabama. More specifically, Bama sports. And more likely than not, it’s associated with Bama football. The university and the team are quite famous. After all, they won seventeen national football championships. Most of the country’s college football fans either LOVE the Tide or HATE them. For purposes of this article, I will refrain from expressing my own opinion.

But do you know what else Bama is famous for?

Ghosts!

Since its inception in 1831, the hallowed campus grounds in Tuscaloosa, Alabama have experienced trauma and bloodshed (and not always related to football rivalries gone bad).

In the early days, it was common for gun fights to break out on campus. Later on, the university was turned into a military academy to train Confederate soldiers for the Civil War. After the war, it reverted back into an institute of higher learning, but violence still marred the land and gave rise to numerous reports of paranormal activity.

The Little Round House, also known as Jason’s Shrine, was a cadet guardhouse during the Civil War. Three Union soldiers still reside there after their grisly murders. The legend tells that two Confederate cadets stayed behind while the Union army burned the buildings on campus. One cadet was accosted by Union soldiers looking for whiskey. He directed them to the cadet guardhouse where the other cadet ambushed the soldiers and killed them. The soldiers’ boots can be heard stomping around inside the building. When someone ventures in to check out the cause of the sounds, no one is there.

The shadow of a young woman who committed suicide by lighting herself on fire still wanders the 13th floor of Tutwiler Hall. Others experience feelings of foreboding and of being watched in the basement of the same building.

The tramping of horse hooves can be heard throughout the main floor of Smith Hall, located on the Quad, where there is an exhibit of its namesake, Dr. Eugene Allen Smith’s carriage. It is accompanied by the sounds of disembodied horses neighing and horse whips cracking. There are also reports of voices, and when someone investigates, they find desks that had been arranged neatly just moments ago to be in disarray. The room where this phenomenon occurs happens to be a former boiler room where a boiler explosion killed several students.

Marian Gallaway, former theater director, still roams the Gallaway Theater in Rowand-Johnson Hall. Some theater students claim a person can call forth Mrs. Gallaway by standing center stage (alone) and asking her, “How’s my blocking, Mrs. Gallaway?” Her ghost also voices her displeasure if students are not working hard enough by slamming doors to get their attention.

One student claims that after the opening night performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the main theater, one student came up to a group gathered in front of Mrs. Gallaway’s portrait. He remarked that he saw Mrs. Gallaway in the audience and she appeared to thoroughly enjoy the show. When the group laughed and stated that was impossible, he pointed to the portrait and affirmed that was the woman he saw in the audience. He was shocked to discover Mrs. Gallaway had been deceased for some time.

An interesting side note is rampant speculation that Mrs. Gallaway was the inspiration for the character of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

What’s a college ghost story without a haunted library? The University of Alabama is no different. The Gorgas Library is still overseen by its namesake, Amelia Gorgas. She mostly haunts the fourth floor, so much so that the elevators have been programmed to NOT stop on that floor. However, students in the library late at night have experienced the misfortune of the elevator stopping and the door opening on the fourth floor.

Mrs. Gorgas is not alone though. Her husband, former University President and Confederate General, Josiah Gorgas, haunts the Gorgas House where he lived and died. Reports include claims of the sound of his sword banging against the walls.

Most colleges have a center of campus, commonly called a quad. Well, Bama students are wise to avoid the Quad on foggy nights. If one is unlucky enough to have to traverse the Quad on such a night, walk fast. Otherwise, you may bear witness to up to three ghosts – a Confederate soldier in full military garb of a Commandant, and two deceased professors whose bodies were cremated and their ashes scattered across the campus.

Following college football as closely as I do, I am surprised to find there has not been a reported sighting of the ghost of the legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. If anyone happens to come across him, please let me know. There are a hundred plus football coaches that would like to pick his brain for game day strategy. Perhaps that is how Nick Saban is such an amazingly winning coach – is he channeling the Bear? Maybe there’s a Crimson Ouija Board in the field house? (see previous articles on ouija boards)

Whether you love Bama or hate Bama, one thing is clear – even death can’t stop Bama faculty, or students from hanging around campus for their Crimson Tide.

 

Ouija Board – Family Fun or Demon Portal? (Part 2)

We started out the month of October (SpookFest) with an article I wrote for Paranormal Rag (an online magazine) about Ouija Boards. Below is the follow-up article…because honesty, ouija boards are fascinating…scary, but fascinating.

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Last time we discussed the history and a possible scientific explanation of the popular board “game” – the Ouija Board. It started as a simple board game for family entertainment, even though its origin was more supernaturally inclined.

Now I want to share true stories of just how dangerous this seemingly innocuous game can be.

A Ouija board, also known as a spirit board, is a flat board with letters of the alphabet written across in big arches, numbers 0 through 9 listed on a straight line underneath the letters, two words in the top corners of the board (“Yes” in the upper left; “No” in the upper right), and the words “Good Bye” centered at the bottom (sometimes the board also has “Hello”). A small triangle, sometimes heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic, called a planchette allows the participants to place the tips of their fingers on it and it guides them to spell out the answers to their questions.

Currently, Hasbro, Inc. (a toy manufacturer) owns the trademark and you can find the board game in the non-electronic games section of Walmart, Target, or even order online from Amazon. After researching for this article, I found there’s even Ouija apps for phones.

Can something so widely distributed and touted as a family game since its commercialization in 1890 actually be quite sinister?

In addition to being the basis for the possession of a little girl in the movie, The Exorcist, (which was based on a true story), there have been numerous reports of spooky, and even dangerous, encounters with the Ouija board.

One Reddit user’s experience was posted in Cosmopolitan magazine in 2016. She and her now ex-boyfriend used an Ouija board to attempt contact with a friend of his that had recently died. They got more than they bargained for when the spirit was more than anxious to speak with them. They stopped the session which seemed to anger the spirit. The planchette began moving on its own very rapidly, not even spelling out words. The atmosphere became heavy and oppressive, making the living persons in the room exhausted. The woman fell asleep for a few minutes. When she woke up, a dark shadow figure rushed at her and was screaming. She claims it felt like the apparition was trying to get into her body. After running from the house, the woman has sworn off Ouija boards forever.

One woman in West Virginia retold a story of using an Ouija board with her mom one night when she was just a pre-teen. She swore her mom was moving the planchette, although her mom equally swore she wasn’t. The spirit identified itself by a name neither recognized. When they asked how the spirit died, it did not answer so her mom attempted to say “good-bye.” The planchette moved to the word “No.” Her mom again said “good-bye” and the planchette moved to the word “good-bye” as well. However, that’s when it started to get weird. The woman (young girl at the time) began to hear growling in a corner of her bedroom at night. Her father did not hear it, but her mother did. Also, the mom’s cigarettes began to have a rotten egg smell (Sulphur smells like this and is commonly associated with demons). A few days later, her mom became very ill and was hospitalized with a nasty infection. After that, the growling stopped.

A couple teenage girls lost almost ten hours of their life using the board. They started a session with the Ouija board around 9 pm and after a few questions…it was 7 am. Neither recalls what happened after the first couple of innocuous questions.

People have reported shadows, voices, strange knocks and other sounds after using an Ouija board. However, some have also reported being assaulted – scratched, pushed, choked, and held down unable to move.

Doesn’t sound quite such an innocent game now, does it?

There have been countless stories of people throwing away, destroying, and even burning their Ouija boards and/or the planchettes (or homemade devices used as planchettes), but then the items turn up again, and along with it – dark shadows, disembodied voices, and a general sense of heaviness in the air.

Regardless of your own personal opinion of Ouija boards, and possible scientific explanations to how it works, there are enough reports of negative experiences both during the use of the board and long after the session is over to make goosebumps rise on even a skeptic’s skin.

For those of you daring individuals who break out one of these boards for any reason, please take care. Some safety precautions include:

  • Close out the session by saying “good-bye” and waiting until the planchette responds by moving to the words “good-bye” on the board (never leave a board open);
  • Do not leave these boards around for children to find;
  • If the spirit becomes aggressive, end the session quickly and include a statement to the effect that you do not give the spirit permission to remain – remember, you are in control, but you must wait until the planchette also moves to “good-bye” before walking away (otherwise the spirit will remain and could cause trouble);
  • Do not leave the planchette unattended on the board;
  • Do not ask the spirit to make a sound or touch something or someone to prove it is there. This will only invite trouble;
  • If the planchette begins making figure-eight designs on the board (either backwards or forwards), SHUT DOWN the board immediately (as described above). Same goes if the planchette moves forward or backward across all the letters and/or numbers. Both are signs the spirit is attempting a spell to cross over into our world;
  • Play the game with respect. Don’t curse at the spirit or call it fake. You’ll just piss off the spirit and then bad stuff follows;
  • Do not attempt a session with the Ouija board alone;
  • And this may sound nonsensical, but do not play with an Ouija board in a cemetery.

Just a few easy steps to make your Ouija board experience fun and safe. If you don’t, you may want to avoid it altogether. Don’t risk what happened to those persons whose stories are above happen to you.

 

Safe and happy Ouija’ing, folks!

Ouija Boards: Spirit Portal or Simple Child’s Play

It’s that time of year again where everything takes on an allure of spooky.  Month of Ghosts, Goblins, Witches, and much more. To celebrate, and in response to watching the Haunted Salem Live 4 hour ghost hunt on Friday night, here’s an article I wrote for Paranormal Rag (an online magazine that has since ceased operations) about Ouija Boards and why even seasoned ghost hunters should think twice before breaking out the board.

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Who hasn’t been at a sleepover and had someone whisk out an Ouija board? It’s fun. It’s spooky? It’s thrilling? But is it just a game or is it something much more sinister?

A Ouija board, also known as a spirit board, is a flat board with letters of the alphabet written across in big arches, numbers 0 through 9 listed on a straight line underneath the letters, two words in the top corners of the board (“Yes” in the upper left; “No” in the upper right), and the words “Good Bye” centered at the bottom (sometimes the board also has “Hello”). A small triangle, sometimes heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic, called a planchette allows the participants to place the tips of their fingers on it and it guides them to spell out the answers to their questions. Currently, Hasbro, Inc. (a large toy manufacturer) owns the trademark for the game. Seems innocuous enough. Right?

Use of Ouija boards has been documented back to around 1100 AD in China where planchette writing was a well-known means of necromancy and communicating with the spirit world. During and after the Civil War in the United States, spiritualists claimed to talk with the dead using the board as the telecommunications medium. Even First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, used the board during a séance to speak with her dead son. It’s even documented that I well-renown spiritualist of the time warned Mrs. Lincoln of the impending death of her husband.

It became more popular when the Kennard Novelty Company commercialized the board in 1890. The United States Patent Office tested the board and insisted it be proven to work exactly as described before they signed off on the patent. The patent officer demanded that the board spell out his name (supposedly unknown to anyone present at the time of the exhibition). When it did spell his name correctly, he awarded Elijah Bond (a co-founder of Kennard Novelty Company and attorney) the patent.

Where did the Ouija get its name? That is subject of much disagreement. One story tells that an employee of Bond’s, William Fuld, took over production of the talking board in 1901 and changed its name to “Ouija”. He claimed that he asked the board what its name was and the board responded “Ouija”, an Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” Fuld even went so far as to claim he invented the board. After much public arguing over who invented the board, the majority shareholder in Kennard Novelty Company sold Fuld his remaining interest in the Ouija for $1.

Another story insisted the name was a mashup of the French (oui) and German (ja) words for “yes”.

However, Ouija historian Robert Murch, contended that Elijah Bond’s sister-in-law (a reported medium, Helen Peters) named the board after asking it what it wanted to be called. Ms. Peters was also wearing a locket with a portrait of famed women’s rights activist Ouida. Murch believes she was the true basis for the game’s name.

In the early years of the board’s commercialization, it was considered to be simply a parlor game, nothing sinister or paranormal. But all that changed during World War I when a famous spiritualist, Pearl Curran, utilized the board as a divining tool – a method of gaining knowledge by an occultic process or ritual whereby answers are derived by spirits or other supernatural entities.

Christian denominations, particularly the Catholic Church, adamantly warn against the use of these boards as they invite in unknown entities, including demons. They have gone so far as to ban the boards. As recently as 2001, Ouija boards were burned in New Mexico, along with copies of the Harry Potter books, as “symbols of witchcraft.”

Others claim the Ouija boards can be used carefully for good means. Emily Grant Hutchings maintained that the spirit of Mark Twain dictated a novel, Jap Herron: A Novel Written from the Ouija Board, to her through an Ouija board in 1917. William Butler Yeat’s wife used a talking board to help him with his poetry. Two prisoners of the Turks during World War I used a board to convince their captors to free them.

But even pro-Ouija enthusiasts warn that inexperienced users should refrain from their use because “you may get more than you bargained for.”

Skeptics claim the spiritual reasons provided for the movement of the planchette to answer questions are pseudoscience and have no basis in reality. They conclude, and numerous scientific experiments have been conducted to prove this, that the planchette moves by unconscious movements of the persons with their fingers on the device. It’s called the ideomotor effect.

But what if the Ouija isn’t simply an innocent game? It’s been marketed as both an oracle into the unknown as well as family-friendly entertainment. Certainly no one would mass market dangerous telecommunication devices with spirits to children and families?

Anyone remember “The Exorcist”? 1973, the perception of the innocent family game pivoted sharply and our collective interest in the Ouija board took on a more sinister outlook. In the movie, an innocent twelve-year old girl played with the board and ended up spewing pea soup everywhere and her head spinning all the way around her neck because the board brought over a demon to possess her body. To top it off, the story was claimed to be based on a true story.

But what is more chilling is all the horrific tales from the cast and crew of the movie itself. They were plagued with all sorts of scary and paranormal activity during the film shooting. Many say the movie itself was cursed by a demon. The set of the house burned down, all except the bedroom for the character of the possessed girl, Reagan. The director claimed he saw a winged creature with talons, but it was reported that a pigeon got into one of the circuit boxes that started the fire. The actress playing the mother was seriously injured during a take where the demon-possessed little girl throws her across the room. Nine deaths are associated with the film. Crew witnessed objects moving of their own accord, including the phone used to communicate between the set and the production house. So many unexplained and terrifying instances occurred that the cast and crew requested the movie’s religious advisor, Thomas Bermingham, to exorcise the set. Initially, he refused. The next day the entire set burned to the ground leading Bermingham to relent and perform the ritual. The poor lead actress, Linda Blair, experienced such horrific issues during and after filming it is reported she underwent several exorcisms herself.

All that from an innocent, family-friendly game? Perhaps it wasn’t the Ouija, but maybe…just maybe…