We were absolutely idiotic, and a Ouija board is not a toy. We were, on the whole, very lucky.
Rita went to a small high school in Northern Minnesota. She and five friends - Cathy, Andi, Jess, Lizzy and Christine - were the core of the school's drama department. The program required them to do everything from building the sets to assistant directing the plays. This entitled them to special privileges, such as wandering around the school with a director's set of keys for the auditorium and related rooms.
By the beginning of her senior year, this special access to the school at virtually any time of the day convinced Rita that the auditorium theater was haunted. Props went missing even more than the students' sloppy propmastering could account for. Doors unlocked themselves. As part of their routine, Rita and Cathy would unlock the front door to the theater, lock it behind them, walk to the back, unpadlock the door to the curtain booth, repadlock it, go out the back entrance and relock that door. Often they would come back 15 minutes later to find the curtain booth unpadlocked and standing ajar! "This happened so often," Rita said, "that we would all take a turn pulling on the padlock to make sure it was really locked."
THE OUIJA BOARD
Now, looking back on this period, I wonder what the hell I was doing. The most I can say is that at least we never did it alone.
These unexplained occurrences may have had something to do with another interest the girls shared besides theater - a Ouija board. Rita, Cathy, Christine and Lizzy became so addicted to it that they conducted sessions almost daily. It was a simple homemade board. The girls would meet in the school's art room where they'd find the materials they needed: a sheet of paper on which they wrote the letters and numbers, and an empty plastic cellophane tape spool to use as a planchette. The girls would discard the set every week or so and make a new one.
"There were several spirits that we talked to all the time," Rita said. Their favorite spirit, who called herself "Janet," was a somewhat mischievous entity who would often spell out the word VENEREAL just seconds before a bunch of jocks walked in the room. In fact, Janet's control of the board was sometimes so strong that the girls had to dismiss her from a session. Rita was sure they were truly communicating with spirits. "We were not fooling ourselves or tricking each other," she said. "The four of us in all possible combinations used the board with equal success."
And Janet was not the only spirit they conjured. Several spirits clamored to talk to the girls. It got to the point where they would barely touch the planchette and it would instantly take off so fast that their fingers could not keep up with it.
THE RED ROOM
I had no idea such a thing even existed.
The faculty theater director was a fairly young teacher named Don. He was new to the school, but the girls took a quick liking to him, and he to them. One afternoon, Don and a few of the girls were just kicking around the theater after school hours. Don asked them if they had ever explored the dark, mysterious area high above the theater's stage. The girls were unaware that there was anything up there at all. It was an old, unused part of the theater complex - and usually off limits. Don suggested they all check it out and the girls, feeling adventurous, agreed.
Rita, Andi and Cathy followed Don to a door located on the stairwell by the back door to the auditorium. Rita, for one, had never even noticed this old wooden door before. Above it were faded gilt letters that said, "Theater Property Rooms."
The door creaked open to reveal a set of very steep, narrow steps. The group slowly made their way to the top where they found a small hallway off of which were three openings. Immediately to the left, they entered a dim room full of rotting, black velour stage curtains. No one knew how long those curtains were up there, but the nasty smell seeping out from their folds was sickening. The group pressed on.
A few steps down the hall to the right, the wall simply opened up to the area directly above the stage and auditorium seating. If they wanted to, they could have stepped across the top of the stage rigging onto the actual ceiling of the auditorium. But none of them were game for that. From the hall they could see that the ceiling was littered with ancient trash and an old, stained mattress.
Rita was starting to feel uncomfortable. The sickening smell of the curtains and the dizzying heights of the stage rigging made her want to head back downstairs. But there was something further down the hall that compelled them to continue.
The third opening, on the left, was to another short length of hallway. At the end of it was a small room. Its walls were painted a bright fire-engine red. It was completely empty except for an old trunk that sat in the center of the room. To say the least, Don and the girls found this highly unusual - and a trifle disturbing. Rita had a curious feeling that they were trespassing - not just on school property, but on something much more personal.
Next page: They meet Mary Jo