In my article “The Scariest Games,” I include a game or trick called “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” Often attempted by teens at parties and sleepovers, the objective is to levitate someone as he or she lies on the floor using only a few fingers placed beneath the person. Normally, this would not be possible – or very difficult – but it is said to work by some unknown means.
The game has other names and variations. In this case, Rose C. remembers that it was called “I think she’s dead” – a decidedly more morbid slant on the trick. It also turned out to be much scarier for Rose and her friends. This is Rose’s story....
THIS HAPPENED IN Los Angeles in 1973 when I was 10 years old. I have a sister named Lizzy, who is seven years older than I, and she and her teenage friends decided they wanted to try levitation – on me!
There was a girl in the neighborhood named Diane who everyone said was a witch, but she was 17, really nice, pretty, and blonde, so we kids were never afraid of her. On this day, Diane, my sister, and about six of their friends came to our house. My sister Lizzie and I shared a bedroom, and we all gathered to try the “trick” that Diane was going to show us. They chose me because at 10 years old I was a skinny little girl and probably weighed all of 70 pounds soaking wet... but weight would turn out to be irrelevant.
THE “WITCH” INSTRUCTS
Diane asked me to lie on the ground face up in the center of the room. She was squatting on the floor behind my head, so I was looking right up at her face as I lay there. Lizzy was squatting at my feet and the six other people were paired up at my sides – two at my shoulders, two at my waist, and two at my calves.
Diane’s first instructions were that they place their entire hands underneath my body; they would try to lift me first to see how difficult it would be. Despite my petite size, it was like trying to lift a sack of potatoes and we all laughed as the group flailed about trying to get me off the ground.
Next, Diane said we would make the first real attempt. She instructed me to think the words “I’m dead” over and over again once they started the trick. When I agreed, everyone resumed their places, except this time they were allowed to place only two fingers (middle and index) underneath my body at their corresponding points.
The lights went off. In the pitch darkness, Diane started a chant and asked everyone to repeat after her, one at a time, starting with the first person on her right, then continuing around my body until it came back to her, and on to the next verse. The chant was four verses:
“I think she’s dead (all repeat in turn)... I know she’s dead (repeat)... She is dead (repeat)... Lift up the body!”
The last statement, “lift up the body,” was not repeated, but was everyone’s cue to lift me. Again, they tried, but with only two fingers each. I didn’t budge. Everyone laughed, the lights went on, and they were all disappointed that the trick didn’t work.
However, at that point Diane took me aside and said, “You didn’t think what I asked you to think, did you?” And the truth is, I didn’t. The words to her chant scared me and I remember trying to think of anything but “I’m dead.”
Next page: They try again