Séances And Other Pastimes

The first time I conducted a séance I was about twelve years old. This foray into the spirit world was purely for entertainment’s sake. Fright was the goal, and a séance was a way to fuel the fun of being terrified, as if growing up in a small town in the South wasn’t scary enough.

The perfect place for a séance would have been my father’s funeral home, in which he worked and we lived. But that was too real for most of our troops; anywhere but there was the cry. No one really wanted a spirit to actually appear. We put the setting together like an impromptu picnic. Anyone have a candle? What about a tablecloth? And we weren’t fancy about it, no cloaks, turbans or costume jewelry.

We clasped hands and I asked the spirit world to join us, as you do. Sometimes nature cooperated by sending a breeze through an open window. On nights when it was so warm and humid that our hands joined in a moisture bath, heat lightening flashed, the electricity crashed, the dark became darker and we were left dumbfounded by the silence. Then we screamed. Tantalizing as they were, these natural occurrences weren’t reliable. Time to employ – The Foot.

“Can you tell us Oh Great Spirit, does Jimmy love Deborah? One tap for yes and two taps for no, please.”

I became very good at tapping underneath the table with my foot. I stretched my leg and made it seem as if the tapping originated from the far end of the table.

And then we got one of these!

But then we saw this

and never used it again.

We added levitation to the repertoire. We called it “lifting”. It kind of works.

The person to be lifted lay supine on the floor. We sat on the floor around her, one person at her feet, another at her head and two people on each side. We made a lever with our hands by holding our forefinger and thumbs together - this looked like a gun - and placed them under her body. The leader hypnotized the subject into feeling very relaxed and heavy, soothing her, instructing her to allow her body’s weight to fall into our fingers. This went on for a while until our fingers, hands and arms began to ache. Finally, the leader said, “Lift!” With that the body rises in the air. Yes, it’s supported, but it really did feel like the body lifted much higher than it should and it felt outrageously light, as if floating. Then we gasped and dropped her from the shock of it. Worked every time.

Moving on to derelict house hunting, otherwise known as haunted houses, it was a pleasure to risk falling timbers, floors on the verge of collapse and an untold number of vermin to rummage through the remains of a lonely house.

One night we hit the wrong house. It was occupied! A woman who looked the living embodiment of a witch stuck her head out the second story window and angrily yelled down to us as we tried to enter her house. I clearly saw her long black scraggly hair, her one front tooth protruded terribly and her eyes were ever so slightly crossed. We ran away as our hearts leaped up our throats.

Ghost House
by Robert Frost

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me--
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,--
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.


  1. Wonderful post! I remember the old "light as a feather" lifting game. We used to do that at sleepovers, a lot.

    Our ouija board never produced anything of interest, and sadly I didn't know how to fake answers until I grew up and started researching the Fox sisters. Oh, what I could have done back then if only I'd known!

  2. Thanks very much Dianne. I love your website and your book looks very intriguing. Oddly, I came across the Fox sisters a couple of weeks ago. Would love to visit their home and the community.

  3. I am very much enjoying reading your posts. They have brought back many memories that I have not had in MANY years.

    The thing I remember most about the seances is they usually took place during a church related function as did the Bell witch trips ( amusing isn't it).

    Also, Winston's funeral home burned to the ground just 5 days ago. According to my mother, possible arson as 2 other buildings burned on the same day.

    Look forward to reading your next story:)

    Uses my husband's account-too lazy to create my own! LOL Amy

  4. Thanks so much Amy! I didn't know that Winston's burned! That's very sad to hear.

    I believe you were "lifted" a couple of times. I hope my memory of these things is not too rusty!

    Hope you and your family are doing well.

  5. Kate this looks such a great post .. I have to leave my computer so I am going to minimise it and come back ...just wanted to say Hi too as I have been missing for so long.. I have such little time at the moment but ..real life is like that isnt it xxx
    Will comment on post when I read it properly

  6. Loved it Kate, I remember my parents having a Ouija board and was fascinated by it wanting to play with it all the time... maybe it was the spirit of my real, nice mum trying to tell me that the one I had now was possessed ??
    Great images too.
    My house is supposed to be haunted but if it is, I haven't experienced anything certainly not sinister it has more of a warm welcoming feel ..it must like us xx

  7. Thanks so much Ruth! Love that your Welsh house is supposed to be haunted. Maybe we should do a seance!!