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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Supernatural · #1785588
This story is a fictional story based on actual events.
By Shawnte Barr

In my family many stories are passed down from generation to generation.  Some of these stories are historical in nature, teaching us about our past so we won’t get lost in the present.  Others were lessons passed down to prepare us for our unknown futures.  Some of those lessons went in one ear and were planted deep within our memories.  Others, however, went out the other ear to be learned the hard way.

My cousins and I—about twelve of us—were sitting around the living room talking about the movie “The Exorcist”.  It had just gone off and we were debating whether something like that could ever really happen in real life.  Half of us had said it could, while the other half said it couldn’t. 

“Well if you really want to know,” one of my cousins said, “just get a Ouija Board and see”.

“I know y’all ain’t in here talkin’ ‘bout playin’ the Ouija Board?”  Aunt Camille said.  She had walked in the room after losing all her money playing Tunk, a card game, and decided, I guess, to come and see what us kids where doing.  That’s why we were in the living room watching “The Exorcist” anyway; we were at Aunt May’s house entertaining ourselves while the adults played cards.

“I’m tellin’ you, you don’t want to mess with that Ouija board.  You oughta leave the devil right where he’s at.”  Aunt Camille said overhearing us kids talk about the game. “Y’all don’t know about Murder John?”  She asked, seizing our attention.

“Who’s Murder John?”  One of the younger kids asked, ready to be spooked.

“I’m not gonna tell you now ‘cause I don’t want to scare you, but stay away from the Ouija board!”  Aunt Camille warned. 


Almost twelve years after Aunt Camille gave us the warning, me and three of my friends walked out of Auburn High School.  It was late spring but you couldn’t tell by the gray sky that followed us out of school like a tiger stalking its prey.

“Hurry up, Shawnte, before you get caught.  Just put your freakin’ coat on when you get over here.”  Carrie yelled at me.  Deciding to leave school for the rest of the day was the easy part, pulling it off was the challenge.  Auburn High School was a huge school with several exits to escape through, choosing the exit would take strategic planning—especially if there were more than two people leaving.  Rameka, Carrie, Lacy, and I chose to exit on the side of the school so we could catch the city bus.  When we walked out the side doors we had to cross the teacher’s parking lot to make it to the other side of the fence where the bus stop was.  Once we made it past the fence we were off school property and all the security guards could say to us was “You won’t make it pass next time,” but we had to get there first.  So we dashed out, one-by-one, so we wouldn’t bring attention to ourselves until all of us made it to our destination. 

While we stood waiting for the bus to come, we puffed on cigarettes and talked about boys, not caring if anyone saw us.  We decided to go to Carrie and Lacy’s house because their mother couldn’t give a darn whether they went to school or not, plus we could smoke all the cigarettes we wanted.

“What we doin’ when we get there?”  Remeka asked in her New York City accent.

“I don’t know.” Carrie said.  “We can play with the Ouija Board and get drunk.”

“You gotta Ouija Board?”  Rameka asked.

“Yo, I ain’t allowed to play with that thing.”  I said, fear entering my mind, body, and soul.

“You ain’t allowed to leave school either, Shawnte, but you did.”  Carrie said with a smirk on her face.

“Well I ain’t playin’.”  I said; mad she pulled my card.

“You don’t have to,” Carrie said shrugging her shoulders, “you can sit and watch everyone else play.” 


A few weeks later, another card game was going on and since she wasn’t attending, Aunt Camille became the designated babysitter.  The same twelve cousins—plus some—piled into the living room, claimed spots on the floor, and prepared for a night of fun.  We loved staying over Aunt Camille’s house, we got to eat all the junk food and do whatever we wanted to do.  One of my cousins grabbed the remote control to turn the TV on, but Aunt Camille grabbed it from him. 

“Let me tell you about the Ouija Board and Murder John.”  Aunt Camille said getting our attention.  She told us that the board was made in the 1800’s and had a dark history.  She said people used the boards in séances to contact the dead; but, overtime, the commercialization of the board lost its validity and people saw it as a game.  The most powerful board, she told us, was one made by the person who would conduct the séances or would operate the board most of the time.  She said it was a board familiar spirits—demons—and Satan used to fool people into thinking they were talking to a loved one or a “good spirit”.

“I remember we lived in an old white house on York Street.  All of us lived there:  Our grandparents—Mama and Daddy—our mothers, and us kids.” She said looking around at us.  “We were all bored and somebody got the idea to bring out the Ouija board we’d found to play with so we piled into the boys room ready to have fun.”  Aunt Camille said the nine of them crowded around the board and started asking it questions; she said they got excited when the pointer started moving.  Everything was going good, she said, until they asked the spirit operating the board its name. 

“What did it say?”  One of the kids asked.

“It spelled out M-u-r-d-e-r-J-o-h-n,” Aunt Camille said wringing her hands.


We walked in the tiny two bedroom apartment and made ourselves at home.  I sat on the couch and looked around; I noticed there were no pictures on the wall, except for a print of The Virgin Mary.  There was no TV and I asked Lacy what happened to it, she said her mother said they didn’t deserve to have one.  She said her and Carrie kept themselves busy by hanging out at a local bookstore called Magical Allusions—a witchcraft store where they purchased the Ouija Board.

Lacy walked into the kitchen, grabbed the Seagram’s Gin bottle off the kitchen table, opened a cabinet, pulled out four glasses and started filling them, freely.  “Lacy don’t pour so much,” Carrie said grabbing the bottle of out of her sister’s hand.  “You know Mom’s gonna have a fit if we drink too much this time.  Go get the game so we can play.”

“I’m scared.” Rameka said. “What’s gonna happen?  Do dead people really move the board?”

“Yeah it’s cool wait ‘til you see it.”  Lacy said setting the game in the middle of the coffee table.  “But don’t worry about it; nothing’s going to happen…it’s only a game.”

Rameka continued asking more questions, getting more anxious, and looking more fretful while she sat starring at the game. 
When asked, she claimed she never had any encounters with ghosts but the look on her face said what she didn’t want to.  The truth was, we all had stories to tell, secret confrontations with dark entities that stalked us at night—ones we would never talk about if we were home alone.

“Remember that time we lived on School Street?” Lacy asked looking at Carrie, who in return nodded her head yes.  Lacy told us how whenever their mother worked late at night, and Carrie sneaked out the house, she always got woken up by a baby crying.  Carrie laughed at Lacy and said she was just scared to be in a big old house all by herself. 

“No Car, usually I just turned over and went to sleep, but that night it was really loud.  So loud I turned the light on in the room, but it only got louder.”  Lacy said.  She told us how the crying got more frantic, how she couldn’t ignore it, so she got up to go see where it was coming from.  When she walked up to the room where the crying sounded like it was coming from, she opened the door and saw a woman with a daunting look on her face rocking a baby.  Lacy said when the ghost saw her, the door slammed shut.  She said she ran back in her room after that, grabbed her Bible, and put her head under the covers and fell asleep that way.

“Well I do rememba one time when we first moved Upstate.  We lived in this big house off Conkey in Rochesta.” Remeka said.  “My little sistas hadn’t moved up yet, right, and it was just me and my motha in the house.”  She said she lived in what looked like the spookiest house in Rochester, New York, but she said she loved it anyway because she got a chance to have her own room.  She put a cigarette to her lip, drew it in slowly, and let the smoke out like she was ready to give a dissertation.  She said she was sleeping peacefully in her brand new Sealy Posturepedic bed when she woke up suddenly.  Not a spooky sudden, but an all of a sudden, like she knew somebody was watching her.  Rameka said when she opened her eyes a little more she saw her mother just standing there and she asked her why she was standing there.  She said when her mother didn’t say anything she turned her nightlight on to find no one there.  Rameka said she was so scared she kept it on and stared at the spot all night, wondering what it was she saw.  We stared at her, waiting for more, but she took another drag of her cigarette and shrugged her shoulders. 

Then everyone looked at me, not at Carrie, but at me.  I didn’t want to tell everyone what happened in my room when I had to go home and sleep there by myself, but the pressure of their stares made the first words form in my throat. 
“All I know is I was watching TV and playing with my Barbie’s down in my basement.”  I said sighing.  I explained to them how my grandparents (whom I lived with) wanted me to use the lamp instead of the big light, but I had to use the light bulb from the lamp in my room.  What was so strange about that night, I said, was that after I brought the light bulb back upstairs, and went to turn all the lights off downstairs, the light bulb was gone when I came back upstairs.  No one could have taken it, I said, because I would have heard footsteps, and my grandparents were competing to see who could snore the loudest.  I couldn’t find it anywhere, I told them, I even stuck my hand in the garbage disposal to see if it rolled in there, but it didn’t. 

I wasn’t going to rack my brain anymore than I already had so I went to bed.  And then I was awakened in the middle of the night by heavy breathing in my ear and hot air on my face.  I woke up and I couldn’t move, or hear myself scream, and it felt like someone was holding me.  When I started reciting The Lord’s Prayer, and before I was finished, whatever it was turned me loose.  When I turned around—from facing the wall—I saw a black shadow running through my room, and it haunted me on several other occasions. 

“Your room’s scary anyway.” Lacy said, “I don’t know whether it’s an attic or a room?  Whatever it is it’s scary as hell.”
“Tell me about it, I’m the one who has to sleep there.”  I said contemplating asking my grandmother to sleep with me like I had done so many nights before.  “What about you Carrie?”

“What about me?”  Carrie said.  “It’s nothing.  I mean a freakin’ black shadow walked down the stairs and sat on the couch.  What’s there to be afraid of, you guys are a bunch of babies.  Now are we going to play this got damn game or what cause I’m sick of sitting here just starring at it?” 


“That spells mur…murder John.”  One of my cousins yelled out. 

“Yes it does.”  Aunt Camille replied getting out of her seat and walking to the window.  She stood there looking into the darkness for a few minutes just starring.  And then she walked away, all of a sudden, like she saw something she didn’t intend to see.

“Aunt Camille would you finish telling the story please?”  Someone blurted out.

“Dag y’all, can’t you see she’s trying.”  I said, aware of the terror in her eyes.

“This ain’t easy for me to tell y’all this.  Y’all may not even believe it, but it’s true.”  She said sitting back in the chair.  She took a deep breath and exhaled, but the tension didn’t release from her body.  She clawed at her shorts, let her body rock back and forth, and started grinding her lips.  Then her eyes burned a spot on the wall where images of the past started to form, us kids became fixated on that spot, too, ready to see what she saw. 

“What happened Aunt Camille?”  I asked.

“We asked if someone killed him and he spelled out no.”  She said.  Aunt Camille told us they all took turns asking him questions and then someone asked him why his name was Murder John and he spelled out: I-K-I-L-L. 

“But we laughed.”  She said.  “I think we made him real mad cause the board flipped over and the pointer flew across the room.”

Aunt Camille said Uncle Dave went and got the pointer and the board, he said he wasn’t finished asking it questions. All us girls, and some of the boys, said we were done playing, but we didn’t leave the room.  She said Uncle Dave wanted to know whether Murder John was real or not, so he asked him.  Murder John spelled out yes.  She said they should have stopped there, said they should have stopped when the pointer went flying across the room.  “I’m still mad at Dave I swear I am.”  Aunt Camille said digging her nails into her skin.

“Why? What happened?”  One of my cousins said.

“What happened…?”  Aunt Camille said jerking her head in the direction of the voice, “All hell broke loose that’s what happened.”

We sat around the coffee table looking from the board to each other.  Lacy and Rameka sat on lowback kitchen chairs across from Carrie and me who sat on the edge of the couch.  “You got anybody you wanna talk to?”  Carrie asked Rameka.  Rameka leaned back in her seat, folded her arms, and shook her head no.

“What about you Shawnte?  I know there has to be someone you want to talk to.  I ain’t trying to be funny but every time I look around you going to a funeral.”

“I know right.”  I said warming up to the idea of actually playing the game.  “I want to talk to my grandfather.  How do you play?”  I guzzled the rest of my drink down, ready to wrestle with the board.

“Talk to it.” Carrie said.

“What do I say?” I asked.

“Just talk to your got damn grandfather.  Call out his name or something.”  Carrie said exhaling smoke.

“Shawnte just say ‘I want to talk to…’ What’s your grandfather’s name?”  Lacy said moving her chair closer. 

“Louis Mack Morris.”  I said.

“Just say ‘I want to talk to Louis Mack Morris’ and then he will come.”

I warmed up to the game; I was asking it questions and everything, but I wanted to know if it was really my grandfather.  It spelled out yes.  I didn’t believe it was him, I wasn’t convinced it was my grandfather, and I asked Carrie and Lacy how could I be sure it was him.  They told me to ask him a question that only he or people in my family would know.  So I asked the game what my nickname was and it spelled out:  C-U-P. 

“How the heck…?” I said pushing myself violently to the back of the couch.

“Shawnte, you are talking to a dead person.  A spirit.  Someone who knows things.”  Carrie condescendingly said.

“We’ll see about that.”  I said ready to challenge the game.  “I’m gonna ask it what color underwear I have on.  No one knows that.”  I scooted to the edge of the couch, ready to prove the game a liar.  I put my fingers on the game confidently, looked at my three tipsy friends, and asked the question.  It spelled out:  W-H-I-T-E. 

“Yo, how the hell did it know that?  Yo, I’m out.”  I said jumping up and gathering my things.  “I’m not messing with this stuff no more you heard.”

“Shawnte come back.”  I heard Lacy yell, but I was already gone.


No one moved, everyone sat perfectly still; no one even blinked an eye.  Aunt Camille started shaking her head from side to side, and then she closed her eyes, and pursed her lips, and opened her eyes again and said, “All hell broke loose.  That damn Dave.”  She said through clenched teeth.  She told us how Uncle Dave kept taunting the spirit with questions, insinuating that Murder John wasn’t real. If you’re real, Uncle Dave asked, then what year was you born?  1-8-7-2, the pointer spelled out on the board.  But Uncle Dave wouldn’t let it go.  If you’re real, he asked, then how many people you killed?  The entity spelled out, 1-4, with fervor.
“We begged him to stop,” she said looking at the ceiling, “but he wouldn’t let it go.  I can’t do…look I gotta go to the bathroom.”

“Aww man Aunt Camille,” one of my boy cousins said “why you couldn’t finish first?”

When she came back from the bathroom, Aunt Camille looked refreshed, but less ready to finish the story.  She sat down, smoothed a nonexistent wrinkle on her pants, starred into the wall again, and said “All of us girls, Myra, Jenny, Vera, Dinah, and me moved to the other side of the room.  We were scared.  What was fun and games had turned real.  Dave, Caleb, Tim, and Ben were still with the board.”

“Well why y’all didn’t leave?”  Someone asked.

“They wouldn’t let us leave.  If we left the game was over.  They knew we would tell Daddy and then they’d get a whoppin’.  But let me finish before I lose my nerve.”  Aunt Camille said.  She said Uncle Dave was still taunting the spirit, making it answer questions to prove it had once been a living, walking, talking man.  I want to know if you real, she said Unlce Dave said, I want to know if you’re real.  She said he kept saying.

“Why he kept saying…”

“Shh…let me finish.”  She said.  “Dave told that thang he wanted to see it.  ‘Sho’ yo’self’ he said.  ‘If you real sho’ yo’self’.”  Aunt Camille said after that the board flew across the room; a shadow moved along the wall, the lights flicked on and off, and the mirror broke into a million pieces. 

“Are you serious?”  I asked.

“I’m not finished.”  Aunt Camille said, tears rolling down her cheeks.  “Nobody will ever tell you this.  Not too many people in the family want to talk about it, but that’s why we moved.”  She told us how every window in the house broke and how every knife in the drawer flew across the room—one knife finding its way into our great-grandfather’s arm.  “But nobody’ll talk about it,” she had said, “But I’m afraid Murder John been following us around.”

“What makes you think he’s been following y’all around?”  I asked.

“I said us, meaning our whole family.  Just leave the Ouija Board alone.  It looks like a game but it isn’t.” 


After I left Carrie and Lacy’s house I was headed home.  I felt that, maybe, I was being followed by a spirit, perhaps even the devil himself.  The story of Murder John came creeping into my mind along with paranoia.  Every tree leaf that brushed up against me was, I felt, a spirit letting me know it was there—so I walked in the street.  Every faint sound I heard was a spirit telling me it wasn’t going to leave me.  When I got home I had a crook in my neck because I looked behind me more than I looked ahead, but the paranoia didn’t end when I walked in the door.  Everything was different when I walked in, even the hello my grandmother and grandfather gave me was somehow off.  Did they know?  Could they possibly know I left school and disobeyed them by doing something taboo?  Something I had been warned many times not to do?  I couldn’t face them.  I couldn’t look them in the eye knowing I had played a game I was forbidden to play, so I rushed downstairs to my basement, and didn’t come up until I heard them getting into bed.

When I walked into my room something was different.  It was the way I left it, yes, but it didn’t feel like the same room.  I convinced myself that I was only disturbed by the events that occurred and the spooky story of Murder John—the one I had a hard time believing.  I’m not afraid, I kept thinking.  All the scary movies I watched, please, I’m not about to let a game scare me.  I was done being afraid, done being scared.  Who in their right mind would be afraid of game?  A piece of wood? 
I grabbed my book, “Flyy Girl” by Omar Tyree, off my bookshelf, turned my lamp on, shut off the big light, and hopped in bed.  I was just getting to the part where Tracy was meeting a guy named Victor for the first time, and I was enjoying every word on the page.  And out of the corner of my eye I saw what looked like a shadow on my wall, but when I looked up nothing was there.  It must have been my imagination.  I continued reading, because this part of the book was getting juicy, and my lamp flickered.  When I looked up again I saw a figure of a man on the wall.  Then darkness crept upon my room. 


© Copyright 2011 Shawnte Barr (shawnte at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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