One of the most interesting things about running a paranormal and occult museum is how strange artifacts manage to find their way to you. When you’ve opened up a space dedicated to caring for and studying some of the world’s most haunted objects, it’s a bit like sending out an unconscious signal to the weirdness of the universe, and before you know it, you’re sharing your home with cursed carvings, haunted dolls, and nightmare-inducing idols that have traveled from all over the world to find themselves at your doorstep.
Sometimes, though, sending an audible signal works just as well. After an appearance on a late-night radio program, during which my fellow Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult cofounder Dana Matthews and I discussed our ongoing work with our growing collection of haunted objects, we received an email from a woman who said she felt “compelled” to donate an artifact to our museum. We hear this quite often, but it was how she followed that statement up that caught our attention.
“If you’d like it, I can go dig it up.”
How do you say no to that? I immediately returned the woman’s email asking for more details about the artifact, and left her with the post office box for the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult. Just over a week later, a package arrived in the mail. Inside was a small object wrapped in dirty rag. I slowly unspooled the fabric to find a dirt-covered Ouija planchette. As I gently swept the crusty dirt from the object, it was readily apparent that it had been through a fire, its yellowed plastic warped and singed with dark smoke.
As far as haunted objects go, the piece wasn’t particularly interesting to look at, but the story behind the melted planchette was one of the most frightening of all the objects we’d ever received at the museum. What started as a harmless game in a haunted cemetery had turned into a terrifying brush with an entity that even an exorcist couldn’t fully fight back into the darkness.
Like many of these hauntings, it all started with a Ouija board.
The following account is retold from a series of emails and telephone conversations with *Patricia Taylor that occurred shortly after the Black Hen Planchette arrived at the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult. Aside from names and other identifying details, the account remains true to Patricia’s telling.
In 1995, Patricia Taylor and her brother John, just teenagers at the time, lived in the suburbs of Chicago with their parents and their dog Smitty. They were normal kids, and like normal kids, they enjoyed seeing who could frighten the other the most. Whether it was playing Bloody Mary in the middle of the night or telling ghost stories by the campfire, the two were always trying to outdo one another when it came to the fine art of fear. Their favorite spooky activity though, was playing with their Ouija Board.
A gift from their aunt, Patricia and John had worn the edges on the cardboard game from using so often. Separately, they’d toted it to dozens of slumber parties and tree-fort séances, but together, they’d lost count of their spirit summoning sessions. Kurt Cobain, their grandfather, and even the Devil himself were just a few of the ghostly entities they’d claimed successful contact with, even if most of their late-night séances ended with hushed arguments about which of them had moved the planchette. Deep down, they never really believed they were talking to the dead. Not until Bachelor’s Grove.
“It was never supposed to be more than a game,” Patricia told me. “We never expected it to be anything more than a couple kids scaring each other in the dark, but for a week, that Ouija board ruined our lives.”
One night, Patricia and her brother decided to up the ante in their summoning sessions. Rather than lock themselves in John’s room and try and contact another long-dead musician, they hatched a plan to sneak out to Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, an already infamous haunted location, where they intended to use their much-loved Ouija board to speak to the spirits of the dead mobsters allegedly disposed of in the nearby pond.
While their parents slept, the duo quietly crept out of their house and ran around the block, where Patricia’s friend Donna waited in her hand-me-down car. Together, the three of them set off for Rubio Woods, a place scary enough on its own, known at the time for regular drug trade, prostitution, and even rumors of ritualistic cults who used the thick forest for their dark ceremonies. It was also the most convenient place to park for teenagers attempting to sneak into Bachelor’s Grove after the sun went down.
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery | Via Wikipedia
At nearly midnight, the trio gathered up theirs séance tools and trudged down the overgrown path to the abandoned cemetery, careful to keep the beams of their flashlights low. They’d been to Bachelor’s Grove many times during the day, but this was the first time they’d ever dared visit after dark, and it was like a different world. The trees creaked and groaned in the darkness as unseen animals scurried away from the dirt trail. It was easy to see how this place had gained such an infamous reputation.
By the time they had reached the lonely graveyard, it was nearly one in the morning. The young conjurers were already on edge, so they quickly set about to complete their task. John unrolled a ragged old blanket near a large gravestone while Patricia carefully removed the Ouija board from her backpack. Donna propped her flashlight against the cold headstone, its beam of light illuminating the fog that hung in the air.
The trio crossed their legs and sat around the board, each of them gently placing two fingers on the plastic planchette. Together, they began to recite the same little rhyme they’d always used to begin their seances.
Ouija Ouija Ouija,
Can the spirits come and play?
Ouija Ouija Ouija,
We haven’t got all day,
Ouija Ouija Ouija,
The dead and gone we summon,
Ouija Ouija Ouija,
No need to knock, just come in.
Normally, the siblings would need to repeat their chant two dozen times or more for the mysterious forces of the board to spring to life, but this time, they’d only needed to recite their rhyme three times before the planchette began to circle the smooth surface.
“Who are we speaking with?” Patricia asked. “Can you tell us your name?”
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery | Via Wikipedia
The plastic pointer slid to a sudden stop. As they sat beneath the soft glow of the fog waiting for an answer, they became keenly aware of the distinct sound of footsteps creeping down the cemetery path. Donna’s hand quickly leapt from the board and reached for the flashlight, turning it off with a loud click. They listened closely for the footsteps in the distance, but they had vanished into the crisp night air.
Just as Patricia was about to whisper, “let’s keep going,” the planchette lurched forward and began to drift toward the letters on the board. Donna clicked her flashlight back on and watched as the Ouija began to spell out a message.
“Do you think it’s a last name?” John asked. “Maybe there’s a gravestone nearby for a guy named Black. Donna, can you-”
“Hell no!” Donna blurted out. “I’m not walking around here by myself. You can come with me if you want to look, but I am not wandering out there alone.”
The planchette began to creep forward.
“Hen, like a chicken?” Patricia asked. “What does that mean? Black hen?”
“Maybe that was the codename for one of the mobsters dumped in the pond!” John exclaimed. “The hitmen always had cool names like ‘The Cleaner”, so maybe this guy was the Black Hen!”
As if to answer their question, the pointer again began to slide around the alphabet.
The planchette wasn’t stopping this time. It moved from letter to letter quickly and accurately, with such force that Patricia felt like her fingers might slide off the pointer as it kept moving. They’d used the Ouija board hundreds of times, but it had never been this easy or this powerful before. She knew that something else was at work tonight.
“Guys, I don’t like this,” Donna stammered. “What is that?”
Donna pointed her flashlight at the center of the board, where the smooth surface had started to crinkle and warp as it changed color.
“Is that smoke?!” she yelped.
The strange brown patch in the center of the Ouija Board had turned a deep black, the slippery face of the board now crisp and crinkled. It had cracked in the center, sending small wisps of pungent smoke spiraling into the beams of Donna’s flashlight. As the planchette raced around the alphabet, the board was somehow combusting.
Patricia and John leapt from the blanket and joined Donna, who was now peering from behind a nearby gravestone.
“Were we causing enough friction to set the board on fire?” Patricia thought. “Could we have placed the board on a cigarette butt? How could this have happened?”
John reached for the Ouija Board, intent on slapping it in the damp grass, but was so startled by what happened next that he nearly fell backwards. The planchette appeared to move on its own.
As the terrified trio looked on in amazement and horror, the plastic pointer lurched forward almost imperceivably slow, like a “stop-motion film at half speed”. As it crawled to the center of the board, Donna began to cry tears that were interrupted by a sudden transformation of smoke into flame. The board was on fire.
They had seen enough. The three teenagers turned on their heels and ran back down the forest path, kicking up the soft ground as they rushed toward their car. When they finally arrived, their pulses pounding and faces flushed, they dove into the vehicle, where they became quickly aware that nearly three hours had passed in the cemetery. It was a quarter-till four in the morning, but none of them had felt as if they’d been gone more than half an hour.
“Shit!” Patricia yelled. “I left my backpack in the cemetery! It still had my English book in it!”
“Let’s just go home and come get it in the morning,” John replied. “I don’t want to go back in there while its dark. I’ll stay up with you and we’ll come back in a few hours.”
After much convincing, Donna agreed to stay with the siblings, and the three of them snuck back into Patricia’s home, where they watched the sun come up.
It was 8:30 in the morning, and the trio were back in the car, hesitant to return to Bachelor’s Grove.
“We never even closed out the board,” John muttered. “We really fucked that up.”
In the hundreds of séances they’d conducted with their Ouija Board, they’d always been careful to say “goodbye”, a lesson they’d learned before they’d even opened the shrink wrap on the game’s package. If the gateway wasn’t properly closed out, their aunt warned, then the spirits would be free to do as they pleased as long as the window to the other side remained open. It wasn’t a warning they took lightly.
The group carefully retraced their steps from hours before, parking in the same lot, walking across the highway and back down the dirt path. They had passed others along the trail, and Patricia prayed that her backpack was where she’d left it.
When they arrived at the cemetery, Patricia was relieved to find her pack propped against the large tombstone near the previous evening’s summoning location. Someone had clearly gone through it, but whoever had taken a peek wasn’t interested in school textbooks. Less comforting, however, was the half-burned Ouija board beside her bag, its ashes scattered across the damp blanket stretched across the grass.
“Holy shit, it really did catch fire!” John yelled. “I thought maybe we had all freaked out, but Jesus – look at this!”
He leaned down and picked up the melted planchette, peering through the warped plastic viewing circle in the center.
“This is insane. We have to show someone.”
The Black Hen Planchette | Via Traveling Paranormal Museum
John tossed the singed planchette back into the pile of ashes and wrapped the burned board into the blanket before stuffing it under his arm. This was proof that Ouija boards could tap into something otherworldly – even dangerous – and they knew they had to present their evidence so someone with authority. The obvious choice was to bring the haunted Ouija board to their parents.
Donna dropped the siblings off at their house before speeding away to the comfort of her own bed, and the two rushed inside to find their parents in the middle of their Saturday morning routine.
“Mom! Dad!” John yelled. “Check this out!”
John carefully unwrapped the soggy blanket to reveal the charred board, all the while rattling off the scary events of the previous evening.
“You were WHERE last night?” their mother, Irena, growled. “You’re lucky you weren’t murdered!”
Their father, David, stood up from his chair and walked over to inspect the scene.
“You’re grounded. Both of you.” He gestured to the remains of the allegedly haunted Ouija board. “I never liked these things and now you’re running around dangerous parts of town playing with with it setting things on fire. That’s it. No more of this.”
Their father grabbed the blanket, wrapped it back up, and jammed it into the kitchen garbage can.
“No more Ouija. No more cemeteries. No more friends over. For the next month, it’s straight to school and back.”
The siblings could have argued their case, but they were too exhausted. With bloodshot eyes and fists balled in frustration, Patricia and John marched up the stairs to their separate rooms and collapsed into bed.
Just hours later, Patricia was awoken by the loud beeping of a smoke alarm. She leapt out of her comforter and rushed to the stairs where she found her father staring at the ceiling. There was no smoke, and there was certainly no fire, but still, the incessant scream of the alarm continued. As the rest of the family soon gathered in the hall, hands held tightly to their ears, the beeping suddenly stopped.
Maybe the alarm was due for a new battery. It was as good an explanation as any, but one that began to seem increasingly inadequate as the alarms began to go off in other rooms throughout the house. Next came the kitchen, followed by the living room several hours later, then one by one, the bedrooms were struck with the screech of a fire alarm. By the end of the day, half a dozen alarms were sitting on the kitchen table, their batteries detached.
It was weird, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a trip to the local hardware store. Or so they thought.
The following morning, Patricia and John awoke to the angry shouts of their mother. They found her in the living room, angrily vacuuming a carpet black with soot. The haunted Ouija board had found its way to the middle of the room, its ashes ground deep into the fibers of the off-white carpet. Sitting on the coffee table was the warped planchette.
“Bad dog!” their mother yelled. “Bad, bad, bad dog! We’re going to need to steam clean this carpet now! God damn it, Smitty!”
Smitty hung his head in shame and skulked out of the room. Patricia’s mother threw the séance paraphernalia into a fresh garbage bag and marched it directly to the garage. Trash collection wasn’t for a few days, but at least this way, Smitty couldn’t drag the board out of the garbage and ruin the carpet any further.
Deep down, neither Patricia nor John believed that their dog was to blame.
“We should have closed out the board,” John whispered.
In the days that followed, each of the family began to experience their own brushes with the unexplained. The strange events seemed to happen exclusively when each of them was alone, and were all subtle enough to make them doubt their sanity. First, Patricia’s mother found herself locked in the bathroom, though the door remained unlocked. Her father would endlessly search their home for the source of “rotting meat” that only he could smell. John had come down with a mysterious nosebleed – the first he’d ever experienced, and Patricia developed an intense fear of her closet, certain that something had take up residence inside of it. Even their dog had started acting strangely, refusing to eat and refusing to come into the house unless forcefully dragged inside.
Eventually, the strange occurrences in the home culminated in an an event that the entire family witnessed. During dinner, Smitty leapt from his post beneath the kitchen table and began barking at the foot of the darkened hallway. David slid his seat back and walked to the hall, only to stop in his tracks.
“What are you doing in here?” he sternly shouted.
At the end of the hall was the shadowy figure of a tall man who appeared to be without clothes. As David yelled for his wife to call 911, the figure slowly walked away, seemingly unconcerned with the commotion. The family waited for the inevitable sound of the back door swinging open, but it never came.
The police could find no evidence of forced entry, and multiple searches discovered no one hidden in the home. The following morning, Patricia found her mother crying in the living room. In the middle of a dark black stain in the carpet sat the charred Ouija board. Trash collection had been two days ago.
It had been nearly a week since the siblings brought the spontaneously-combusting, haunted Ouija board home, and the paranormal activity in the house was at its worst. The Shadow-Man had appeared twice more – once in the backyard and once in the kitchen, Patricia’s bed began to rattle violently at night, and the electronics in the home were on the fritz. John’s nosebleeds had gotten so bad that he was spending the better part of the day with bloody tissues stuffed in his nose.
The Taylor family were almost exclusively holiday-only churchgoers, but the dark activity in their home had them considering religious intervention. Irena picked up the phone and nervously explained her frightening situation to her mother, who suggested a call to her priest. After a short conversation about the troubles in the Taylor household, Father Drivas agreed to perform an emergency blessing on the home the following day.
When the priest arrived, he wasted no time beginning the ritual. Moving from room to room, he splashed holy water in each corner as he dutifully recited a prayer.
O God our Savior, the True Light, Who was baptized in the Jordan by the Prophet John, and Who did deign to enter under the roof-tree of Zacchaeus, bringing salvation unto him and unto his house..
Patricia and John couldn’t help but see the strange parallel between the priest’s chanting and their own “Ouija, Ouija, Ouija” ritual. Secretly, they wondered how many times he needed to repeat his ritual for it work. By the time Father Drivas had reached the second floor of the house, they received their answer.
The smell of rotting flesh had suddenly permeated the house, only this time, it wasn’t just David who could smell it.
..do You, the same Lord, keep safe also from harm those who dwell herein; grant to them Your blessing, purification and bodily health, and all their petitions that are unto salvation and Life everlasting..
An eerie, otherworldly chill had descended upon the household, and it had become clear that the priest was concerned about the situation. As Father Drivas finished his prayers, Irena and David spotted the Shadow-Man once again. He was crouched behind Patricia’s bed, and as the priest made his way to her room, they watched him slip away into the dark closet like an animal.
As Irena broke down into tears, Father Drivas placed a hand on David’s shoulder and suggested they all make their way downstairs. In the living room, he pulled another vial of holy water from his bag. A routine home blessing had now become an exorcism.
The priest instructed each of them to drink the blessed water, and as they sat in the living room reciting prayers of deliverance, the family did their best to ignore the sound of heavy furniture being dragged across the floor above them. When the noises turned to a rhythmic banging, the priest told the Taylors to continue their prayers as he made his way up the stairs.
It was impossible to tell what was happening upstairs, but it was loud. A cacophony of racket echoed through the halls, accented by Father Drivas calm, but stern voice issuing commands from God himself. With a loud boom, as if a giant whip had been cracked, the house went silent. Moments later, the priest, visibly rattled, slowly descended the stairs.
“Were is the spirit board?” he asked.
Irena pulled a black garbage bag from below the kitchen sink and opened it to produce the foul-smelling board and its melted counterpart. Father Drivas gently placed the remains of the ashen board on a towel and began to shake holy water over it as he prayed. When he was finished, he pulled the plastic pointer from the bag and did the same. Whether it was the force of the holy water or the force of something darker, the Taylors watched in horror as the planchette lurched forward with each shake of the liquid, as if trying to escape.
When the prayers were complete, the priest calmly folded the towel and wrapped it in duct tape.
“Bury this in the back yard,” he instructed. “I believe that your house is clean, but it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.”
The house was quiet.
The Taylors thanked Father Drivas as he issued a final warning.
“Don’t ever play with one of those boards again. They are a gateway to the devil himself.”
That night, David buried the towel at the far edge of the yard, marking it with a large, flat stone. Patricia and John never touched a Ouija board again.
The family rarely spoke of the events that occurred that week, and when they did, it was brief and comical, as if they’d all had a temporary lapse in sanity. But deep down, Patricia says, they all knew what had really happened.
“Things were never quite right in the house after that,” Patricia told me. “The activity was never nearly as scary as it was that week, and my parents still live there to this day. We’ve all seen the Shadow-Man a few times over the years, but we just learned to live with it.”
After hearing Dana Matthews and I talk about our ongoing work with the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult, Patricia reached out to inquire whether or not we’d be interested in acquiring the haunted Ouija board for the collection. Of course, we said yes.
After speaking to her parents, now in their late 60s, Patricia returned to her childhood home to remove the artifact. It was exactly where they had left it all those years ago, buried beneath the smooth stone.
The Black Hen Planchette | Via Traveling Paranormal Museum
“My parents were happy to have it gone, actually,” she later wrote. “They joked that maybe ‘Ol’ Charlie’ (the name they’d given to the Shadow-Man over the years) would finally be gone for good.”
Unfortunately, the haunted Ouija board was a little worse for the wear. The board itself had long turned to mush, and even the towel had been reduced to sinewy strands. The only piece of their week-long terror that had withstood the test of time was the melted planchette. As it turns out, mass-produced portals to the spirit realm are only partially bio-degradable.
After wrapping the dirty planchette in a rag, she carefully placed it in a bubble mailer and addressed it to the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult. Several days later, it was dirtying my hands.
In the nearly two years we’ve been touring the country with the allegedly haunted Ouija artifact, we’ve seen thousands of people interact with the piece. Of them, a only a small amount have experienced something anomalous. Most claim they’ve watched the planchette inch itself forward. Some claim to feel an intense heat emanating from its warped plastic. One woman even broke out in blisters after handling the artifact. These occurrences, though, are few and far between.
As you might imagine, Dana and I often experience a lot of strange things in our home, but so far, we can’t attribute many of them to the haunted Ouija planchette, save for the mysterious clink of its glass case in the middle of the night. But just because we haven’t personally experienced a nosebleed, spontaneous fire, or brushes with “Ol’ Charlie”, that doesn’t mean that Patricia’s story isn’t true. Hauntings, at their core, are often very personal messages brought on by any number of triggers. It’s my feeling that the Black Hen Planchette was only one piece of a larger attempt to communicate a message.
The Black Hen Planchette | Via Traveling Paranormal Museum
Interesting to note is that black hens were a common ingredient in witchcraft. As a matter of fact, a particularly potent curse out of Italy is translated as the “Spell of the Black Hen”. In this ritual, an effigy of a black chicken is fashioned with the hair of an intended target and buried – often in an abandoned cemetery. As the hen rots, so does the human victim waste away until their premature death. Perhaps the rumors of Bachelor’s Grove being a haven for dark rituals weren’t as far fetched as they seemed.
Over two decades of paranormal investigation, I’ve learned that “evil entities” are often misunderstood by those they haunt, miscategorized by amateur demonologists, and misrepresented by the media. Rarely have I ever encountered a spirit that wasn’t trying its hardest to tell a story. If Patricia’s story is to be believed, the same can be said of the entity that played a part in the Taylor family’s haunting.
If the story she relayed to me is true, it’s my personal opinion that Patricia and John may have unwittingly called up a spirit tortured, if not trapped, by a curse once buried in Bachelor’s Grove. When freely offered an opportunity to communicate (“no need to knock, just come in”), the entity attempted to send a message (“B-L-A-C-K-H-E-N”) which couldn’t be deciphered by the siblings. The rest of the Taylor’s harrowing week was nothing more than an increasingly-frustrated spirit’s repeated requests for help, sent in the only manner available to it. Unfortunately, these kinds of communications can be scary to those who’ve never dealt with them before.
Paranormal Museum Curators Dana Matthews and Greg Newkirk
Whether I’m correct in my assumptions about the alleged Taylor haunting and its causes, Dana and I have already taken steps to put the spirit, be it “Ol’ Charlie” or something else, to rest once and for all. Until then, the Black Hen Planchette remains in the collection of the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult, a reminder that if Ouija boards truly are a switchboard to the other side, you should be prepared to accept the call and decipher the message before you pick up the phone.