Few things in this world have caught my imagination like the paranormal. I love the notion of there being something out there that we can’t quite grasp. One of the most basic tools for contacting the other side has been the Ouija board. Mind you, I’m as much a skeptic as I am a believer. The truth is, I do not think anything made by Parker Brothers is going to help me make contact with the dearly departed. There has to be something to them though, right? What if there was someone out there who made these things the right way? With all of the respect and none of the kitsch. Would it work? Dare I try? There’s only one way to find out!
The internet is a wonderful thing. I have found many cool places and items on it but none so cool as a website called Speaking With Spirits! Here they were! The real deal! Custom made Ouija boards! I contacted the manufacturer, Alison Genengels, immediately and ended up having quite an interesting conversation with her. It turns out her boards are getting a LOT of attention. Soon, they’ll even be showing up in the movies! What follows is the transcript of me speaking with someone who makes her living . . . speaks with spirits.
Uncle Creepy: So, tell me a little bit more about the movie that your boards are in.
Alison Genengels: It’s directed by Josef Rusnak of 13th Floor fame and is called Solo. It’s in pre-production for a 2005 release.
UC: And who are some of the stars?
AG: Jon Voight, Saffron Burrows, and Cary Elwes.
UC: Can you give us a brief synopsis of the story?
AG: If I remember right, it’s about a little girl who disappears, and Jon Voight plays the detective who is involved in the case. It turns out the girl had an invisible friend for quite a long time that they find out is a spirit, so it’s about the family’s attempts to contact the spirit and find their daughter through the spirit’s help.
UC: What made you decide to get involved with Ouija boards? Is this something you’ve had an interest in for your whole life? For me, I don’t think something made by Parker Brothers is authentic enough for me to contact the spirit world. So I’m wondering where you’re coming from with the idea.
AG: As a child I played with Ouija boards, and I received my first one at age 9. So I’ve been fascinated by them every since – how they work and why they work and the stories behind them. It’s led to not only my career as a working psychic and ghost hunter and paranormalist but also my involvement in the boards today. So many people use the Parker Brothers boards and there’s such a mythology built around them that I really wanted to change people’s views and ideology and bring my own ideas of how the game should be or could be and my own artistic vision to it, so it’s a balance of both. I didn’t care for the Parker Brothers version, and I wanted to sell something with authenticity based on my own experiences.
UC: What’s the spookiest experience you’ve had with a Ouija board? Or that you’ve heard of?
AG: Hmmmmmm. You know, I’m not spooked by them anymore. Because I’m a working psychic, most things don’t shock me so much. I have seen planchettes continue to move around the board without anyone touching them. I have seen apparitions appear or orbs appear around people that are using them. As far as the scariest . . . the things that people claim occurred to them I don’t know if they are in direct correlation with their use of a Ouija board or not. It’s the apparitional things, the poltergeist events. A gal who worked with me contacted me just a short while ago and said that when she and her daughter played with one, suddenly their house was full of dark shadows and things being thrown around – basic poltergeist phenomenon. She wrote me asking for some help and what I thought about this situation . . . did she let this in and so on. But I’m a very skeptical believer and I also understand that there are other phenomena that go on. The human mind is an amazing thing. So, I don’t know if I would always put these things in direct correlation, and I don’t want to make these things in direct correlation with someone’s usage of a Ouija board. You’re opening a channel, if you will. You are sharpening your perception, so you will feel more things. You will see more things depending on your belief system.
So, I don’t really have anything that shocks or frightens me. It shocks and frightens the users, but oftentimes it’s their own mind.
UC: You’re a practicing psychic? I didn’t know that. How long have you been doing that?
AG: Let’s see. I began as a professional in 1984.
UC: Wow! So you’ve been doing it for 20 years!
AG: Yeah. I’m an old lady!
UC: Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve ever spoken to a psychic.
AG: Oh, no!
UC: I swear! I’m not exactly staring at the TV in the middle of the night.
AG: You didn’t ever call one of those Dionne Warwick lines?
UC: No. That was never me. The only thing I would expect them to tell me is I was going to get a really big phone bill!
AG: It may be true!
UC: What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve worked on as a psychic?
AG: Well, I do a lot of paranormal research. I go in and meet with people who are having experiences that they believe are paranormal. And quite honestly, I’ve worked with a lot of people over the phone. I’m a “word of mouth” kind of psychic, so it trickles down. I get calls from all over the place. I get a lot of “I heard of you from so-and-so from so-and-so from so-and-so.” I think some of the more interesting cases I’ve had are working with people that are just learning about and experiencing paranormal phenomena for the first time. They appreciate when someone can come in and is down to earth about it and not pooh-poohing them, but giving them another option of how to think of it. I deal with fear so often from people, and when people find out what I do, the first thing they do is jump back and go, “Really?” You know, there’s so much fear surrounding what I do and what I produce . . . our boards and my work . . . that my biggest thing is to get out there that there’s nothing to fear and there are perfectly rational explanations for everything. Even if it is has a paranormal bent to it, there’s a way that you can view it so that you’re not in fear so much. It’s really something to be fascinated by. That’s the whole reason we do Ouija boards and why I do what I do – to try to educate people that they don’t need to live in fear of something they don’t know. The fear of the unknown is our most basic drive, and if we know a little bit more about it and understand it better, we won’t be so fearful and can learn so much more.
UC: Have you ever encountered what you would deem an authentic haunting?
AG: Several. And I’ve also experienced situations that weren’t. The saddest one that happened was about two years a gal committed suicide. I was staying in an apartment complex about two buildings over. During her suicide we knew what she was doing, and we felt her walk through. Then the police arrived. There were witnesses to that that day – where they actually saw her walk through. That’s I guess the most hair-raising experience I ever had.
UC: When you say they “saw her walk through,” what exactly does that mean?
AG: It means an event happens that there are a lot of witnesses to – it was a phenomenon that I’ve never encountered before. Typically when people see an apparition or a ghost or feel they have a haunting, it’s been there for quite a while. We actually saw one occur at the time of death.
UC: So you’re saying that at the time of this woman’s death . . .
AG: Yes, at the time of this woman’s death, three of us witnessed her spirit, if you will, walk past us toward places unknown. It was me and two novices with no psychic experience whatsoever.
UC: Where were you when this happened?
AG: I was giving a class. I teach private classes for people who are interested in how to use Tarot cards or talking boards or just metaphysics in general, and we were meeting in a cabana — a public space they rent out for classes and things, a public event — that was associated with an apartment complex. In the apartment complex just next to where we were holding the class – I was actually teaching talking boards that evening – in the middle of the class, three of us saw a young lady just walk through the room. We didn’t know who she was or if she was arriving late or what have you. Then she just disappeared. Well, I got on the phone with management and asked what happened because I knew what was going on whereas no one else really did, and that’s when the firemen pulled up and we found out that a young girl had just committed suicide next-door.
UC: You saw her come in through a door or she was just there?
AG: No. She just was suddenly there. We turned and saw her. She didn’t see any of us and just walked on through. All three of us could describe her to a “t” even though none of us had met this young lady before.
UC: That is absolutely scary.
AG: That’s the most hair-raising one I think I’ve had.
UC: You know, I’m bald – my stubble is standing on end!
AG: She had no idea that we were there. She did not see us. There are different things; there are apparitions, there are spirits, there are things that time has recorded. Hauntings oftentimes are just memories that we’re picking up on, and people are a lot more intuitive than they think.
UC: Jesus Christ! I thought you were just making these things. I had no idea this is your lifestyle and profession.
AG: Well, you know, being the kind of vent that I am, I really couldn’t sit behind a desk 24/7 typing names and addresses or answering phones. It didn’t work for me. I had to find something that did. I started making talking boards for students because I made my own for myself for years, and they asked for me to make theirs. I would give them as gifts, and that’s kind of what started the whole endeavor.
UC: Would you say “Esoterica” (see the 1st board pictured) is the most traditional board you make?
AG: It is.
UC: That’s what really attracted me to it. It looked like just a very authentic board. For the movie, which board did they use?
AG: They haven’t decided yet. They actually purchased “Sibyl” and “Esoterica.”
UC: Have you ever confronted anything that you just felt was inherently evil?
AG: Yes. And people often confuse that with discarnates, or spirits of those who have come before us and left. There is a complete difference.
UC: Tell me about the inherent evil experience you’ve had. Something you knew you should just not be messing with.
AG: I’ve met with really nasty discarnates.
UC: Define “discarnate.”
AG: A discarnate is one that once was in form – an incarnated soul. It was once a human being like you and me. They have passed on, and simply their energy, their personality is left. That’s the difference I think — those that clutch onto their personality. That’s an overall theme that I’ve found when a spirit hangs out or stays behind. I haven’t found it often to be that they just don’t know they’re dead or they don’t know how to go on. It’s a choice either through fear of the unknown that they’re stuck here, or they haven’t allowed themselves to let go of their personality. The blackest discarnate that I ever came into contact with was a miner who had died as a middle-aged man in the mines during an accident.
UC: Where was this?
AG: This was in Newcastle, which is where I was raised. It was a mining town just outside of Seattle, and it was actually bigger than Seattle at the turn of the century. Because of accidents that occurred at the mines, it was finally closed down for good in the 60’s, but it really died in 1928 when the last major explosion occurred.
So, this energy still hung out. I didn’t realize it was there; I was quite young at the time. But they have a tendency to follow you around if you acknowledge them. This guy was so angry over losing his life that he became dark and twisted and wanted to do anything he could to somehow still exist. What happens to me when I meet a very dark energy is the air is knocked out of me. He followed me from every place I moved for years, and it was actually another psychic that helped me acknowledge him and finally be able to get rid of him. So many bad things happened during that time. He lived on fear, and that’s the thing you need to remember when you encounter a dark entity – they live on that fear.
UC: What are some of the things he would do?
AG: I became extremely ill, so he was able to manifest much easier, but he had been seen by several people that lived with me or that were associated with me – especially small children. He’d just envelope a room with darkness, and I’d have waking dreams. This is such strange thing that I’m telling you this; it’s something I don’t really talk about. It’s a very hard thing to explain. I am a skeptic at heart, and I don’t wish to be judged for the experiences I’ve had.
UC: Absolutely understood.
AG: It’s very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had them. The reason these things can be so frightening is that we don’t understand them. And they live on that fear. They can’t hurt you, but they can cause you to hurt yourself. You’re running away from it, you’re scared to death, you’ll tumble down the stairs. That’s what I’m trying to get across to people . . . that’s what I found out about this guy.
UC: So, in a manner of speaking, we’re giving them the power they’re wielding.
AG: Exactly. And that’s what the Ouija board is all about. If you’re using a Ouija board with the fear that you are opening up a gate to hell, as is often promoted nowadays, you will do that because in your mind you will convince yourself that’s what you’re going to contact. Whatever we fear is what’s going to turn around and come back to us. You know, fear always meets you halfway – that is a true statement.
UC: So above and beyond anything you want to tell people about the boards you make it’s that they are not toys.
AG: You know what? It is a toy. But it’s also a fantastic communication tool. And it also can be a portal into opening up your mind to a paranormal experience. It is what you make it!
UC: And it should definitely be treated with a certain degree of respect.
AG: Yes. If you have any fear or trepidation in using one, if you expect that you are opening up a gate that you may allow some negativity to come through, well, you will. If you expect that you’re going to get sick, you will.
UC: So the power of suggestion weighs very heavy upon what you get out of your usage of the board?
AG: Exactly. Did you know the planchette, which is really the precursor to the Ouija board, gained its most popularity in the nunneries? Nuns used it, the parish used it, and finally the church laid down an edict saying they were no good and not to use them anymore. But they never saw them as evil until they were told they couldn’t use them. They felt that they were a way to communicate with God, with their Divine. So, it’s all in the way you view it.
It was also an intimate parlor game at the turn of the century. It was invented and developed for that particular purpose. In the patents it clearly states that it’s a tool that relies upon the unconscious nervous movements of the person using it. And if you see the old pictures . . . Norman Rockwell actually painted a picture of a young couple using a Ouija board. What they told you to do was lay it on a gentleman’s lap and lay on a young lady’s lap and sit across from each other and play the game. Well, that’s the only way they could touch or be seen in close proximity to each other in those days, so it was really marketed as a clever way to be able to sit and socialize without being considered improper. Not only that, but spiritualism was quite large at the turn of the century; the war was going on. Ouija boards became quite popular around World War I, and the reason was that people started associating them with discarnates and they were seen as a way to contact them out of mourning. People were losing their loved ones.
UC: That is so interesting.
AG: Well, then you move into the 70’s. You’ve got The Exorcist and movies like that that put a whole other twist on it. That’s one of the main reasons why they’re considered as frightening as they are. So, it has really evolved. What I’m trying to get people to understand is that you need to educate yourself, and that way your fear will be dispelled. Because if I were to tell you it’s just a way that a couple could shimmy up to one another and court, that’s not frightening at all, now is it?
UC: Not really, no. I’m waiting for my girl friend to come home so we can shimmy and court.
AG: Right. Every time you spell out a letter, one article of clothing has to come off!
At that point I realized I had a new mission in life! It was time to get off the phone, light a candle, grab my girl, and play Strip Ouija™!
Many thanks to Alison for taking some time out of her schedule to hang out and speak with the living! Personally I find the dead infinitely more interesting!
Check out the rest of Alison’s work on the web at SpeakingWithSpirits.Com
More information about Alison Genengels:
- Over 20 years of professional experience in Tarot card and clairvoyant readings. A gifted medium who specializes in channeling, she often uses talking boards and pendulums during her private sessions.
- 10 years of experience teaching metaphysics and Tarot card reading, both privately and professionally. Since so many of her students became fascinated with the talking board she had created for herself and used during her readings, she decided to begin creating her own designs as gifts to her students. They became so popular that she decided to release them for sale to the public.
- 14 years of experience working in the field of parapsychology as a psychic consultant.
- Member in good standing of the National Ghost Hunters Society.
- Featured speaker at the NW Ghost Hunter’s Convention 2003 regarding the use, history, and phenomena of the “Talking Board”.
- Psychic Consultant/Paranormal Investigator with A.G.H.O.S.T. (Amateur Ghost Hunters of Seattle, Tacoma).
Alison “SheOwl” Genengels has been invited to speak again at this years NW Ghost Hunters Convention (Seattle, WA Sept. 25-26th, 2004) regarding the use, history, and phenomena of the talking board as well as to teach a workshop on how to use talking and pendulum boards. During the workshop attendees will have the opportunity to attempt to contact spirits that are said to roam the haunted University Heights Center. Speaking with Spirits will also be a featured vendor, so if you are in the Seattle area, you will have the opportunity to see a wide array of their products in person. Please see the Speaking With Spirits website for further information about this appearance and others, to be posted in the upcoming weeks.