The summer that I graduated high school, I started dating a new boy, named Phil. He was a year older than me, and was a wrestler at a nearby college. Our dates were very normal, very appropriate. We had dinner, we went to movies and we hung out at each of our homes.
Did I mention that he lived with friends? He was the first boy I ever dated that did not still live with his parents. (My parents were thrilled).
We had been dating for a few weeks, maybe a month, and had gotten in to a fun routine - we'd see each other once or twice a week, usually with his friends, or my high school friend Mary. We'd grill out, or make cookies, or watch a new movie. I liked him, but I didn't know that much about him - in the way with high school relationships, I barely knew him - had met him barely a month before. I'm pretty sure that he knew I had a lot of brothers, but did not know that Shawn was my "step" dad, or anything about my family dynamic. Our relationship was fun, but very light.
One Friday night, I got off work and went to his house before heading to a pool party at one of our friend's houses. Storms were forecasted, so we decided to stay at his house and watch the newest in the "American Pie" trilogy, "American Wedding" (it had just come out on video). Four few of his friends agreed with our plan, and decided to join us. We settled in on the main floor of his house, and turned on the movie.
After a while, it started raining, and we all agreed that we were glad that we had stayed inside and weren't at the pool at the time. Plus, it was getting dark, so it was nice to be in. The movie was funny, and we were all enjoying a low-key Friday night.
Until we lost power.
No one was that bothered by it - there were 6 of us in a familiar place - and c'mon, it's summer in Iowa. Par for the course. We continued sitting around their living room, chatting and telling stories. Thirty minutes passed, and then an hour. Still no power. We were all getting restless, bored, and ready to get moving.
Someone suggested a board game to pass the time, and we all agreed. One of the boys went to the basement to see what games they had; someone requested Monopoly. Returning to the main floor, he apologized - "There was no Monopoly - all they had was this old Ouiji board".
Everyone kind of laughed it off, but I was intrigued. I had never played Ouiji, and knew it wasn't real, but thought it would be an entertaining way to pass the time, or, rather, to let the storm pass us.
We set the board up, and all put our hands on it.
(If you don't understand the concept, a Ouiji is a board game marked with letters and numbers. A detached dial is placed on the board, and everyone participating puts their fingers or hands on the dial. The dial then is placed in the center of the board, and is supposedly then able to connect with spirits).
One of the boys ran the show, asking questions like "If there is a spirit out there, please talk to us" and "Is there anyone out there"? I was quite skeptical, but it was still pretty entertaining. Several minutes passed, with nothing. I was just beginning to think that this was actually not very entertaining, and that it was really kind of boring.
Suddenly, the dial shook, sharply moving around the board. Since everyone's hands were touching it, I figured one of the boys was trying to make us laugh. And laugh we did! The dial twisted and turned, finally resting on the letter K. I laughed; as the only girl their, of course they would pick on me... why hadn't I guessed it. I teased back "Whoever is trying to freak me out is not going to be able to - I have four brothers, it'll take a lot more than the letter K to scare me".
Still, when the dial continued on to with an A, a T and then an E... well, I'll admit it sent a chill down my spine.
Still, I believed it to be Phil's friends, taunting me and trying to scare me during the thunderstorm and lossed power.
Still unsure of who was masterminding this attempt to scare me, the leader continued "You just spelled out the name, Kate... is that your name?"
The dial didn't move.
"Ok, then why did you spell out the name Kate?" the leader continued.
The dial didn't move.
Then, slowly, it creeked. K-A-T-E, it spelled again.
"Do you know Kate?" the leader asked.
The dial creeked across the board, moving to the letter "Y".
"Does that mean yes?" The leader asked.
The leader pushed on "What is your birthday?"
The dial moved. 3, then, 1, then 3.
It was around this time that I started freaking out. "Whoever is doing this, stop!" and "This is NOT FUNNY ANYMORE".
The boys swore up and down that they weren't moving the dial, and besides, how would they know the birthday of my deceased father? Even Phil wouldn't have known it. Was I pushing the dial, unconsciously or without really realizing it? I took my hands off, and made Phil do the same.
Leaning back against the couch, I watched as the guys pushed on.
"How many kids do you have?"
"Are you ok?"
I was shaking, sputtering. This couldn't be real, could it? It's a silly game, a stupid little toy. We couldn't be communicating with someone.... who wasn't alive, could we? Of course we couldn't. And yet, how would anyone know that Mike had us three kids, or that his birthday was March 13th.
It couldn't be real, but it couldn't be made up.
"Do you have a message for Kate?" was the last question.
The dial stayed put.
"Do you want to tell Kate ANYTHING" the leader implored.
The dial creaked across the board.
"R", then slowly back to "C".
"R.......C......." it repeated.
"R..C..R..C..R.C.R.C" it sped.
Years later, that night still haunts me. Was it real? I have a hard time believing that, yet I also have a hard time believing that these 4 near-strangers would have know that information about me (and in the days before Facebook or this blog, it would have been difficult information to get!).
Is it real? I don't know. I like to think that it was, and that Mike is ok wherever he is. If I choose to believe that it did happen, that I did communicate with him, then I must wonder what the "RC" message was. I've thought about it often over the past 6 years. I used to think that I would marry a "Ryan Carson" or something, but now I like to think that it means "right choices", like he knows that my life is turning out just fine, and that we are moving down the right path for us.
Either way, it was one of the most frightening (and memorable) nights of my life.