Mrunmayi Sathaye
Mercury Staff

Curiosity and boredom propelled them to open a box that had not been opened in years. The box — a game of summoning spirits — was something that intrigued them, and in a dorm room, two students called spirits using their Ouija board.

 Computer science freshman Jarod Shelton and sophomore Rishi Chandna began using the Ouija board in October and later began taking willing people into the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in the middle of the night to summon spirits. The group sit around the board with their hands on a planchette — a pointer — that a “spirit” can move after a person asks that spirit questions.

Chandna bought the board in Austin in 2014 at Barnes and Noble and brought it to campus. He said he took it out of the plastic wrap as soon as he got home, but he hadn’t removed the lid until last month.

“I didn’t really have plans for it, and I was just trying to (figure) out who might be interested, and I felt like Jarod was, so I talked to him about it, and he was open and willing,” Chandna said. “Then, we started doing a lot of research on how to use it safely, take the proper precautions. They can be pretty dangerous. After that, we were in so deep already, we tried it and got hooked.”

Until Chandna brought the board to UTD, both Shelton and Chandna had not worked with the board, and neither person had any family history in dealing with the board.

“I’ve always been interested in doing such things, but actually having the Ouija board made it possible,” Shelton said. “I didn’t know we had it until we did.”

Shelton said they researched how to use the board with random Blogger and forum posts. They learned what attracts spirits and how to know if something is wrong. For example, Shelton said it is a bad sign if it starts to draw symbols on the board, makes random movements, goes to the four corners or it is counting down with the planchette because that indicates the spirit testing its limits in the board.

“(Through the research), we learned the steps,” Shelton said. “We learned that we should probably get candles. The candles are for the warmth to attract them. You just want to be hospitable and warmth attracts them. For a bit, we used coat hangers to make a circle. We’ve since got string for that. The circle in general confines whatever is in the board to the circle, so it is interacting with us and nothing from the outside. The rituals are a mix of actually working and a mix of convincing everybody that this thing is a real thing that is about to happen.”

Typically, one person is picked to lead the questioning, because that person is going to have the strongest connection with the spirits, Shelton said.

“You’ll build your connection with the board and you’ll send out your message — who you are, why you want to communicate, what you’re looking for,” Chandna said. “You invite it to come talk and wait for it. You can repeat your message a couple of times. It will typically take up to five minutes for something to come down and start moving the planchette, and once it does, you can just sort of talk with it. Again, this is where some of the research comes in — the types of questions you don’t want to ask and the types of things you want to watch out for.”

After engaging the Ouija board in their dorm rooms, they began taking interested people with them to the Arbor Hill Nature Preserve in the middle of the night because, Shelton said, the atmosphere of night is more effective. Chandna said that because the sky is so open, it’s a lot freer for things to come and go from out of this realm, and doing it in the building limits what they talk to. The pair have taken eight people so far.

“It really works when we go through all the trouble of waiting until late at night and going out to the woods and doing all our little rituals,” Shelton said. “The spirits channel energy through us and the more people there are, the more energy they have to move the planchette. It’s also better to do these things with other people. Part of it is there is more energy to work and the other part of it is that it very much is a group experience. It’s not really the same with just me and him. Our main recruitment tactic is hanging out in the lobby and being like, ‘Hey, do you want to talk to ghosts?’ It’s a little sketch but it works really well.”

Chandna said the people who come with him and Shelton enjoy the experience and feel fulfillment.

“There’s certainly a lot of amazement,” Shelton said. “A part of it too is the type of person willing to come with the random people they met into the woods are generally more open to experiences. Some people have a lot of apprehension, especially once it starts moving. They’ve seen the movies. It’s a scary experience for them, but everyone we’ve taken thought it was a memorable experience.”

Shelton said the reason they go back to the board is for the interesting experience and the adventure. He said although there is a spiritual component to it, the Ouija board is for entertainment.

“It’s an interesting way to spend the night. We want to have a fun time and go out with friends,” Shelton said. “My interaction with the board is less about belief and more so about experiencing it, so I don’t think it’s changed my mind about the world but it’s helped me discover things about myself or things about being with other people. I’m just there to suspend my disbelief.”