An Innocent Game, So It Seemed . . .

By: Olivia Dworkin

I have always been entertained by horror. When I was a little kid, I actively looked for ways to immerse myself in scary situations. I loved haunted houses, scary movies, ghost stories, and, most importantly, the Ouija board. My friends and I would all get together in a small room, turn off all the lights, pull out the glow in the dark board, and summon the “demons.” We would always laugh about the events that occurred when we were finished, thinking that it was one of us that was moving the piece the whole time just to mess around. I mean, it had to be. Ghosts weren’t real, right? It wasn’t until eighth grade that I had to cut my Ouija board up into triangular pieces and burn it.

oiu

It was mid-day. My two friends (who I will call Abby and Jenna) and I got bored and decided to whip out the Ouija board to spice up the afternoon. We turned off all the lights and began to play. We summoned a spirit named Eli. Right from the start, something seemed off about him. He seemed to know facts that made us believe it wasn’t one of us moving the piece. We would test him by having someone sit out, and then ask Eli questions like when person’s grandmother’s birthday was, only an answer the person sitting out would know, and he would pass with flying colors. We couldn’t believe it, so we asked him to give us a sign that he was present. This is when he started to move my blinds back and forth. We began to communicate like that for a while – moving the blinds to the left meant yes, to the right meant no. Everything was innocent and honestly kind of cool at first, but then it got more serious.

You know how when you touch an object that is glow in the dark, and then release it, your handprint is black? I had been resting my hand on the glow in the dark board for a while, and when I picked it up my handprint wasn’t black. It was red. Suddenly, red fingerprints started filling the board until the whole board turned red. Eli said it was his blood. This is the point where Jenna started crying and had to go home. Abby and I were naïve though, and we were still curious, so we continued to play.

At the time, Abby had been dating someone pretty seriously (as serious as you can be in middle school) for two years. Eli knew this. He began to tell Abby that he was in love with her, and that she belonged with him. He tried to tell her that her boyfriend was all wrong for her, and that she needed to break up with him so that they could be together. He even predicted a date that they would break up, and a date that they would eventually get together. Abby started getting upset at this point, so we decided it was time to stop. However, Eli wasn’t done.

Abby kept calling me in the weeks following our Ouija board incident telling me that she kept seeing Eli around. She began to question her current relationship, and actually told me that she started to develop feelings for Eli. Her feelings for the spirit were so strong that she ended up breaking up with her boyfriend of two years for this ghost. She kept on begging me to play the Ouija board again so that they could speak. She said she thought he was the one.

Abby and I drifted apart after this incident because, to be honest, it was too scary to keep in touch with her. I wanted to believe that Eli wasn’t real, but quite truthfully I felt his presence, too. My mom saw that this was tearing me apart, so she told me I could never play with the Ouija board again. She looked up online how to get rid of demons released from the game, and cut up the board into triangles and burned it. Unfortunately, I still feel him around….

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The Devil on TV

By: Sydney Wade

As the semester is coming to a close, I began to reflect on the group of readings that I found the most interesting and landed upon the “Deals With the Devil” stories. What I enjoyed most about this section was the similar techniques each story incorporated to spook the reader including the vivid description of the devil himself and how he interacted with each character. I also enjoyed the intersection of religion in these stories. Although I am not extremely religious, I still found it frightening that these characters crossed the devil’s path in some way and that the devil wielded so much power over them.

I recently came across a 2013 Super Bowl commercial for Mercedes Benz that also deals with the devil. As a communication studies major, I often pause to watch commercials and watch for the different techniques the companies utilize in their advertising to attract the attention of the viewer. So, I was surprised when this particular ad connected directly to our class.

The commercial itself uses the same techniques as the devil readings we covered even though it is a part of the media world! For example, the devil is dressed in a black suit, has talon like finger nails, burning eyes, and a deep/sinister voice. This portrayal is similar to that of the devil in “Man in the Black Suit” who terrorizes Gary while he is out fishing by himself.

Additionally, the man in the commercial is offered a deal from the devil. If the man accepts the deal, the devil promises him a life of luxury including fame, women, and a beautiful car. This is similar to both Theophilus from “The Miracle of Theophilus” and Johnny from “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” because they are both offered riches from the devil and subsequently take the deal. Unlike Theophilus and Johnny, the character in the commercial rejects the devil’s contract after seeing how affordable the car is on its own.

After the man rejects the offer, the devil vanishes into thin air, leaving behind a cloud of fire and dust. I thought this was most similar to the “Man in the Black Suit” reading. When Gary and his father return to the clearing, the devil is nowhere to be found, but the grass seems burned indicating that the devil had in fact been there.

Even though the aim of the Mercedes commercial is to sell cars and shape the brand’s image, it was interesting to see the distinct similarities to the pieces of literature we have covered. I also enjoyed how the commercial was successful in telling a type of horror story in only about two minutes. Here is a second clip that discusses why the marketing campaign decided to focus the ad around making a deal with the devil in exchange for something you desire.

The Man in the Black Suit

By: Madhav Kapila (Horror alum, Winter 2013)

It was during the winter semester of my freshman year that I first heard the story “The Man in the Black Suit” by Stephen King. It was an assigned reading in my English 124 class and I thought that it would be boring like the other stories that we had read so far. However, it was the complete opposite of what I had expected.

I had always been a fan of horror films, but I never read any horror stories before. “The Man in the Black Suit” was one of the first that I read and it was my inspiration for taking this course.

The story is told from the view of Gary, who is now an old man near death. In it, he reflects on his encounter with the devil as a child. He is seeking “freedom” by revealing that he was attacked by the devil one day while fishing alone in the woods. The thing that makes this story so horrifying is that it is actually “inspired” by a true story. Stephen King wrote it after someone had told him that his grandfather believed that he had actually encountered the devil in the woods one day. This makes the story much scarier because it makes you wonder whether something like this actually happened.

The thing that makes this story different than the others is the way that the devil acts. As you’ll see in this class, the devil’s goal is usually to make some sort of deal with his victims so that he will get their soul. He convinces his victims to do something using trickery and by telling lies. However, in this story, the devil is only interested in killing Gary and then eating him. It provides a striking difference to what many people believe that the devil actually does.

Artist: Barfly1976 (deviantart.com)

Artist: Barfly1976 (deviantart.com)

Although you may not find the story to be that scary, the idea that the devil is capable of doing such things is. Stephen King portrays the devil as a man with terrifying characteristics. His eyes appear to be on fire and the grass that his shadow goes over shrivels up and dies. “The Man in the Black Suit” is an example of a horror story that contributes a unique perspective of the devil. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this story as much as I did and never forget the man in the black suit.

The Painting of Satan

By: Ariel Roberts

A few years ago during Art Fair, my friend was walking around and stopped at a booth with trippy paintings. Amongst the art was an older painting of Satan and my friend, who jokingly acts like a Satanist, decided to buy it. The artist offered to bag the painting, but my friend refused, saying it wasn’t going to rain, and it was fine in the plastic sleeve. Immediately afterwards it started to pour. He thought it was odd, but the rain had been building up that week anyways. He then ran to a school building in the pouring rain, using the Satan painting as a shield.

My friend decided to hang the painting in the main living area for all to see, but he hadn’t framed it yet. One night it fell off the wall, and he decided to leave it there, not having time to deal with it. That very night, my friend, who slept in the bedroom that shared the wall the painting was on, began to have night terrors. He continued to have night terrors, even after putting it back up. Eventually his first roommate moved out and he switched to the second bedroom. His night terrors stopped immediately afterwards. Although his first roommate never had night terrors in the apartment, he did say that when he was alone in the living room, the painting of Satan would watch him.

My friend got two new roommates, one of them being a girl who moved in the room with the shared wall. By this point my friend had finally framed the painting, and he hoped that this would make things better. The girl never had any problems, but my friend found that if you were to do anything against the painting, it would cause something bad to happen. He realized this after a few of his friends had shot Nerf darts at the painting and had bad luck for a few days afterwards.

One day my friend was coming home and he found a card with a saint on it. He contemplated bringing it in, seeing as it was something interesting, but he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea considering Satan was up in the apartment. He decided to prop the card up where it was and hope that the owner would find it and take it home instead. Interestingly, his female roommate came home later that night with the saint card in hand, happy she had found something cool. She decided to place the saint card in Satan’s frame, and they jokingly (or possibly seriously) believed that Satan possessed the saint, and that the offering had pleased him to some extent.

My friend’s lease on his apartment ended this summer, so his female roommate moved out a few months early for a job. He decided to move back into the other room in order to have his own space since he was originally sharing with his third roommate. The entire time he stayed in that room he had night terrors again. My friend is now my current roommate, and all of this happened before he moved into my apartment a month ago. I am highly superstitious and after hearing everything, I told him he was in no way allowed to bring the painting with him when he moved in and that was final. The painting of Satan now sits in his basement at home. He hasn’t had night terrors since moving into my apartment, but he’s not sure how things are going at home either since he hasn’t been back into the basement since. I’m convinced that the painting of Satan is highly upset and is waiting for him to come home.

The Call of the Crossroads

By: Amelia Cox

crossroads

The Crossroads is now obviously a tourist attraction.

“The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band is one of the most prolific depictions of the devil in American music, but it is not the first instance of a musical devil, by far.

Robert Johnson, a talented blues guitarist from Mississippi, is even more famous for the supposed deal with the devil he made at the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61.

The legend has it that Robert Johnson was a less than talented musician, and his gift for the blues appeared seemingly overnight, and was unexplainable if not for some supernatural help. Robert Johnson went from playing small dive bars to recording albums, becoming the inspiration for people like Eric Clapton and bands like the Rolling Stones. Though very little is known about Robert Johnson’s short life, which was cut short at the age 27 when he was poisoned by a man whose girlfriend Johnson was having an affair with; his music and its origin myth have had enduring fame, making any new information and extremely rare images hot commodities.

The legend of the crossroads have invaded popular culture, especially as part of a major story arc on Season 2 the television show Supernatural; where the Mississippi crossroads is a summoning site, created by Robert Johnson himself, for a demon who trades talent for souls, but the newly talented only has so long before the hellhounds come to collect the soul.

Another interesting layer of Robert Johnson’s story is his very early death at the age of 27. The Curse of 27 is a legend in the music industry that the most talented musicians only live to the age of 27. The most famous members of this “club” include Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and, most recently, Amy Winehouse. Robert Johnson could be the first victim of this curse, his talent for the blues making him more than qualified. And though there seems to be no other evidence, beyond the common denominator of Robert Johnson, connecting his deal with the devil to the Curse or to suggest that it led to his death at 27, maybe that just happened to be the time his contract was up. Perhaps other musicians who die at 27 simply have the same deal with the devil that Robert Johnson has. Or it’s a pretty incredible coincidence.

This memorial is at one of Robert Johnson's possible gravesites.

This memorial is at one of Robert Johnson’s possible gravesites.

Robert Johnson’s legacy lives on through his music. Some of his popular songs pay homage to his alleged connection with the devil: “Me and the Devil Blues,” “Hellhound On My Trail,” and “Cross Road Blues.” And though his life and death remain largely a mystery, Robert Johnson’s influence on music and folklore live on.