The Ghost and the Note

By Hy Conrad

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” I tell them.

We’re in the Olsen family’s playroom. Timmy Olsen puts the Ouija board in the middle of the table while his older sister Gloria reads the instructions. They found this Ouija game tucked away in their attic. It’s a wooden board covered with letters and numbers and weird symbols. The idea is for us to put our fingers on a rolling, pointy thing called a planchette. Then we all concentrate and try to get in touch with a spirit from the great beyond. The spirit is supposed to move the planchette and spell out a message for us.

“What’s the matter?” teases Gloria. “You afraid of ghosts?”

“There are no ghosts,” I say. “Someone has to push the planchette. That’s the only way it can move.”

“No, no. It moves by itself,” says Timmy. “I’ve seen it on TV.”

The door opens and for a second we all think it’s Mrs. Olsen, coming home and catching us. But it’s only our friend Sophie. “You guys ready to contact Captain McFee?” she whispers then closes the door and turns down the lights.

Captain John McFee was the man who built the Olsen’s house. A hundred years ago, the captain’s boat sank in a storm. Gloria swears she’s seen his ghost, all wet and slimy, roaming through the house at night. Timmy thinks maybe he’s seen it too.

This is all nonsense and will just give us bad dreams. But I don’t want to be called a chicken. So I sit down with the others. We all put one finger on the planchette. Gloria takes a deep breath and begins to speak in a spooky voice. “Captain McFee, we know you’re here. Please talk to us. Why are you haunting this house?” Gloria watches too many horror flicks, if you ask me.

She goes on like this. And the only result is that Timmy gets scared. “I gotta pee,” he says, then runs out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

“I know your parents don’t want you doing this,” I say. But it’s no good.

When Timmy comes back, he apologizes. He closes the door and we try again. This time the planchette starts to shake. A few seconds later it moves. I try to figure out who’s pushing it. “Are you there, Captain?” asks Sophie, her voice cracking. “Give us a sign.”

The planchette moves quickly now. It takes our fingers to “t” and moves on to “h”.   We all spell out the words as the pointer moves from letter to letter. “This is my house,” the message says. “Leave or else.”

Gloria lets out a little scream. Timmy moans. “That’s enough,” I say. “Whoever’s doing this, it’s not funny.”

It’s not us,” says Timmy. “It’s Captain McFee.”

The planchette starts moving again under our fingers. “Leave – this – house – or – die.”

All of us jump back from the table, knocking over our chairs. Gloria’s hands fly up to her face. “What’ll we do?”

Before I can protest again, there’s a single, loud rap, like someone kicking the wall or knocking on the door. “It’s the captain,” shouts Sophie. “Don’t let him in.”

Now I’m no longer scared. I’m angry. “There’s no ghost.” And to prove it, I throw open the playroom door. The hallway is empty. “One of you moved the pointer,” I say. “And you knocked on the wall. So just cut it out.”

Gloria doesn’t believe it. She runs past me into the hallway and looks around. Then she checks the other side of the playroom door. “Oh, my gosh,” she gasps. “Look!”

By the time we get there, she’s already pulled them out of the door. It’s a note and a dangerous looking kitchen knife. “The captain left a message,” she says, pointing to a gash in the middle of the wooden door.

The note is written on a piece of computer paper, with a knife hole right in the middle. “LEAVE THIS HOUSE OR DIE!” it says in big red letters.

Timmy looks scared enough to faint. “It’s blood. We have to get out of here.”

“It’s not blood,” I say as I examine the note. “It’s red crayon. And how exactly does a ghost write a note?”

“He wanted to prove to you he’s real,” says Sophie. “We all heard him stab the door.”

“That was one of you, hitting the wall in the dark.”

“What about the knife and note?   You can’t say that was us. We were all in the room.”

“First of all, there are no ghosts.” I’m talking calmly, like a condescending teacher. “One of you planned this ahead of time. Your idea of a big, unfunny joke.”

I’m thinking fast and furious, trying to figure it out. Sophie, I know, was the last to arrive before the séance. Maybe she did it. But then Timmy went out to use the bathroom. And Gloria was the one who found the note.

“I know who it was,” I finally tell them. “And it wasn’t a ghost.”

Do you know?



They’re all listening to me for a change. “First off, there are no ghosts. One of you made the sound, not the knife.”

Sophie isn’t buying it. “If one of us made the sound, then how did the knife get into the door? That would have made a sound, too.”

“Right,” I say. “So it couldn’t be you, Sophie. We would have heard you. Also, Timmy would have definitely seen it when he came back from the bathroom.”

“Hey, it wasn’t me,” says Timmy.

“It wasn’t you,” I agree. “And for the same reason. We would have heard you stabbing the door.”

“And it couldn’t have been me,” says Gloria. “For the same reason.”

“Actually, it was you.”   Gloria throws me a deadly scowl, but I go on. “If it wasn’t a ghost – and it wasn’t – then the door was never stabbed.”

“But you all saw it,” Gloria insists. “The knife and the note.”

“No. By the time we looked, the knife wasn’t in the door. It was in your hand. You must have set it up before, making a knife hole in the door, then hiding the note and the knife somewhere. When we left the room, looking for the ghost, you had a few seconds to take them out and fool us.”

Gloria doesn’t admit to anything. But Timmy knows I’m right. “You gouged the door,” he yells at his sister. “I’m telling Mom.”