HBM035: Spirits of the Past

It was a group of businessmen in the late 19th century who originally invented the Ouija Board. They sold them in toy shops and promising questions answered “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy.” Spiritualism was all the rage in the United States, and, while hiring a professional medium could be costly, the Ouija Board allowed ordinary people to communicate with the dead.

In this episode of Here Be Monsters, freelance producer Mickey Capper attends a modern seance, conducted by 20-somethings under an udder-like canopy in a living room in Chicago. They gather around a homemade Ouija Board to summon up spirits from the past. And they’re visited by the ghost of the seance host’s long-dead ancestors. The ghost has a striking message for her about a secret she didn’t want to share with the group.

Mickey said the following about the experience:

Even though I've always like the idea of trying to contact the dead through a community of friends, I hadn't been to a seance before. The darkness and the candles and the makeshift Ouija Board did work... at least as an icebreaker. I felt closer to everyone than I would have expected. I also learned that whether or not you believe you're contacting the spirit, there's nothing protecting you from finding things you'd rather not hear.

Of course, Ouija Boards don’t run on a dark energy, the planchette isn’t moved by the delicate hands of wispy ghosts. Instead, its movement is achieved through a well understood phenomenon called the Idiomotor Effect. Ideomotor movements are subconscious muscle movements that occur when people think they are holding entirely still. They’re heavily influence by perception and bias. And in Ouija, it can be responsible for creating stunning messages that seem to be otherworldly.

So, who was this ghost who revealed the host’s secret? It’s hard to know. But even for someone who would deny outright the existence of spirits and ghosts, it’s impossible to deny the power that belief in the paranormal holds.

Mickey Capper is a freelance radio reporter and the co-host of Tape, which is a new podcast that interviews people who make radio. It's good, it's people you've heard of...listen to it. taperadio.org

Music
The Black Spot
Serocell
Lucky Dragons

Track image from a 1915 edition of The Ogden Chronicle

CONTEST: What the $&@# is that Bug?

I'm trying to become better about practicing what I preach. So, when I recently got terrified of a bug on my wall. I wanted to learn why I was scared of it. That's what the show is about, after all, confronting the unknown. So, help me identify this many legged friend and you could win a neat prize that will make you the coolest kid on the block by a long shot.

Take a look at the pictures and post your answers!

HBM009: Captain Staudinger Flees Myanmar

Captain Chris Staudinger is an experienced world traveler...now. But back in 2006, he visited Myanmar (Burma), during a time of political unrest, militarization and a general mistrust of anyone American. He looked like a spy.

On this episode, Chris tells his story of escaping the country after he and his friends saw something that they should not have seen.

Photos from Chris' Myanmar trip.

Chris now runs a travel blog with his girlfriend Tawny Clark. They travel the world on next to no money and teach others how to do the same.