The Scariest Games

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Here are some of the scariest games for your paranormal parties. Some are so frightening, they shouldn't be played at all

WE DON'T USUALLY think of games when we consider the paranormal. The paranormal is something to be investigated, researched and taken seriously, not trifled with in something as frivolous as what we'd consider a "game."

We're not talking about the harmless games children play at Halloween or even the various paranormal-themed action and role-playing computer games available.

We're talking about the games that are played in the dark of night that truly can be paranormal in nature and have unexpected, even terrifying results.

Games such as "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board," the Ouija board, "Bloody Mary" and spoon bending seem to be favorites of teenagers particularly. At parties, sleepovers and when the opportunity arises to sneak into an abandoned or rumored-to-be-haunted building, these games are very often played. Teens like them not only because they challenge the unknown, but also for the same reason they love horror and slasher movies - they like to be scared.

Adults and paranormal researchers usually discourage such games - particularly the Ouija and Bloody Mary - because of the negative psychological impact they can have on the participants. Whether the game players are merely scaring themselves or they really are tapping into negative realms, many researchers advise that these "games" are best left alone.

And for that reason, we cannot recommend their practice. Light as a Feather and spoon bending are more harmless and may have a scientific basis, but some argue that any game that has elements of the unknown should be avoided.

People play them at their own risk.

LIGHT AS A FEATHER, STIFF AS A BOARD

This levitation game has been around for decades.

I recall my sister telling me that she and her friends tried it at a teen party - and it worked.

The most common version of this "trick" requires at least five people. One person, the victim, lies relaxed on the floor with eyes closed. The other four participants surround her, one on each side, one at the head and one at the feet. Each of the participants places two fingers of each hand beneath the victim. With their eyes closed, they begin to chant, "Light as a feather… stiff as a board…" over and over. With just the slightest effort, the participants are able to raise the victim off the floor in what appears to be the defiance of gravity.

Does it work? In addition to my sister, I've heard from a number of other people who attest that it does. I have never witnessed it personally. Some contend that it can work with just three people, which would be even more astounding. There are also variations on this levitation trick involving a chair.

OUIJA BOARD

The Ouija is undoubtedly the most well-known paranormal game in the world, mainly because it can be found in just about any mainstream toy store. It's the commercial version of the "talking board," which may date back centuries.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Ouija is a game board on which are printed the letters of the alphabet and the words "yes," "no" and "goodbye." Two players place their fingers lightly on a planchette or pointer, then ask questions.

The pointer then seems to magically slide around the board, spelling out answers.

While some contend that the movement of the pointer is just the result of unconscious effort by the participants, or the "ideomotor effect," (see the article, "Ouija: How Does It Work?"), members of various religious groups are joined by many paranormal researchers in warning that the Ouija may indeed be opening a door to the spirit realm. Dark and sinister forces, they say, can enter our dimension through this door, sometimes with chillingly negative consequences. (See "Tales of the Ouija" for some of these experiences from readers.)

Because of this possible negative impact, many researchers advise that the Ouija should not be used under any circumstances. Others say that it can be used safely if a proper "cleansing" is done before and after its use, or if used under the guidance of an experienced medium.

Next page: Bloody Mary and Spoon bending

BLOODY MARY

The conjuring of Bloody Mary has been a favorite way for teenagers, girls in particular, to scare themselves silly. The appearance of the Bloody Mary spirit has become the stuff of urban legend, yet many have testified that she really does appear.

Basically, the ritual goes like this: stand in a darkened or lightless room where there is a mirror. Stare into the mirror and chant "Bloody Mary" 13 times.

The gruesome spirit of Bloody Mary will appear behind you in the mirror.

There are many variations on the ritual, any of which a brave teenage girl will try, usually on a dare. Sometimes a lighted candle is required in the dark room. You must chant the name three times, six times, nine times - even up to 100 times, depending on whom you ask. Another variation is that you must spin slowly in place while you chant Bloody Mary's name, glancing in the mirror with each turn.

An excellent article by Patty A. Wilson in the June 2005 issue of FATE magazine gives the complete history of the Bloody Mary legend, saying that the most likely origin is the life of Mary Stuart. Also known as Mary Queen of Scots in 16th century England, she was involved in many plots, intrigues and murder. She was executed in 1587, and it is her bloody corpse that appears in the mirror when beckoned.

Yet another tradition says that the evil spirit is none other than Satan's spouse.

(I didn't even know he was seeing anyone!)

Although the biggest worry with Bloody Mary is that the participant will succeed in scaring herself into hysterics, we occasionally hear stories about people who really did see Bloody Mary in the mirror. Usually these tales come through a friend of a friend and are, of course, impossible to verify.

SPOON BENDING

Psychic Uri Geller is most often credited with the phenomenon of spoon bending. While skeptics claim this feat is nothing more than magician's sleight of hand, others say that it is a psychic phenomenon that just about anyone can accomplish.

It's so easily done that spoon-bending parties have been held. On these occasions, the host brings a load of spoons and forks (forks are probably used more often than spoons because it's more dramatic to get the tines all twisted), usually bought cheap from a thrift store. The party goers are asked to choose a utensil they believe will bend, and sometime during the course of the event, most of the spoons and forks indeed do bend and twist, seemingly in defiance of all logic and the laws of physics.

In short, the method goes like this: Invite people to the party that you know and like. Create a relaxed atmosphere of fun and laughter. Ask each participant to choose a utensil that they believe "wants" to bend. (They don't all want to bend.) It's even suggested that you ask the fork, "Will you bend for me?" Then hold the fork vertically and shout, "Bend! Bend!" Rub it gently with your fingers.

If the utensil does not begin to bend, divert your attention.

Focus your attention on something else. Some even say that this inattention to the utensil is vital in getting it to bend. When it succeeds, the fork or spoon will bend easily. Contrary to popular belief, the utensil will not just start twisting of its own accord (although this has happened on rare occasions). Rather, the utensil becomes so malleable that it is quite easily bent and twisted with the hands using almost no effort - as if it were made of the softest metal.

Although I've never had any luck with bending spoons or forks (I've always tried it alone and not at a festive party), my wife was able to easily twist several forks into impossible shapes, as the photo on this page shows.

Have fun and don't take this stuff too seriously.