Live Through This

Ouija Board, Ouija Board

What was it trying to tell us?


Ella and I met in a seventh grade writing class. We became best friends based on a shared interest in Bob Dylan, this old Rice Krispies commercial, and a resistance to the popular idea of what it means to grow up. It was middle school, the time of coed hangouts and touching tongues and wood-paneled basements becoming scary in a way that was not spooky-scary but more like “I can smell my B.O. and I don’t really like this guy and wasn’t I a child like just last year?” scary. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I pretended my parents were calling so that I had an excuse to leave a gathering of acquaintances, or how badly I wished I could just go back to the dreamy fun of crushing on a particular boy once we became “boyfriend-girlfriend.” In Ella I found someone who preferred spooky-scary, who wanted to grow as a person but also liked to build fairy houses and take photos in the woods and try to talk to ghosts. We could confide in each other, but we could also make the good parts of childhood last as long as possible. Things that otherwise made us feel strange seemed perfectly normal when we were together.

One of our favorite things to do was the Ouija board. After a couple rounds of “Who will I marry?”–type questions, we decided to try contacting real-live (dead) ghosts. We found her dad’s board from when he was a kid, waited till everyone was asleep, and sat on the floor of her living room, surrounded by candles. (One ghost, Mary, asked us to bring her white roses, so we once decorated the board with those. Another time, we were trying to reach a six-year-old girl we’d previously contacted who loved Ella’s garden, so we used daisies, gems, and a plastic unicorn, pictured above.)

In the second year of high school, Ella became busy with theater, singing in a band, and hanging out with a long-term boyfriend. I became busy with Rookie. We found different friend groups. We never lost touch but we did fade away, hanging out less frequently and, for me, never telling her the whole story as to what was going on in my life. My new friends were dark and tortured, and Ella seemed so happy—I didn’t know what she would think if I told her I was depressed or developing unhealthy eating habits. Having problems was too grown-up for our sleepover agenda. It was easier to sit in the dark, ghosts of who we used to be, trying to get in touch with the bond we used to have.

At the end of 11th grade, Ella and I got together for the first time in a long time. As we lay side by side in her family’s guest room—white walls, white blankets, white sheets, white pillows—about to fall asleep, Ella asked, “What happened to us?” It turned out we’d been going through a lot of the same stuff at the same time and simply never reached out. I still wonder how things might have been different, how our respective pains might have been alleviated, had the Ouija board spelled out that we should have just talked to each other.

The Ouija board conversations below are from the time of our falling out and our periodic attempts at reuniting. (They end last winter, before we realized how much we could have shared.) I promise that neither of us ever tried forcing any of these answers, because, first of all, we would’ve made them a lot scarier and weirder, and, second, we believed this stuff for real. I think I still do, though looking back through these notebooks, I would not be surprised if one very popular theory turned out to be true: that the answers on a Ouija board actually come from your subconscious. So many of our shared interests made their way into the ghosts’ sides of these conversations: movies we’d watched in Ella’s basement, songs we’d sung together and played on guitar. These exchanges feel more like a record of our time together than like any third party’s wishes and commands.

This past summer, Ella and I ran into each other at the airport. She had just returned from an acting program in France and was on her way to a family reunion. I was with my dad, heading to a friend’s wedding and college visits. My boyfriend and I had broken up not even two hours earlier, and the first thing I did when I saw Ella was burst into tears. She gave me a big, long hug and I realized how many other kinds of love exist and that they are often just as rare as the romantic kind we hear so much more about.

We’re both seniors now, applying to colleges and planning our futures. We still get together occasionally to catch up, erupt into fits of giggles, and watch trashy TV. We also tell each other the stuff we wouldn’t before. It’s still cool to think that there was something about our relationship that was so special it could be manifested only through a supernatural presence. While there would have been better ways for us to communicate with each other, I like the idea that our subconsciouses were trying to remind us of the good times we’d had, and of good times yet to come.


  • chantal October 2nd, 2013 11:30 PM

    Yooooo that was really spooky/awesome and I would like to try it. I did once at my friend’s and nothing happened :( Any tips?

  • mynamesjustmaddy October 2nd, 2013 11:43 PM

    this is such a great article! thanks for sharing these kind of personal but totally interesting stories

  • TessAnnesley October 2nd, 2013 11:50 PM

    this post gives me so many feelings

  • thebrownette October 2nd, 2013 11:52 PM

    It’s so weird to be a senior/applying to college. I feel jaded when it comes to college applications; I don’t know how I’m going to get through all these essays. Being homeschooled, I have a ton of extra stuff to submit as well. I’m looking forward to it all being over.

  • Jasmine October 2nd, 2013 11:57 PM

    This is really interesting but also scaryyy. I’ve always heard bad experiences about Ouija Boards so I don’t know if I’d ever use one

  • ElisabethGrace October 3rd, 2013 12:04 AM

    That’s really neat Tavi! I’m hoping to get a ouija board for christmas this year. Also, just FYI, the Raleigh in the song wagon wheel is Raleigh, NC. WW is about NC~ I really love rookie!

  • lacecat October 3rd, 2013 12:05 AM

    This is so wonderful and spooky and just reminded me of friendships that would come and go.
    But it also reminds me of learning how to use a oujia board correctly taught by my aunt.
    Like how first I had to ask the spirit if it was with the sun or moon. It was real freaky stuff

  • clarekawaii October 3rd, 2013 12:06 AM

    wow wow wow i loved reading this so much. it gave me chills but at the same time i really couldn’t stop reading it~

  • lauraunicorns October 3rd, 2013 12:09 AM

    Another really beautiful and interesting article from Tavi. I love reading these little random glimpses into people’s lives. Good luck with all your college prep stuff! It’s sooo boring and time-consuming but college is super awesome!

  • thefilmrookie October 3rd, 2013 12:10 AM

    this is way too cool. im having some friends over this weekend that i am trying to get closer with and i was thinking about doing an ouija board with them but after reading this i definitly am!–

  • kimmi_kimz October 3rd, 2013 12:14 AM

    i love this!!! its so fascinating! definitely one of my favorite posts that rookie has done.
    xoxo much love to you all <3

  • sarahf October 3rd, 2013 12:14 AM

    dang. that was kind of intense.

  • carofine October 3rd, 2013 12:19 AM

    Tavi, I love your writing & observations on your friendship. It’s always surreal to see how people come in and out of our lives. Also, props to the two of you for being brave enough to communicate with spirits! I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts and I own a Ouija board but I’ve never tried it. I’m too scared to see if ghosts are real. Reading your ghost conversations gives me the heebie-jeebies.

  • lauraunicorns October 3rd, 2013 1:31 AM

    Also, it’s always kind of comforting and reassuring to me when other people talk about their struggles (like what you said about depression and body image), because it reminds me that everybody, even people I really admire, goes through really unpleasant stuff, and you can still create beautiful things and have meaningful relationships and we’re all just human and all that good stuff. So basically, I just really appreciate this article. Thank you, Tavi!

  • unicornconnect October 3rd, 2013 2:22 AM

    I love you taviiiiii. this is the coolest, spookiest, sort of saddest, most beautiful thing ever. I want to talk to ghosts.

  • Aoife October 3rd, 2013 4:33 AM

    Oh, man. This is just beautiful Tavi.

  • themisfitprincess October 3rd, 2013 5:14 AM

    THIS is literally the best thing ever.

  • Joyce October 3rd, 2013 6:53 AM

    This article reminds me of this girl I met in high school. We weren’t that close but I knew a lot about her and she knew things about me too. We had a lot of mutual friends. She shared a lot of stories to us – her house is apparently haunted and her mom’s sort of a psychic. Anyway, lots of stories from her (which I can still recall after all these years)… now we still go to the same school, those mutual friends are not here anymore and when I see her, we don’t even smile to each other at all. It’s just weird I guess, knowing all those things about her and her knowing so much about me but now we’re like strangers to each other.

  • Maggie C October 3rd, 2013 9:03 AM

    This is very beautiful.

  • Ally_O October 3rd, 2013 9:39 AM

    Yay I missed articles by tavi! This was so cool! I’ve had fun times with a ouija board but have never talked to actual spirits like that.

  • Regina October 3rd, 2013 9:59 AM

    Holy fuck. I read this alone in my room in the dark and those ouija board notes freaked me out so much I shoved my face into my pillow for like an hour until I fell asleep and I’m still pretty tense. THRILLS N CHILLS INDEED

  • Chloe22 October 3rd, 2013 10:03 AM

    Ouija boards have always been a bit scary for me, but I’ve always thought I felt the presence of ghosts? like someone’s watching sometimes? It also doesn’t help that we still recieve donation requests from the charities the now dead previous owner gave to.

  • julalondon October 3rd, 2013 10:11 AM

    This is a great post, Tavi! It was spooky and i had goosebumps reading it, but i couldn’t stop reading. Very intense, but in the most positive kinda way!! Thank you for sharing such personal stuff with us!=)

  • Viaperson October 3rd, 2013 10:34 AM

    tavi – this is such a wonderful meditation on the friendships that pass in and out of our lives. i love knowing that people will stay with us as we move through the world, even if we do not see them often, even if we no longer have much to say to one another. and the connection between that idea and the idea of spirits returning to earth is just beautiful. thank you for sharing your thoughts – lovely piece!! xo

  • mariasnow October 3rd, 2013 10:50 AM

    I loved this. Most of my friendships were with guys but every once and a while I’d luck into a super-close, super-intense girl friendship. With my best high school friend (girl), we used to do paranormal experiments, mostly trying to read each other’s minds. I love the ethereal, flowery quality that often comes with lady friendships. It just feels different than with guys, it feels lighter even if it isn’t. Even if you and your friend are sitting and talking about deep, dark things, there’s a beautiful airiness.

    I’m a little jealous because my mom never let me have a ouija board when I wanted one and now that I’m an adult I’ve heard about too many bad experiences to want to play around with one. I’ve had some “more in heaven and earth” experiences of my own and those were scary enough. Still, I’m fascinated by the idea of a game as gateway.

  • o-girl October 3rd, 2013 12:46 PM

    please write more!! this was so good.

  • lexilikes October 3rd, 2013 12:54 PM

    I love creepy stuff like this and I know what you mean about friends. some are so mature but can still enjoy childish things I love that. Thanks Tavi!

    -Lexi xo

  • sissiLOL October 3rd, 2013 12:54 PM

    Love this article. I know a similare game where you can also question the ghost things. In my school we had one time a ghost which was the ghost of a girl which has gone to my school and killed! Drama :-)

  • inesc October 3rd, 2013 1:07 PM

    this is probably one of my favourite posts on Rookie, ever. I’ve always wanted to have a ouija board but I’m way too scared to try it! Aldso, ‘I realized how many other kinds of love exist and that they are often just as rare as the romantic kind we hear so much more about.’ this is beautiful, really, really beautiful.


  • AnaRuiz October 3rd, 2013 1:32 PM

    I have always been scared of the Ouija board, and of communicating. Most of my teenage life has been spent wishing and being scared.

    I got sick of all that. I got sick of it, and am now trying to open up to all the people who deserve it (though it hurts at times), and to do all the things that I want to do.

    The most beautiful part of your post, Tavi, it’s that it recognizes all of our rights to acknowledge our mistakes, and that it’s never too late to change them.

  • Mary the freak October 3rd, 2013 2:00 PM

    This is so sweet! I love how you can still find together and be childs again. It’s a beautiful, happy, scary story.

    ALSO TAVI. Great to hear from you<3 I missed you.

  • flocha October 3rd, 2013 2:15 PM

    This article is made even more amazing by the reference to Alex reads twilight

  • Monq October 3rd, 2013 3:52 PM

    I love reading about your experiences with the Ouija Board. I’ve always found stuff like this interesting, even though I feel like I am not suppose to because of religious reasons. Even though I’ve sometimes thought I felt the presence of someone there with me. Thank you for sharing, Tavi!


  • pizzaface October 3rd, 2013 3:56 PM

    I think this is my favorite article on Rookie. Or at least on of my favorites.

  • elliecp October 3rd, 2013 4:09 PM

    I love the way you write Tavi! Those books look so fascinating, and I love the story of you and Ella…it’s really relatable <3

  • pizzaface October 3rd, 2013 4:17 PM

    Tavi, sometimes I just feel like you are my spirit animal but then not animal but human being.
    This must sound weird but I think it’s true.

  • Holly October 3rd, 2013 5:23 PM

    I always kind of wanted to play with a ouija board but im way too much of a scaredy cat. lol I literally slept with a rosary and a bottle of holy water next to my bed after seeing “The Conjuring”, so it’s probably not a good idea for me to use the ouija board. haha

  • Anya N. October 3rd, 2013 5:32 PM

    ohhhhhh my god this is so amazing and creepy! TAVI! i love you! i missed you!

    could we send in some of our own ouija board encounters (kind if like these)?

  • maddie123 October 3rd, 2013 6:20 PM

    i feel such a strong connection to this for some reason and it’s so beautiful and i just felt very touched

    p.s. i love the Morrissey reference in the title! :—)

  • archer October 3rd, 2013 7:50 PM

    Tavi you are a remarkable writer. i love your style and your attention to detail. i love how you incorporated your notes and the various covers of the books as well.

    i’m 27 now and i loooooove rookie. so not a teen, yet i’m here reading everyday.

    rookie is fantastic!!

  • Imogen-Rose October 3rd, 2013 8:16 PM

    this is so great. exactly what it’s like when I used a ouija board.

  • Roz G. October 3rd, 2013 8:26 PM

    yaaay a Tavi post :) I’ve missed these. Perfect and beautiful and poignant as ever keep ‘em coming please

  • Collagingcolors October 4th, 2013 12:06 AM

    yeah we love your writing tavi!!!!!!!!

  • sissiLOL October 4th, 2013 4:08 AM

    So great pictures and article! I love you Tavi! No, I think we love you all! :-D

  • JoanaNielsen October 4th, 2013 5:37 AM

    Ryan Mahone was scary. Great article.

  • whyamidreamingwhenimstillawake October 4th, 2013 9:01 AM


    That is all.

  • Piper Lynch October 4th, 2013 10:56 PM

    i absolutely loved this :)

  • jessmargo October 5th, 2013 10:20 AM

    This was so spooky and great, it makes me so angry at myself for throwing away my THREE vintage ouijia boards last year! (my friend’s psychic relative had strongly advised me to)

  • I W October 5th, 2013 2:01 PM

    wow, I really want to try a ouija board now, although the weird superstitious part of me is screaming ‘don’t do it! You’ll end up as the stupid girl who dies at the beginning of a horror film!”

  • sungiant October 5th, 2013 8:05 PM

    This makes me really happy to hear from you about things even though I don’t know you but its just really nice. I hope that you are doing better now with things.
    This also makes me really want to do a ouija board because i didn’t realize how cool and creepy it could be.

  • Janis October 6th, 2013 9:00 AM

    i love this so much, it makes me smile alot

  • speppie94 October 7th, 2013 7:08 AM

    Applying for college is one of the weirdest things one will go through. I felt so insecure about my future. I’m in my second year, and i still don’t know what to major in. I feel like a loser at times especially when people ask me what my studies are going to lead me to. Ughh and i have no idea. Sorry for being negative. :–(

  • Amy Jackson October 7th, 2013 9:13 AM

    well that made my IT lesson much more interesting, thanks Tavi c:

    Ryan sounds pretty cool.

  • Kal October 8th, 2013 1:08 AM


    I wish you’d do more writing for Rookie aside from the Editor’s letter and monthly background collections! I know you are crazy busy with editing and not to mention school (I am a senior too) but I can’t tell you how much I miss reading your pieces, and I think that goes for all of us.

    I’ve read the style rookie since you started it and every time I see a new post either here or there from you I get so frazzled. Your work is such a huge inspiration and pleasure to indulge in.


  • mollyjane October 8th, 2013 5:46 AM

    oops i never finished the bell jar either

  • kendallkh October 13th, 2013 12:40 PM

    #6 gave me goosebumps and made me wanna cry in a sad way

  • lishbish October 28th, 2013 11:55 PM

    YOOOO DID ANYTHING HAPPEN ON 15 MARCH. Also this post was spooky to the heck and beautiful thank you

  • Remiliuh November 23rd, 2013 3:34 AM

    this is one of my favourite articles! the conversations you had with the ouija board were very cool and i teared up a bit when you started talking about ella aahhah :’^) ryan mahone sounds like a scary guy
    some of the conversations made me want to cry for some reason aah

  • loopdeshor January 14th, 2014 3:09 PM

    I’ve always found ouija boards interesting