Festival of the Dead hosts Robert Murch and Christian Day and Salem Witch Shawn Poirier are featured in North Shore Sunday using Ouija Boards at The Haunted Crypt of Spirit Boards:

Inside a Ouija Session
By Dinah Cardin
North Shore Sunday, Thursday, October 23, 2003

Amid dripping candles, clinking cocktails and a sea of very black clothing, they don't look like witches or mediums. Or Ouija Board users, for that matter. They even wear touristy witchy sweatshirts. But users of the Ouija Board and believers in witch craft, they are, nonetheless.

Franni Capezzuto from Medford and Cheryl Kennedy from Wilmington were at the first of this year's Festival of the Dead events in a cozy Salem restaurant called the Lyceum earlier this week to find out more about the game that overtakes Kennedy's house on a weekly basis.

She came to seek the answer to one question, explains Kennedy, and that is why she can no longer make the board move, when the young people who sit around her table every week can make it zing.

"Maybe it's because I can make the connection to spirits on my own now," she says. "I want to find out the truth."

The women wish they could convince people that Ouija Boards are not about conjuring the devil. If you seek out evil, you'll find evil, they say.

These ladies, each a mother to grown daughters, are finding their own powers of mediumship,. They were first brought to the board by Shawn Poirier, the high priest of the Salem Witches, who "read" one of their friends and then performed physic readings at Kennedy's house, before fashioning a home-made board for the group.

They've been hooked ever since.

So, it's a source of great delight when Capezzuto, in the evening's raffle drawing, wins a board dating back to 1910. And perhaps even greater delight abound when, as the hands of the clock tick toward midnight, they watch Poirier himself demonstrate the power of a Ouija Board.

A couple of this year's inaugural festival organizers, including local Ouija Board expert and guest speaker of the evening, Bob Murch, are a little skeptical. Or at least flush with anticipation - trying to guess where Poirier might be going with this.

When two bystanders are chosen from the crowd, Poirier, the medium, is able to interpret the board as the "seeker" tool, or planchette, moves about its smooth surface.

But first, he explains to the crowd - warm and relaxed from candlelight and spirits of a different kind - if you're a Charles Manson type or a Hitler type, then expect the same to emerge from the board. But if you are a "normal" person, he says, who is basically good, you will discover pleasant spirits, who mean no harm.

"You are the sum total of all your ancestral mating," he says.

Sometimes the local witches can't help but use the board to discover the dirt on the witch next door, he notes with a laugh. Who can resist the occasional witch kegger/Ouija Board get together to find out who is dating who?

On this night, it's more of a demo.

"Dear God," says Poirier, "protect us from ghosts and ghouls and long-legged beasts and things thing bump in the night."

And the game begins ...