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10 Terrible Crimes Connected To Ouija Boards

by Robert Grimminck
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The Ouija board was invented in the 1890s as a parlor game, with no real association to ghosts or spirits. In 1966, the rights to the game were sold to Hasbro, who still own it, and Ouija boards have been mass-produced ever since. The movement on the board is caused by the ideomotor effect, which happens when someone unconsciously moves the planchette. So it really isn’t any connection to the spirit world. Yet people still fear the Ouija board, and it has been involved in some incredibly bizarre and violent crimes.

10Nancy Bowen And Lila Jimerson


On March 7, 1930, Clothilde Marchand answered the door of her Buffalo, New York, home and found an unfamiliar Native American woman on her doorstep. In broken English, the woman accused her of being a witch and then attacked her with a hammer. Finally, she stuffed a chloroformed-soaked rag down Clothilde’s throat. A short time later, her body was found by her 12-year-old son.

Witnesses saw the killer scoping out the house and and Clothilde’s husband, the sculptor Henri Marchand, pointed the police toward one of his models, a Seneca woman named Lila Jimerson. She and 66-year-old Nancy Bowen, the actual killer, were arrested on the night of the murder.

Soon, the complicated murder plot came to light. In the fall of 1929, Jimerson and Bowen were using a Ouija board in an effort to contact the spirit of Bowen’s recently deceased husband, Sassafras Charlie. Through the Ouija board, Sassafras Charlie apparently said that he was murdered by a woman named Clothilde and gave her address and description. After the seance, Bowen began receiving letters from a mysterious “Mrs. Dooley” explaining that Clothilde was actually a witch and had placed a hex on Sassafras Charlie because she was jealous of his healing powers. When the hex didn’t work, Clothilde just killed him. The letter also indicated that Bowen might be Clothilde’s next victim.

Of course, all of this was coming from Jimerson. Henri Marchand claimed that Jimerson was infatuated with him and had plotted to kill his wife out of jealousy. However, Jimerson’s lawyers said that she and Henri were actually having an affair and it was Henri who had orchestrated his wife’s death. Jimerson was acquitted of the crime, while Bowen pled guilty and was released on time served. As for Henri, he moved to Albany and married his murdered wife’s 18-year-old niece within the year.

9The Carroll Family


On Christmas Eve 2014, Paul Carroll was using a Ouija board in his home in Consett, County Durham, United Kingdom. According to Carroll, he was trying to contact the dead when an evil spirit entered the family dog, Molly. Carroll, who has learning disabilities, then drowned the dog and dismembered her body. Afterward, he dumped the body in an outside drain, causing it to back up. When workers were brought in to fix the drain, they discovered the dog’s body. Meanwhile, neighbors who had heard the story reported Carroll to the police. He was arrested and charged with causing the dog unnecessary suffering.

Carroll pled guilty and received a suspended sentence, but the story took an even stranger turn in January 2015. Just a week after her husband’s guilty plea, Carroll’s wife Margaret and his stepdaughter Katrina were using the same Ouija board when it apparently told them they were going to die. The next day, the mother and daughter took some prescription drugs and then set their house on fire in an apparent suicide attempt. Both women were hospitalized, but survived. Luckily, no one else was hurt, even though there were explosive gas canisters in the house. Both Margaret and Katrina were arrested for arson and given four years in prison. Hopefully, the family has given up their Ouija board hobby, or at least stopped blaming their crimes on it.

8Dorothea And Mattie Turley


Photo credit: Dave Winer

On November 8, 1933, Dorothea Irene Turley was using a Ouija board with her 15-year-old daughter Mattie Turley at their home in Prescott, Arizona. Dorothea was using the planchette, which spelled out a message instructing Mattie to kill her father, thereby freeing Dorothea to marry a young cowboy. She also told her daughter that “the board could not be denied.” So, obedient to her mother and the board, Mattie walked up behind her 48-year-old father and shot him twice in the back while he was doing chores on the farm. He died in hospital a few weeks later.

Both Mattie and Dorothea were arrested, and the whole story quickly came out. Mattie admitted her guilt and was sentenced to a reform school until she was 18. Dorothea was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder and was given a sentence of 10–25 years. However, the conviction was overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court in 1936, resulting in Dorothea’s release from prison.

7Stephen Young


On February 10, 1993, 35-year-old Stephen Young, an insurance broker, entered the home of 45-year-old car dealer Harry Fuller in Wadhurst, England. Young was swimming in debt and knew that Fuller kept large quantities of money in his house. Young shot Fuller once in the back and then shot his young wife Nicola four times, including once in the face. When Nicola called the police, the operator heard noises, but thought it was a young child playing games, so no help was sent. It turns out the noise the operator heard was the dying Nicola Fuller trying to speak through a severely broken jaw.

A short time later, Young was arrested for the crime. He admitted to going to the Fuller house on the day of the murder, but insisted that Harry and Nicola were already dead, prompting him to run away in fear. That story failed to convince the jury, and he was convicted and given two life sentences.

Then, in October 1994, a retrial was ordered because four of the jurors turned out to have sought a bit of outside help in making their decision. They used an upturned wine glass on a Ouija board in an attempt to contact the victims and ask them if Young did it. Apparently, the board confirmed that Young was the murderer. The next morning, the foursome told the other eight jurors about the board’s message. Although the jurors insisted they didn’t take it seriously or let it affect their decision, Young’s appeal for a second trial was granted. The retrial was hard for the family of the victims, who were disappointed by the ruling. Luckily for them, Young was again found guilty at his second trial.

6Gary Gilmore


Over the course of two nights in July 1976, career criminal Gary Gilmore shot two men to death in Utah. He was soon arrested and became famous when he demanded to be executed for his crimes. Gary’s younger brother Mikal Gilmore later wrote the classic book Shot In The Heart about their childhood. In the book, Mikal relays a strange story about their mother, Bessie. According to Mikal, Bessie was convinced that she had contacted a demonic spirit through a Ouija board as a child. Furthermore, she believed that the demon had subsequently attached itself to her family. She became even more convinced when one of her sisters was killed and another one was left paralyzed after an accident.

As an adult, Bessie married Frank Gilmore, whose mother, Fay, was a medium. One night, Bessie was told there would be a seance at Fay’s home. Remembering her own bad experience with the supernatural, Bessie stayed away, returning to find Fay exhausted and terrified. She managed to get the older woman into bed, before heading to sleep herself. A short time later, she was awoken by the feeling that something was touching her face. When she opened her eyes, she saw a terrifying, inhuman creature lying in bed beside her. Screaming, she jumped out of bed only to see Fay walking into the room, shouting that “it knows who you are” and urging Bessie to get out of the house right away.

Panicking, she ran to the bedroom her children were sleeping in. There, she saw the creature looking directly into the eyes of her young son, Gary. She managed to grab her kids and flee the house, but Gary reportedly began to have terrible nightmares afterward.

Bessie would see the entity again, standing in her house just before Gary started to get into trouble. She came to believe that the demon she had summoned as a child through the Ouija board had possessed her son, making him an angry and violent man.

In 1977, Gilmore was executed for his crimes via firing squad. He is the subject of Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Executioner’s Song, which was adapted into a TV movie starring Tommy Lee Jones.

5The Murder Of Ngoc Van Dang


In 1983, 25-year-old Anthony Hall and his 16-year-old girlfriend Bunny Dixon were fascinated with Satanism and the occult. That summer, Dixon told Hall and their friends, 24-year-old Daniel Bowen and 18-year-old Elizabeth Towne, about a plan that had been given to her by the spirit of a 10-year-old boy named “David,” who communicated with her through a Ouija board. The plan involved leaving their home in Florida and joining a carnival in Virginia. In order to fund their trip, they would have to rob and murder a motorist.

On July 20, Towne and Dixon pretended to hitchhike while the two men hid. When 25-year-old Ngoc Van Dang picked up the girls, the men jumped out and robbed him of $111 at knifepoint. Then they bound and gagged him and drove a short distance to an isolated area, where Hall carved an inverted cross into Dang’s chest. The youths then made him hop into a wooded area, where they shot him 11 times in the head and chest.

After the murder, they took off in Dang’s car, but the two couples split up in North Carolina. Once they were on their own, Bowen and Towne called the police and told them they had witnessed a murder. They also led the police to the crime scene. Hall and Dixon were arrested a short time later. All four were tried for the murder. Hall and Bowen got life sentences, while Dixon was given 50 years and Towne got 17.

4Carol Sue Elvaker


On the night of February 11, 2001, 53-year-old grandmother Carol Sue Elvaker was using a Ouija board with her daughter, Tammy Roach, and Tammy’s two daughters. While playing in their home in Minco, Oklahoma, Elvaker apparently received a message from God through the Ouija board informing her that her son-in-law, 34-year-old Brian Roach, was evil and needed to be killed. So Elvaker grabbed a knife and stabbed the former mayor of Minco (he won the election by eight votes when he was just 19) in his sleep. He called out for help, but Elvaker and Tammy Roach did nothing, allowing him to bleed to death.

After stabbing her son-in-law, Elvaker tried to stab Tammy’s 10-year-old daughter, but Tammy wrestled the knife from her mother and hid it in the house. Then Elvaker, Roach, and her two daughters piled into a car with Elvaker driving. That proved a bad idea, since Elvaker soon tried to kill everyone in the car by running into a road sign. However, she only ended up breaking both of her ankles and slightly injuring the other passengers. Elvaker then got out of the car and tried to push one of her granddaughters into traffic, apparently believing that she had inherited Brian’s evil. After failing to kill her granddaughter, Elvaker ran from the scene, even though both of her ankles were broken. She stripped off her clothes and hid in the forest but was soon arrested by the authorities.

What’s really odd about the case is that Elvaker had no history of mental problems. Drugs and alcohol were not involved, and investigators couldn’t find any evidence of domestic problems in the home. Elvaker was ruled insane and committed to a psychiatric hospital. Tammy was also charged, but the case was later dropped.

3The Gulf Breeze Six


In November 1989, six US Army intelligence analysts, all with top-secret security clearances, started experimenting with the supernatural while stationed in Augsburg, West Germany. Although they dabbled in everything from tarot cards to ESP, analyst Vance Davis said that they only had any success with a Ouija board. When they used that, he said they were contacted by a number of spirits, who supposedly predicted events like an earthquake in Iran and the Gulf War.

In May 1990, the Ouija board started to tell the analysts that they should begin preparing for Jesus’s return, because the Rapture was going to happen within the next five years. When that proved difficult to do while in the military, the board told them they should “leave, just leave” and “things would work out.” So on July 3, all six intelligence officers went AWOL and boarded a flight from Munich to Atlanta. From there, they made their way to Gulf Breeze, Florida, which is known for its UFO sightings. They were hoping to meet with a psychic friend who lived in the area.

You may already be aware that the board was wrong and the Rapture did not occur in the mid-1990s. Instead, the six men were arrested by Florida police five days after deserting. They were found guilty of going AWOL, forced to forfeit half a month’s pay, and discharged from the army.

Two years after going AWOL, Davis tried to set the record straight after taking the Los Angeles race riots of 1992 as a sign of the approaching Rapture. When asked if the men went AWOL expecting to meet Jesus on a UFO, he told the Associated Press, “How ridiculous can you get? Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ. Why would he come in a flying saucer?”

2Michael McCallum


On December 2, 1995, 17-year-old Michael McCallum and his 16-year-old friend Pierre Antoine lured two 15-year-olds, Michael Earridge and Stephen Curran, back to McCallum’s flat in London, England. The room, which was described as a shrine to Satan, had a Ouija board. While the four teenagers were using it, the board supposedly spelled out the word “KILL.”

When Earridge tried to leave, Antoine prevented him from doing so, eventually striking him. Things took a turn for the worse when McCallum pulled out a “foot-long combat knife” and used it to stab Earridge 11 times in the neck and chest while Curran watched on in horror. It is believed that McCallum murdered Earridge in an attempt to make a sacrifice to Satan. McCallum, who had unspecified mental problems, accepted a plea of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility and was sentenced to an unlimited term at Broadmoor Mental Hospital.

Antoine, who was a severe schizophrenic, was judged too mentally impaired to understand a plea deal, sparking a major legal case in which his lawyers argued that, while he could not legally agree to a diminished responsibility plea deal, the judge should still take his diminished responsibility into account. This was a significant issue because if he was found to have diminished responsibility, the judge could place a limit on his hospital order. Otherwise, Antoine would have to be remanded to a mental institution for an unlimited period. The case made it all the way to the House of Lords, who dismissed it, arguing that diminished responsibility only applied when the defendant had the mental capacity to commit murder in the first place.

1Joshua Tucker And Donald Schalchlin


In December 2007, 16-year-old Joshua Tucker and 15-year-old Donald Schalchlin asked a Ouija board if they should become serial killers. Then they asked who would be killed first and the board spelled out “mom.” It was wrong.

On the night of December 19, the pair were drinking alcohol and cough syrup in Schalchlin’s home. While they were hanging out, Schalchlin’s 13-year-old sister, Elizabeth Schalchlin, was talking on the phone. Out of nowhere, Tucker took a knife and stabbed her once in the throat. The two teenage boys then hid the body and tried to clean up the blood. When Donald’s mother, 41-year-old Lori Schalchlin, went looking for her daughter, Tucker attacked her as well. She managed to call 911, but police didn’t respond in time. When Tucker’s knife broke, Donald gave Tucker a dumbbell and a butcher’s knife to finish off his mother. Lori died on the way to the hospital.

After the murder, the two young men, who were covered in blood, got into a car and tried to flee. They were arrested a short time later. Schalchlin was given 9.5 years in prison, while Tucker was given a 41-year sentence.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.

fact checked by Jamie Frater