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“As the Spirit Moves” Part I: The New, Prohibition-Era Pastime

Any day, now, I expect to read in the paper that Sir Oliver Lodge, or somebody else who keeps right in touch with all the old crowd, has received a message from the Great Beyond announcing that the spirits have walked out for a forty-four-hour week, with time and a half for overtime, and government control of Ouija boards. And it would be no more than fair, when you come right down to it; something ought to be done to remedy the present working conditions among the spirits. Since this wave of spiritualism has broken over the country it has got so that a spirit doesn’t have a minute to himself. The entire working force has to come trooping back to earth every night to put in a hard night’s labor knocking on walls, ringing bells, playing banjos, pushing planchettes round, and performing such parlor specialties. The spirits have not had a quiet evening at home for months. The Great Beyond must look as deserted as an English lecture platform.

No spirit could object to coming back now and then in the way of business, so to speak, through a professional medium. That sort of thing is more or less expected; it’s all in an eternity, as you might say. But the entrance of all these amateurs into the industry has been really too much. It is the Ouija-board trade in particular that is so trying. Now that every family has installed its own private Ouija board and expects immediate service on it at any hour of the day or night, the sting has been put into death. It’s enough to wear a poor spirit to a shadow, that’s what it is.

As the Spirit Moves

by Dorothy Parker

The Saturday Evening Post will be publishing this classic short story in installments according to the following schedule.

Part I: The New, Prohibition-Era Pastime
March 18, 2011
Part II: The Age of the Ouija Boards
March 25, 2011
Part III: When the Bridge Hounds Were Unleashed
April 1, 2011
Part IV: Henry G. Takes to Verse
April 8, 2011
Part V: Aunt Bertha’s Snappy Work
April 15, 2011
Part VI: Mrs. Couch & Mrs. Thill
April 22, 2011
Part VII: Too Much Is Enough
April 29, 2011

The Age of the Ouija Board

OF COURSE there may not be any particular connection, but nation-wide spiritual ism seems to have come in like a lion at just about the time that nation-wide alcoholism was going out like a lamb. The séance room has practi­cally become the poor man’s club. After all, people have to do something with their evenings; and it can always be argued on the side of the substitute pastime that it does not cut into the next morning, anyway. There was a time when Ouija board operating was looked upon only as an occupation for highly unmarried elderly ladies of pronounced religious tendencies; prohibition was regarded in much the same light, if you remember. And now the Ouija board has replaced the corkscrew as the national emblem. Times surely do change, as I overheard someone saying only yesterday.

It has certainly been a great little fiscal year for stockholders in Ouija a­board plants. A census to show the distribution of Ouija boards would prove that they average at least one to a family. There is every reason for their popularity as a family in­stitution; their initial cost can soon be scraped to­gether, their upkeep amounts to practically nothing, they take up little space, and. anybody can run them. They are the Flivvers among psychical appliances. No home can conscientiously feel that it is supplied with all mod­ern conveniences, lacking one; there is even some talk, I hear, of featuring built-in Ouija boards in the more luxurious of the proposed new apartment houses.

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  • Frank James Davis

    Wonderfully witty piece.
    Since Ms. Parker’s time, however, spirits have been summoned to a frazzle–so much so that they now often have trouble keeping up appearances.