As the Spirit Moves, Part V: Aunt Bertha’s Snappy Work

I would back Aunt Bertha against any living solitaire player for any amount of money you want, only providing that the judges leave the room during the contest.


Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!


Originally published in the Post on May 22, 1920.

But when you come right down to it there are few who can get more out of a Ouija board than our own Aunt Bertha. Her work is not so highly systematized as that of Mrs. Both, but it is pretty fairly spectacular, in its way.

I knew that Aunt Bertha was going to get in some snappy work on the Ouija board; I could have told you that before I ever saw her in action. She has always been good at anything anywhere neatly like that. Now you take solitaire, for instance. I don’t think I ever saw a prettier game of solitaire than that which Aunt Bertha puts up. You may be looking over her shoulder while she deals out the cards for a game of Canfield, and from the layout before her you would swear that she had not a chance of getting more than one or two aces up, at most. In fact, it looks so hopeless that you lose interest in the game, and go over to the other end of the room to get a magazine. And when you come back Aunt Bertha will have all the cards in four stacks in front of her, and she will smile triumphantly and exclaim: “What do you think of that? I got it again!”

I have known that to happen over and over again; I never saw such luck in my life. I would back Aunt Bertha against any living solitaire player for any amount of money you want, only providing that the judges leave the room during the contest.

It was no surprise to me to find that she had just the same knack with a Ouija board. She can take a Ouija board that would never show the least signs of life for any­body else and make it do practically everything but a tailspin. She can work it alone or she can make a duet of it—it makes no difference to her. She is always sure of results, either way. The spirits seem to recognize her touch on the board im­mediately. You never saw such a remark­able thing; it would convert anybody to spiritualism just to see her.

Aunt Bertha asks a question of the spirits, and the words are no more than out of her mouth when the planchette is flying about, spelling out the answer almost faster than you can read it. The service that she gets is perfectly wonderful. And, as she says herself, you can see that there is no deception about it, because she does not insist upon asking the ques­tion herself; anyone can ask whatever he can think of—there are no limits. Of course, the answers have occasionally turned out to be a trifle erratic, but then, to quote Aunt Bertha again, “what does that prove?” The spirits never claimed to be right all the time. It is only human of them to make a slip once in a while.

As the Spirit Moves
by Dorothy Parker
Originally published in the Post on May 22, 1920.

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

She can go deeper into the affairs of the Other Side than a mere game of questions and answers, if you want her to. Just say the word, and Aunt Bertha will get you in touch with anybody that you may name, regardless of how long ago he or she may have lived. Only the other night, for instance, someone sug­gested that Aunt Bertha summon Noah Webster’s spirit, and in scarcely less time than it takes to tell it, there he was talking to her on the Ouija board, as large as life. His spelling wasn’t all that it used to be, but otherwise he seemed to be getting along splendidly.

Again, just to show you what she can do when she sets her mind to it, she was asked to try her luck at getting connected with the spirit of Disraeli—we used up Napo­leon and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar and all the other stock characters the very first week that Aunt Bertha began to work the Ouija board, and we had to go in pretty deep to think up new ones. The planchette started to move the minute that Aunt Bertha put her hands on it, if you will be­lieve me, and when she asked, “Is this Disraeli?” it immediately spelled out, “This is him.” I tell you, I saw it with my own eyes. Uncanny, it really was.

There seems to be nobody whom Aunt Bertha cannot make answer her on the Ouija board. There is even a pretty strong chance that she may be able to get Long Distance, after she has had a little more practice.

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *