My roommate Caroline and I were convinced our room was haunted.
Since we had moved in, there had been a series of strangely supernatural occurrences. Posters and curtain rods we hung up kept falling down. The lights flashed eerily at strange times of day. One time, Caroline came back to find her favorite teacup in pieces on her dresser; neither of us had been in the room all day.
It didn’t seem to be an aggressive ghost, just a mischievous one, and so we welcomed him as our third roommate. He had a little shot glass for his food and drink, and all the material comforts a ghost could need (which we figured wasn’t much). But we worried he might get lonely, so we decided to invite some friends over to talk to him.
The problem with holding a séance in your dorm room is that it really only appeals to a niche group of people. At Georgetown especially, where it sometimes feels like appearance is everything, it’s tough to know who’s secretly a little weird. Not everyone is willing to light the candles, to dim the lights, to allow themselves to be a little absurd in front of other people. Even bringing up something so strange will earn you uncomfortable glances and awkward ends to conversations
The first time we held a séance, a lot of people were drunk, which made communing with the dead a little less strange and serious. We sat in the dim light in a circle, all our hands on the plastic, glow-in-the-dark planchette, and interrogated the ghost incessantly. The answers were quite revealing: He was a Georgetown student who went by V.K., a pilot in World War II, and apparently an ardent pro-contraception feminist, despite living in the 1940’s and attending Catholic school, which made it quite clear that someone was manipulating the results. It was an entertaining, light-hearted evening, which was far more than Caroline or I expected. Personally, I was just glad we hadn’t alienated any friends in the process.
Our second séance was a little different, a little more personal. Bored of V’s long response time and vague answers, we decided to ask each other questions instead. We based them off of a New York Times article I had read. At first, it felt like an interview, or the icebreaker games you play as a freshman: What’s your major? What do you want to do with it? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
The thing about holding a séance in your room is that the people who actually end up coming have already implicitly accepted that they’re a little strange, that they’re willing to be a little weird in front of their friends (and not in a cute, quirky Zooey Deschanel way). Done wrong, the questions could have been dry and impersonal. But something about sitting in that circle, knee-to-knee, reading each other’s palms and tarot cards, helped break down our defenses.
We asked people to go around the circle and say something they liked about everyone in the room, including themselves. The only requirement was that it had to be completely honest.
There is something magnificent about watching a friend receive an honest compliment. You can see their face just light up. There’s something even more beautiful about watching someone find the words to compliment themselves. And it’s amazing how good it feels to be told that people love you not in spite of how strange you are, but because of your quirks and your scars.
The best part about holding a séance in your dorm room is that by the time you’re sitting there in a circle, watching the candlelight on the faces of your friends, you’re already a little bit bare. There’s no point in pretending you’re someone that you’re not, someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts or someone who doesn’t check their horoscope with a little bit of seriousness. When somebody in that situation tells you they love you anyway, you can finally start to believe it.