The world of Ouija is often a bizarre one, full of terrifying tales and never ending mysteries. One can never know how close to home one of these stories originates until you dive in and swim around in the murky waters of history. A few years back, I was astonished to learn there was a talking board factory in my hometown of Meriden, Connecticut. I had been standing next to it at a friend’s automotive shop for years and never would have known until my dear friend, and president of the TBHS, Bob Murch, discovered its proper address. We were able to visit the Wheeler factory, home of the Wireless Messenger, and even find William Wheeler’s grave all in the same day.
Finding graves is a regular activity for members of the Talking Board Historical Society. That’s exactly what I headed out to do on a beautiful Sunday morning in April. I NEEDED to get out of the house. I was practicing social distancing due to the Covid-19 virus and was looking for a way to get a little safe exercise while being productive. If they wanted me to stay 6 feet away from people, I assumed 6 feet under and dead was probably the safest company to have.
The grave in question belongs to Sarah E. Griffen. Sarah’s life was of little note but her death in 1900 was quite a shocker. At the command of a message sent via Ouija board, Sarah took her own life, using a hearty shot of strychnine. Ouija boards would be blamed for a number of deaths and murders over the years since its advent but this is the oldest one we can track down – so far, at least.
I sent a text over to Gene Orlando from Museum of Talking Boards and let him know what I was getting into. I wanted to bring a board from my collection to take pictures with but wanted it to be as period authentic as possible. Gene helped me decide on the right one and wished me luck. With my 1910 Fuld Ouija and planchette in hand, I hopped in my car and sped off.
Thanks to findagrave.com, I knew which cemetery Sarah was in but not where on the grounds I would find her plot. I should have called in advance to get a map and location but I’m impatient and wanted an adventure. I’d gotten lucky a number of times before, finding probably half a dozen or so graves with little or no direction. I was hopeful this was going to be the same story.
I parked my car in the very back of the cemetery and popped in my headphones. Type O Negative’s “Love You to Death” came on, which seemed most fitting. I started walking and scanning the rows and rows of tombstones. I tried to scan three rows at a time, slowing down and getting close to look at ones facing the sky or those with hard-to-read lettering. The cemetery was pretty busy with lots of people out for walks and many folks paying respects to dead loved ones. I came across a woman bawling her eyes out. I asked if she was alright and she exclaimed, “I can’t find my dad”. She said she knew the street, so I pointed her to the right location. After getting his name, I said I’d come alert her if I found his grave before she did.
I must have walked for 3 hours. I was nursing a pulled hamstring and it was starting to wear on me. (A week prior, I tried to relive my days of youth by riding my old BMX bike and I hurt myself the first trick I tried. Stretching is important, folks.) I made up my mind to stay until 6PM, just one more hour. Two mini heart attacks yielded poor results. I stumbled across a Griffin and a Griffith but no Griffen.
My most curious discovery was a small, makeshift altar, which appeared to be used in some sort of occult practice. An offering of coins and mushrooms, along with different colored candle wax, sat atop a metal tray. I consulted with two dear friends and avid occultists, Gary Noriyuki and Dana Newkirk, who both confirmed my suspicions. This type of magic may very well have been a tribute paid to the Fae Folk or a healing ritual for the earth in this tumultuous time.
Dusk was approaching and I was tired and hungry. I was leaving empty-handed, so to speak, and I was super bummed. I needed a little pick-me-up, so I headed 15 minutes down the highway to Stepney Cemetery in Stepney, Connecticut. Two of my favorite figures in paranormal history are buried there. I knew exactly where their grave was. I found the beautiful black stone with the Archangel Michael carved into it right where I remembered it to be. I paid my respects to world famous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren and headed home, more determined than ever to find Sarah E. Griffen.
I woke up before my alarm. Knowing the cemetery office would open at 9, I had set my alarm to wake me at 8. Even though I had left a message the evening before, I wanted to call as early as possible. I was more excited than ever.
After a few rings, I was connected with a woman who said she could help. It took a couple of minutes but she found Sarah. She said she would email me a map, as they weren’t letting anyone in the office due to the virus scare. She said this could take a few hours and, if I didn’t hear from her by noon, to call back.
I needed something to occupy me while I waited for this map. After being stood up by one dead lady, I decided to take a drive up to Fall River, Massachusetts. There, I would visit the grave of a notorious woman I knew would be waiting for a visit from a gentleman caller such as myself. Oak Grove Cemetery is the final resting place of Lizzie Borden, alleged hatchet-wielding murderess. It’s a beautiful place and this was another gorgeous day for a drive, so I eagerly set my course.
My much-awaited map finally showed up in my email. An X marked the spot. I made the decision to head right over after I said goodbye to Lizzie. I couldn’t wait another day. Traffic was running smoothly, as most folks were staying home to stay healthy. I still felt safe amongst the unliving so nothing was gonna hold me back.
I was shocked to see the location on the map was an area I had walked. I immediately drove over and parked. The X was near a flagpole, so I searched that area thoroughly but, still, nothing. There were a few graves that were so worn, hardly anything could be made of them. I feared one of these might be her.
It was 4PM, an hour past the office hours, but I called again anyway, hoping someone had lingered to do paperwork. I got the answering machine. I walked some more, searching the stones. I checked for groundskeeper trucks. A few were parked by a garage but there were no signs of life and all doors were closed. I searched the stones yet again. I didn’t want to leave day 2 with nothing to show for my time yet again, only a map. That’s when I turned to the garage once more and noticed someone had opened a bay door!
I hopped in my car and sped over. A gentleman was pumping gas. I asked if he worked there, he replied “yes”, and I told him of my troubles. He knew exactly who I was and who I was looking for. He said he could go back into the office to double check then bring me right over. I was ecstatic.
After what felt like ages, he emerged from the office with a large rolled-up map and a number of other papers. He had copied all the paperwork the office had on Sarah – a most welcome surprise addition to my archive. He hopped in his jeep and I promptly followed. He took me to a second flagpole I had failed to notice, beyond where I had been looking.
We parked and he immediately pointed to a humble family plot. A tilted stone a little shorter than myself was engraved with the name Stephen J. Griffen. The lettering was so worn I never had a chance of noticing it. Sarah’s grave was a small white stone in the plot, engraved with just her initials. I thanked him and he wished me well.
I spent some time with Sarah – took some pictures, placed a penny on her stone – then headed home with my head held high. A figure from Ouija’s sordid history has been found and I have a great story to tell.
5 months ago
This special release of #Witchboard from @nsm_records will be available 12/23/2019! Limited to only 666 sets. Preorders are going like hot cakes! Order yours while you still can! Only sold on Amazon Germany but they ship to the US. #ouija#tbhs