Originally published over at Global Hobo.
Using my tweed blazer, online degree from the University of Metaphysical Sciences, and superior height, I convinced three of the mugs I was living with to follow me into a Balinese forest and summon up spirits.
They believe I can read minds. This is half because I keep saying I can, and half because I have accurately predicted three break ups, one IVF baby and two cycling accidents. All I’ve done to impress the three Ghostbuster wannabes in my car is inform them of their major personal flaws. Sorry, Dana, but it only takes a basic familiarity with Dr Phil to tell you that your intimacy issues might be connected to your relationship with your father.
Wanting to challenge spirits into existence and prove there is more to life than cold reading minor personal tragedies, I decided to try being a medium.
At sundown, we drove two hours north to a campground at Lake Buyan; sandwiched between the lake and the forest, I figured this campground was the perfect murder spot. It had fog, fire and an absence of hospitals.
The stars shone bright over the third-most popular lake in the Tabanan district, and Bruno Mars covers streamed through the air. We were filled with the spirit of mediocrity. A pod of 16-year-old boys took pity on five unprepared bules and opened up their campfire to us. “Kalian mau lihat hantu?” I asked. “You guys wanna see a ghost?”
The response was a resounding “absolutely not”.
This brought me relief. The Balinese adults I’d spoken with had played it cool about the spirit realm, but these kids were freaked. The vibes were right and the moon was rising.
We charged our chakras with these lads for a couple of hours before hiking into the vanta-black woods behind us and shredding through the dark with some supermarket birthday candles; a 6 and a 9. It was time to commune with the dead.
With candles lit and eyes closed, we visualised a door slowly opening from the spirit realm to ours. I asked for someone to come forth and speak if they wished to be helped into the next plane.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Buzzfeed Unsolved, it’s that a spirit box is the pinnacle of ecto-communications. It works by skipping through radio stations quickly enough that a whole word can’t slip through. This means that if we hear anything comprehendible, there’s a spirit guiding the radio frequencies. There’s a dearth of this kind of tech in Canggu, so I downloaded the highest-rated free app on Google Play.
There are only two radio stations in Bedugul: one for an audio soap opera and one where they store all the static. Skipping between these gave us a short conversation with a hoarse, romantic ghost:
Is there a spirit present?
Would you like to talk?
Are you here to speak to someone in particular?
Would you like to pass on to the next plane?
…Oh god… Yes
Please go toward the white light.
A raindrop punched me in the head, symbolising what a dumbass I looked. Smooth jazz isn’t scary. Dana was asking if the soap ghost could be Hugh Hefner. I held her gaze and willed the box to find an electro swing channel.
Together we visualised the door closing, and waved ground sage blunts over the space. I suggested we move to the lake: “More people die in lakes than in forests,” I reasoned, “as it’s much harder to breathe in there.”
The group took the torch up front as I skulked behind in the dark. It’s safer to be the nightmare, not the dreamer. I heard a single footstep behind me; heavy.
“There’s something behind me!” I caught myself half-scream. Resuming my role as Alpha Spectre, I kicked out into the dark and my foot connected with feathers. A bird demon; I knew it in my heart. I could only ever be justifiably afraid.
Down at the lake I vowed to get more aggressive with the dark realm. I lit the candles and a Marlboro and kicked down the spirit door. We laid hands on a hastily-scrawled Ouija board.
A dog howled in the distance. “If you wish to communicate, please use the board.” A second dog howled, demonstrating an inability to follow instructions.
“What does it mean?”
My friends were pretending they believed dogs were from the spirit world to make me feel better.
I took my finger off the board to whip out my pendulum (a Chupa Chup on a string). “Is there a spirit present?” It swung anti-clockwise; yes. The appeal of strawberry flavour is truly universal.
“Do you wish to communicate with us?”
The pendulum dropped dead, and a wind picked up. An aggrieved bird call floated on it, accenting the canine duet. Our candles went out one by one: the tea lights first; then the 6; then the final, wavering 9. A simple “no” would have sufficed.
The wind and noise died down. I could see the two dogs standing still, eyes reflecting campfires, on the path into the forest. Possessed or not, an eerie and arbitrarily vocal creature of the night was my cue to leave. We bolted into the car, scared of very known.
The rooster that wakes me up every morning at four was nowhere to be heard when I crawled into bed. The smell of sage was buried deep in my hair, and poorly-rolled cigs of it lined my pockets. I had cleansed myself of a bird demon by kicking it in the face; but had I also cleansed myself of my credibility? The coveted spirit realm continued to evade me – whether out of spite or non-existence, I couldn’t tell. I slept poorly, ruminating on my friends’ insecurities and how I could blame my psychic failings on them. There are some things I’ll always be good at.