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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Bill Wilson and the Spook Room "Are there any spirits who have a message for us?"
Author: Fraser Trevor
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The Wilsons used a Ouija board. A flat piece of wood marked with two lines of the alphabet and two lines of numbers, with the words "...
Original ouija board
The Wilsons used a Ouija board. A flat piece of wood marked with two lines of the alphabet and two lines of numbers, with the words "Yes" and "No" printed at the corners and the words "Goodbye" at the bottom, the board was operated by a triangular piece of plastic or light wood with a small window in its center. Lois and Bill, or two or three of the other participants, rested their fingers lightly on the board, closed their eyes, and allowed the unconscious pressure from their fingers to move the triangular marker across the smooth surface. Sometimes it stopped on Yes or No; at other times it spelled out what seemed to be words.
On evenings when they decided to use the table instead of the Ouija board, they gathered around it, each person with their fingers resting lightly on the table's sharp edge. They dimmed the lights. Bill's voice would often ask the questions. "Are there any spirits in the room?" he would ask. "Are there any spirits who have a message for us?" Breathing slowed. The spirits seemed to gather in the room's dark corners, above the shelf where Bill's violins and musical instruments were kept, or in the angle of the wall and ceiling near the window.

Then the people seated around the table would hear a soft, hesitant tap. Sometimes, if Bill had asked a direct question, the taps meant yes or no: one for yes and two for no. At other times the spirits had a longer message. If it tapped once, that meant the letter A, twice for the letter B and so on. In an evening the table might tap out a phrase or two. According to both Bill and Lois, on more than one occasion they succeeded in levitating the table a few inches off the floor.

At other times the Wilsons and their guests experimented with automatic writing. Bill Wilson was very good at this. He would set a pen down on a piece of paper, close his eyes and wait for the spirit to guide his hand. On some evenings Bill would relax his long frame out on the living room couch in front of the big stone fireplace and wait in a state of half-dreaming, half-consciousness, the smoke curling up from his cigarette. Lying there, he would receive messages, sometimes whole, as when he heard the Reverend Dwight Moody warning him against the past, and sometimes they would come to him letter by letter.

One evening the message spelled out appeared in Latin. Not knowing Latin, Bill took the message to John D. Rockefeller's associate Willard Richardson, who studied it and said it appeared to be an account of early Christianity in Italy. In Nell Wing's version of this story, Willard Richardson was in the room while Bill was receiving the message, and the Latin turned out to be a sermon written by St. Boniface. "They were working away at spiritualism," says a friend who was often a visitor there. "It wasn't just a hobby."

On a visit to Nantucket in 1947, Bill was making coffee in the dim, early morning light in the kitchen at the house of his A.A. host when he was accosted by the shade of a Norwegian sailor, complaining that he saw people dimly and that when he spoke no one listened. The sailor was soon joined by the spirit of a man who introduced himself as David Morrow. Morrow told Bill that he had been killed with Admiral Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay. Then, as morning came and the kitchen grew brighter, he was joined by two other spirits: former whaling captains named Pettingill and Quigley.
When Bill told this story at breakfast, he was met with friendly disbelief. People usually tried to humor Bill in order to avoid arguing with him. Later in the Wilsons' visit to Nantucket, they happened to be at the head of Main Street; there they saw a small Civil War memorial engraved with the name David Morrow. A subsequent visit to the Nantucket Whaling Museum confirmed that indeed Pettingill and Quigley had been the masters of whaling ships.
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