Halloween- it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I absolutely love that we have a day dedicated to pretending to be someone we’re not and eating copious amounts of candy. I love the crisp feel of the air, the smell of burning wood and fresh pumpkin bread. I love decorating my living quarters (which was restricted to a single room until this year) with pumpkins, ghosts, and leaves. I love watching The Nightmare before Christmas or Casper the Friendly Ghost with the lights dimmed, snug beneath a warm blanket. I love apple picking and pumpkin picking. I even love standing in line for the dressing rooms when I go costume shopping. Because it all leads up to one of my favorite holidays- Halloween.
When I was a kid, I loved picking out a costume and marching in our school’s Halloween parade. I loved trick-or-treating in the neighborhood behind our church, where the houses were just a short distance from each other and there was always another kid on the street looking for the next doorbell to ring. I loved eating pizza while my siblings and I sorted through our stashes, trading Bottle Caps for Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for little boxes of Junior Mints.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize that despite all its high points, Halloween is also a dangerous time of year. Some mothers worry that they will get a phone call from the police when their son is caught egging a car or tee-peeing a tree. Others worry that they will be the ones calling the police if their child goes missing while trick-or-treating. Those are the more widespread fears. Parents hope and pray that their children will not come to harm on this frightening holiday.
On several occasions, I have heard stories about my friends’ childhood activities in the evenings leading up the Halloween. In second grade, one of my classmates played with a Ouija board, one that had been given to her by her mother. In seventh grade, another classmate was invited to a friend’s house for a séance. My friends’ parents apparently had very strict rules for trick-or-treating, but they never stopped them from playing with Ouija boards, holding séances, and trying to contact the dead…or worse. Because those things were just child’s play. They were just “pretend.”
Everyone knows that the Ouija board marker only moves when someone moves it themselves. Everyone knows that the dead can’t really be contacted, and if they can, they always have good intentions. The dead that speak to us are always our deceased grandmother, our friend, or childhood pet. Chances are that these past-times are fake, but if they’re real, they must be harmless.
But what if I told you that they’re not? What if I told you that letting your child play with a Ouija board was more dangerous than going trick-or-treating? That holding a séance was more threatening that accepting candy from strangers?
Most people would laugh at me. Obviously, the bigger threats must be those that we can see, that we can touch. It’s the shady neighbor down the street who watches the girl with the short French maid costume just a little too long. It’s the bags of home-baked cookies, offered to our children by strangers. That’s where the danger is. Ouija boards and séances are just silly fun.
But they’re not. They’re not harmless. They’re not just games that children like to play to scare each other. We only say that because we’re too afraid of the alternatives. We would rather just pretend that there is nothing supernatural, nothing beyond what we can see and hear. We would rather just pretend that if there are ghosts, they’re all like Casper. We would all rather just pretend that it couldn’t be something more sinister. Evil. Demonic.
But if there are beings that can be contacted through séances, you can’t just assume that they are all good. If Ouija boards work, you can’t just assume that the only entities that use them to communicate are your dead relatives. But it’s not really the dead that I’m concerned with here; it’s the demonic.
We pretend that Ouija boards are innocent, but they’re not. We think they’re just a silly game, but they’re not. Whenever children take hold of that marker, whenever they hold hands and begin to summon the dead, they open themselves up to an entire world that the eye cannot see. But it is not heaven that they are contacting. The reality is much closer to hell. There are demons waiting for such opportunities to make themselves known. They are singularly driven towards one purpose: tormenting God’s beloved creation, man who has been made in the image of God.
In the Scriptures, we are warned against divination and summoning the souls of the dead. God does not forbid these things because He wants us to be permanently separated from our deceased loved ones- God desires that we might all be reunited in heaven after all- but because such actions open man up to the demonic. God has already provided us with a way of communicating with our deceased friends and relatives; it’s called prayer. We can pray for the repose of their souls, that they might attain heaven speedily. Occasionally, we can even pray to them, because the Church has recognized hundreds of holy men and women who have already been granted eternal life with God.
But divination is not prayer. Yes, sometimes angels and the saints communicate with chosen men and women, but this would only ever be because it is part of God’s plan. When man seeks to communicate with the dead, he chooses a method that has not been ordained by God. He chooses to act against God’s plan. Rather than praying with open arms, man grasps at those opportunities to circumvent the will of God through divination, and by acting thus, he opens himself up to the most diabolic spiritual powers in the world.
Are you curious about my classmate whose mother gave her a Ouija board for Halloween? When she asked the spirit for his or her name, she was given a name that was totally unfamiliar to her, a word that she had never heard before: Beelzebub. According to Scripture, Beelzebub is a very powerful demon, and some suspect that it is another name for the devil himself. And my other classmate? In the weeks after the séance, some of the students continued to act normally, but others seemed…haunted. They would come to school with hollow eyes with dark bags underneath, evidence of sleepless nights. Their parents were concerned because their children were having night terrors nearly every night, waking up in a panic and drenched in sweat. Some of my classmate’s friends began to see psychiatrists. One eventually committed suicide. And my friend? Eventually she received an exorcism, but she is still haunted by the memories from that night and the following weeks. Needless to say, my friends never played with a Ouija board or attended a séance again. They learned the truth in the worst possible way, and it could have cost them their lives. Some of their friends were not so lucky, and one really did lose his life. And it was all a game to them.
It was a game until they realized that it wasn’t. It was funny until it became scary. It was fake until they knew it was real. It was ghosts until they learned that it was demons. It was a link with the spirit world until they realized they had a direct line to hell. But by the time they learned the truth, it was too late for some of them.
Those children, and countless others, put their lives on the line when they decided to play with their Ouija board or attempt to contact the dead. Their parents thought that their children were safe. They were not roaming the streets, where strangers with cruel intentions seemed to lurk around every corner. They were safe with friends, where adults were just a room or two away. These parents thought that their children were safe, but they didn’t realize that they were permitting them to engage in some of the most dangerous activities known to man. There are things worse than death, worse than tainted candy, worse than creepy adults whose eyes linger just a moment too long. There are demons that wait for the opportunity to strike, lurking in the background until a child, innocent or not, decides to contact the dead. Their parents have told them that it’s all a game, but they all know better. They know that there’s a spiritual world out there that they cannot see. It causes them to giggle nervously as they hold hands, to shiver uncontrollably when the Ouija board marker begins to move or the candles begin to flicker. Bu they have been told that they have nothing to fear. They have been told that nothing bad can happen to them in that room. They have been told that the spirits will all be good-natured. They have been lied to.
The true dangers of Halloween are not pedophiles or tainted candy. The true dangers of Halloween seem a lot more innocent than that, and yet they are a lot more threatening to our children. They appear to be children’s games, but really they are opportunities for demons to reach us, to tempt us, to torture us. Because we have invited them. Because we have played the game. Because we have not considered the consequences of what might happen if we lose. Because in the battle for our souls, when we open ourselves up to the demonic, we are not always destined to win. In fact, we will inevitably lose if we do not abandon these dangerous games and turn to God. Only a complete surrender to God can lead to victory.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!