It’s Séance Week, and what better way to commemorate that fact than by learning how to host your own Ladies’ Home séance — for reals!
Now, it should be stated here that A LOT of the #aesthetic of the Séance is steeped in racial stereotypes that are really just not okay to perpetuate when hosting your own fake séance. So, we have provided some simple rules to help you avoid any betrayals of social ignorance.
- No Turbans/No Hoop Earrings/No Rugs for Clothes/Nothing that would ever be sold in one of those racist Roma stereotype costume bags (bandanas, shawls, peasant tops, etc).
- No Fake Accents
- No Tents/Wagons/Wigwams/Teepees
- No “Cleopatra” Eyeliner (and while we’re at it: No Ankh Jewelry)
- Also, have fun and be yourself!
Other than that, it’s mostly fair game and common sense (for instance, you want the night to be fun, so the fake ghost that you fake conjure should be amusing but harmless — think, like, Dad jokes and cheap tricks; “Why do ghosts like to ride in elevators? — because it raises their spirits” or “You kids better not report me to the ghost police. I could face some serious charges for haunting without a license” etc.).
One Crone’s Opinion: a séance is not intervention and it is not the job of your fake ghost to call your friends out for their shit. I mean, this is America and I won’t stop you, but that’s not the kind of séance this article is about.
Anyway, if you follow these simple rules and put in a little bit of prep-work, this can be a memorable evening of Fake Ghosts and Real Fun!
- Buttload of candles
- Doilies for days
- Crystal Ball/Fishbowl/Bulbous Vase (whatever works)
- At least two friends (but more if you can get ‘em)
- Fog Machine/Incense (optional)
- A Small Fan (switch operated, rotating, doesn’t blow very hard)
- Table (and chairs)
- Full Floor Tablecloth
- One of those Extendable Pointers
- A Small Bell
- Your Sense of HUMOR/An Understanding that all of this is Jokes
Step 1: Recruit an Assistant
Convince one of your guests to suspend their fake belief and help you fake-trick the others. This will be your Assistant.
Step 2: Set the Stage
The next, and most time-consuming, step is to prepare the séance space. You want a small-ish room with a relatively lightweight Table that is also tall enough to conceal your Small Fan. Those square, fold-out card tables work pretty well.
Make sure your Tablecloth is all the way to the floor on all (or at least 3) sides. Put your Crystal Ball in the center of your card table, and surround it with low, heavy-bottomed candles (when the table starts shaking, you don’t want them to tip over). Line all remaining surfaces with doilies. Put a candle on every level doily. You’re done!
Step 3: Prep your Tricks
Now, this Fake Séance is going to rely on two very basic tricks: the Shaking Table and the Ghost Bell.
The Shaking Table —
This is a very simple trick and one that requires little to no modification, depending on how cheap your card table is. Basically, at least one of the legs needs to be uneven, and you need to be able to shift your weight on it subtly (think: the worst table that no one wants at your favorite coffee shop). So, maybe your table came that way, maybe you “lose” one or two of the rubber thingies on the ends of the legs — just make it happen. Then! when you call upon the “spirits”, you just put a little more pressure on one elbow, then the other et viola! Shaking table. You can also raise your knees against the underside of the table if you don’t bruise too easily.
The Ghost Bell —
This trick is a little bit more complicated. First, you need to take that Small Bell and wrap the clapper in the Tape; this muffles the sound (for added spoopiness, and also so that it doesn’t rattle too much when you’re moving it into position). Also, tape the bell onto the end of your Extendable Pointer. Keep this either by your foot/under the table or beside you on the seat of your chair. I’ll explain how it comes into play later on.
Step 4: The Big Night
Start with Finger Sandwiches, shortbread, tea — make sure you mention how the Mugwort and the Yarrow in the tea will totally heighten the natural psychic abilities that you all definitely have. Maybe watch Practical Magic or Ghost. When everyone’s ready, light the candles, turn on the optional fog machine and start lying about how the room is haunted because a shitty comedian was stabbed to death there in the oh-so-mysterious 1980’s. Bring everyone into the room and have them sit around the table (IMPORTANT: Make sure your Assistant sits next to you).
Everyone holds hands and keeps their hands on the table. Then, all of them close their eyes while you talk about spirits and stretching your auras out towards the netherworld. The closed eyes thing is crucial. You get to keep your eyes open, obviously, so you can catch cheaters and tell them the ghosts won’t come if their eyes are open.
Once everyone is cooperating and fully on board with committing to this fake séance, the group transitions into the Spirit Realm. This is done by using your foot to switch on the Small Fan that’s been hanging out beneath the table (this’ll blow the tablecloth around and also make people’s feet cold), and by shifting your weight around to shake the table. Think: the boat ride from Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka.
Once you decide that you’ve reached the Spirit Realm, you can turn the fan off, if you want. Now comes the Ghost Bell.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is fake sneeze (blame it on the optional fog machine/incense) and break the handholding circle — this will probably make people open their eyes, but just wipe your nose on something, make a joke about ectoplasm, and assure them that it’s all fine, and they should just close their eyes and hold hands again, in that order. This is the cue for your Assistant, who is sitting next to you (on your right, let’s say) to take the hand of the person on your left (in theory, Lefty’s eyes will be closed, and they will feel no difference between your hand, which they held previously, and the hand of your Assistant, which they hold now).
This frees you up to find the Extendable Pointer with the Small Bell taped onto it (either by your foot/under the table or beside you on the seat of your chair). As you very carefully Extend your Pointer into the air above the group (so that no one can say the bell noise is coming from the direction of you), you’ll want to say these words:
“Ghost and Ghouls, wherever you dwell, give us a sign by ringing a Bell”
(adapted from the Disney Haunted Mansion ride)
And then you shake the pointer around to ring the bell. Very scary. Ask a simple yes-or-no question and establish a system of response (ie a little ringing means no and a lot of ringing means yes). Invite the others to ask yes-or-no questions and have fun with it. Note: the great thing about the Extendable Pointer, is you can extend and retract it while you reposition it so that the ringing comes from all sorts of different places around the room!
Once you can tell that your audience is getting bored with yes-or-nos, invite the spirit to possess you. Ring the bell a whole bunch, retract and put away the pointer, and then do a big GASP. This is a cue to your assistant to let go of Lefty’s hand. Also, probably people will open their eyes again (because they’re your friends and they want to make sure you’re okay), but this time you’re in character as the shitty ‘80s comedian (or whatever it was that you chose). As long as you’ve properly stashed the bell and pointer, they can all keep their eyes open from here on out.
This is, again, a time to have fun with it — make some more shitty jokes, invite people to ask you more complicated questions and answer them creatively. Then, make a joke about Pressing Ghost Business (“Sorry kiddos! I can see my ghost-manager off-stage and she’s got the ghost-hook!”) and do a dramatic slump before ~coming back to yourself~.
And that’s it! Blow out the candles because you’ve just hosted your very own Ladies’ Home Séance!
Obviously, there are all sorts of variations you can do on these ideas, and I invite you to give them a shot! Get creative with it. Remember: you’re only limited by your imagination (and also the willingness of your friends to play along).