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Witchboard.com session: Eben and his Indian Problem

Posted by Hamlyn , 11 August 2009 · 1,301 views

Lacking a real Ouija board, I decided yesterday to mess around with the online one at Witchboard.com.

It is a Flash program that runs in the web browser. The way it works is, you move the pointer around with your mouse and click when it lands on the letter you feel is right. I found that the results varied according to my approach.

If I just clicked around impulsively, I got mostly gibberish.

If I started spelling out the narrative going through my head, I got something resembling my own stream-of-consciousness writing. I even switched to typing out my own internal dialogue for a while, instead of "receiving" it through the online Ouija board. This tended to produce "information" that seemed like the sort of thing I would make up.

If instead of clicking at random or actively trying to make sense, I put myself in a sort of passive or receptive state of mind and approached the board as if I was waiting for it to tell me what it "wanted" to spell out, both the process and the results got more interesting.

I had to try not to rush ahead of the pointer and start filling in the blanks consciously, or else I got exactly and only what I expected to get.

So here is the resulting transcript, and my notes on the research I did during and afterwards. The transcript reflects a mix of the approaches and attitudes described above. With more practice, I should be able to achieve a more passive, receptive state of mind.

I should say up front that I make no claim that the Ebenezer who introduces himself in this session is any deceased person or indeed anything other than a figment of my own active imagination. I present the transcript as is, with no warranty express or implied.

Online Ouija Session 2009-08-10 about 4:00 PM GMT -7
Laramie, Wyoming, USA
Hamlyn B., operator and querent
using Flash application at Witchboard.com

Q= question or querent, i.e., the board operator
A= answer or answerer, i.e., the board
hn= headnote
fn= footnote

Note: Occasionally I will add punctuation where it makes sense.

Begin Session.

01Q: Is anyone there?

02hn: The building where I am conducting this session is widely reputed to be haunted. It is literally built on a burial ground. This is why I asked about spirits associated with the building.

02Q: Any spirits associated with this building, please speak to me.

03Q: I too enjoy pie. What is your name?

04Q: Hello, Ebenezer. What kind of pie do you like best?

04fn: At first I thought this was saying "lie on the counter," which seemed odd, but in restrospect, it seems more as if Ebenezer likes whatever pie happens to be on the counter. That's the way I prefer to read it.

05Q: Haha. Do you have a message for my friends and me on the Worldwide Web?

06Q: You have quite a sense of humor, Ebenezer. What do you enjoy doing with your time these days?

07Q: I see. Please tell me more about the trouble.

07fn: The tone seemed self-deprecating and ironic here, not at all as if really condemning the "damned Indians."

08hn: The answers were coming to mind faster than I could spell on the board. So I switched to simply typing them out as they came to mind.

08Q:What was the crux of your conflict with the Indians?

08fn: This was exactly the sort of theory that I would have guessed off the top of my head. Writing this way felt more like I was just making things up than when I was using the online ouija pointer, which felt more like "receiving messages."

09Q: I see. That is very interesting. And this occurred in Laramie?

10Q: That is a shame.

11Q: Ebenezer, I am going to check some facts to see if I can place what you're telling me in a historical context.

12hn: I Googled around and found out about an event called the White River Ute Uprising of 1879, which I had not known about. At this point, I switched back to the online Ouija pointer, as the stream-of-consciousness writing did not feel quite right.

12Q: Ebenezer Stuart, are you there?
12A: YES.

13Q: I have done some research into the things you told me about.

14Q: Some things you said were accurate, others not so much. Why is that?

15Q: I'm sorry to hear that. But what does that have to do with the accuracy of your statements?

15fn: I looked up "somata" and found that it is the plural of soma, and a soma is the bulbous end of a neuron, containing the cell nucleus and dendrites. I had not known this. I was aware that "tidal" refers to a secondary effect of gravitation.

16Q: Ebenezer, could you please expand upon the tidal influence on somata, and the effect this has on our communication?

17Q: Will you tell me some fact that I can verify or falsify in order to establish your existence as something greater than a figment of my imagination?

18Q: How might I verify this?

18fn: It seemed to me as if "Standard" referred to a newspaper or other periodical title where I might find the information. As I wrote May and 5 as the month, I felt very alarmed, as if that was not quite right, and that it should be March. So I asked the following clarifying question.

19Q: Are you sure it is May? I'm getting May.

19fn: This felt very firm and correct to me. I had a very strong feeling that May was an error. Still I felt uncomfortable eliminating it. After all, if I left it open to both March AND May, the chances of finding something relevant were better. This little hedge on my bets proved unnecessary.

20Q: I will check the Standard of March and then May of 1880 for news of how General M relented, thus ending the Ute uprising. Thank you very much. Anything else before I go?

21Q: Thank you, Ebenezer.

End Session.

During the session, I did a little research. Afterwards, I did more.

It was hard at first to find information about any trouble involving Native tribes in or around Southern Wyoming in 1879. That's because there was so much information about the US Army's Sioux Campaign of 1876 that it tended to drown out everything else. This was the series of events that made The Battle of Little Bighorn and Custer's Last Stand into cliches that are still used today. So prominent is this event in history that I was slightly inclined to say that maybe old Ebenezer just got it wrong, or I heard wrong, and 1879 really meant 1876.  But this was unacceptable to me. 1879 means 1879. So it's that, or it's just incorrect.

I note the temptation to fudge my interpretations wherever it occurs because it's an important part of the process. Observer bias is always with us.

Turns out that no such fudging was necessary to fit the year 1879 to some Indian troubles involving Laramie and the region. Previously unknown to me, the White River Ute Uprising, aka the White River War, fills the bill. Although the events occurred in Northern Colorado, the expeditionary force that initially engaged the Utes marched out of nearby Rawlins, Wyoming, and the relief force was composed of units from Laramie, Cheyenne, and Fort Laramie. So the 1879 Uprising is very much a part of local history, just as much as Little Bighorn.

I didn't get the particular impression that "Ebenezer Stuart" was or wasn't involved in the campaign as a soldier, but I decided to check the rosters anyway. My source is Hollow Victory: The White River Expedition of 1879 and the Battle of Milk Creek by Mark E. Miller, University Press of Colorado, 1997.

There among the relief force is listed one 2nd Lt. Eben Swift, Adjutant, in the 5th Cavalry out of Fort DA Russell in Cheyenne. Eben, of course, is short for Ebenezer. And psychics are notoriously fuzzy about last names. Is Stuart close enough to Swift to call it a near miss? I have no strong opinion on the matter. I'm inclined to say a miss is as good as a mile, but I'm willing to entertain the fantasy that Eben Swift of the 5th Cavalry spoke to me through a Flash Ouija board, if only to see where the idea leads.

Turns out that Eben Swift was the son of Army surgeon Ebenezer Swift, who attained the rank of Brigadier General. Eben himself attained the rank of Major General and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. More about him another time. For now, I'll note that he was a military historian who authored several books. So it would make sense that he would "visit the spot where the trouble started," contemplate the causes and consequences, and tell people like me about it.

I notice that whether or not it is true, I like the idea that I have made contact with a person who was really part of local history. And in a sense, I have, even if only by sheer accident.

Now. Who is General M, who (according to "Ebenezer") "relented," resulting in an end to hostilities? That could be no other than Wesley Merritt, commander of the relief force out of Fort Russell, under whom Eben Swift served as Adjutant. There is no way I could have known this. It is possible I could have guessed that the leader was a General M. One chance out of 26, or fewer if I reflexively eliminated uncommon initials such as X and Z. Let's say I had roughly a 5% chance of guessing that one right.

Merritt was a Colonel at the time, but he eventually achieved the rank of General, and so he would be (and in fact is) referred to in retrospect as General Merritt.

Did General M in fact relent? Well, after a lightning march into Northwest Colorado that itself must make for an epic story, he defeated the Utes there and prosecuted hostilities no further. So although it is not exactly how I would put it, "GEN M RELENTED" is consistent with the facts. This is another thing I did not and could not know.

Is it true that "freedom stopped the killing?" This is certainly not the way I (or most contemporary observers) would put it. We would say that in the end, the Utes were forcibly relocated in yet another betrayal of the US government's promises. But an adjutant serving under Merritt himself might have had a different interpretation. Indeed, you'd expect him to put a nice, American spin on events. But "freedom?" I would never have thought that this interpretation was even plausible.

Imagine my surprise when the first editorial I found on the subject expressed the solution in precisely the language of individual rights:

...this treaty is the first step ever taken toward a true solution of the Indian problem. It discards the signal folly of regarding the Indians as semi-nations, and treats them as individuals... The distinction of the arrangement is that the government is to give an inalienable title for twenty-five years in fee-simple to each Indian for his land, which for the same term is not taxable. There is to be an annuity paid until the Indians become self-supporting. With this last exception, they become settlers like other people.

This is from the March 27, 1880 issue of Harper's Weekly, on the subject of the Ute Treaty drawn up as of March 6 of that year. So it turns out that March of 1880 was indeed the correct date to look for published information verifying what Ebenezer said, and May was indeed too late, just as "Ebenezer" suggested.

I still have not located any newspaper called the Standard in which to check Ebenezer's facts, but March 1880 is a date that stands up, and May was indeed late. And Ebenezer's opinion, though outdated, is at least consistent with "respectable" views of his day.

Regarding the cause of the uprising, there is lots to say. Some of what I got in the session is consistent with fact. Some seems quite wrong. Some, I don't know yet. More about that another time.

Tops on my to-do list is to read local papers from late 1879 to see if what they said about the whole affair squares with Ebenezer's account of trade and travel drying up amidst a general atmosphere of fear.

Also, I would like to figure out some way to interpret his next-to-last remark, about metastable something-or-other.

What I seem to have got out of this experiment is some remarkably factual-seeming material mixed with errors.

The question is, are the errors fatal to the hypothesis that I received this material "psychically" from a source outside my own mind?

Or are the errors simply what you'd expect on a "noisy channel?"

In short, are the errors consistent with the psychic theory of the Ouija session, or do they tend strongly to invalidate it?

In either case, at least the session fired my imagination and got me to learn some local history, which is fun.

PS: I have no reason to think that Eben Swift, or his father Ebenezer, or anyone associated with the White River War, was also associated with the building in which I conducted this session. I have no reason to think that the late General Swift is one of the spirits haunting the place, and I know he is not among those buried here. Recall that I asked for a spirit associated with the building. It looks like that request was ignored.
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Aug 12 2009 01:02 AM
Technically anyone in or from the area is "associated" with ALL the buildings - I know the local telephone office here but I do not hang out there - but I still know it - it is familiar to me, I can call up its image in my head, I could give you directions to it, have looked inside its darkened windows, heard stories about it - and so with most of the other buildings, therefore I am "associated" with all of them.

I imagine you've already looked this up, but (from Wikipedia though I usually loathe to use it, for a simple definition it seems permissible):

In electronic circuits - Metastability in electronics is usually seen as a problem. A changing circuit is supposed to "settle" into one of a small number of desired states, but if the circuit is vulnerable to metastability, it can get "stuck" in an undesirable state.

* * *

general - Metastability is a general scientific concept which describes states of delicate equilibrium. A system is in a metastable state when it is in equilibrium (not changing with time) but is susceptible to fall into lower-energy states with only slight interaction. It is analogous to being at the bottom of a small valley when there is a deeper valley close by - a local stability of a system at a local (but not global) minimum of a potential.

* * *

In computational neuroscience - Metastability in the brain is a phenomenon which is being studied in computational neuroscience to elucidate how the human mind recognizes patterns. The term "metastability" here is used rather loosely. There is no "lower energy" state, but there are semi-transient signals in the brain which persist for a while and are different than the usual equilibrium state.

* * *

In quantum mechanics - Systems which are described by quantum mechanics may possess metastable states. In this case, the metastable state may decay to a global minimum state via quantum mechanical effects (e.g. tunnelling).

That is actually quite an interesting subject with a number of possible interpretations, but definitely something I have never come across until now, but surprisingly, it IS a pretty fitting analogy for "spirit communication", being a fairly fragile channel or bridge for interaction, apt to simply collapse or "drop into a lower state" without much provocation, ie the pointer doesn't move or gives you gibberish.

The word transideational or any of its forms, is very nearly non-existent on the internet, which I find extremely strange in itself - . It is, however, a real word.


The above indicates some sort of psycho-social dynamic relating to "difficulty in relating culture-bound forms", "mental imagery and assumptions" and translation between different "languages" or concepts of communication, which with a little liberal interpretation, also makes some sense in the field of spirit communication and the conception of its validity.

Interestingly, the next mention of the term transideational occurs in a Yoga Glossary site, of all things. And even MORE interestingly, I just mentioned this word to a friend of mine online, saying I had never heard of it, and his response was "Are you researching Yoga?" So apparently it is common to Yoga? My friend said it also like the alchemical "solutio", which in pseudo-mystical-archetypal English means "dissolving conscious ego to allow for anima consciousness" or "the opposite super-consciousness" - "looking for understanding beyond speculative philosophy". My friend is trying to be helpful but this is really getting convoluted, think I'll end that line here.

From the Yoga Glossary:
Nirvikalpa is not a reference to unconsciousness, but an awareness beyond analytical ordering, discursive thought processes, or compounded elaboration. Rather nirvikalpa points to a natural, innate, unconditional, inconceivable, and trans-ideational uncontrived awareness beyond sequential time, space, and ordinary knowledge. See also asamprajnata, nisprapanca, aprapanca, and aprancita.

The word ideation itself, according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, simply means the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas, so basically, thinking about something, or the ability TO think about something. The prefix "trans" in this case seems to be synonymous with "beyond", similar to "para", so it is somehow the ability to transcend what we know as normal thought.

So to "translate" or "transideate" the last significant sentence from the Ouija:  


likely means that a fragile channel for communication, easily susceptible to interference or a "dropped call", is present, whose function is to produce "high concept" or very abstract and likely obscure understanding (perhaps an epiphany), perhaps beyond even the usual speculation on philosophy and divinity, of the idea of being able to "think" beyond how we normally perceive our cognition and mental functioning.

This indeed would describe the concept of spirit communication, and probably past it. From my POV, this sentence is essentially summing up what is already occurring, and an earlier statement: "THE APPARATUS FUNCTIONS POORLY IN DAYTIME. THINKING IS DETRIMENTAL TO RECEPTIVITY." obviously is referring to the user (OP) as "the apparatus" though perhaps more to the entire activity of the person's use of the board and the communication itself, not being as good a channel in the daytime (possibly because of seretonin/melatonin levels), and so clarity or even the ability to get results at all is retarded.

Truly fascinating. If I had to guess, I'd say you were a history buff with an interest in culture and at least at one time was into Yoga and Eastern thought or perhaps occultism, as well as extremely large, obtuse words. If you're not, the only thing I can think of would be possible clairvoyant activity of some kind, or your "higher self" as some put it.

The thing to realize in all this is you actually stopped using the online board, and was typing - therefore you were not actually having a Ouija session at all, but were doing the modern equivalent of automatic writing, which in itself has a history and personality of great interest.

Thanks for posting this!

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Wow, very thoughtful and intriguing response. Thank you.

I agree (as posted elsewhere) that using the online pseudo-Ouija thing is more like automatic writing than using an actual Ouija board.

(Added later-- oh, I see what you mean now. Actually I went back to using the online board. I think I only "automatic typed" two responses. It's in the transcript. In any case, the online Ouija is also very much like automatic typing in a way.)

And yet, there was something about the Flash Ouija that helped me shake off my running inner dialogue that seems to interfere with intuition. This has always been the problem for me with automatic typing.

Now that I'm learning the trick, I might be able to do it with a qwerty keyboard.

About that bizarre polysyllabic phrase you are helping me parse, I actually hadn't got to it yet. Too immersed in the historical details and the writeup, and then I had to get home to entertain in-laws. So your analysis here is very welcome.

As you guessed, I'm a big fan of words, and I know enough etymology to get some meanings from the roots and prefixes and suffixes, but this phrase honestly eluded me. I had no awareness of the technical and esoteric connotations of these terms. I had a feeling it might be one of those jargony mouthfuls that sounds like something but is actually gibberish.

Although I'm a pretty technical guy, electrical engineering is not one of my areas of knowledge. And I read a lot about physics at the popular level, but I don't have the math for serious theory. So the term "metastable" is not in my vocabulary. I can infer its literal meaning, but the field-specific definitions and concepts you've posted here are new to me.

I've studied a little neurology as a psychology student but still had no idea of the term in that context, either.

Your interpretation of the word in the context of spirit communication makes sense to me, or if you don't regard it as a full-fledged interpretation, it seems pointed in the right direction. I will need to think about it more.

The thing is, along with these words, I would get a sort of preverbal impression of what was being said, if that makes sense. Almost like a direct sense of it without words. And what you are saying "feels" consistent with that sense. So I'm inclined to explore it and try to articulate it more fully.

The term "transideational" was also unfamiliar to me. "Ideation" is a term I used a lot back in my psychotherapist days, as in "bizarre ideation is a symptom of psychosis." But it had never occurred to me that something might go across ("trans") ideation. I have literally never seen or thought of the idea before.

And although I have read a lot about Eastern mysticism, I had no inkling at all that the term had anything to do with Yoga or would be recognized by practitioners of it. Far from being convoluted to me, the notions your friend related to this word strike me as extremely relevant to what we're talking about-- particularly when phrased as "dissolving conscious ego to allow for anima consciousness." These are terms I do understand, and they are precisely how I would describe what I'm trying to do in all "psychic" and intuitive exercises such as this one. I mean, exactly that phrase-- if only I'd thought of it!

Your summary translation therefore strikes me as right. Furthermore, there is a sense of the word "realization" that seems very strong to me. It seems to be saying that these "pathways" are being made literally real in much the same way that learning is said to create new neural pathways in the brain.

It's as if the sentence is meant to tell us some important things about the state of the "communication channel," its purpose, and its development. It almost makes too much sense.

Like you, I was also thinking about neurotransmitter levels in relation to the supposedly poor daytime functioning of the "apparatus." I could not tell if "tidally" meant in the general sense of ebb and flow, as might apply to one's own circadian rhythms, or if it meant literally tidal, as in the variation in the sun and moon's gravitational influence throughout the days, months, and years.

Or it could mean "tidal" in the technical sense that relates to breathing. I was not aware of this technical sense of the word until today. Surely, one's breathing affects neurotransmission, especially as relates to meditation, i.e., dissolving conscious ego to allow for anima consciousness. So the somata are tidally influenced. Another concept straight from Yoga, it would seem.

It's all kinda weird, and much more meaningful and interesting than any discussion I expected to proceed from those convoluted phrases.

To answer some of your guesses, I guess I'm kind of a history buff, although I never thought of it that way. I ran it by my wife, and she says she thinks I am. But I don't have any detailed knowledge of the Indian wars that took place out West here. I grew up in the Gulf South and honestly couldn't have said with any confidence which decade the Battle of Little Bighorn took place. Much less had I ever heard of any such thing as the White River War. I'd heard of the Sand Creek Massacre because there are signs for the Trail all over the place, but I don't even know what that is, either. Like any American, I had a vague notion of some troubles with the Natives (namely they didn't always enjoy being exterminated or forcibly moved), and that was about it.

I do feel a strong attraction to the past, and a strong urge to try to really understand what it was like to live in past times. Not just in a concrete, factual sense, but in terms of experience and mindset. I'd like to understand previous generations' experience at a gut level.

This desire to touch the past is probably a strong motivation for trying "spirit communication" and then researching the results. But as far as those actual facts go, I had no idea of them. Same for those horse-choking words.

Very interesting. Thank you for helping me think about this stuff, and any further help is of course more than welcome. Let me know also if I can return the favor.
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Aug 12 2009 08:25 AM
As I posted elsewhere, I realized also that the automatic typing/letters thing was a miscommunication and you weren't actually typing but selecting the letters with the web pointer, but also as noted, I think the essence of my post stands, as recording apparent free-association thoughts that pop into your head, taking dictation, is different from letting your hand move of its own accord without you knowing where it's going.

Well I'll have to tell my friend about your reaction to his phrases - he already has a huge ego but may not be able to fit through the doorway after this. =)

I think I may also have a sense of your meaning with the "realization" of the "channel of communication", its actual nature and purpose and function - the how-to. I read a book on an Ouija user that had a spirit guide or whatever, that told him that from the spirit's side, the living guy was a point of light in the darkness, among other much dimmer points, but this point was quite bright - he was able to simply concentrate on it and "be there", because there was an actual "channel" that had been created, a sort of invisible (to us) luminous (to spirits I guess) bridge or pathway (as you mention), a bond of sorts, that now exists between the board user and the spirit, and though it is indeed thin and fragile and wavering, it can be strengthened and made more efficient, allowing clearer and longer responses, and easier contact between the two, to the point the spirit began to be able to "talk" to the user mentally, which I think essentially sounds similar to your experience and "feeling" of the actual meaning and connotation of the words you were receiving. Perhaps, much like the internet, the spirit world is a series of tubes?
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It's not a big truck that you just dump something on!
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