Tales from a Talking Board
edited by Ross E. Lockhart
Can we speak with the spirits of the dead? Is it possible to know the future? Are our dreams harbingers of things to come? Do auspicious omens and cautionary portents effect our lives?
Edited by Ross E. Lockhart, Tales from a Talking Board examines these questions–and more–with tales of auguries, divination, and fortune telling, through devices like Ouija boards, tarot cards, and stranger things.
So dim the lights, place your hands upon the planchette, and ask the spirits to guide you as we present fourteen stories of the strange and supernatural… (Goodreads)
I don’t know if I had ever read a short story collection until last year, and even then I was only reading collections that consisted of works by the same author. I was drowning in David Sedaris and Karen Russell and Neil Gaiman, and I couldn’t have been happier! But this year, I started expanding my reach and picked up a few collections that held works by multiple authors. And it’s… different.
I was gifted Tales from a Talking Board by a fellow bookstagrammer and judged it totally by its cover. I hadn’t seen such an interesting cover choice before, and I was super excited to start reading the Ouija-board-themed stories! However, I quickly learned that I’m not the biggest fan of the multiple-authors style collections. Sure, it’s a great way to get introduced to new authors, but it’s strange having that stylistic shift between authors, and the stories were hit-or-misses (mostly misses). I’ll rate/briefly discuss each story below.
“YesNoGoodbye” by Kristi DeMeester — ★★★★★
Abusive fathers, crushes, and demons.
I LOVED this story. It was an excellent start to the collection, and it got me really excited to read the rest of the stories. Just a great, spooky, unsettling read! Perfect for the collection’s theme.
The Devil and the Bugle Boys by J.M. McDermott — ★★☆☆☆
Marching bands and boy talk.
Meh. Not impressed. As an ex-band-geek, I wanted to like this one a lot more, but alas, it was a pretty big flop for me.
Weegee Weegee, Tell Me Do by Anya Martin — ★★★★☆
An abused wife finally says no, featuring Ouija possession.
Though this one started off a little weak for me, it built up quickly and ended on a really strong note. I liked it a lot! Almost five stars. The beginning knocked it down to four.
When the Evil Days Come Not by Nathan Carson — ★★★☆☆
Vengeful ghost boy.
This story was… odd. It wasn’t bad, but it kind of shifts gears halfway through (which seems to be a trend with a lot of these stories), and I don’t think it worked as well as the author wanted it to.
Grief by Tiffany Scandal — ★★★★☆
Grieving parents attempt to contact their lost son but find something else…
Wow, this story was sad. It took an odd turn at the end (there’s that trend again), which I didn’t dislike — I actually liked it a lot — but… idk, it didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. The story was really good, though. Lots of tension and conflict. And it had the slightest hint of a Babadook feel towards the end, with the grief mixed with weird supernatural things. Interesting.
Spin the Throttle by David James Keaton — ★★☆☆☆
Legitimately no idea.
I had absolutely no idea what was happening in this story. It went from a casual party (in a pool on a fire truck? idk, it was weird) to… I don’t even know. I think people died? But I’m honestly not even sure. I was so confused, and I feel like it could have been a halfway decent read if not for the fact that I just could not grasp what on earth was going on.
Pins by S.P. Miskowski — ★★★☆☆
Another abusive husband, and the wife who left.
I don’t know what it is about some of these stories just leaving me confused and unsure of what exactly was going on. I liked the style, and I was interested in the story… but I’m just not exactly sure I understood what happened. If anything happened. I don’t know. Though to be fair, I did read this at a pretty late hour, so…
Deep into the Skin by Matthew M. Bartlett — ★★★★☆
Small-town tattoo artist gets tied up in the occult.
This one was a lot darker than most of the others so far, which is what should come of an anthology focused on Ouija boards! I liked the writing, and the story itself was interesting, but nothing was really explained and I feel like this is where the story was lacking. I was just left wondering why? I get that it’s in first-person, so we don’t get the whole story, but nah. That doesn’t fly with a story like this. I wanna know the reasons! I feel like the problem lies in which character was chosen to be the main character. If we were in anyone else’s PoV, the story probably would have been worthy of five stars.
The Burnt Sugar Stench by Wendy N. Wagner — ★★★☆☆
Wow. There was sooooo much going on in this story. Like. Way too much. Like taking a whole novel’s worth of content and shoving it into seven pages. It seemed like it was going to be interesting at first (considering it was about fortune tellers teaming up with gang members to help them do crime, lolwut), but it got way crazy, way fast. And it had nothing to do with Ouija boards… Hm.
Worse than Demons by Scott R. Jones — ★★★★☆
An interview with a director/producer reveals a disturbing tale from his childhood.
I really enjoyed this one! Very interesting set-up and style, though I wish it would have gone a little more into the aftermath of the Ouija incident that the interviewee discusses.
The Empress and the Three of Swords by Amber-Rose Reed — ★★★☆☆
A tarot reading.
I really liked the Victorian style voice in this story, but overall it just left me feeling unsatisfied. It felt like one (kind of long, for what was happening) scene of a longer story, and nothing really happened. It had a good feel to it, though, so it could have been worse.
Questions and Answers by David Templeton — ★★★★★
A class on how to operate Ouija boards from the other side.
THIS STORY WAS SO FLIPPIN’ GOOD. Legit, I’d recommend checking out this collection just for this story. Ahhhh, I loved it so much! Absolutely gonna look up more by Templeton. Absolutely. It was so clever and original and SO GOOD. Ugghhh, I tried to find an online version to link for you guys so you could read it, but unfortunately nothing came up. So instead, here’s a little taste:
“On behalf of the faculty here at Otherside University, I’d like to welcome you to day one of Elementary Occupational Spirit Board Training. This is room B-1. If you’re looking for Second-Level Residence Haunting, which met in this room last semester, it’s now down the hall, in B-6. Everybody cool?”
“Oh. Yeah. Definitely.”
From the far left of the table, a youngish, redheaded, recently deceased mortician’s assistant sits nodding… wondering to herself how anyone could be accidentally crushed under a refrigerator.
This guy must have been a real loser.
Unlike herself, who’d died of cancer.
Like a normal person.
It’s SO GOOD, and I need more by this author, STAT.
Haruspicate or Scry by Orrin Grey — ★★★★☆
A tale of reincarnation and a student’s fatherly love for her professor.
An interesting read. Beautiful language, with quite a few famous literary quotes thrown in to satisfy my English nerdiness.
May You Live in Interesting Times by Nadia Bulkin — ★★★★☆
Foreign affairs and lost love and demons.
A nice, creepy end to the book. I’m not much of a fan when it comes to military tales, but this had more to do with regret and poor choices, and of course there was that spooky vibe that is expected out of Ouija board stories, so I was on board.