When my wife Sheila joined me in 1992, the house my company, Basil Read Construction, hired for me in Maun, Botswana lay just beyond the “Old Bridge.” It was a prefab affair owned by Christine Riggs who lived at the other end of town. Our neighbours were Cecil and Sheila Riggs. Cecil was a hunter, often away for a week or two at a time. His wife, Sheila R, became fast friends with us and, together with her best friend, Gail Shelby Wentink, introduced us to the Ouija board.
Not sure what to make of this method of contacting spirits, I refused to take part for the first few sessions and merely observed, convinced that it was a sham where the participants moved the glass they used as a planchette, or pointer. However, with time I became intrigued enough to join in. What convinced me that there is more to it than hocus-pocus were two specific incidents.
The first was where the movement of the glass indicated a message that supposedly came from Sheila’s father, Christopher Maling, who had passed away in 1981. Certainly the sceptical Sheila was convinced, by the answers to her questions that only a close member of her own family would have known, that there was no doubt that she was in contact with him.
My own conviction came when, having now joined the circle after the message from Chris Maling had astonished me into considering that there was some evidence of authenticity to this nonsense, there was a message for me from a certain Taffy Britten.
It was a shock. I had never mentioned his name to anyone, including my Sheila. Taffy had been my superior officer in the Salisbury, Rhodesia, head-office of the Department of Customs and Excise in 1966! He had trained me in Excise; visiting bonded warehouses to check their content, and learning how to deal with the relevant paperwork. He had been a Palestine Policeman after the First World War, before coming to settle in Rhodesia. He had a roguish sense of humour and I delighted in his company.
Thereafter, there were several incidents that further convinced us both that there is a whole lot of phenomena out there to which we are not privy with any clarity in this life.
Jane Roberts, author & medium
Sheila had two of Jane Roberts’ books, Seth and The Seth Material, which I had read and found fascinating, mostly with regard to the spirit, Seth’s, views and explanations regarding our world which, to me, made a lot of sense. However, I had not paid much attention to the authenticity of Roberts’ link to Seth. It seems that Roberts and her husband, Robert Butts, started experimenting with an Ouija Board in late 1963 while Roberts was researching for another book, when they started to receive coherent communication from Seth which resulted in several books dictated by Seth.
Several different entities contacted us. Gail had a favourite benign character with whom she repeatedly “spoke.” This individual would then connect us to others who had messages for someone in the circle. Sometimes this friendly spirit would not communicate.
Sometimes malign spirits would gate-crash and hurl the glass across the board, swearing foully. We would up-end the glass and stop the session when that happened.
Gail’s husband Brian Wentink was finally banned from joining the circle because the bad spirits would more often than not upset everything when he was there. Religious folk say the Ouija board is a portal to Satan. In Alamogordo, New Mexico, fundamentalists burned Ouija boards and Harry Potter books as symbols of witchcraft.
Sheila Riggs had half a dozen Lhasa Apsos – Tibetan temple dogs, monks’ footwarmers? – a breed that we had never encountered before. Two males regularly came through the fence and adopted us, despite our own tribe of dogs. When Sheila and Cecil’s marriage fell apart, after they moved to Francistown, we inherited another three! What characters they were. Small, curly-haired animals with sturdy strong bodies, they come in several colours, but our crew were mostly white. Sheila used to shave them regularly to deal with the extreme heat of Botswana.
On one of their daily walks along the Thamalakane River, the dogs ventured too near the water’s edge. Even as Sheila called them away, a large crocodile glided towards the shore for a morsel. She screamed at the dogs to get up the bank and swore at the croc until it turned away. Not sure if was from fear or embarrassment.
Some years later, after adventures in Zambia where she and her new man, Derek Wilson caught the worst malaria with complications, Sheila R passed away. Derek brought her ashes to scatter over her beloved Okavango Delta. My Sheila and I were honoured to be invited by Derek to join him and Sheila R’s dear friend, Bernadette Lindstrom, to join him on the Cessna flight to do the scattering.
The wind blew some of the ashes back into the plane all over us as a last embrace…