Here’s a pre-October spooky surprise, inspired by the recent appearance of the Third Annual CIL-Con Supernatural and Paranormal Convention at the Cross County Mall last weekend; this local article from the Oct. 8, 1981, Journal Gazette about world-renowned ghost hunters Ed and Lorainne Warren who had just been at EIU to give a presentation. Funny how even more than 25 years later the Warrens are just as popular as ever, appearing as fictionalized characters in the hit film “The Conjuring,” (where a girl sitting next to me at the theater screamed so loud our entire row jumped) its sequel and whose exploits also inspired the “Annabelle” films. And tell me you don’t have a beat-up paperback of “The Amityville Horror” somewhere in your house. Liar.

I didn’t get to spend as much time at CIL-Con as I would have liked this year. Working at the mall like I do I usually walk through quickly while folks are setting up. That first year I even made the score of the century with a “Masters of the Universe” board game, which, two years later, I still haven’t played yet. Looks good on the shelf though.

This year I had plans right after work Friday evening, and Saturday, I kind of, sort of…forgot. And I can’t make the excuse that I was “too busy” because the most I exerted myself Saturday was spraying Kaboom shower cleaner in my tub and then sort of half-crouching to sponge it all up. I hate crouching.

But I knew I’d eventually need to leave the house. Do you know there’s a car wash in town where there’s a speaker playing classic rock above the change machine? I don’t know who put it up there, who turned it on, or if anyone on “staff” ever checks it; it was just suddenly there one day, blaring Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” at me one afternoon while I was getting quarters. Obsessive that I am, now I’ll take any opportunity to go get quarters for laundry at strange times just to hear what it’s playing. And it’s while doing just that last Saturday evening that it hit me that CIL-Con was in town and if I wanted to see it, “now” had to be the time.

This year it was an interesting contrast to see what CIL-Con was like as people were starting to pack up. The only table I actually stopped at was a board game vendor from Carbondale where a young lady was trying obsessively to adjust her friend’s monster mask. Most of the games they had were out of my price range, although I seriously considered dropping 75 dollars on an out-of-print reprint of the ‘80s board game Fortress America, which imagined a scenario where a future America grown lazy gets invaded on three sides by invading armies (Canada, thankfully, sits things out). I won’t tell you how much I paid for my original ‘80s version of the game a few years back.

But tucked behind Fortress America is where I found, you got it, a Ouija board. Yes, the 1980s version from Parker Brothers. I always grew up thinking it was a little strange that you could buy a device to talk to the spirit world from the folks responsible for “Hand Held Electronic Six-in-One Merlin”. Would you believe Hasbro still owns the rights to the term “Ouija”? A fact I only learned from watching acknowledgements at the end of the film “Ouija: Origin of Evil.”

No friends, I did not purchase that Ouija board. Oh, I thought about it. After all, I’ve got a shelf devoted strictly to Parker Brothers games. But while I’m not a superstitious person, Ouija boards are a party line to the afterworld, and you don’t always know who’s listening in on those so I figured if I’m the kind of guy who jumps a foot when he hears a motorcycle peel out of the intersection outside my screen door, then the last thing I need is a ghost phone sitting in the closet, a sentiment that the Warrens agree with at the end of that article.

So I walked away from the games and spent the remainder of my time at CIL-Con chatting with Sarah and Nicole, two local consultants with Usborne Books. We talked about how much kids love sticker books and how much we remembered how fun the old “K-Mart side” of the mall used to be back in those Mister Music days before I realized they might want to start packing up too, and that they may be starting to suspect I was full of beans about being with the paper and looking for column material. So we exchanged business cards, something I always want to do now that I actually have them to give out, and made my way back into the night, remembering that I never did pick up dinner.

Ten minutes later I was back at Castle Clint with my two cheeseburgers, fries and large unsweetened tea, watching that week’s MasterChef and trying desperately to remember where in the world I remembered Sarah from…at first thinking maybe we went to grad school together before it hit me… I ran her picture in the paper not more than a month ago, for a book donation at one of the local schools. If you’re reading this, see, I told you I worked at the paper.

There’s something kind of bittersweet about checking out any kind of big event as it’s coming to an end; and sure enough, the thing I noticed most about CIL-Con this year was that “circus leaving town” feeling as people were beginning to gather up their mystical bric-a-brac, break out the Rubbermaid totes, and unhook from those dangling extension cords.

Meanwhile the Cross County Mall goes on without those lovable CIL-Con scamps, at least until next year. In the meantime, there’s a “Sports Card” show happening soon. I’ll check it out too, obviously, but if you’re expecting a thousand words about the difference between “Topps” and “Fleer” for next week, ask a Ouija board to write it.

"The Throwback Machine" is a weekly feature taking a look back at items of interest found in the JG-TC online archives. For questions, suggestions, or his "Song of the Day" recommendation, contact him at CWalker@jg-tc.com.

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