This story is a work of fiction, created from the author's imagination.
Looking back on all the sleepovers of my childhood, I can remember a blur of fun and funny memories that shimmer in and out of focus.
Things like braiding my friend’s hair while watching our favorite movies. Gossiping about boys or breaking into impromptu fashion shows on a runway of sleeping bags. Talking about life all night long after we were supposed to be “sleeping.”
I also remember a delightful little game called Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. For this immersive group experience, you choose one of your friends to lie down, cross their arms, and try to make them levitate by summoning a ghost for help.
Just your typical, silly sleepover stuff.
As a girl-child of the 90s, I of course played Light as a Feather at several slumber parties. I mostly recall being surrounded by giggling girls, trying to lift our chosen “possessed” one off the floor and only getting a few inches of air before dropping her butt and laughing so hard we nearly peed our pants.
(That’s a sign of any successful sleepover — almost wetting yourself from uncontrollable laughter as well as playing with black magic.)
From our many attempts at levitation, I can recall two specific times that stand out vividly in my mind, even today.
The first was when my sister and I had a joint sleepover. She and her friends were a few years older, in their early teens. They were into grown-up things like boys and boy bands and shopping for bras. So when my sister invited us into her room to hang out, my friends and I were on our best behavior, hoping to absorb some of their sophistication and wisdom.
It was already after dark at that point. The typical part of the sleepover when we’d start messing with portals into the dark realm without parental supervision.
We both had two friends staying with us that night, so there were six of us altogether. The older girls were able to keep me and my posse of tweens focused during the ritual, and they were much better at all the theatrics.
I can clearly remember my turn to float (or levitate) into the air. My sister’s friend was at my head, while the other five girls sat on either side of me, spaced out evenly beside my torso and legs.
The girl at my head rubbed my temples as she told a short, scary story. I’m not sure the exact details of the story, but I died at the end. Then I became a ghost. (You always have to die and become a ghost in the story). She then instructed me to feel each part of my body becoming lighter and lighter — until I eventually felt so light, that I could float.
It was honestly pretty relaxing. Like meditative yoga for the occult of teen girls. Instead of giggling our way through it like we usually do, we all managed to keep a straight face.
When it came time for the “light as a feather, stiff as a board” incantation, which we’d repeat out loud around the circle, one at a time, the girls were able to lift me the highest I’d ever been with nothing more than their index and middle fingers placed at my shoulders, arms, hips, and legs. I made it a couple feet, at least, before they gently lowered me back down.
We didn’t break into fits of laughter until after I was safely on the floor. It was a new record for the younger group of girls, and we were in awe of our success.
Clearly, having older and wiser friends who were far more practiced at the game was the way to go. With more structured guidance, the group was able to coordinate the timing and the distribution of weight so that lifting me really felt as easy as lifting a feather.
That’s the key — equal weight distribution among the group at the exact same moment. It’s not actually the magic spell that makes you “light as a feather,” it’s teamwork. (It’d make a great game for any work retreat — sure beats the trust fall).
It’s simple physics.
Except for one other time, which happened not long after that. That time, I kid you not, I played Light as a Feather — and it worked. For real. Like, supernaturally real.
Girl Was Floating
This slumber party was a little different. It was at a friend’s house who lived nearby, but she didn’t go to my school. She was on my soccer team when I was 11 years old.
We’ll call her Robin.
Robin’s mom was a witch. I’m convinced of it. She was so cool. She was hosting our soccer team sleepover and made sure we had all the fun necessities. Movies, snacks, and privacy.
But when it got to be the spookier time of night, she actually joined us. “We’ll play Light as a Feather. But we’ll make it the real deal,” she said, her voice ominous.
She’d already had the dining room set up when she came and retrieved us from the living room. We’re talking low light, candles, and the dining room table moved out of the way so we had the space we needed.
I remember a woven blue blanket with a moon and star pattern spread out on the dark wood floor. It looked old, but clean. I also remember not raising my hand when she asked who wanted to be the one to float like a ghost. It all felt a little too authentic for me — especially when it was being run by an authority figure who seemed to really know what she was doing.
Most of the other girls raised their hands though, and Robin picked one, seemingly at random. Our lucky chosen one lay flat on the floor as we all sat cross-legged around her. (Her name and even what she looked like escapes me now).
Robin’s mom of course took on the leader role, sitting at the girl’s head. She told a short story about our teammate meeting her demise — murdered on the street by a lunatic. (And giving me plenty of nightmares later on.)
After that, she went through the guided meditation to help our friend imagine the various parts of her body getting lighter and lighter now that she was part ghost.
We repeated the words to the spell around the circle:
“Light as a feather…”
“Stiff as a board…”
“Floating through space…”
“A ghost, she absorbed.”
“Now on the count of three,” Robin’s mom said, “we raise [Whatshername]. One, two, three.”
We used our fingers to lift the girl up. Everyone else kept chanting: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” over and over as we lifted, which is something I’d never done with my school friends. But I knew there were different iterations of the ritual — different spell variations, different procedures. So I went with it.
And this time, it was effortless. More effortless even than the time in my sister’s room. I’m talking The Craft kind of effortless.
It got even freakier when I realized we weren’t stopping and putting her back down. With everyone still only using two fingers from each hand, we easily raised her body up, higher and higher, until we actually had to stand up from our seated positions as we raised her.
Then, we had to lift our hands above us, because this irl just kept going up.
The thing I remember most vividly is the girl going up so high that I could no longer reach her. I held my hands up in the air, ready to help catch her if she fell.
I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
The funny thing is, I can’t remember how we ever got her down. I know we managed to do it. I know for a fact that no one had to call the fire department to come and get a levitating girl off the ceiling.
I also know no one got hurt. And I know I was changed from then on. It was real this time, I remember thinking. It was pretty much all we could talk about for the rest of the night.
I know my tone has been humorous thus far, and my narration somewhat unreliable. But I’m completely serious when I tell people: if I ever had a real experience with anything paranormal, this is the one thing I can point to.
Sure, it could be my imagination. My mind could be filling in the fuzzy spots I can’t remember. Or it could be that I was a little shorter, and the taller girls were handling all the work. But I honestly think I can recall that a lot of us weren’t even touching her once she reached that highest point.
But one must also consider the possibility that Robin’s mom really did know how to tap into the spirit realm, and we really did invite a ghost into my teammate for the night.
I like to lean more toward the latter, but I’ve never really explored the notion beyond some light research and my memories. Nowadays, I prefer not to mess with that stuff.