If the standard Ouija session involves hushed questions whispered in a darkened seance room, Rick “Ormortis” Schreck’s record-breaking rendition of the talking board game is the otherworldly communication equivalent of shouting through a bullhorn with the volume pegged to the max.
Schreck earned “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” status on Oct. 12, 2019, when he and several volunteers unveiled OuijaZilla, the world’s largest Ouija board and planchette, on Salem Common in Salem, Mass.
The board, which took Schreck a year and a half to build in his one-car garage in Middlesex, N.J., is composed of 99 sheets of plywood. It clocks in at more than 4 1/2 tons and measures 72 feet by 44 feet.
The 400-pound planchette, or “OuijaZilla’s foot,” as Schreck has dubbed it, spans 15 1/2 feet in length but can be operated by a single person, thanks to Schreck’s inventive genius.
“It initially rested on three bowling balls to be used as ball bearings, but the movement wasn’t smooth enough for my liking so I replaced them with strong caster wheels,” he said. “It glides without much effort at all.”
Schreck, whose nickname is a play on the phrase “rigor mortis,” is a talking board devotee, having amassed a collection of about 200 of the items and constructing many more. He presently serves as vice president of the Talking Board Historical Society based in Pinehurst, Mass.
Schreck conceived of OuijaZilla after a phone call with TBHS President Robert Murch. “I was telling Murch I wanted to paint a football field as a Ouija board, then put my truck with a planchette on top in the center. After putting the truck in neutral, I wanted to see if it would move.
“The conversation, as well as the idea, grew and got more ridiculous over the years and somehow OuijaZilla was born. Or as Jeff Goldblum said in ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Life finds a way.’”
And Schreck found a way to make his aspiration come true. He drew a sectioned blueprint of the board’s design, mounted individual plywood sheets on a frame — “out of order; I’m not a very organized person,” he said — and traced and hand painted the graphics according to the image produced by a projector from across the garage.
“The most time-consuming part was getting 99 panels in groups and numbering them on the backs and sides, then stacking them like decks of cards. The panels weigh 70 pounds each, so it was quite a workout.”
The project was largely a solo effort, “but there were times I had help or at least some company,” Schreck said. “My wife, Kate, spent freezing winter nights and boiling summer days helping me. My daughters, Winter and Samara, helped out with staining as well as cutting wood. My friend and tattoo shop co-owner, Jill, helped out with staining.”
During the production process, Schreck tested portions of the board to gauge measurements and progress. “Twice I brought out 21 boards into our parking lot to get an idea. It took hours each time,” he said, noting, “It was never assembled by more than six boards at a time, so I had to trust my measurements.”
He said the most gratifying part of the process was “watching the forklift loading the truck the day we were leaving. I was like, ‘This is really happening.’”
Schreck and his team made the 267-mile trip to Salem for the inaugural revealing. “The beast was delivered in custom crates by truck by Trans American Trucking,” he said. “It took a team of people about 25 hours total over the course of two days to assemble.”
Schreck lavished kudos on those who assisted him. “The giant cost of this undertaking was taken care of by friends who are listed as sponsors on the board. The Salem appearance was made possible by John Kozik, who also serves on the TBHS and owns the Salem Witchboard Museum.
“The crew who assembled the board are the true heroes. I would have given up without them. We assembled this giant in a nor’easter storm. Many times I almost quit but they kept me focused.”
OuijaZilla dwarfs by one and a half times the previous record holder for the largest Ouija board, installed by Blair Murphy on the roof of his 32-room Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, Pa., in 2016.
Guinness World Records still recognizes Murphy’s incarnation as the largest Oujia board because Schreck’s creation is bordered by advertisements acknowledging the individuals and businesses who helped him with his project.
Nevertheless, shrugging aside the technicality, Ripley’s bestowed the superlative upon Schreck the day of OuijaZilla’s unveiling.
This season’s Salem Common reprise is iffy. Anthropomorphizing his brainchild, Schreck said, “OuijaZilla is afraid of the current pandemic, so he chooses to stay in his lair and hibernate until the coast is clear.” He did announce, however, that the planchette will make an appearance at the Michigan Paranormal Convention in Sault Ste. Marie in August of next year.
Should OuijaZilla grace Salem Common again this fall, Schreck offered some advice for visitors to maximize their experience. “Take lots of pics, because you never know when he will make another appearance. He is quite unpredictable.” For more information, call Schreck at (732) 752-1008 or visit www.ouijazilla.com or www.facebook.com/houseof1000tattoos.