Watch now on:

In five tense minutes, George C. Scott is scared still.

In the 1970s, the Ouija Board was a popular toy for kids, no more or less exotic than Chinese Checkers or Parcheesi. Parents thought little of sending their moppet off to a slumber party with one tucked under their arm, laughing as kids pushed a planchette or wine glass around its glossy face and asked long dead spirits whether someone they had a crush on in grade school liked them back.

The 1980 ghost movie The Changeling, and specifically the seance scene in which a murdered child reaches out from the beyond to spur his old house’s new resident to seek justice on his behalf, was the Scared Straight! of such wanton contact with the restless dead. It may not use a Ouija, but the absolute authenticity of the way it showed death’s intrusion on the living, and the intensity with which George C. Scott watches it happen (has the Patton actor ever been so still?) showed that the undead were indeed unsuitable playmates.

The scene is also the backbone of one of the scariest, most overlooked ghost movies of its time. Not only does it have an actual plot—the crippled boy was drowned and then replaced by his ambitious senator father—but it was one that resonated deeply and uneasily with the divorced children of the era. It certainly has kept some of us away from willingly contacting the dead for next few decades—we’ll gladly leave that to the professionals.

Watch now on: