“Please Consider an Upgrade,” original short fiction for Haunted Passages by Carrie Bindschadler

Dear Declan,

Thank you for your recent purchase of our signature Home Seance Basic Package. This specially-curated package is our most affordable option. This package allows you to contact a single recently-deceased human being or beloved pet one time only. If you are interested in repeat spiritual visitations, you will need to upgrade to the Home Seance Annual Membership or to the Home Seance Gold-Level Package as the continued ritual experience is a much more complex procedure. The Home Seance Basic Package is a fantastic and affordable option for those who are 100% certain they only wish to contact the deceased once in their lifetime. Upon use of the Home Seance Basic Package, you forfeit any and all future rights to contact the spirit of choice ever again, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to upgrade your package before you begin.

The Basic Home Seance Package you have purchased includes the following materials:

1. 1 Home Seance Ritual Layout Diagram
2. 1 Home Seance Basic Ritual Instruction Guide developed specifically for your unique ritual
3. 1 Home Seance Linen Ritual Mat
4. 1 Home Seance White Wax Candle
5. 1 Home Seance Ritual Pendulum
6. 1 Home Seance Bandaid
7. 1 personalized List of Questions To Avoid Asking Your Dead Father[1]

Home Seance is delighted to bring a powerful, personalized, and professional seance experience that works. Our seance packages are designed to help anyone conduct a safe seance from home without fear of possession or any other demonic side effects.

We look forward to your feedback following your Home Seance Experience! Thank you again for your purchase and best of luck with your ritual experience.

All the best,
Miriam Glennon
Witch Tech Support
Home Seance LLC

P.S. As confident as we are in the Home Seance process, we also feel compelled to warn you that contacting the dead is a fraught endeavor, especially when completed so close to the time of death. Many of our clients seeking catharsis or peace fail to achieve their goals when rushing the seance process. Our customers are important to us and we want the seance experience to go as smoothly as possible, so we highly encourage you to carefully read through the following List of Questions to Avoid Asking the Deceased before reading the Basic Ritual Instruction Guide or beginning the ritual to ensure the highest level of satisfaction with your seance ritual.

A List of Questions to Avoid Asking Your Dead Father – Created for Declan Bichdel

1. Did you love me?

You’ll fail at this one. We advise all clients not to ask this question, but inevitably, everyone does, and you will too. After all, why else would you be here, paying for our Home Seance Package with your dead father’s credit card? Have you considered how wonderful that is: that there are places in the world where your father is still considered living enough for credit? Right now, in this particular moment, your father is only dead in your house, on your street, in the morgue, and on Facebook in the memorial group your third cousin made to celebrate his life.

What other reason for calling your dead father back from the grave could you have then a need to absolve yourself of fear the answer might be no? And yet, you will read this list and the advice that follows, and still, somehow, you will ask.

Maybe you think you’re used to failing. Here is a list of things you’ve failed so far: Calculus, Physics, English, high school graduation, lifeguard training, saving your father’s life, making your father proud. You’re probably thinking: what’s one more in your short lifetime of failures?

So you will ask the question, but here is the kicker. No matter the answer, all you will get for your trouble is a more broken heart.

2. Before you died, did you think of me?

If you ask the first question and the response fails to please you, which it will, you will find yourself asking this one—a natural follow-up. We advise you to avoid any line of questioning that may disturb or unrest the spirit by reminding it of the event that resulted in the loss of physical form.

You may recall, approximately three days ago, your dead father asked you to take out the trash and you said you’d get to it, but you didn’t. Your father’s body was found next to the cabinet beneath the sink where you keep the trash can, open, as if he were about to lift the bag, tired of waiting for you to get off your lazy, entitled ass.[2]

You need help. What you seek isn’t really a meeting with your father, but an absolution of the guilt you feel for not being a better son. We suggest perhaps an apology, a ritual sacrifice, or at the very least a good begging for forgiveness over asking this question.

3. Did you call for help?

You think you want to know if he recognized he was going and shouted, but what if the answer is yes? What if he called out your name?

We feel compelled to inform you this is not the official reading of your character here at Home Seance. As we have no personal knowledge of you beyond what we have psychically gleaned, we cannot make a judgment call as to the truth of your laziness either way. We can only tell you what you think of yourself. We would like to additionally take this opportunity to recommend our sister service Wickedly Insightful Home Therapy for the grieving.

Don’t you remember what you were doing when he died? Would it really help to know that his final words weren’t really “Declan, turn your goddamn music down. I can’t hear myself think!” But instead a cry for your help? He could’ve screamed his last words and you’d never have heard them over the din of the music you turned up instead of down to piss him off.

What difference does it make to know the precise wording or timing of a tragedy? It won’t change anything. Your final action in the world where your father breathed will always be a passive aggression.

4. Did you leave me anything?

Even you must have the self-awareness to know why this question will piss the spirit of your father off. Think carefully before you ask if it’s worth knowing if you have your father’s blessing to take the keys to the Chevy he refused to sell despite the steadily rising cost of maintenance.

When your dead father was young, before you were born, he took that truck and drove it across the country. Now, you want to know what Kentucky wind feels like in your hair, if the middle of the U.S. is really as flat as they say, how green green can be, how wide a river can bend.

Your dead father said he discovered himself with the windows down, listening to the roar of the engine as he drove on winding country roads and highways. There’s something there, you think. The fantasy: your ass in the dent his left behind, your hands on the steering wheel still greased with his fingerprints.

You have questions with answers to be discovered on the open road: How will you move through the world now fatherless? What direction will you go? How far can you drive before you remember you have nowhere to go and are all alone?

Please consider this: you don’t really want the keys to his car. You’ve already taken them, like you took his credit cards. No. This question is a mask for a question impossible to answer. We regret to inform you that permission is one of many things the dead can never give the living. No matter how you ask. Unfortunately, even upgrading your seance materials to Gold Status would still fail to give you the answer you seek to this question. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and recommend you avoid attempting to trick or harangue the deceased into giving an answer. If you anger the spirit, they may leave your side before the seance has ended.

5. Were you ever proud of me?

The reason you shouldn’t ask this one should be obvious. It doesn’t matter what your father will say. The question is not what he will say, but rather whether you will believe what he has to tell you.

We ask you to search through your own memories and find comfort there: your father at Kindergarten graduation holding you on his shoulders, your artwork framed in his office, your name tattooed on his forearm next to your mother’s, every music recital, every school event, every Friday night family dinner.

But we know it isn’t enough. It never is.

6. Did you know you were going to die?

Consider this: if you ask your dead father this question, know you are asking the spirit to relive a moment of trauma—a splitting too young, too soon, too much left to give. Did his chest feel tight? Did his fingers feel numb? Surely, he had to know he was having a heart attack before it happened. How many times did he point to the television screen and triumphantly predict “heart attack” or “pregnant” using only a few details—a twinge in the left pec or arm: heart attack, a woman or girl over the age of 14 vomiting: pregnant. He was right every time.

When you Googled the symptoms of heart attack (tightness, pain, fatigue, abnormal heartbeat, anxiety) sure enough, you were confronted with a big, yellow exclamation point telling you to call 911 immediately.

At this point, you’re thinking you can stop reading this list. Or at the very lease, pause and skim the final sentences. We highly recommend you slow down and take a few deep and calming breaths. Consider the questions above you should not ask. If they are all you have to say, we highly recommend either upgrading your package or that you reconsider performing the seance at all. We remind you that we will gladly refund your father’s credit card to the amount of 75% of the original purchase if you choose not to proceed.

You only get one shot at connecting with your father with the Basic Home Seance Package that you purchased. If it fails, that’s it.

Home Seance Basic Ritual Instruction Guide for Derek Bichdel

Please read the follow guidelines and instructions carefully and completely before beginning the ritual. Any missteps can and will result in ritual failure. Once the package is in your hands, it is up to you to ensure your ritual experience goes smoothly by following the precise instructions provided. The following instructions have been prepared specifically to your ritual preferences to address any potential issues we feel you may encounter during the ritual.


1. Gently unfold and lay out the Home Seance Linen Ritual Mat flat on your desk. There may be some wrinkles. Do your best to ensure the mat lies as flat as possible. See Ritual Layout above.

2. Place the Home Seance white wax candle in the spot marked by the guidelines on your Home Seance Linen Ritual Mat.

3. Light the Home Seance white wax candle.

4. Remove the Home Seance Ritual Pendulum from packaging. Using the sharp end of the pendulum, coat the surface of the pendulum in your own blood.

5. Swing the bloody pendulum along the guidelines on the Home Seance Linen Ritual Mat five times, back and forth, in a V shape.

6. Repeat the following incantation while continuing to swing the pendulum along the guidelines marked on the mat: I call upon you, spirit of my father, to return to this place for one hour and have words with me. I call upon you, my father. I call upon you, my father. Derek Bichdel. Derek Bichdel. Derek Bichdel. While repeating the incantation, remember to breathe slowly and carefully though the nose as you speak. Enunciate well. Mumbling may cause the spirits to mishear, thus sending the incorrect spirit to you. We would hate for you to disturb the rest of Derek Bechdele or David Blankenship due to a simple mistake of the tongue.

7. Be patient. The ritual often takes up to 15 minutes to take proper effect depending on the resistance of the spirit and the length the deceased has been gone.

8. Whatever you do, do not allow anyone else to enter the room once you’ve begun the ritual.

9. This will be difficult. We highly recommend a lock on the door, or better yet, a barricade. Your dresser might do nicely.

10. Do not allow your mother to become aware of the ritual.

11. Do not allow your mother to enter your room during the ritual.

12. If your mother knocks on your door, pretend you are not home or otherwise indisposed.

13. If you forget to lock the door and your mother walks down the hall to your room in her red dress (the one she wore on date nights, to weddings, to baby showers, to chaperoning your prom), the one she hasn’t taken off since the day your father died, the ritual will not go the way you hope.

14. Do not forget to lock your door.

15. If your mother enters the room in her red dress splashed with white peonies and sees the spirit of your father, she will weep and she will steal your ritual with her tears.

16. Do not allow yourself to think she won’t cry. Simply because you have never seen her cry before does not mean she won’t. You still think crying, like so much else in your life, belongs only to your father. Your father, who cried while watching The Notebook, when you broke your arm falling out of a tree, when his father died, when he lost your pet gerbil Matterhorn, when he found your pet gerbil, Matterhorn, alive under the fridge two weeks after losing him, whenever he watched the news, when his niece was born, when you didn’t graduate from high school, when you didn’t go to college, when he called you a failure, when he saw your mother in that red dress for the first time, when he saw your mother in that red dress the last time, and every time he saw her in that red dress in between. But your father is gone now, leaving you and your mother to take on the roles he held when he breathed. Do not make the mistake of believing crying will be something for you to inherit.

17. If your mother enters the room, your father will only see her and she will only see him. Neither spirit nor mother will look at you and the poor caricature you make in your father’s too-small suit pulling around the shoulders and wrinkling at the waist. Neither spirit nor mother will see the shard of bloody plastic clenched between your fingers or the instruction guide or the Home Seance Ritual Mat.

18. If your mother enters the room, your mother will see your father and your father will see your mother and they will whisper love to one another with no thought toward you or your desires. The ritual will be yours no more, but hers and his. A love like theirs is far more powerful than the magics our Home Seance team can hope to respond to. Regardless of this fact, as per the contract you signed when you purchased the Home Seance Basic Kit, you will not be able to redo the ritual or contact the spirit again.

19. After you’ve barricaded your door and ensured your mother cannot interrupt the seance, wait for your father to appear. It should take no more than 10 minutes. As you wait, we recommend you re-read the List of Questions to Avoid Asking before your father’s spirit arrives. It would be a shame to waste your ritual and an even more terrible shame to fail at this too as you have failed at so many things before.

20. Please don’t forget that we will gladly refund your father’s stolen credit card to the amount of 75% of the original purchase if you choose not to proceed and can return all of the materials from the seance, unused, to our office.

21. Please be aware that we calculate there to be less than a 25% chance you won’t manage to fuck this up. As such, we would like to remind you once more: you only get one chance to connect with your father with the Basic Home Seance Package that you purchased.

22. Please consider an upgrade.

23. Proceed, but only if you’ve really thought this through.

Carrie Bindschadler is a writer, teacher, and visual artist based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her work can be found in jmww, HAD, Cosmonauts Avenue, Puerto del Sol, and others. She completed an MFA from Miami University in Ohio in 2018 and attended the Tin House Summer Workshop in 2019 where she studied with R.O. Kwon. Her short story “Tortoise” won first-place in the 2017 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards competition. Also, she has a really cool collection of platypus stuffies. 

Image: ruby.fun

Check out HFR’s book catalog, publicity list, submission manager, and buy merch from our Spring store. Follow us on Instagram and YouTube. Disclosure: HFR is an affiliate of Bookshop.org and we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Sales from Bookshop.org help support independent bookstores and small presses.


[1] Our Lists of Questions to Avoid and Basic Ritual Instruction Guides are compiled and curated according to your psychic footprint. The list may reference highly sensitive and/or personal information in addition to events and/or emotions you may or may not yet be aware you are experiencing.

[2] We feel compelled to inform you this is not the official reading of your character here at Home Seance. As we have no personal knowledge of you beyond what we have psychically gleaned, we cannot make a judgment call as to the truth of your laziness either way. We can only tell you what you think of yourself. We would like to additionally take this opportunity to recommend our sister service Wickedly Insightful Home Therapy for the grieving.

Comments (