I saw a post on tumblr today about some teenagers stabbing their friend in the woods 19 times because a fictional character told them to do it. The Witch commenting on the post had been into a role-playing game based on the movie 'The Labyrinth' and everyone in her group had an experience with the goblin king. Lots of strange things happened. This group of people had an entity communicating with them. So this brings up the question- do you contact the spirit world or does it contact you?
This is my take on things- humans are social creatures. We ALWAYS notice another being. Imagine you move to a new town. You play your radio loudly. Some of your neighbors enjoy the music. The elderly neighbors do not, they think badly of you. The pothead down the street invites you to listen to his record collection. The night shift worker calls the cops.
Now imagine that there's more than humans. Imagine there are animals who flee from your woods each time the radio starts blasting. Until they get used to the noise. Gradually, they come sniffing around your bird feeders.
Go a step further. There are spirits, too. There are spirits everywhere. You may even haunt a place yourself and not be aware of it. Some of the spirits, like the humans in your neighborhood, are nice. Some are not. Some don't care about you at all.
One percent of the human population is psychotic. Which doesn't sound like much until you realize your subdivision has 100 houses. Uh oh. At least one of your neighbors is capable of killing you while you sleep. They probably won't, many factors go into whether or not someone acts on their impulses, but still, I'd lock the doors.
So how many evil spirits are waiting for you to do something stupid so they can easily turn you into their willing servant? Probably not that many. About the same odds as one of your neighbors killing you in your sleep. But that doesn't make you feel any better and it doesn't answer the question of WHY a group of teens decided 1.) to listen to the entity in the first place or 2.) to hurt their friend.
Let's go back to our group of humans. If a person told you to stab someone, would you? Probably not if that was the first thing they said the first time you met. But you might stab someone to protect a friend, especially if you thought that friend really needed your help. And then certain factors would still have to be in place, like a handy butcher knife. You wouldn't stab an abusive person if you had a baseball bat in hand. You wouldn't put down a weapon and go in search of another. And you probably wouldn't follow exact instructions either. Sure, you saw him hit her, ok, the knife was already on the counter in the kitchen where the argument took place. But if your friend starts telling how deep the wounds should be or where the next blow should land, you'd question that. If you've already cut his throat and are sure he's dead, why would you try to cut out his eyes? You wouldn't blindly follow your friend's request, you'd ask why.
So why didn't the teens ask why? Maybe they did. Maybe they were high and thought they were doing something else entirely. Maybe they thought their friend was really evil. Maybe they had been tormented repeatedly and just wanted the torture to stop at any cost. I don't have an answer because I don't know the whole story. I didn't read the news link. I am only speculating on whether or not a spirit can easily make people do its biding.
I would have to say no, it's not easy. Why would a spirit need a human to do its biding? How often to humans summon spirits? It's not that easy. It's hard to make contact in a place known to be haunted. And then you want that spirit to obey? For what? Just to see if you can? If it's a lark how much effort are you really going to put forth anyway? How do you decide when the fun is over? What happens then? Is the spirit hovering about awaiting instructions? What was it doing before you came along? Does it forget servitude? Is it resentful of the duties you assigned to it? How long would it stew in anger before seeking revenge?
Let's pretend you move into a new place again, only this time you are as anti-social as possible. This time you have a 12ft privacy fence, cameras, 'trespassers will be shot' signs, and you never leave the house. You still have to deal with people. The electric company will send you a bill every month. Girl scouts come by selling thin mints. Someone gets lost and walks across your property. It doesn't matter if you keep to yourself, people are all around and they will notice you eventually. Just like spirits are everywhere and no matter how loudly you claim disbelief, at some point there is the experience you cannot explain.
So can playing role games attract spirits? Maybe. How much effort to you put into your game? Does the game become real to you? When I was in my high school drama club we often referred to each other as our characters. Sometimes the person became their part in the play. Sometimes Brad was always Brad either on stage or off. Was our auditorium haunted? Absolutely. I've heard doors slam when the building was empty. Several students saw ghosts. Music played by itself. We were trying very hard to create an alternate reality. And we did.
Did we create those things or did spirits already present choose to manifest themselves? Maybe both. Maybe after so much emotion is poured out it starts to live. Maybe spirits find it easy to manifest in between spaces, places where imagination becomes real.
So will every player in a role playing game have a negative experience? No. Will any game attract local spirits? No. Why not? I don't know. I know lots of things must be in place, and even more things must be in place before a spirit has control of a human. And I know that even if it is a spirit in control, there will always be an authority figure to explain it all away. I'm pretty sure if I go back to the news story background will start to appear and at least one of the teens involved will be on drugs/abused/low self-esteem. Or at least, that will be the 'official' reason.
Witches walk between the worlds. The circle you cast is between the worlds. The Quarters you call are in another realm. Even the muggles walk between worlds when they dream. I don't think you can either avoid the spirit world or it can avoid you. All I can do is urge you to pay attention.