I’m not very superstitious. I let my imagination get away from me once in awhile, and I guess I have my own “for good luck” rituals, and I have observed that bad things sometimes happen in threes, but I don’t really believe in ghosts or black cats. That goes, too, for the Wilder Ghost Room, a dorm room left uninhabited because it is believed to be haunted.
That’s not to say, though, that the Ghost Room doesn’t creep me out. It’s been stripped bare, rafters and bricks exposed, cavernous attic space gaping down from above, tattered insulation hanging in the corners. It’s the only room on the floor with a glass doorknob, a keepsake of the legend. When wind whistles through the broken window, it sounds like a very large person blowing over the top of a very large bottle –spooky.
Obviously, I respect the haunted legend of the Ghost Room. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent the last two paragraphs consciously capitalizing Ghost and Room. I’m not afraid of ghosts, but I don’t want to give myself any reason to believe in them.
The Outing Club uses the space to store gear and therefore, we get to have a key. On Halloween, we show scary movies and give tours, an event that attracts some interesting participants. Last fall, I hosted three or four girls. They all wore elaborate costumes, but they all sort of acted like they didn’t consider their outfits too unusual. They didn’t even compliment each other on the get-ups, “Your hat is so pointy!” “Thanks, where did you get your orange-and-black striped tights?” As if purple velour was considered casual attire. They even raised eyebrows at me, wearing untorn jeans, no hat of any kind and no black to speak of.
I spent most of the one-room tour hovering by the door and holding court over the light switch. I found myself gazing out into the hallway, trying to maintain the sense of my own physical presence out there between the fluorescent lighting and the linoleum floors, rather than in the musty shadows of the Ghost Room. But then I had to field questions about the College President who apparently tried to spend a night in the room to prove it a safe dwelling, and fled in the middle of the night, about the presumed ghost’s cause of death.
These questions evolved into “Had she been diagnosed with a mental disorder?” and “What was her major?” and when I couldn’t answer these questions with any degree of confidence (or even pretend to try), the questions evolved into complete figments coming out of nowhere. “When they renovated the dorm, they changed the doorknob, and when they came back the next day, the glass one was mysteriously back again!” “The President has never been able to speak of her night in this room!” “The ghost tore down all the walls in a fit of supernatural rage!”
At that point, I ushered the little ladies out, locked the door, checked it twice, and we all went downstairs to eat chocolate and watch Scream. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much was also an option, but no one thought that sounded ‘scary enough.’ How into Halloween could these girls really be if they can’t even recognize a true scary movie when they see one? I don’t really believe in ghosts, but Hitchcock films are frightening.
I thought that would be my last experience in the Wilder Ghost Room. And then there was a wind storm.
A wind storm that brought a huge branch down on Wilder’s roof. A huge branch that landed right on the triangular facade above that empty Ghost Room window. Bricks crumble away, the branch slides off to the side, grazes down against the north end of the building and lands on the roof of the porch at the north entrance. It hovers there for a second and the porch gives out, shattering and collapsing beneath the weight.
One student was injured, but she walked away from the scene, and people have been relocated for one week, two weeks, maybe more. But now I have return to the haunted dorm room to collect all of the Outing Club gear and relocate it –apparently, the Ghost Room is pretty trashed. But maybe now it will be a good omen. The ghost insisted on residing there so that no one else could!