Tuesday, November 13, 2012
My Haunted House
I believe in ghosts.
In 2005, I was my university newspaper's entertainment editor. I spent almost every day at the old, historic house which served as the headquarters.
It was a two-story cozy bungalow, built in the 1920s. The bottom half housed the newsroom, my office, and other offices. Upstairs held more offices. We held our staff meetings in the small, scary basement.
It was a typical college landmark, with Bob Marley posters interlaced with Gandhi quotes on the walls and Ernest Hemingway novels sprawled across dirty green futons.
On weekdays, the house was bustling with eager, young journalists, writing stories on laptops or running around, laughing about the latest university scandal. On Sunday nights, the place was packed with every staff employee cranking out the latest edition for a Tuesday release.
As an editor, I practically lived in the house. I was there every single day, proofreading my reporters' stories or even just studying for a test. It was my home away from home.
But the house held a dark secret, which I didn't learn until it was too late.
I was dating the sports editor of the newspaper. His name was Joseph. One afternoon, we raced down into the dark, frightening basement, to get frisky. We made our way into a tiny room we'd never been in before, giggling and kissing and getting undressed.
It was pitch black, except for a tiny streak of light coming from the hallway. I noticed there were numbers written all over the walls of the room. I pushed Joseph away and pointed them out.
"What is all this crap?" I remember asking, puzzled. He lit up his cell phone and we squinted at the numbers, which appeared to be written in marker. The numbers looked worn and faded, like they had been there for a really long time.
"I don't know," he said, studying them. "They kind of look like footballs stats. Who cares."
And we resumed our intimacy.
The next day, I asked my friend Nancy to go down to the basement with me, so I could show her the numbers written all over the walls.
When we got to the room, the walls were stark white. There were no numbers. We went to every single room in the basement. No numbers. She thought I was nuts. I swore to her there were numbers on the walls.
Later that afternoon, I turned on all the lights again, and brought Joseph down. We studied every room and couldn't find the numbers. He seemed disturbed, but calmed me down by saying that perhaps the building manager had painted down there. He couldn't think of any other explanation.
A few months later, I was alone in the house on a Saturday afternoon. I was editing stories in my office. I kept hearing someone walk outside my door, but every time I inspected it, there was nobody there. Then, I heard a door slam. Annoyed, I walked all over the house and upstairs, only to find that every single door was locked. I was alone in the house.
Not too long after that incident, I found myself alone in the house on a Friday night. I had gone out for dinner with Jonny and then realized I had a shitload of stories to edit, so I went to the house to get some of them out of the way.
About an hour after I was alone in the house, I heard a radio turn on. It was on the sports station. I walked around the house until I came to the room where the sound was coming from. It was my boyfriend's office, which was locked shut. But he wasn't in there. He was in northern California, visiting his mother.
"Hello?" I asked into the door, perplexed. There was no answer. Just the radio.
A male broadcaster was announcing a play-by-play of a football game. It was very loud.
Frustrated and confused, I called my boyfriend's cell. I told him that there was a radio blasting in his office and did he, perhaps, lend his office key to anyone in particular?
Joseph was pissed.
No, he did NOT lend his key to anyone, and he demanded that I figure out who the hell was in his office. After all, he didn't even have a radio in there, he said. Just his computer. I, of all people, should know that. He was freaked out. I didn't blame him.
Instead of investigating the incident any further, I immediately collected my notebook and raced out of the house. I could still hear the radio blasting from his window as I ran to my car in the pitch black parking lot.
The next day, I described the incident to the campus newspaper's office manager, who oversees the house. She didn't seem surprised.
"Oh, I've been working here for five years and we always have weird stuff like that going on," she said, breezily. "Have you seen anything move? That seems to be the most common complaint."
I was floored by her flippancy.
Other than a creepy vibe, I didn't encounter any other incidents after that night.
But one week before I graduated in 2006, I was speaking with one of my English professors about my experience with the campus newspaper.
"I don't know how you can stand being in that house all the time," she told me, with a shudder.
When I asked her why she felt that way, she told me that the campus newspaper house had once been the location for the campus radio station in the 1970s.
In the late 1970s, the disc jockey who covered campus sports, suddenly died of a heart attack after being on-air. His office was located in the last room on the first floor.
I haven't been in the house since.