Monday, February 24, 2014

I Don't Believe in Ghosts, But ...

Okay, so Karl Klimt. (And I realize I’m tempting the fates by even mentioning him.)

The events described previously must have happened sometime between 1987 and 1991. In 1991, I moved from lovely Tustin, CA (future home of your Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Tustin?) to lovely Springfield, OR, (home to a lot of Klan activity, apparently) in order to attend grad school at the University of Oregon. (Side note: In the years since I moved from Tustin, I’ve been back to look at the old homestead, and really got nervous in the area. I don’t know if it seemed that unsafe when I lived there, but it’s given me the heebie-jeebies when I’ve gone back.)

But, as usual, I digress …

On one of my first nights in Oregon, one of the faculty members hosted a get-together for the grad students at his house. During that party, I was getting acquainted with a number of people, including one of the veterans, whom we’ll call Amy (since that’s her name). Somehow the subject of the Ouija board came up. I told her the story of Karl, and she had a story of her own. I’ll ask her to verify the exact details, but my memory is that she told me that when she was in undergrad school, she lived in a haunted apartment. I’m not sure of all the details, but I remember a story that either she or a roommate had gone away for a vacation or Christmas trip, leaving the apartment empty. When she came back, no one had been in the apartment, but all the dishware had been moved from the kitchen and neatly stacked in the living room. I seem to recall she had later done the Ouija and contacted the previous tenant, a woman who’d passed on and confessed to moving the dishes. She thanked them for being friendly tenants.

Well, some time later, I’d related that story to someone, leaving out my connection with Herr Klimt. The theatre department at Oregon is in Villard Hall, which is the second-oldest building on campus. It was built in 1886, and even though it’s been renovated at least a couple of times, the interior is old – especially the bowels of the place. Well, “bowels” may not be the right word. There’s no basement (at least, not one I know of), so the heart of the bottom of the building is the stage of the Pocket Playhouse. The Pocket is a small auditorium that doubles as a classroom (I taught a number of sections of Beginning Acting in there). It seats about 100 in very steeply raked seats, and has a good-sized stage – even if there’s no wing space. I did a number of shows in there, and always found it a very hospitable space to work in.

Now, as we all know, every good theatre has a ghost, so I figured if anyplace on campus was going to have a ghost, it’d be Villard, and if there was any place in Villard that was going to be haunted, it’d be the stage of the Pocket. So, I determined that, one Saturday night, when nothing else was going on in the building, I was going to get a group together to do the Ouija board.

I forget who provided it, but come the appointed night, there were all were. There were probably five or six of us, and we broke out the board and the planchet, planted ourselves center stage, and asked someone to come visit us.

I think you know where this is going.

If I tell you I was barely touching the planchet again – to the point where my fingers nearly came off it a couple of times – you must believe me. (I mean, since I hadn’t told the story to anyone, there was no point in faking it then or telling the story now.) Now, I had told no one at this gathering about my past experience, but damned if Karl Klimt didn’t show up. As before, he hogged the session, ranting about his lack of recognition and making a pest of himself. I told the others about what had just happened, and everyone was suitably freaked out.

Eventually, we stopped that session, took a break and got someone else. Someone whom I seem to remember had some connection with the theatre, or at least the building, but was dull in comparison to what had happened with Karl. Whatever happened, it was enough to make us call on him (I’m pretty sure it was a him) to give us some kind of sign.

By this time, it was close to midnight on a Saturday night. It was rare enough for anyone to be in the building on a Saturday on a non-performance night, and even rarer for someone to be there that late, but at the exact moment we asked for a sign, there was an explosion of noise from upstairs.

We all looked at each other and raced upstairs to see what the hell had just happened. Someone had chosen that exact moment to practice his tap-dancing in the hall. Why he was there at all – that late and on a Saturday night – and why he chose to tap-dance just then, I can only submit for your consideration.

After that commotion died down, though – and as we were all leaving – I mean, what could follow that? – we noticed that one of the light bulbs in one of the building’s exit signs had blown during our session. It had exploded with such force, in fact, that the face plate of the sign had been blown off.

Like I said, I don’t believe a word of it, but I’ll be damned if I can explain it.

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