Before I went to university, I didn’t believe in ghosts, hauntings and specters. I had a well developed knowledge of angels and demons, based on the King James version of the Christian Bible and dozens of missionary bibliographies my parents had read me, but I had never seen a horror film, or sat around a fire telling creepy stories. Well, I had seen Sixth Sense, but I’m not sure if that’s horror or part of the more general speculative genre. Excellent film, by the way. Story telling art.
So I arrived at my university, interviewed for a job at the library in the second semester and started making friends.
Loved and hated the old library. There were students workers who refused to shelve on the bottom basement floor. I went down there looking over my shoulder. You could never quite see it but you could feel it, this lurking, disapproving presence, stalking you through the stacks. Almost none of us wanted to shelve that floor. It was always the last to go out when we returned used items to the stacks. “Which floor would you like?” our supervisor would say and floor four and six would be gone in a heartbeat.
The fifth floor was iffy. I’d take it because I liked the books that were kept there. The large reading room in the west wing was often empty of students during certain times and if the presence on the bottom floor was a lurking stalker, the hulking spirit sitting by the fireplace on the fifth floor reading room was an ax murderer. I often imagined it looked like a twisted, enlarged version of Beauty’s Beast, without the niceties. It wasn’t until I heard the librarians talking about the ‘first librarian’ that I was bold enough to ask about the “presences”.
They did nothing to allay my fears. Evidently the first and fifth floor were well known. Multiple students and long term staff had given similar accounts of illogical fear. The damn broke. On the sixth floor, evidently boys often had their heads slapped. The first librarian was said to move books or place lost items on desks long after they had been misplaced. One night, the older staff started telling us about other ghosts around the campus.
I walked home looking over my shoulder, waiting for something to jump out at me.
Then I met the security guard. We’ll call him J.C. Sometimes I would play piano for the small Sunday meeting in the Chapel. Late one Saturday night I was practicing, roaring out something by a Russian composer with large four note chords in each hand, cadences thundering through the basement of the large church when I heard a thin voice from the door. I thought I was a lone. I whirled around, hands frozen above the keys to see J.C. Standing in the doorway in his blue uniform. He wouldn’t come into the room and he looked white as sheet. He had to lock up, he explained. Closing time and all that.
I grabbed my books, perplexed at why he stood so hesitantly in the door way. He said he would wait upstairs. He was normally so polite and now he would barely look at me.
When I came up, he apologized and explained I had frightened him with the music. He wouldn’t go into details but he told me there was a demon in the church and that sometimes he saw it, passing over the windows at night. The place was evil he said.
That fit into the missionary stories I’d been read as a kid and all the Frank Perritti books I’d devoured in high school. I shook in my boots and marched home. Later, J.C. would tell me about living in one of the old frat houses and how a man would walk around the house at night, impersonating him to his wife while he was asleep.
A state of perpetual terror began to follow me around campus. I was living in the middle of a haunted hill. The computer lab made weird sounds at night that stopped when the kids yelled at it. My boyfriend told me of a neighboring campus where one of the dorms had burned down, but the flames had been burning inward to the foundations instead of up, as if it was being sucked down.
And then a trio of small books written about documented haunting passed over the library counter, full of stories about the small town outside the campus and other places around the state.
There are some things you should never read, but you do. And you can’t ever unread it. I found out that the Inn was haunted, and the place across the street, and the bridge over a few miles and that house down the high way.
“Oh, yes” I was told, “we have ghosts all right.”
I went to sleep holding my Bible, something I’d always thought my sister was silly to do. Where was Buffy when you needed her?
So, was it all real or not? Wait for Part 2 ^_^