Old haunts and things that go bump

Old haunts and things that go bump

Halloween is nigh. In creeped-out anticipation, four UPS tales of the supernatural

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
We’ve never heard of a theater that wasn’t haunted—why else would you need a ghost light?—and the Norton Clapp Theatre (the Inside Theatre to you pre-’90s alumni) in Jones Hall is no exception. This ghost, although it’s never actually been seen, has achieved a bit of stage fame and is named on several lists of the most haunted places in Washington, including www.carpenoctem.tv/haunt/wa. The benign spirit moves scenery, turns lights on and off, slams doors, and rattles paint cans. It is said that, once, a student working on a catwalk above the stage lost her balance and started to fall but was pulled back to safety by an unseen force.

Meanwhile, the prop and costume storage area in the attic of McIntyre Hall has been the site of numerous unexplained happenings. It’s easy to see why. Nothing like creaky floorboards, dimly lit aisles, and a bunch of dusty Harlequin masks to heighten one’s awareness of the fantastic. Costume Shop Manager Mishka Navarre says this past year a student was up there alone pulling costumes. “He came back to the shop out of breath and limping,” Navarre says. “I asked him what was wrong. He’d heard voices and footsteps and asked if anyone was there. No one answered so he packed up quick and left, and said that someone pushed him as he came down the stairs. He twisted his ankle.”

You lookin’ at me?
The story persists on campus that the William Holman Hunt painting, “Jesus, the Light of the World,” that hangs in the Gail Day Chapel (a copy of the original, of course) is haunted because the eyes follow a person all around the room. Back in ’01 we asked then-Professor of Studio Art Melissa Weinman Jagosh what caused the phenomenon. She said: “When a figure is painted to look out of the picture plane directly at the viewer—making ‘eye contact’—it appears as if the eyes follow the viewer around the room. The distortion and foreshortening that takes place as the viewer moves may make the iris appear as if it, too, has changed position.”

If a house is torn down, does the ghost who lives there move someplace else?
You’d think that, since campus safety officers are patrolling the university grounds all night, every night, they’d have a lot of stories of the unexplained to tell. Actually, not so much. But Director of Security Todd Badham ’85 does tell a tale of a ghost seen in what was the student residence at 1420 N. Alder. (The house was demolished this summer to make way for the new 15th Street entrance to the campus). Glenn Darby ’05, then a student security staff member, lived there and said one night when he was sitting in the living room he saw a small boy walk through the dining room and up the stairs. In summertime, when the house was supposedly empty, campus safety staffers occasionally observed window curtains moving like someone was inside (the security office is right next door), but when officers checked no one was ever found. No reports yet of small, semitransparent boys sitting on the brick wall that now occupies the ground where the house once stood.

Military toys in the attic
Not all UPS ghost stories take place on campus. Maggie Smith Mittuch ’82, associate vice president for student financial services at the university, told us this about a neighborhood house rented by students:

In the early ’80s I lived with friends in a big, old house a few blocks north of the campus. The place belonged to John Andrus, son of Col. Burton Andrus, who was commandant of the Nuremberg prison during the Nazi war crimes trials and later a UPS geography professor. Burton Andrus died in 1977. John Andrus and his wife lived on the East Coast in Massachusetts, so they were largely absentee landlords.

The house was furnished with things the Andruses had collected from around the world, and the attic was full of family memorabilia. A lot of the stuff had belonged to Burton Andrus. The attic was locked, and we had no key. Upon occasion, when John Andrus visited town, he would ask permission to visit the attic. I went in with him a time or two and remember being struck by the volume of war collectibles. The senior Andrus had also been a horseman (he may have been in the cavalry), and I remember especially a collection of riding crops in a leather container on the floor. I’d had horses growing up but thought I’d outgrown them when I went to college. At the base of the attic stairs was this very cool black and white photograph, a silhouette, really, of Col. Burton Andrus on horseback in full flight over some fence. I loved that photograph, and think I may still have a copy of it that I took with my 35mm. It was kind of eerie looking. Very grainy, but very cool.

I’m not sure how our ghostly encounters got started, but I re-call we would occasionally hear loud noises in the house at night. Every now and then, when walking back from a campus event in the dark, we’d swear that the light was on in the attic, even though we had no access to it. We used to joke that the colonel was up there looking through his stuff. Sometimes our dogs (we all had dogs in those days) would raise their heads and turn them in unison, as if they were watching something moving through the house that we couldn’t see. I remember a stack of boxes in the living room getting overturned late one night, which woke several of us up. We all came running downstairs to see the mess but had nothing to explain it. No cats or dogs loose, no windows open. Just weird. About that time one of our housemates woke up during the night to go to the bathroom. On her way back to her room, she swears she ran into an old guy wearing a plaid bathrobe, standing in the hallway at the bottom of the basement steps. She couldn’t see his face but felt his presence. Creeped her out.

We called a telephone psychic (this was the early ’80s after all), and she told us there were actually several ghosts around the house but that the prominent one was the colonel, who, sadly, didn’t know he was dead. She said he was pretty benign but very attached to his things. When John Andrus came back to sell a lot of the house’s contents in an estate sale, it kind of shook the old guy up. He was very active around then. The psychic did caution us not to take anything out of the house when we left.

Moving out in 1985 I was packing up my stuff and was really tempted to take an old, wood-framed, round mirror that had been hanging in my room. I remembered the psychic’s warning, but then I remembered I had a world globe. It was a cool one, with the oceans in brown and tan instead of the elementary school style with blue water. I made a deal with the colonel. I’d leave him my globe so he could look at all the countries he’d visited, and I’d take the mirror. I rationalized that since he was a ghost, the mirror was of no use to him, whereas I could still use it. The globe had been a gift from my dad, also a retired military officer. I figured it was a fair trade.

The mirror still hangs in the hallway of my home. I admit I don’t look into it very often—the surface is kind of wavy and a little weird. Plus some part of me is a bit nervous about seeing someone else’s face in it. Oddly, years after leaving that house my life took a turn, and I returned to my equestrian roots. Today I live on a horse farm and compete in cross-country events. I’ve spent a fair amount of my adult life on horseback, in full flight over some fence or other. I think maybe the colonel had something to do with that.