Date: 11 Jul 1997 05:14:47 GMT
When I was attending Southern Oregon State College (now Southern Oregon University), stories, anecdotes and "experiences" about the haunted areas abounded. They still do.
Like all college campuses, SOSC (as I will always remember it) had/has its share of "secrets," and its cadre of "ghosts." From the presences in the Chappel- Swedenbourg house (recounted in my first posting) to the ghostly security guard in Taylor Hall (recounted in my second), from the "bad vibes" felt in the library cellars to the unseen janitor (with roving hands) in the Britt complex to the even nastier "things" in its basement -- the various "spooks" of the dormitories and the divers essences that roamed throughout Churchill, Central and Taylor halls, the Stevenson Union, and the outlying areas (Ashland in general), SOSC was, and from what I hear, is rife with paranormal activity.
Tonight, I want to focus on *whatever* was in Churchill hall, the primary hall for campus offices, financial aid disbursement and foreign language instruction. It was also one of the most haunted buildings on campus.
Churchill hall was one of the first buildings constructed for Southern Oregon College (its incarnation after Southern Oregon Normal School), and is absolutely gorgeous. The facade was reminiscent of fire-warmed bricks, and the ivy-covered walls add a stately elegance to the time-worn stone. Four columns face the street, inviting the eye toward the door, and the inscription carved on the lintel promoting learning. From the back, on the side of the building facing the college library, Churchill is not as grand, but is still quite impressive. It's a two-story building, with all of the offices and meeting rooms on the first floor, and all of the classrooms, the auditorium and the language lab on the second. It is on this second floor that the hauntings occur.
One of the most charming (and perhaps apocryphal) encounters occurred in the late 1980s, when a group of speech students were in the auditorium working on their final presentation. As it was beginning to get rather dark (it was January, and, to conserve electricity, the auditorium is not lit unless there's a class going on), one of the students called out "whoever's closest, get the lights!" Within a few moments, the stage was brilliantly illuminated by the spotlight in the projection/announcer's cage on the opposite wall of the auditorium. They continued working for almost five minutes, then it hit them -- the cage was locked from the outside. There was no way to get into it.
Like lemmings with their first dash toward the sea, the students ran from the auditorium, crowding each other on the way out. As the last one left, the light winked out.
One encounter that I personally experienced in the auditorium again dealt with the cage. I had climbed the ladder to present my part of a final project (again, for a speech class), and had not closed the "lid" over the ladder. I'm acrophobic enough that it was a struggle just to climb the ladder, and I certainly wasn't going to reach across empty space to grab the edge of the trap and swing it down to close it. Stupid? Most likely. But as I'm sure we're all aware, certain fears and phobias are strong enough not to need a reason for propagation.
I was practicing my lines, and the team was as well, for about two hours. The rest of them left, and I chose to remain for a bit in the quiet, trying different intonations and pitches to fill the auditorium without too many echoes. After another hour or so, I was ready to leave, and I turned toward the trap, dreading the climb down.
It was closed.
I didn't close it, no one from my group had come near the ladder, and I would have thought that the squeals of the hinges would have been audible over the almost ringing silences between or around our practice sessions; however, I had heard nothing, seen nothing, and, moreover, *felt* nothing. That in and of itself was odd, as the auditorium invariably gave off a "watchfulness" feeling if you entered it alone -- almost as though you were tolerated as long as you didn't cause any problems, and the feeling of observation precluded the intent to cause problems. This time, though, nothing.
I reached for the trap, pulled it open (*C R E A K!*), climbed down the ladder (closing the trap after me - *C R E A K!*) and left the auditorium. Quickly. Halfway to the cafeteria, though, I realized that I had to go back, as I'd left my clapbook (with all of the setting notes, my lines -- everything) in the cage. I wasn't looking forward to this, but as I returned to the auditorium, something to the right of me caught my eye. It was my clapbook, lying on the stage, directly opposite the cage. And yes, as I walked toward it, I felt the observation growing stronger. Once I grabbed the clapbook, though, and said "thank you" out loud to the darkness, the feeling of presence *vanished* completely. I don't know what it was, and I only went up in the cage one other time (to do the project), but I was unfailingly polite and courteous whenever I walked through that room.
On a lighter note, two students refused to have anything to do with the language lab after setting up a wall chart. One of them (a diehard skeptic) and his coworker had entered the lab, and begun work on the wall opposite the door. As he called out for the necessary tools, his coworker handed them to him. They finished the job and sat down, and one of them noticed they had left a stapler on the desk near the new wall chart. He called out to (so they thought) empty air: "Hey! I've heard there's a neat freak ghost around here. We're just going to leave the stapler there, okay?" Obviously, they thought it was a grand joke.
According to the students they ran over in exiting the building, they got the feeling that the answer was "no" when the stapler *gently wafted* from the table to the desk on which it usually sat.
Although most of the encounters in Churchill are benign, and a few humorous, there have been some instances of sheer terror for some of the participants involved.
One student insisted that, while he was cleaning the floors, he heard "gobbling noises" coming from behind the curtain on the auditorium stage, and that the area was permeated with the stench of decaying meat.
Another claimed to see something that looked like a mannequin in the cage late at night -- unmoving, yet menacing. When a flashlight was shone into the cage, though, it revealed nothing more than an unrelieved blackness, and the security guard investigating it left hurriedly to return to the outside of the building.
Some students have reported having their hair tugged or their cheeks slapped whenever foul language is used in the auditorium area, and others reported a burning sensation in their mouths, almost like alum or citric acid.
One young lady refused to go into the auditorium after dark. Refused. She actually changed her major because two of the courses she needed were conducted in the auditorium and no place else on campus, and it's always dark by 1650 during winter term. All she would say is that she'd had one bad experience with "him" in her sophomore year, and that she wasn't going to leave herself open to "him" again.
One final note of caution: don't look into any of the mirrors on the second floor out of the corners of your eyes. You may not believe what you see if you do, but it's even worse if you do.
So, that's Churchill hall. Next time, I'll talk a bit about Britt, the library and the Stevenson Union.
Damnant quod non intelligunt. - They condemn what they do not understand.