Monday, February 18, 2013

A Ghostly Legend and a Frightened Me

by Julia Buckley

Do you believe in ghosts? Most of the time, I don't.  I've met people who say they've seen one; I have students and colleagues who say they live with one (old Chicago houses are legendary for their ghosts). But, like any skeptic, I always figure that if they existed, we would all see them, and frequently.

So in general I tend to take ghost stories with a grain of salt.

HOWEVER, I work in a school that is supposedly haunted by at least one ghost.  It's a private school, and it once housed a convent, before renovations located the sisters to another building. The old convent was on the fourth floor, which has now been converted into rarely-visited classrooms; but at least two of my co-workers claim to have seen the ghost of a nun walking toward that no-longer-extant living area.

The first, a janitor, told me that he was here very late one night--close to midnight--working with a companion on a burst water pipe. He looked up to see the figure of a nun, clad in the full habit with a long rosary at her side, walking toward the stairs.  He even commented to his colleague, asking what a nun was doing walking around the building at this time of night.  The other man had not seen her.

One of our school counselors also says that she saw the ghost.  She too was working late, preparing a standardized test. She was in the counseling office, which sits directly below the old convent, and she looked out the glass doors to see a nun walking toward the stairs; she opened the stairway door and disappeared (apparently headed for her old living quarters).

Despite the testament of two of my colleages, I still have trouble believing in the ghost (or ghosts). HOWEVER, there is always that little bit of room for belief, especially on days like today.  As I type this, I am in the school alone.

If you think strange houses are spooky at night, try hanging out in a giant, deserted school for any length of time.  It can be downright horrifying. And even though, on a rational level, I don't believe I will see a ghost, I have pointedly avoided the counseling area, the stairway, and, of course, the fourth floor.  I also avoid going into the bathroom, because I wouldn't want to be cornered in there.  So I guess I hold out a small percentage of possibility that ghosts do exist.

Why am I here alone?  Well, teachers often have to come to an empty school, either because we forgot something crucial or because we have to get some work done on the school computer.  In my case, I planned to meet with a group of students, but they agreed on one time, and I showed up at another (much earlier) time.  Hence my blogging in a dark and silent school.

In order to type this, I am putting my back to the entrance door of the library, where I am, and which is directly across from the counseling area.  Am I letting my imagination intimidate me?  Yes.  Am I feeling nervous every time I hear a weird sound?  Yes.  Sure, it could be the building "settling," or the ticking of a clock, or a furnace going on in its loud, banging way.  But it's scary, and it's almost the equivalent to staying in a house that is said to be haunted. It is also freezing in here, because it's about ten degrees outside, and the heat is set lower on the weekends.  :)

My school is not the only one in the area with a legendary ghost.  Two noted universities in our area have their own ghost legends; one is haunted by a monk.

If you're a ghost-hunter at heart, come and visit me in Chicago.  You can go to the city and take the Chicago ghost tour.  Then I'll take you to a dark, silent school where people say they've seen a strange figure walking the halls.

But if you want to go to the fourth floor, you're on your own.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Aw, Julia, you're missing a wonderful opportunity. Why be scared of a ghost that does nothing but walk away? I'm a skeptic too, but I wish these phenomena were real. I guess it feeds my sense of wonder--appropriately for a writer.

Julia Buckley said...

It's true, Liz--it does add an element of fascination to my workplace. It also becomes a little psychology test, because yesterday I was asking myself WHY I didn't want to go in that area. What did I think would happen, even if there was a ghost?

Fear of the unknown, yes. But maybe I have deeper fears that I'm unwilling to tap.

Katreader said...

I do believe in ghosts and have had an encounter...yes is a school while alone after hours! A young seminarian supposedly hung himself in what was (when I attended) the theatre. I was the stage manager and was preparing for a show, alone, when I opened up the door we ran into each other, literally. I think I scared the ghost as much as he scared me though as we (well, he was just a billowy cloud of white) both ran in opposite directions. Lots of other people had encounters in that theatre as well. I'd love to take a ghost tour of Chicgao!

Diane said...

Julia, as Elizabeth Zelvin said, why be afraid of the possibility of a ghost that has shown no one harm? In fact if any of the ghost tales are true, supposedly some hauntings are more 'memory' of what the spirit did in life. An imprint, if you will. This sounds like one of those since there isn't any kind of interaction with those that claim to have seen her.

Julia Buckley said...

Kat, that is fascinating! Did the ghost have recognizable features?

Diane, that's an interesting point. Although how the ghost creates an imprint of memory is the part that I can't understand.

Katreader said...

Nope, no recognizable features-no features at all, just a swirling white mist. We did hear him multiple times as well, even during productions. Once I had 2 followspot operators begging me to let them come down as they could hear footsteps walking between them. In case you're wondering the school is question is Niagara University.

I've also been on a ghost hunt with some paranormal investigators at Marjim Manor (great winery) and got an EVP.