By LESLIE MUIR
THERE’S A GHOST ON campus. It haunts the Agnes Flanagan Chapel; it roams the grounds of South Campus; it breaks pipes in the basement of the Howard Dorm Complex; it floats aimlessly around the reflecting pool on foggy nights. In trying to figure out the ‘official ghost story’ of Lewis & Clark’s campus, I heard about all of these sightings and more. Unfortunately between students, professors, maintenance workers and the internet, no one could claim for sure that they knew the real story.
Very few could say, but many believed that a spirit does in fact haunt South Campus. In the top row of windows in the back of the old chapel, a light is said to be seen on at all hours of the night. The legend goes that workers have tried to fix it over the years, but to no avail. Always the light manages to turn itself back on, sometimes accompanied by strange knocks and bangs coming from the closed room, as heard from the offices below. This curious behavior is thought to be caused by the one-and-only campus ghost, however the difficulty at piecing together this information caused me to doubt that explanation. There was only one way to add some certainty to this ephemeral legend, and that was to find the ghost myself.
After years of watching the Discovery Channel series, “Ghost Hunters,” I knew exactly what to prepare for: a night of stumbling around South Campus in near-total darkness while having a coronary every time I tripped over my own feet. The closest thing I had to ghost hunting equipment was the flashlight function on my cell phone, a voice recorder, a small thing of bear-grade pepper spray, some M&M’s and the theme song to “GhostBusters” playing on repeat as I began the brave trek over to South Campus.
It was around 10 o’clock on a Wednesday night, and the usual activities (smoking weed, fornicating in bushes) for that area of campus had long subsided. Most lights were off in the classrooms, although walkways were almost too comfortably lit, to the point where shadows lost their intimidation and bumps in the night could be clearly identified as a demonic squirrel rummaging around in a nearby trashcan. My own desire for a scary experience aside, these were not prime ghost-spotting conditions.
To get to my destination — the window the spirit allegedly haunts — I had to get around to the lawn behind the Corbett House. Having walked through the Corbett Annex courtyard dozens of times in the daylight, I was surprised to feel shivers running down my back this evening. I found myself looking around and checking over my shoulder more frequently than necessary. By the time I had reached the courtyard, I was feeling on edge. This didn’t stop me from slowly pushing open the creaky wooden door on the south wall to reveal the dormsized cement box sunken into the foundation of the chapel known as “The Pit.” This open air stone room used to be a student party spot in generations past, but now serves only as a dungeon-esque shortcut to the South Campus lawn.
This was when the lights of campus faded and my shaky hand finally pulled There’s a ghost haunting south campus… or is there? An investigation into the ghostly rumors of the school spirit that dwells on our southern front out the cell phone flashlight. I began to climb down the steep stone steps into the pit, expecting to see decades-old discarded beer cans, rat feces, and by now, a spirit waiting for me. The temperature dropped as I descended into the unsettlingly empty space.
Looking around with nothing but my flashlight, my heartbeat quickened. I left the pit as soon as possible, but realized that in order to close the dungeon door I had to exit the way I came. As I was shutting the door behind me, what can only have been the wind pushing a leaf or an old wrapper across the stone made me jump. Quickly, I directed the flashlight back into the room, but there was nothing to be seen.
Continuing on, I made it to the backside of the chapel. The uppermost bank of windows were easy to identify, although the light coming off the classrooms and office spaces was glaring. I squinted while scanning, hoping to see just one window fully lit, glowing, flickering or with a Hollywood-style floating green orb bouncing around in it. Despite all of the hype and hearsay, on this October night not a single one was lit. I waited, standing there in the cold breeze for five minutes facing the building’s back façade with nervous hope that a light might flicker on.
I would really like to report that after some time waiting, the building beside me had mysteriously gone black and the sounds of nearby Skyline workers and other students out on nighttime strolls had eerily disappeared, all before one single window at the end of the top row dimly lit up. I wish I could say that the remainder of my walk through South Campus’s expansive grounds had involved more than me tripping over a few rocks, accidentally knocking over a garden stick structure and scaring the Hell out of some smokers trying to be inconspicuous behind a large tree, but I think those students got more of a scare than I did that night.
It was with great disappointment that I saw the window still unlit as I passed by on my journey home. Maybe the maintenance man finally did fix that broken light after all these years, or maybe the ghost knew it was being watched and felt a little shy. I’ll always be hopeful, though, that something paranormal lives nearby, and I’ll never claim that our campus must be ‘ghost-free’ after one night of amateur sleuthing. On the other hand, if you find yourself wanting a thrill on Halloween, I recommend attempting to find the elusive school spirit.