The Ghost of Old Main
Academia is the last place I’d expect to encounter the supernatural. While working at the University of Arizona, a school dedicated to scientific inquiry, I had a number of experiences I can’t explain. Before I became a writer, I was a researcher there, and I worked in Old Main, the oldest building on campus. It was a beautiful place to work, with tall windows and a veranda that wrapped around the entire building. On one side was a lovely garden with a fountain. I worked on the first floor, which boasted gorgeous tin ceilings. The building had character, and I felt privileged to work there.
One Saturday I came in to catch up on a research project. The long hallways were dark. I turned on a few lights and checked out the place, locking the doors for safety, since I was there alone. I didn’t want to be vulnerable to having someone walk in off the street while I was working by myself. Certain that I was safe, I opened my office door and dropped my bag next to my desk. My desk faced the window, and normally, I loved looking out at the garden outside. That day, however, I felt uneasy about having my back to my office door. Even though I’d made sure the building was secure, I didn’t want to make it easy for someone to sneak up on me. As a woman working in a large city, I’d learned it was better to be safe than sorry. As an extra safety measure, I shut and locked my office door, and then fired up my computer and got to work.
Without the kind of interruptions that can occur during a regular workday, I was making good progress on my project. The quiet made it easy to focus. Then, without warning, I had the odd feeling that I wasn’t alone. I turned my head to glance at my office door, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone standing there.
Startled, I sucked in my breath. How had someone gotten into my office? I was sure I’d locked the door. How long had they been standing there, silently watching me? I swiveled in my chair toward the figure, but whoever I’d seen had vanished. I studied my door. It was still closed. I opened it and scanned the hallway. There was no one there.
Later, I told a co-worker about my experience, and she relayed a story the janitor had shared with her. Once the janitor was working alone in our building, when he heard knocking coming from inside the supply closet. I’d met the man—he didn’t seem like the kind of person who would be easily startled. This time, however, he was shaken up by the noise because he knew he was the only person around. It was late at night, and all the outer doors to the building were locked. No one could have gotten in and slipped into the closet. Hesitant to open the door, the janitor called out. “Hello?” No one answered, but the knocking continued. Finally, more angry than scared, he said, “Well? Are you coming out or not?” The knocking stopped. The janitor opened the closet door to find it empty—no one inside playing a joke, and nothing that could have made the knocking noise. I don’t know if he ever heard the noise again or experienced anything else that was strange, but he kept working there. So did I.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015