Monday, October 24, 2011

Rule 2: Always Pay Attention to the Warnings from the Cryptic Old Man

Happy Halloween month!  Part of the reason I love October so much is because of the lead-up to the end.  There are jack-o-lanterns up and down my street, the scariest haunted house in the country across the city, and Halloween costume ideas everywhere.  I have more of an excuse than usual to buy my favorite candy* and I get to go to parties while wearing wings and/or bizarre hats.  It's great! 

*My roommate Anita on fun-size candy: "...but they're not fun because they're smaller than regular candy!"
October is also ghost story season.  When I was in fourth grade, I got really into ghosts.  I read almost all of the books in the school library about haunted houses, superstitions, and supposed ghost sightings.  In each book, I stared at the blurry photos that were supposed to be of ghosts.  I wondered about how real it all was, and whether or not my house could be haunted.  It was old and creaky - perfect for a haunting.  A friend and I tried using my sister's Ouija board once, but I'm 99% sure she cheated and moved the planchette to freak me out.  

I also started to read Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and other spooky fiction.  I loved hearing scary stories, though I was up all night at one sleepover when a friend's mom told us a story about a doll that came alive and decided to kill its owner.  I was much nicer to my American Girl Doll after that.  As I've gotten older, I still love hearing ghost stories.  At any event involving a camp fire, I always hope that someone decides to share one I haven't heard before.  Ghost stories, like scary movies and haunted houses, are thrills that let you suspend disbelief for a little while.  Sure, the rational part of your brain might know that most things can be explained by science or coincidence, but you still get the chance to wonder, "what if?"

In honor of Halloween, here is one of my favorite short, creepy stories that I heard during a band trip in high school.  If you have a favorite, please let me know!  I promise not to call you at 3 AM if I'm still up and scared.

The Ghost in the Chemistry Building

There is a college somewhere in Indiana that has lots of old, ivy-covered brick buildings around the campus.  Like almost every college, it has its superstitions and campus legends.  However, the most famous of these legends is that the old chemistry building is haunted by a mysterious woman, possibly the first dean's daughter.  Upperclassmen pass the stories down to new freshmen, but most "ghost sightings" can be explained away by lack of sleep or shadows on the wall.

One night a couple years ago, a chemistry student stayed late in the lab working on a project.  When he finally finished around one in the morning, most of the building was empty.  He packed up his equipment and turned toward the door just as a white figure in a flowing dress walked by.  

"Who would be here at this hour dressed like that?" he wondered, and stepped out into the hallway to see.  The woman continued down to the end of the hall and turned down a corridor on the left.  The young man followed her, and just as he turned the corner he saw her disappear down another hallway.  He sped up, nearly running to catch up with her, and turned the corner to find that it just led to a storage closet.  He tried the door, but it was locked.  Curious, he bent down to look through the keyhole, but all he could see was the color red.  He tried the door again, but it wouldn't budge.  After a minute, he went back to the lab, packed up his things and left, shivering.

The next morning, he mentioned the story to a friend over breakfast.  After he explained what happened, his friend nodded and asked, "Did you get a look at her face?  They say she has the brightest red eyes."

The End

What are your favorite ghost stories?

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