Ever since I started working at our museum in downtown Oklahoma City this past summer, I’ve heard a variety of different “spooky” and strange stories from current and former employees. In my office, which is the archives where the original “walk-in” insurance company safe is still located, a previous employee either placed or was given the following bottle of wine which is labeled, “Ghost Sighting Antidote / Repellant.” This bottle and sign is always fun to show people who visit my office, and has invited a lot of laughs over the past few months.
Some of the folks I’ve asked about strange or mysterious occurrences in the museum have NOT found them to be a laughing matter, however, and I’d estimate I’ve heard stories about different unexplained things from at least five different people to date. I have not written down or recorded any of these stories yet, although I’ve certainly considered doing so. Until this evening, my own strange experiences in the museum were limited to hearing the sound of pouring water from upstairs (probably explained by a recent rain or something draining in the kitchen above my office) and a green light cast in the hallway at night by the exit sign near the 3rd floor classroom.
This evening, however, I had a very alarming experience that I’m sure I won’t soon forget. I don’t usually work this late at the office, but I had about three projects which needed to be completed today, and since today was the start of another Celebrate Oklahoma Voices digital storytelling workshop, I simply hadn’t had enough time during the day to take care of everything on my must-do list. Usually I am not the last person in our building, so I don’t have to set the alarm, but tonight I was the last one. Our museum is eighty-one years old, and certainly has a lot of interesting history. If I really thought about all the strange stories I’ve heard in the past few months I’m sure it would be possible to make myself nervous or a little uncomfortable being there all alone at night. I really don’t put a lot of sincere stock in the stories I’ve heard, however, so I’ve never been nervous before even when I’ve been the last one in the building. That has happened about two other times, prior to tonight. This is a photo of the front of our museum, taken during the day. It’s a VERY big and impressive building.
Tonight after I finished working about 9 pm, I went downstairs and made a few copies for our workshop tomorrow in our workroom. I then went to one of our first floor bathrooms, just before I was going to set the building alarm and leave. I opened the door to the bathroom and turned on the lightswitch, and then went through a small, open doorway to the main part of the bathroom. As I walked in, a small, wooden, closet door on the left side of the bathroom suddenly opened up on its own accord– flying almost completely open! Yikes! That was a HUGE surprise. I immediately opened the door fully and looked inside, and saw a brick wall behind the door. Evidently it is not a storage closet, but is a cover for part of the bathroom which for some reason was not covered over with drywall when it was remodeled. I KNEW I was the only person in the museum, and no one was there to be playing a trick on me, so this was QUITE alarming.
I think the opening door can be explained by an air pressure change caused by the outside door to the bathroom closing, after I came in, but at this point I’m not entirely sure. Later this week, I’m going to see if I can re-create the same closet door opening scenario by opening and closing the main bathroom door. The rational, scientific side of me says that I surely will be able to explain what happened logically and re-create the scenario. Even though this idea of bathroom door-induced air pressure changes explaining the sudden door opening occurred to me right away tonight, I was still quite alarmed. If I’d had a heart rate monitor on and connected at the time, I’m sure it would have shown a SIZEABLE jump in my pulse!
I called my wife on the phone after I made it out of the building and into my car, but I had to ask her not to make a big deal out of the incident in front of our kids. Last summer when we were camping in New Mexico, I told my kids several ghost stories which really made an impression– particularly on my 8 year old daughter. I told them the story of “Room For One More” which I’d learned as a scout and later a ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch, and ever since Sarah has not wanted to ride in ANY elevators of ANY type. So, unless my kids actually read this blog entry (which is unlikely) I don’t think I’m going to tell them about this incident anytime soon.
The only similar spooky incident I can recall from my own experiences happened in late 1992 or early 1993, when I was living and studying in Mexico City. The grandfather of a friend of mine owned one of the haciendas built by Hernán Cortés south of Mexico City, in Cuernavaca. Cortés built and owned two haciendas. One of them was and still is a commercial hotel. The other one, where we spent several weekends with friends, is privately owned. The hacienda itself has an amazing history, and I only learned a little bit of it when we stayed there. One of the more tantalizing stories involved its history as a convent at one stage, and skeletons of babies which were discovered in the walls by archeologists. The story I was told was that they were the skeletons of babies which some of the nuns had, against the rules (of course) of the Catholic Church. I have no idea if those stories were true or not (I never saw the skeletons) but I did have an unnerving experience when my friends thought it would be fun to have a séance in the basement of the hacienda. I was the only one NOT “in on the joke,” so when we heard knocking and noises coming from an interior room of the hacienda at one point, I was pretty alarmed. Of course the joke was quickly up and everything was explained, so there were not any lasting questions of “spooky experiences” from that situation. Tonight’s experiences, in contrast, were decidedly NOT the work of crafty friends, however, so my feelings afterwards were quite different.
Working in a 80+ year old museum around which many interesting stories are told, I’ve wondered if I’d ever have a “spooky” or mysterious experience there myself. While my tale is not NEARLY as strange and even bizarre as some of the stories I’ve been told by other staff members, it certainly got my blood pumping faster this evening and accelerated what was already going to be a speedy exit from the building this evening.
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