We're still in 30 Days of Blogging, and since we already started talking about dead people yesterday I think we'll just continue, as I tell you the story of the ghost that I saw in the lobby in February.
Now, turn off all the lights, pull your blankets tight around you, and settle in for the least frightening ghost story ever told!
Every year in the spring we have a process called Room Selection, where the current students get to pick their room for next year. Under our current model it lasts for two weeks, runs from 7 AM to 7 PM, and is all computerized. It's very convenient for the students, since they can just sit in their room and log in, but just in case they run into trouble someone has to be in the office to answer the phones the whole time, and that's usually my job. That means that for two weeks, I come in much earlier than usual so that my computer is all booted up and ready by 7 AM. It usually means that I'm the first one in the office for those two weeks, and, as I discovered this year, often the first one in the building in the morning. How do I know?
None of the lights were on when I got there.
See, between Room Selection last year and Room Selection this year our entire building was outfitted with a new, energy efficient lighting system in all of the hallways, classrooms, and offices. Everything is fitted with motion sensors, and if enough time goes by without anyone moving in front of one the lights shut off and don't turn on again until someone trips the sensor again. In the lobbies, offices, and classrooms it turns on the whole room at once, but in the hallway it only turns on about twenty feet at a time. It's actually kind of cool and feels oddly futuristic when you walk through the building and it turns on all around you, but I digress.
Our building is built on a hill, which means that last year when I parked out back my office was four floors away, but right above me. During Room Selection, I started parking in the lot on the side of the building, which had the advantage of putting my office only two floors above me but which meant I had to walk the entire length of the building to get to it. This wasn't terrible, as I fell into a routine of parking, walking through the third floor of the Communications Building (the other half of our building; it's technically all one building since the dividing line between the two is an actual physical line in the hallway on the floor), getting a copy of the student newspaper in the lobby, hopping on the lobby elevator to go up one floor, and then walking the rest of the way to my office.
One morning during Room Selection I started to follow my routine, and something a little odd happened.
As I approached the building from the side lot, I saw someone in the lobby, at the newspaper stand. You can see this from outside, because the whole front side of the third floor is glass, as you can see in this photo where I've circled the newspaper rack:
Now, you have to understand that the lights were not on at that point, and I could only see the newspaper rack because the lights outside were shining through the windows. I noticed a man bending over the rack, wearing a suit, and a red tie, which was hanging down as he bent, presumably grabbing a newspaper. My mind was focused on Room Selection, and I lost sight of him and the rack as I turned to enter the side door at the end of the building:
As I began to walk down the hallway, still thinking about Room Selection, I still couldn't see the newspaper rack, and the hallway lights began to turn on. One set turned on here:
one set turned on here, where I could just barely see the rack next to the welcome mats:
and another set turned on here:
Look carefully at the ceiling above the farthest bench in that last photo. See a long, skinny white thing with a block at the end by the windows? That's one of the motion sensors. That particular one turns on the last piece of hallway lighting, and then when I walked past it, the lights in the lobby snapped on:
And the lobby was empty.
Nobody at the elevator, and nobody at the newspaper racks.
So where did the man in the tie go?
The answer is, of course, NOWHERE.
The hallway past the lobby was still dark, so he could not have gone that way. The lobby was dark until I stepped into it, so he could not have crossed to the classrooms at the back of the lobby or gotten on the elevator. Also, the elevators in that side of the building chime when they stop at each floor, which I would have heard. He can't have gone out the front doors of the lobby and outside, either, for the same reason that he can't have gone to the back of the lobby: Look at the lobby picture again. The motion sensor for the lobby is directly above the lobby doors. You can't open them without triggering it, and turning the lights on. As a matter of fact, he can't ever have been at the newspaper rack at all, even though I saw him there through the window, because you can't approach the newspaper rack from any direction without setting off a motion sensor.
No one else on campus seems to have ever heard any ghost stories about the Communications Building. I was too far away to see what the man looked like, other than that he had a red tie and a dark suit, so I can't really describe him to someone. I didn't feel any kind of menace or threat, and didn't realize I'd seen something impossible until I was already at my desk and started thinking, "Hey, where's that guy GO, anyway? And how come he didn't turn any of the lights on?"
I walked back through that part of the building that night when I was leaving, so that I could take these photos and so that I could try to figure out if it was possible to get to and from the newspaper rack in the space of the twelve seconds it took me to walk down the hallway while also somehow avoiding the motion sensors on all sides.
So, like any sane, rational adult, I immediately started parking out back again and have never again walked through that part of the building after dark.
I hope he enjoys his newspaper.