Locking up one last time
Alan Hughes was the Music Academy’s caretaker for three decades. One of his jobs was to walk the grounds in the evening and make sure everything was in order and, most importantly, that all the doors and windows were locked. While the thought of walking alone through a large, old estate may be unnerving to the average person, for Alan it was mostly routine. Mostly.
Alan’s checks of the premises usually happened after dark, so the need to turn on a few lights in the Main House was fairly typical. He would switch them on as he entered the front door, check that all the other entrances were secure, and then switch them off again on his way back out.
On one occasion, however, he returned to the front lobby to find that all the lights were off. He was sure he’d turned them on, and he had locked the door behind him on his way in. Odd. He shrugged, turned the lights back on, and went upstairs to check things on the second floor. But when he came back down, the lights were off again. This time, he knew he’d turned them on. Yet, someone – something – had clearly switched them off. Not keen to spend any more time in the building, he locked the front door and hurried away.
The next morning, Alan received a phone call. It was from the wife of the previous caretaker. She was calling to say that her husband, Alan’s predecessor, had passed away the night before. Right around the same time Alan had been making his rounds.
The strange incident with the lights never repeated itself. The singularity of the event made it stand out all the more to Alan, while its timing forever convinced him that it had been that caretaker checking in on the place one last time.
There are other stories, too, like the time someone taking a tour of the Academy refused to enter the Main House because they claimed they could sense spirits. But over the last few years, these stories have declined. In fact, to my knowledge they’ve ceased entirely. Fred Lehto has a theory about this. The Main House was extensively renovated in 2016, and while some of the rooms were left in their original state, other areas (including the second floor) look completely different. It’s Fred’s belief that any ghosts that may have haunted the property moved on following these alterations.
I had heard ghost stories before, been warned by long-time members of the Music Academy family that sometimes singing could be heard coming from empty rooms, but never once had I experienced something remotely supernatural for myself. As I inched slowly through the foyer and into the main hallway, I reflexively turned my head toward Lehmann Hall. After all, that was where I’d always been told the unexplained singing emanated from.
But the sound was coming from the other direction. My heart was pounding as I began to walk toward it. Now, I don’t want you to imagine for one second that I’m brave. Trust me, if it hadn’t been a bright and sunny day, I’d have been out of the building quicker than you could say Lotte Lehmann. I cleared my throat as walked down the hallway, hoping that whoever was singing might announce themselves. They didn’t, nor did they stop.
The singing was close now, practically next to me. I looked to my right to see if it was coming from Yzurdiaga Hall. No dice. So, I glanced to my left. The sound was very clearly coming from…the kitchen? Now, if you’ve never been in the Academy’s kitchen, this is no quaint little canteen. It’s a full commercial kitchen; hardly the kind of place where one might expect a haunting.
I pushed the door open and bravely faced down the source of the singing. It was an electric urn filled with hot coffee for the folks renting the property. Although the front door to the building was locked, the Academy’s facilities staffer, it seems, had already let them in through the kitchen door.
My own personal Music Academy “ghost” story turned out, then, to be nothing, but I can’t decide if that’s more of a relief or a disappointment. Maybe Fred is right and whatever spirits may have roamed the Academy’s halls have gone onto their final rest. As for me, though, the only thing I’m sure of is that I won’t be spending any late nights at the office.
– Henry Michaels
Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West