Friday, October 31, 2008

The Blue Lady 2: Paranormal Boogaloo

If I search through the newspapers in the old college library a few things happen: One, I can praise God, Allah, Bill Gates, and Al Gore for giving us the Internet. Two, I can smell that really old musty basement smell that reminds me of clothes left in the washing machine too long combined with damp cat. Three, I can learn stuff.

The last time I was there, that's exactly what I did, learn, not sniff stray cats. I went there seeking answers to the mysterious blue lady that chased me into the bathroom the last Halloween. (if you haven't read her story, it's probably better if you read it first). I wanted to find some sort of explanation for what I'd seen. Rumors about the theatre building being haunted were nothing new on campus, so I figured somewhere in the stacks and stacks of brittle yellow newspaper, I'd find some sort of answer.

After weeks of using whatever free time I had to search for an explanation to the things I'd seen, eventually, in a dusty pile of college newspapers from the mid-1920's, I found what I was looking for.

The theatre building was still fairly new back then, and the town was relatively small. Surrounded by farm communities, the college and the town pretty much marked the halfway point between the middle of nowhere and Chicago. A perfect spot for a railroad stop.
Folks looking for an exciting night out on the town no longer needed to travel all the way to the big city, the railroad now gave them closer and easier place to go. Businesses started to pop up around the college, restaurants, night clubs, shops... And things really got booming for the college theatre; folks could have an evening of culture and entertainment without the long journey into Chicago.

Philler Hall became a destination for all sorts of popular acts of the time. Big bands, vaudevillians, comics, and singers. The little town had hit the big time.

One month, a real live Broadway revue made it's way to Philler Hall.Folks from all around journeyed to the college to see New York's brightest stars right there in the middle of farm country. One woman in particular was so excited to see the show that she gathered up three generations of her clan into the family truckster and headed off towards the college.
Grandma, in her Sunday best, a long beautiful dress with a high collar and lovely faux pearl buttons, sat right in the middle of the audience, blown away by the bright lights, the ornate theatre decorations, and the anticipation she'd get before the show began.Next to her, Grandpa, not a lover of the arts, but along to make the Missus happy. On both sides of them, their four sons, their wives,and their children. The whole motley brood there for the show.
The curtain rose and Grandma's heart skipped a beat. She loved the theatre, completely fascinated by the actors, the sets, the music, the costumes, every single aspect of it. Grandpa, not so much with the fascinated, he took a nap. Throughout the first act his wife kept giving him the ole elbow in the ribs; one, to keep him awake, and two,to point out specific things about the show that she was enjoying.

Grandpa kept dozing back into lullaby land and eventually one of Grandma's nudges just wouldn't wake him. She tried again, digging the pointiest part of her elbow into the soft spot below his ribcage. He didn't budge. She kicked and pinched, all of it very discreetly, but Grandpa was dead to the world. Really.

Grandma wasn't terribly surprised, her hubby was an old dude and dying is what old dudes tend to do. She was upset more than anything, upset that he dared to die in the middle of the show and ruin an evening at the theatre for her. She wasn't going to let that happen though. She leaned to her left and informed her oldest son that Grandpa had passed. He took it well, because the look in his mother's eyes told him to remain calm, stay seated, and watch the show. She leaned over Grandpa to her right, and told her youngest boy that his father was gone. One look told him to wait until intermission to do anything, to just sit there and allow the nice folks around them to enjoy the performance.

That halfway break came and Grandmas smiled and clapped and stood and made small talk with the theatre goers around her as they shuffled up the aisle to the lobby and the restrooms. Grandma sent her four daughters-in-law and all the little ones away, out to get some refreshments. The auditorium sufficiently empty, she employed her sons to lift Grandpa out of his seat and walk him up the aisle"Weekend at Bernie's" style. All the while Grandma walked in front of them, swatting her deceased husband with her purse and admonishing him about the dangers of drinking too much. "I'll never take you out in public again, you embarrass me with that drinking of yours." Her boys caught on to the ruse and began to laugh and carry on about how much good ole pop drank.

There they stood, up in the lobby, encircling Grandpa and insulting added man who'd never tasted alcohol in his life for being a drop down drunk.

Grandma refused to let a little thing like death ruin a perfectly goodnight at the theatre, for herself, her family, and everyone else there. Knowing full well that notifying the authorities would probably wind up cancelling the show, she waited until the lobby lights flashed and people made their way back into the auditorium to make her move.

Once the lobby was clear, Grandma led her sons across the room, opened what she thought was a storage closet (it was actually the ticket booth), and gently tossed her dead husband on in. They went back inside and enjoyed the rest of what turned out to be a really good show.

There was only one problem with the dead guy in the closet. The dead guy, he wasn't dead. Yet.
After the show, Grandma and the boys waited around to deal with the proper authorities. When Grandpa was dragged out of the ticket booth,a young doctor discovered that he had not in fact died in his seat watching a Broadway show, he had died inside that closet, using his fingernails to try and claw his way out in the dark. Grandpa had suffered a heart attack brought on by fear. He'd woken up in a strange dark place and freaked out.

Grandma was heartbroken. She felt that she was responsible, and every doctor's reassurance that Grandpa would have died soon anyway was no consolation. She went into a great depression, distancing herself from everyone she knew and loved. She believed that she'd killed her husband and deserved no happiness, so after a few painful, difficult years, Grandma killed took her own life, hanging herself in the attic.

Legend has it that the woman I saw that Halloween night was Grandma,peeking into the ticket window to find the lost soul of her departed love. Whether or not Grandpa's spirit was in the closet at the time,I don't know, but I sure am glad that's not the room I decided to hide in.

2 comments:

Da Old Man said...

Excellent story, Mike.

ettarose said...

Oh yeah baby, I loved it. I would totally believe it too.