Silence, shadows haunt author of ghostly tale

James Borchert

James Borchert

I started working for the University Archives in Lincoln Music Hall core-stack area last September. From the beginning, I had this strange feeling of dread every time I came to work. I figured it was the fact that the place had sat empty for 27 years before I came. You see, the third-level core-stack area of Lincoln Music Hall held SDSU’s library books from 1927 to 1977, when H.M. Briggs Library was opened. It’s dark, dusty and quiet. Natural light from the south windows does not reach the other side and the bare, incandescent bulbs do nothing to cheer the place up. I work on the second and third levels. The first level is a place I do not care to go by myself at any time.

I remember hearing that Lincoln was haunted when I was a student here. I don’t remember if the entity had a name or not, though. After I started, I talked to a few people who asked if I had seen a ghost. I didn’t think much of it; I’m not very superstitious. I think everything has a logical explanation if we choose to look for one. So, when odd things started happening, I chalked it up to being a bit absent-minded at times, or an over-active imagination, etc. I noticed it about two weeks after I started, folders and boxes I had worked on and closed were open, my computer and copy machine were on when I came to work in the morning and my chair was pushed out and file drawers open. Again, I figured it was stress of a new job, absent-mindedness, etc., as it only happened every few days.

It was in November when I started thinking something strange was going on. Every day, things were happening in addition to the aforementioned things. Chairs I didn’t sit in were across the room, boxes I hadn’t worked on yet were hanging off shelves and out of order, my pencil tips were broken and every day at around a quarter after three, the lights flickered.

Things continued like this every day until Nov. 24. I came in that morning, as usual, to see things out of order. By now, I’d sort of gotten used to it. Well, I was sitting down, working through a box with a view down the stacks when, around 3:15, the lights went out. It was a cloudy day, so there wasn’t much natural light coming through the windows. I stopped working and just looked around, waiting for the power to come back on. All of a sudden, I heard a racket to my left. Before I stood up, I saw a shadowy figure run through the hall that separates the shelves, not 20 feet away! There was a second commotion to my right immediately after I saw the figure, and then the lights came back on. After I got my courage up, I walked around looking for the figure, knowing that I wouldn’t find anything. The core-stacks area of Lincoln Music Hall is a secure location; all the doors are locked and there are motion sensors at every entrance. I remembered later that while the lights were out, the radio continued to play. I also spoke to a couple of people who work in Lincoln, and no one reported a power outage of any kind.

After that, things went back to normal. Little things like before, but only once or twice a week. By now, I am a believer. I started checking out the history of the building and the workers. I found out that someone did die in Lincoln Music Hall! William H. Powers was a professor of literature and head librarian from 1927, when the building was opened as a library, until he had a heart attack at his desk … on Nov. 24, 1936, at approximately 3:15 p.m. The event that I told here happened in November 2005 – 69 years after he died. In four weeks, it will be the 70th anniversary of his death. I don’t know if he is angry, stuck here for whatever reason or just likes messing with me, but Dr. Powers will be alone that day … I have requested the day off.