The empty stage of Doner Auditorium


by Jeremy Fugleberg

The empty stage of Doner Auditorium.

Lights glow down on you, but you don’t feel their warmth. just the inky darkness of being alone.

Nothing but you, the blank stage and the empty seats, staring at you with unblinking eyes.

And then the sound. maybe a screech, maybe a moan. It rises and dies.

If you don’t feel alone anymore, now you know why-Doner is haunted.

Legend has it that in 1919, a janitor fell to his death from the alcove above the stage, where the organ used to be. For the next two years, the organ would start playing, with no one at the keyboard. Finally it was dismantled and moved to the music department, but the ghost stayed.

“George is the name of the old creature that supposedly haunts the place,” says Ray Peterson, who teaches in the theatre department here at SDSU. “He was a known entity when I got on campus 34 years ago.”

Peterson says he’s never had direct contact with the ghost, but says he’s wondered about some noises he’s heard. He was a full-time technical director for three years, and was always around the old stage when the noises would start.

“I don’t know how many times I stopped what I was doing,” to listen to the noises, he says. “I kept telling myself [the noises were] because there was some ventilation and some air problems.”

And he’s says he’s not the only one who’s gotten the creeps in the old auditorium.

The costume room, where students sometimes stay up late working on last-minute clothes for performances, used to be above the stage. But that area also seemed to be the center of all the noises.

“It got to the point where the kids got so scared that they refused to work there and we were forced to move it downstairs,” says Peterson.

Josh Westwick is a former theatre student who now teaches here. He says George practically drove him out of the auditorium late one night in ’97 or ’98 while he was working alongside a friend downstairs.

“We started hearing this noise and we thought of George, because everyone thought he was such a big joke.”

But the noise kept getting louder. Suddenly some small boxes on shelves nearby shook and fell to the floor.

That did it for Josh.

“We packed up and cleared out right then,” he said.

“It’s kind of a creepy place,” says theatre professor J.D. Ackman. But so are most theaters. “I would suggest that any theater that has been in existence for any length of time has a ghost,” he says.

He said many factors help create a ghost. The Administration Building, where Doner is located, is an old building with all of the noise-producing creaks, ventilation, drafts and walls. Plus, late-night work sessions and imaginitive students can help create the perfect ghost environment. “Theater types are a kind of superstitious bunch,” he says.

“I wouldn’t want to spoil anybody’s fun and say there isn’t a spirit haunting the building,” he says. But “I think