It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Boo!

Dave Sikula, surprising you, with our 666th posting! 

All day long, I’ve been trying to think of how to approach this. Earlier in the week, the proprietor wrote to tell me that this very post would be #666. Now, this may or may not be the number of the Beast. Some sources say it is, others say it’s 616. If that’s the case, the momentous post came months ago. (Probably written by Allison, but that’s another matter … )

One of the least threatening devils ever.

One of the least threatening devils ever.

I thought about writing a nine-paragraph post, with the first letters of each spelling “Hail Satan,” but, realistically, there was no way I would ever stop at a mere nine paragraphs. The obvious approach, then, would be to tell a theatrical ghost story, but in all my years of doing this, the closest I’ve ever come to a spectral encounter was hearing footsteps one night in an otherwise-empty theatre – and I couldn’t really squeeze a post out of that. I’ve been on the verge of being either bored or irritated to death while attending shows, but, again, there’s limited mileage in that.

But I was reminded of this – and I swear, every word of it is true.

A friend of mine and I made a pact about 30 years ago. Whichever one dies first will try to haunt the other, if such things are possible. I have no idea if she even remembers it, but I certainly do.

This is the same friend with whom I shared a couple of Ouija board experiences. Denise (to use her real name) is a very spiritual person; not necessarily “orthodox” spirituality, but certainly a believer in forms of magic and ritual, so doing the Ouija board was a natural for the two of us.

In memory, we did only a few sessions, but the one that stands out involves a spirit who told us his name was Karl Klimt. Not to speak ill of the dead, but Karl was crazy. He was angry, paranoid, and egomaniacal. Once we got hold of him, we just couldn’t shake him. He claimed, among other things, that during World War II, he had been the real Fuehrer and that impostor Hitler was a mere figurehead. He went on and on to the point where we had to just give the whole thing up.

Now, one thing to stress here: I wasn’t moving the planchet; I barely had my fingers on it, but it was moving at a mile a minute. (Karl was nothing if not efficient.) Now, Denise may have been moving it, but she swore she wasn’t. She’s a very good writer (mainly horror and poetry), but it wasn’t the kind of story she would have made up. Frankly, she would have been more creative.

 It gets its name from the French and German words for "yes" -- and that's the truth.

It gets its name from the French and German words for “yes” — and that’s the truth.

All of this happened sometime between 1987 and 1991. In 1991, I moved from lovely Tustin, CA to lovely Springfield, OR, in order to attend grad school at the University of Oregon

On one of my first nights in Oregon, one of the faculty members hosted a get-together for the grad students at his house. During that party, I was getting acquainted with a number of people, including one of the veterans, whom we’ll call Amy (since that’s her name). Somehow the subject of the Ouija board came up. I told her the story of Karl, and she had a story of her own. I don’t have the exact details, but my memory is that she told me that when she was in undergrad school, she lived in a haunted apartment, and that either she or a roommate had gone away for a vacation or Christmas trip, leaving the apartment empty. When she came back, no one had been in the apartment, but all the dishware had been moved from the kitchen and neatly stacked in the living room. I seem to recall she had later done the Ouija and contacted the previous tenant, a woman who’d passed on and confessed to moving the dishes. She thanked them for being friendly tenants.

Well, some time later, I’d related that story to someone, leaving out my connection with Herr Klimt. The theatre department at Oregon is in Villard Hall, which is the second-oldest building on campus. It was built in 1886, and even though it’s been renovated at least a couple of times, the interior is old – especially the bowels of the place. Well, “bowels” may not be the right word. There’s no basement (at least, not one I know of), so the heart of the bottom of the building is the stage of the Pocket Playhouse. The Pocket is a small auditorium that doubles as a classroom (I taught a number of sections of Beginning Acting in there). It seats about 100 in very steeply raked seats, and has a good-sized stage – even if there’s no wing space. I did a number of shows in there, and always found it a very hospitable space to work in.

 The Pocket Playhouse -- coincidentally photographed from the spot were we'd set up.

The Pocket Playhouse — coincidentally photographed from the spot were we’d set up.

Now, as we all know, every good theatre has a ghost, so I figured if anyplace on campus was going to have a ghost, it’d be Villard, and if there was any place in Villard that was going to be haunted, it’d be the stage of the Pocket. So, I determined that, one Saturday night, when nothing else was going on in the building, I was going to get a group together to do the Ouija board.

I forget who provided it, but come the appointed night, there were all were. There were five or six of us, and we broke out the board and the planchet, planted ourselves center stage, and asked someone to come visit us.

I think you know where this is going.

If I tell you I was barely touching the planchet again – to the point where my fingers nearly came off it a couple of times – you must believe me. (I mean, since I hadn’t told the story to anyone, there was no point in faking it then or telling the story now.) Now, I had told no one at this gathering about my past experience, but damned if Karl Klimt didn’t show up. As before, he hogged the session, ranting about his lack of recognition and making a pest of himself. I told the others about what had just happened, and everyone was suitably freaked out.

Eventually, we stopped that session, took a break and contacted someone else. Someone whom I seem to remember had some connection with the theatre, or at least the building, but was dull in comparison to what had happened with Karl. Whatever happened, it was enough to make us call on him (I’m pretty sure it was a him) to give us some kind of sign.

By this time, it was close to midnight on a Saturday night. It was rare enough for anyone to be in the building on a Saturday on a non-performance night, and even rarer for someone to be there that late, but at the exact moment we asked for a sign, there was an explosion of noise from upstairs.

We all looked at each other and raced upstairs to see what the hell had just happened. Someone had chosen that exact moment to practice his tap-dancing in the hall. Why he was there at all – that late and on a Saturday night – and why he chose to tap-dance just then, I can only submit for your consideration.

After that commotion died down, though – and as we were all leaving – I mean, what could follow that? – we noticed that one of the light bulbs in one of the building’s exit signs had exploded during our session. It had exploded with such force, in fact, that the face plate of the sign had been blown off.

I don’t believe a word of it, but I’ll be damned if I can explain it.

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