Monday, July 04, 2005

They see dead people

I didn't post this when I first read it b/c I know how annoying it is to link to things requiring subscriptions, and I'd already linked to another Chronicle article. But this one really stuck with me, a great little piece by Martha Ann Overland about a haunted university, and after going back to it several times I thought I really had better post after all:

It never surprises the Rev. Rene B. Javellana when terrified staff members say they have seen a ghost.

For as long as he has been teaching at Ateneo de Manila University, people have complained about hearing voices in empty hallways and seeing doors inexplicably open and close. They hear fists banging on the walls when there is not a soul in sight, and typewriters clattering when no one is at the keyboard. And yes -- sometimes they see dead people.

'Some people are too scared to work,' says Father Javellana, a Jesuit priest and director of the fine-arts program at the elite Catholic university. 'They are terrified. I bless them and give them a cross; then they are fine and can go back to work.'

Whether Father Javellana believes in ghosts or paranormal events is beside the point. His is nothing more than a practical solution to a peculiar problem. 'For some people this is real,' he says. 'When secretaries enter the office they say 'Good morning' even if no one is there. It is a way of being friendly and hedging your bets.'

Dormitory rooms everywhere, especially on stormy nights, are perfect breeding grounds for ghost stories and urban legends. But in the Philippines, sightings are not typically the result of sleep deprivation or intoxication. In fact, it is usually not the students who report paranormal events. It is the professors, staff members, and campus guards who see things.

Just as universities and college campuses attract the living, they are a natural gathering place for the dead, say those who follow paranormal happenings. Night watchmen say they hear instruments playing after the last people have left the music buildings.

Professors report being shaken out of their chairs when no one is there. Dead priests are said to come back to visit. Staff members and students alike say they have seen ladies in white floating down hallways. Sometimes they have heads. Sometimes they don't.

"It's common knowledge they are there," says Florinda G. Menguito, secretary to the dean of the College of Education at the University of the Philippines' Diliman campus, widely known as one of the most haunted sites in Manila. "We have just learned to ignore them."

It makes me think of a novel I want to write, about a haunted university. I like the universities in fantasy novels by Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett and so on, they are basically EXACTLY like real-world universities only their dementedness is revealed. Hmmm....

1 comment:

  1. You might enjoy Robertson Davies's collection of mostly college-themed ghost stories, High Spirits. There's one story I particularly remember: the narrator encounters the ghost of a grad student who stalks the halls until he can retake his orals exam. It ends up being funnier than my summary makes it sound, though.