Updated

Local 'ghosts' keep the Halloween spirit alive

By HOLLY HUFFMAN

Eagle Staff Writer

Brazos Valley residents looking to get spooked can find a handful of supposedly spirited spots throughout the area:

A&M Consolidated High School — Rumors hold that a nasty metaphysical presence floats in the career technology wing. Students and staff call the ghost Toby.

Caldwell High School — The auditorium’s spotlight projection room and sound booth are rumored to be haunted by a spirit the students call “George.” Students say the sound board and light dials move and the lights flicker during rehearsals. People working in the room report chills and strange noises.

Texas A&M University — At least two campus spots are thought to be haunted. Poltergeist activity has been reported at the Corps of Cadets dining hall. The former animal sciences building (which apparently was home to an animal morgue) reportedly is haunted by the spirit of an employee whose job it was to dispose of the animals. Legend has it the man cut himself on the job and died of blood loss. An elevator in the building is reported to move up and down by itself.

Sources: Theshadowlands.net, lonestarspirits.org and local lore.

Some overnight guests at the historic LaSalle Hotel in downtown Bryan have reported hearing children’s voices in otherwise empty hallways, while others claim to have seen framed pictures fly right off the walls.

A few employees even swear that doors have randomly opened for them and items have moved by themselves.

The hotel has long been the subject of ghostly stories and sightings. Cindy Peaslee, director of sales for the LaSalle, said the numerous tales have even prompted so-called “ghostbusters” to come investigate the building — though none have ever reported their findings to hotel management.

“Employees in the past have had things happen, almost like these ghosts have given them assistance in moving things or making their jobs easier,” Peaslee said of the ghosts that supposedly haunt the old hotel.

“Our experience has really been pretty positive and fun — not the spooky type.”

As the holiday celebrating all things spooky draws near, the hotel is offering a Halloween special for its guests — spend the night, catch a ghost on camera and win a chance for a free weekend stay at the hotel, Peaslee said. A discounted “ghostbusters” rate is being offered this weekend.

“If they can furnish us some proof, we’d love to see it,” she said.

The LaSalle Hotel isn’t the only Bryan-College Station area locale rumored to have a spirit or two dwelling inside. A couple of sites on the Texas A&M University campus — including the Corps of Cadets dining hall and the old animal sciences building — are thought to be haunted, according to the paranormal investigation Web site lonestarspirits.org.

The former Schulman movie theater in Bryan and A&M Consolidated High School each have a spirit wandering their halls too, according to theshadowland.net, a Web site devoted to ghosts, aliens and other mysteries.

But weird noises? Flickering lights? Things that go bump in the night? That’s all just make-believe, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Texas A&M psychology professor Steve Smith attributes the fascination with the paranormal to natural human instincts, according to the Yerkes-Dodson law measuring optimal behavior.

Most people seek an optimum state of arousal — not too boring, but not too stressful, he said.

“You’ve got something that is good and it’s fun, but everyone really knows it’s safe,” Smith said of the freaky phenomena drawing people to sometimes scary situations. “Deep down, if people were really, truly afraid of these things, they would probably just stay home and read the newspaper.”

While no one has proven the existence of the supposed ghost at the old Schulman movie theater, now owned by Blinn College, the story behind the rumor is a little hair-raising.

In 1988, then-manager Don Cravens was murdered during a robbery at the theater. Projection rooms and an office upstairs were thought to be haunted by Cravens’ spirit, which reportedly appeared behind people and whispered to them, according to lore.

Blinn spokeswoman Gena Parsons said she didn’t know of anyone ever coming into contact with the ghost. But she noted that not many people go upstairs, where the spirit is rumored to frequent.

Parsons is quick to point out the sporadic visits upstairs are not for any ghostly reason. It’s because only the downstairs area was converted into classrooms, she explained. The upstairs area is used strictly for storage, she said.

“We’ve redone the bottom of it, made it much lighter and brighter — maybe that sent him into hiding,” she joked.

Smith’s explanation seems more plausible for the story of Toby, a ghost that reportedly first appeared at A&M Consolidated in the late 1990s while renovations were under way.

“I know about Toby. We all know about Toby,” former principal Chrissy Hester said.

The tales likely were spurred by strange noises — some from the boiler, some from the construction — and lights set to automatically turn on and off throughout the campus, Hester explained. It was easy to attribute them to a ghost, especially for those unfamiliar with the noises, she said.

It was more of a joke than anything else, though a few members of the cleaning crew sometimes did get spooked while working after dark, she said.

But could the tale be true?

“I guess that depends on how you feel about ghosts,” she said. “Toby never bothered me.”

• Holly Huffman’s e-mail address is hhuffman@theeagle.com.

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