Theater folks talk campus' history of ghostly goings-on
Blame it on the penchant for drama or late nights spent preparing for productions, but the theater seems to be the place for paranormal activity.
And Tyler Junior College is no different.
Jacque Shackelford, a recently retired TJC professor who taught for more than 40 years, said when she came to the college in the late 1960s, ghost stories already were circulating.
At the time, the students performed in Wise Auditorium, and people told stories about a ghost named George who haunted the place.
Supposedly, he was the ghost of a person who fell to his death from the light grid.
"It was just kind of common knowledge," Ms. Shackelford said, adding that she doesn't know if there's any truth to the death or not.
It appears George was a loyal ghost, because when the theater department moved many of its productions to the Jean Browne Theatre in the Wise Cultural Arts Center, the ghost apparently moved with them, Ms. Shackelford said.
Creeping noises and the sounds of people walking seemed to fill the space even when no one else was around.
The lighting took on a life of its own too malfunctioning for certain actors and actresses and working fine for others. Some said the ghost had favorites.
Jacob Davis, a TJC theater professor and former student, has perhaps the most vivid experiences with the paranormal in Wise Auditorium.
In 2003, when Davis was a student, he was working one evening in Wise Auditorium when a faculty member told him to shut it down and go home.
As he was walking toward the main exit, Davis saw someone he didn't know in the balcony. He told the person, "I was told to turn out the lights. Are you coming down?"
When they didn't respond, he got a little frustrated and repeated himself then turned out the lights and walked out.
However, as he was walking out the door, the lights came back on. He went back to look at the balcony, but saw no one. So he just turned out the lights again and left the building.
"There was no place for them to go and they didn't have time to get away from there that quickly, so it seemed odd," Davis said.
Another time, Davis said he and his friends were playing hide and go seek very early in the morning around Wise Auditorium.
He heard music coming from an upstairs window and saw a white sheet hanging from a window. He said he and his friends just kind of passed it and didn't think about it.
But later, one day, he went upstairs and looked inside the dressing rooms where those windows are. The windows were painted over and couldn't be opened.
"I never felt like they were ominous," he said of these experiences, "just weird unexplained things."
His final experience was while doing technical rehearsals one year later. He said some guys were working in the fly rail, flying things in and out of the stage. There are dressing rooms behind the fly rails.
"We had just gotten through working with things ... All of a sudden it sounded like heavy water running, coming from one of those rooms up there," he said. "Everybody in the theater could hear it."
Several of the guys went up into the room to see what it was. Although there was no water running, the sound was deafening "like water running in the room," Davis said.
"We could not find where it was coming from," he said. "It just didn't stop. We all just kind of slowly left the building because there was nothing we could do to stop it."
Despite these stories, some people are a bit skeptical. TJC sophomore Doug Lake, 19, of Tyler is one of those. He said he's heard some of his classmates talk about things randomly falling over or seeing someone that appeared to be a ghost.
"I've never seen anything; I've never heard anything," Lake said. "Everything seems coincidental to me."
Still, Davis can't deny his experiences. He said he's tried to find reasons to explain what he saw, but he hasn't been able to.
And, he added, he wasn't under the influence of anything when he saw these things.
"I'm not superstitious; I never have been," he said. "Even with this thing in Wise, it's always kind of unexplained."