When I came to the Player Piano Co. in 1979, after I had stashed my
tools and the pianos I brought with me, the girls in the roll
department all gathered around and started talking all together about
PPCo had this translucent figure that was scaring these girls half to
death. They had all seen it, and were all on the verge of quitting.
What prompted their fear all over again was my coming, since it
reminded them of the telephone repairman who had just the last week
seen something, dropped what he was doing, and ran out of the building.
He also told Bell Telephone Co. he was never coming back.
It seems that when the "ghost" went down the basement where they had
the roll department, he would always use the stairs. So he'd do his
gliding thing down the stairs and then just stand and stare at the
crew. Scared them to death.
I asked, "You mean he's not connected to player pianos or anything?
He doesn't come over and pick up a new roll and look at the title?
Hmmm. Maybe he isn't a real player piano ghost after all. Then again,
maybe he doesn't like anything but Rudy Martin stuff. In that case,
we may not like him after all."
I asked the Production Manager at the time about it, and was told that
he saw him, too, alone on the third floor. He felt somebody staring at
the back of his neck, turned, and saw this creep one night when he was
So, since I was going to be working there, too, I decided that
people in this life have enough to worry about without being haunted
by spirits masquerading as dead people, whom we can then look up in
the archives and discover, "Wal, sure 'nuff, thar he is! Thar's his
picture, too. So don't tell me thet ain't him!"
Since I believe this is simply 'spirit world show-boating' anyway,
and often the result of someone in the group dabbling with Ouija boards
and spiritism, I decided to just have some fun with it. So I went back
down to the roll department and told everybody, "Tell you what I think
we should do. This guy needs a name, if he's going to be haunting us,
so why not call him 'George?'"
"He's also transparent, right? So it will give him the attention he
wants, and it sure won't hurt us if we start a 'Walk Through George
Club.' I'll put a plaque on the wall and the names of everybody who
sees George and then either runs through him or walks through him.
Okay? That should make him feel more at home, too."
Well, the girls thought I was nuts. They started Ooohing and
shaking their heads, as though this thing was sacred, or something.
Actually, just the opposite, and we don't have to be afraid of them.
The last thing I'd ever do is sell my home to get rid of one! I'd
get rid of it!
(This is not to belittle the physical danger of spirits when they
are angry, so I really wasn't advocating this. I was ridiculing it.
I was taking the fear out of it. I would never run through a ghost
personally, if anybody is interested. There are much better ways to
deal with it.)
To make a long ghost story short, the ghost never returned after I got
there even though it had made weekly appearances before that. Now how
come? It had already been studied and determined that the guy being
imitated was in an old picture: a foreman in the sewing factory which
used to be in that same building. So what would my appearance do?
And, to make matters more interesting, one of the women -- who had
been with Durrell Armstrong for 18 years and intended to work at PPCo
forever -- suddenly picked up and left! I figured as much.
Once people realize that there ARE such things as spirits, that they
are not the spirits of dead people, and that you don't have to put up
with their side show for one minute, then they can rest easy -- if they
really want to. But then again, I might be taking all the fun out of
it for some few macabre types who don't mind hobnobbing or playing
hide-and-seek with these things.
When I was a boy, I believed in ghosts. When my dad died, I wondered
if I hadn't seen him about a week later. But I then realized that was
my grief comforting me. So there are different kinds of images in the
mind that we see from time to time, and they can be very clear.
I am also not discounting other inexplicable mental states and
capabilities. Just because we can't explain it physically, yet,
doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
My grandfather Brougher had a well dug where a dowser said it would be,
(everyone in the community had the same thing done) and when he asked
how deep the guy thought the well would be, grandpa said he put the
stick on his knee and counted the bounces; "49 feet and you should have
water." Exactly 49 feet 6 inches and they hit it.
I can't believe that men could have ever survived without these
and other unexplainable talents given to a few, but ghosts do not
figure into man's works. They are counter-productive ultimately,
even though many instances show that certain inventions or information
have been passed that could not have been known otherwise, that is
called a "confidence racket." It, too, is as old as "ghosts."
Bothersome nonsense would be a much better term for "haunting."
If anybody could have produced the spirit of a man from the dead,
Houdini would have been that person, as he promised to appear as soon
as he saw a way. In the meantime, he spent years debunking the mediums
and taking their little shows apart. After his death, groups met every
year at the same time, just as Houdini ordered in his last testament to
draw his spirit out.
He had also given certain code words secretly to those who would try,
including his wife, so that if the spirit were masquerading as him,
they would not be fooled. Houdini never again appeared. He had
finally tricked the spirit world, too! That's a real "gotcha!."