Today I was the first colleague to enter the building I work in, and as I was setting up the Box Office I heard someone walking up the steps on the other side of the foyer and going through the door at the top which leads into our auditorium. I thought this was strange as nobody was supposed to be going into the auditorium and I hadn’t seen anyone come through the main entrance. They would have had to pass by me to get to those stairs…
I checked and there was nobody in the auditorium. By this time another colleague had arrived and I explained what I had heard and how there was nobody in the auditorium. He told me I was probably imagining things which I agreed was possible when suddenly there was a loud noise from within the auditorium which sounded like someone slamming a door. It echoed throughout the building and my colleague and I exchanged alarmed glances before splitting up and going into the auditorium separately ways – so nobody could sneak out and avoid us. We found nobody.
It was very odd, and an experience that countless eyewitnesses have described to me in the past – how they unlock a building only to think there’s someone already inside because they can hear someone moving around. Often they call the police or go on the hunt for the intruder only to discover nobody there. It both unnerves and pleases me when I experience for myself something that many others have described to me in the past. It’s unnerving because for that moment I have witnessed something for which I can’t find an answer, and it pleases me because I’m able to relate to those who tell me about the weird things they’ve experienced. I work in an arts venue that was designed to enhance natural acoustics which means that the sound inside the building can be a bit trippy at times. A colleague can say something in an office and be heard on the roof. A door sliding shut on one side of the building can sound like a man coughing from the other side, and it’s often difficult to pinpoint where a sound has come from.
After we heard the strange sounds my colleague made the hilarious gag that I should go into ghost hunter mode because we obviously had a ghost on our hands, so I did. I went and stared at the doors that had been heard to close and then I noticed that they weren’t hanging quite right. The door on the left was protruding slightly and on inspection it became clear that the wooden doors had expanded slightly – possibly because of the hot weather conditions these last few days – and what I’d heard had been the door popping out slightly under the pressure.
I then went into the auditorium and listened as a colleague opened and shut doors in the offices just outside the auditorium to see if the noises matched, but they didn’t and they weren’t heard in the Box Office as the original noise had been heard. I stood on stage pondering this for a bit when suddenly there was another large noise similar to the one that had sent me and my colleague hunting for an intruder. It made me jump, but then there was another, and another… It was the metal roof moving and making ‘pinging’ noises as it got warmer in the morning sun. The sound had reverberated around the largely soundproofed auditorium which is designed to enhance natural sound, and we’d heard a slightly muted version of the ‘pinging’ noises in the Box Office which we’d related to the sound of a door banging shut. Mystery solved.
Why am I writing about this? Well, I think it’s a great demonstration as to why using the right approach to reported cases of strange phenomena is important. To look at the individual pieces of a report and to try to get to the bottom of what happened can be more fruitful than approaching the case with the intention of seeing if it was a ghost by attempting to detect and communicate with the ghost.
Several years ago if you’d asked me to investigate those strange noises (and I indeed have worked on cases where similar things have been witnessed) I would have probably set up motion detectors on the stairs where ‘footsteps’ were heard, I would have trained a camcorder on the doors that were ‘heard opening and closing’ and, truth be told, I would have probably asked to stay the night to see if I could witness things for myself.
None of these actions would have explained the odd sounds and might have cemented in the idea that the venue was haunted. Especially when you consider a younger more naïve version of me would have probably, somehow, communicated with the ghosts that aren’t here.