In which I solve my own mystery

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.

About Hayley Stevens 420 Articles
Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

5 Comments on In which I solve my own mystery

  1. As an engineer who is often called out to commercial and industrial buildings at strange times of the night and weekend I can confirm that they can be very ‘spooky’ places. Just the normal ‘breathing’ (expansion and contraction) of a building and all its contents from day to night and visa versa causes creaks, scrapes, pings, bangs etc. In my earlier years they would scare the crap out of me but these days, with the knowledge of experience, I find them quite welcoming and would be more concerned if they didn’t happen.
    The normal ‘white’ noise of people, air conditioning etc., in a building mask these sounds during the day and we ignore noises that would be ‘odd’ in an empty building as the day to day sounds and thus they are tuned out.
    It is worth sitting in a busy office/space with a recorder. Play back the recording and you will be surprised the difference between what we, as humans hear, and what the ‘mechanical’ recorder hears.
    Another good thought provoking piece Hayley.

  2. I work in a small CCTV control room, which is a hardened shell within a larger building. As there are only two operators on duty at night, the building has a very different feel to the daytime when there are engineers, office staff etc. Especially when the kitchen door springs open with a loud crack just as you’re dosing off!

  3. Great post. The moral being: keep thinking rationally even though you can’t immediately find an explanation for some strange phenomenon.

  4. WOW!!!

    Have you found the ghost yet?

    You were very lucky someone else was there with you, still you were very brave looking.

    You’re right motion detectors and gadgets are useless in ghost hunting – spirits can’t be detected electronically.

    I can sense that there are two spirits and they mean no harm, I feel that one is from an orphanage and passed near water – the other not sure – but I am getting weddings or some kind of celebration – maybe a cheese throwing?

    I also get the words “hyena elves sty” and a smell of a warm – not hot – bacon sandwich – with brown sauce – HP? – the bacon isn’t crispy.

  5. We recently had our house reblocked, and I was awoken several times by a very loud “CRACK” noise on more than one occasion. Actually, our house is old and moves about so much that barely a night goes by when I don’t hear a noise, a new noise, a slamming, a “walking noise”, or something settling because of excess rain or heat. That plus the padding of 2 noisy cats around the house and you soon become desensitized to all the racket my house makes.

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