|Paper||Southern Utah University Student Newspapers|
|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Southern Utah University Student Newspapers|
Page 14 The Thunderbird Thursday May 26, 1983 by Dean ODriscoll Remember staying up way past your bedtime on Friday nights and watching those scary horror movies until you were so scared that you would run into your bedroom and pull the covers over your head? Youd shake and you didnt even take the time to get undressed. Or how about after you visit the local town theater for a good haunted house flick and every night for the next month you wouldnt dare sit in your house alone because every sound youd hear turned you into a nervous wreck. Well, all of you Southern Utah State College students could have experienced these types of feelings first hand if you had been born about 40 years earlier. Although its true that there werent any vampires or goblins actually sighted, and there were no bloodcurdling screams, tattling chains or windows and doors that opened and closed by themselves, there were plenty of unexplainable ghostly phenomenons around campus. If you had been a student at SUSC back when it was BAC (Branch Agricultural College) you might have been a believer in the unexplained. You might have heard the music that nobody was playing and you might have seen the lights flashing on and off that nobody was controlling. You might have been one of the students that would walk an extra couple hundred yards just so you wouldnt have to pass by a certain building. The building which was thought to be the haunted structure was the Old Administration building and even though it has since been remodeled, it is still the same building centrally located on the SUSC campus. The story or The Thunderbird Thursday May 26, 1983 Page 15 legend, whichever you prefer to call it, had its humble beginnings some two generations ago. The story began over five decades ago and has managed to stay alive in some form or another ever since. In the late 1930s a local female high school student was making a name for herself as a very accomplished and talented pianist. She was asked to play the piano for many of the school assemblies and social functions. This girl was recognized for her outstanding abilities and was known by everyone associated w ith the high school and college, especially for one particular song. She became especially popular for her rendition of Deep Purple, a song very much in vogue at the time. She had played it for many people at many different times and those who knew her came to think of it as her song. This vry gifted lady was a senior in high school when tragedy struck and the eerie events began to transpire. She contracted appendicitis and surgery was performed by a local doctor. Following the operation, she incurred an infection and later died of septicemia. So, in the year 1939 our subject was gone, and so was her famous style for playing the piano or so everyone thought. From here on the story begins to get a little out of the ordinary. It centered on the old auditorium, which was located in the top of the Old Administration Building. Our subjects presence there or lack of presence is the rest of the story. After her death, several people claimed they heard music coming from the top floor of the Old A. building (short for the Old Administration Building) in the middle of the night. Lights in the building flashed on and off without ap. parent control. At these times music could be heard. The music just happened to be the song Deep Purple. The same song, played at the same piano in the same room where the late musician had gained notoriety for playing. Winona Cowen, a student at BAC during that time, remembers this: There were three students that were in the Old A building one night for some reason and all of a sudden they heard music coming from somewhere upstairs. They went upstairs to find out where it was coming from. When they got to the auditorium they could tell the music was coming from the piano at the front of the hall. Even though it was dark at the time they could see that no one was sitting at the piano. Thats when they realized something was strange. They got a little closer to make sure nobody was really at the piano. When they discovered there wasnt, they practically fell over each other trying to get out of there. She also told of another story about herself and the effect the strange music had on students around the school. I remember one time when some students and I were in the building doing homework. I dont just mean any homework, we were doing an anatomy assignment with little parts of animals pickled in bottles and things like that. Then, we found out that we had somehow been locked in the building. Everything had been all right until we knew we couldnt get out of there and then we all began to panic. We finally shimmied through a small opening in the window which would only open part way. I dont know how we fit, but we managed somehow. After her experiences, and others she heard that They got a little closer to make sure nobody was at the piano. When they ' discovered there wasnt, they practically fell over each other trying to get out Sound like of there... the script from an old Bowery Boys thriller? Well, its part of an account of one of many scary nights right here on campus. about around school, it was no wonder that she felt they definitely affected the student body. According to Cowan, the story about the mysterious music was fairly well accepted around school and students seemed to be very scared. Cowan felt there was only one explanation to account for that music. Someone had to have been playing another piano on the stage behind the curtain. I doubt that very much because in those days we were lucky to have the one piano was sitting there in the open, especially since the one we had was a big Steinway grand piano. Maybe one of the strangest facts about Cowans experience with the phantom piano player, was that shortly after our subject had died, she had the very same operation by the very same doctor. Although she admits she thought nothing of it, her parents didnt want her to let that doctor do the operation. Shirley Cowan yes, there is a relation who was a student at that time and now is an employee of the college, said, If you would pass by there (Old A Building) at night you could hear music. It was always the same song too Deep Purple. Most of the people that went to school at that time probably at least heard about it from someone else. SUSC Alumna Mary Leone Foley whos now secretary to the vice piesident for academic affairs concurs with all of the basic facts of the story, but she has her own version of how she thought it came to be. The Old Administration Building used to have a very large tin rain gutter, she says. Some of my friends and I used to take off our shoes and climb up to the top. Then we would sit on a piece of wax paper and slide down it. I think that maybe somebody found out what we were doing and played that music to try to scare anyone around the building. I think that they did a pretty good job of it too. Apparently Foley discounts the ghost theory, but she agrees that the story became very well known around campus. It may seem very strange that a ghost would like to play the same song again, but when you look closely at some of the words of Deep Purple its easy to see that the song fits the situation very well. Hereare a few of the words from the popular tune written by Peter De Rose and made famous at SUSC by the chords of an unknown pianist: ...When the Deep Purple falls over sleepy garden walls, and the stars begin to flicker in the sky, Thru the mist of a memory you wander back to me, breathing my name with a sigh,... Those words seem to hint that nothing is really final and that just because the actual body is not there it doesnt mean that a spirit or something cant be there. There are some who do believe in that theory ai'd then there are those who dont like former BAC student and graduate of SUSC, Mary McDonnel. I I dont believe in that old story, she says. think the way that old rumor got started was that there used to be a lot of instruments up there and when the wind vould blow I think that h would cause noises to come out of those instrum-nt- s and since it was in a big room (the auditorium) the sounds would get louder and echo. There were noises heard in the music building too, probably made in the same way," she adds. So perhaps there were the true skeptics along with the true believers, but nevertheless, the story has lived through the decades. Art Challis, who graduated only 10 years ago, says the same story was still being talked about while he walked the halls of SUSC. When I was standing in line for graduation and waiting to pick up my diploma I heard some students say You could stand in the Quad after 1 1 p.m. and see lights in the Old Administration building. I can remember one of my friends saying that they were in the building one night and heard piano music, Challis notes. Obviously the story has been passed on for some time now and as is always the case, the more people that tell the story the farther away from the actual truth it becomes. Bessie Dover did not go to school here but did visit friends that attended BAC and she tells a completely different story. I had always heard that it was a ghost of a former ballet dancer and she had died from an infection she got in a blister from dancing a lot, she says. I heard that the ghost was dancing up in the auditorium to that old popular song Deep Purple." No matter how twisted the story got some of the facts remained the same, as Dover tejlls it. We would be scared to walk through the campus with fights on up there and music coming from the Old Main. Her accounts of dancing and the Old Main building differ from the accounts of others, but she does maintain that the belief in a haunting spirit is part of the history of SUSC. So, the next time you have to be in or walk by the Old Administration building after datk, you may not be as alone as you may think. Those soothing notes you hear might not be coming from somebodys Walkman, but perhaps from the walls atop the old building, and those lights you thought were on because some professor was putting in a few extra hours might have just popped on, to shed some light on a keyboard so that some eyes can see.