A creak in Mesa Vista Hall and the sound of jingling keys in a University theater — blame it on Halloween spooks or not, but students may wonder if ghosts haunt the UNM campus.
Student Ashley Brown said she experienced a paranormal encounter while working as a student electrician in Rodey Hall. Brown, who often walks across the small upstairs hallway that leads to the theater’s spotlights to perform electrician duties, said she’s heard mysterious noises in the last two years she has worked at the theater.
“When you’re up there by yourself — we go up there to stock stuff or put stuff away — you can hear keys jingling,” Brown said. “I swear there’s keys jingling and the door would randomly open. We call him the ‘spot booth ghost.’”
Brown said although her encounter was scary, drama-student encounters with theater ghosts are nothing new.
“It’s a theater thing; there’s always the ghost of the theater,” she said.
Technical director Richard Hess said he is no stranger to theater ghosts — it’s just that all the theater ghosts live off-campus.
“I’ve never heard anything that’s really out of the ordinary,” Hess said. “But then again, everyone here is a bit different and reacts to things differently. I’ve been in other theaters where you could smell cigar smoke in the space, along with hearing weird noises because there are a lot of weird noises that can go on in a theater.”
Hess said of all the theaters he’s helped build sets for, his work at KiMo Theatre has been the most ghost-friendly.
“There was a young boy, 12 years old, who was killed when a hot water tank exploded,” he said. “Since then, they’ve been doing offerings so the show will go good. There’s a little shrine that’s been set up.”
Hess said offerings to the theater ghost range from doughnuts and toys to a sign-in sheet where the actors and crew can leave their names and comments.
Even outside the theater, Hess said he’s encountered rumors of haunted buildings.
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“Years ago, when I was back in New York, I did date a girl where her house was supposedly haunted and heard things like the sound of someone running down the stairs toward the door, the actual door was locked and the screen door would open,” he said.
Coronado and Alvarado community director Travis Checketts said he’s no stranger to ghostly rumors. Checketts has worked as the community director for the last two years at the University and has dealt with rumors that Coronado was once a mental hospital since his first day on the job.
“People always go into rumors and I think for them it’s fun, they like the rumors,” he said. “Coronado was opened fall of 1959, it’s never been a hospital, it’s always been a residence hall. The most I hear from people is that they hear noises — it’s an old building and sound travels differently than any other building, that’s really the honest truth. It’s never anything unexplained.”
Checketts said from his experience as a coordinator at previous universities, older university buildings and ghostly rumors tend to go hand-in-hand.
“I think it’s just neat that with the older buildings, they have this history and one thing leads to another and it balloons into a big story or a big rumor that never ends up being true,” he said.
History department chairman Charlie Steen said he has had to ward off ghost rumors about a building that was not just old, but had an actual tragedy as well. Steen said that in the early 1970s, three student football players entered a Mesa Vista Hall elevator.
He said the three students began to mess around, leading to the unfortunate placement of one student’s head between the closing elevator doors. The student was decapitated.
Steen has worked at Mesa Vista Hall since 1969 and said he has seen the incident turn from a student tragedy to a ghoulish rumor.
“The stories are mostly about noises, and had it not been for the death of that student in the elevator, I think there would be no excitement about it,” Steen said. “I’m not keen on those stories, I hear about them more in third and fourth person than someone who has actually seen something, but to my knowledge, nobody is skulking in the corners.”
Steen said he is a fan of historical architecture, but he does understand why ghost stories tend to creep from the cracks of older buildings.
“Old buildings are creepy, I like them very much, but they are full of noises and it’s just sort of natural,” he said. “When you’re working alone in the building, you do get apprehensive. I’ve never heard of a ghost story here in full daylight with the coming and going of how many hundreds of people in here — it’s always on weekends and at nights.”