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October 2008

Stage fright

Pull up a chair, sit down and let me tell you a ghost story. It's almost Halloween, you know.

Many of you may remember ghost stories from your time on campus. Annabel or “the woman in blue” in Spencer; Mary Foust in the residence hall which bears her name.

But probably the most famous is Jane, who has made her presence known in Aycock Auditorium from its earliest days.

Raymond Taylor, who taught on campus from 1921 to 1960, had several experiences with Jane and recounted them in an old interview.

“She seemed, when I knew her, to delight in the upper reaches of Aycock foyer where she assumed the guise of lights that flitted from ceiling place to ceiling place and dragging chains and clanking objects over the floor down in the lobby up to my office door.”

One night around midnight he and a colleague, Jimmy Hogue, were sitting in his office. Suddenly, the door opened, a blast of cold air came in, and they heard the receding clank of chains. They got up and turned on the lights in the hallway and looked all over, but could never find an explanation for that occurrence.

In 2000, Jan Hullihan, then the assistant director for event production at Aycock, said that she had heard enough stories and had enough experiences to convince her Jane was real.

One evening, Hullihan and a student were setting up lights on stage. As they looked up at the high gallery to check the lights, they saw a figure moving around. “It was like gossamer,” she said. “It had this human feel about it. We both saw it. We looked at each other and said, ‘Jane.’” They saw her twice more that afternoon, and tried to convince themselves there was a logical explanation.

Last year, Aycock underwent a $19 million renovation that upgraded seats, stage, sound and a host of other things. But one thing that hasnít changed is Jane's presence.

Taylor Williams and Ben Pendleton, both freshmen stage technicians, already have stories to share. Williams was working off-stage one evening when she saw a flash of light from the stage. Then she saw the balcony lights flicker. Her boss turned off the electricity and still the lights flickered.

“I believe it was Jane to the fullest,” she said.

Williams and Pendleton both recall an experience where they left their tools scattered while they worked — flashlight, wrenches, gloves, multi-tool — and when they returned they were placed neatly in a row. They could see everyone on stage the whole time so they were certain no one was playing a prank.

Neither one had heard about Jane before beginning work at Aycock. When Pendleton had the feeling of being watched when he was alone in the basement, he began asking questions.

One evening Pendleton was locking up the building. He locked one particular door and tested it to be sure it was secure. Then he walked on. About 30 seconds later he happened to look back and the door was propped open.

“I don't think she's a bad ghost. She's fascinating,” Pendleton said. “But I won't lock up by myself anymore.”



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