I propose Olympia’s weirdest moment in matchmaking, weirder than any couple on OP&L’s dating page.
It seems most people don’t believe in ghosts until they encounter one. And in this age where romance has been killed by industry, there are many people who don’t believe in love until they fall into it.
Spirits of the departed still among us and the realm of romantic attraction: two spheres of thought that are growing increasingly unpopular in this age of cynicism and technology.
But I believe in them both—ghosts and love. And here’s a local story where the two topics should mix.
First, let’s talk about the ghosts.
I’m a librarian by trade, and have collected a few Washington State Academy and library ghost stories over the years.
When I worked in Seattle Public Library’s downtown branch in 1980, my job was situated in one of the two basements. These lower depths were located, so it was said, near a place where a horrible train accident took place in the Victorian era. Some library employees who stayed after hours claimed they occasionally saw people in 1890s garb walking through the walls.
SPL’s sub-basement was far creepier than that other library storage floor made famous in the opening scene of the movie Ghostbusters. However, the film’s portrayal of the catalog shelflist suddenly spewing cards all over the place sent a true chill of horror through all of us cataloguers.
Over in Pullman, WSU’s Holland Library in the early 1980s hosted a very singular phantom. “The Holland Ghost”, as he was known, was said to be a pharmacy student who used the four-story building as his residence for part of an academic year. He wasn’t really a ghost. In fact, he was very much alive.
The Holland Ghost was a playful fellow. One evening right after the library was closed, WSU security was startled to see all the lights on an upper floor suddenly illuminate. Then the lone figure of the Holland Ghost appeared at the window and gave the Wazoo workers the raspberry.
A posse was hastily assembled. They fanned throughout the structure to bust the ghost. One member of the search party (stage whisper: who is today a bigwig at the Library of Congress) told me they could hear the ghost scuttling around—probably through the giant vents—but they never caught their prey.
After the search was over, the lights were turned off and the building locked. And then one of the upper floors again suddenly illuminated and the lone figure of the Holland Ghost was once again giving the raspberry.
Now, on to love.
We start at SPSCC with a campus figure known as “The Lady in White”. Little known by the day staff, she’s a familiar topic of discussion with evening security and custodial folks. Or at least she was in the 1990s when I worked there.
The Lady in White is a young, attractive Native American woman who appears at night after it rains. She is usually seen in the lecture halls or the big central building. Needless to say, she wears a white dress. I hasten to add that even though I logged plenty of evening hours at that school, she never honored me with a visit.
She is said to sometimes look like a normal human being until she does something wild like walk through a wall. Other times she is transparent. Some accounts describe her simply as a shimmering ball of light.
Apparently she’s something of a joker and has been know to smile when startling people. I heard more than one account where she whistles to attract attention.
She also plays with electricity. One tale has her reactivating and riding the elevators even though the power was out.
There were dark rumors—repeat: rumors—that the Lady in White originally appeared on SPSCC-OTCC-OVTI’s turf when building contractors disturbed a sacred spot at some point while in the act of excavating to enlarge the campus back in the 1970s-1980s. Of course, I would be shocked, shocked to even begin to consider this bit of gossip to be true. This information is provided merely as part of the folklore surrounding the Lady in White.
Meanwhile, up on Cooper Point: I believe the following event took place in spring quarter 1988, if my memory serves right. I was working in the library at The Evergreen State College. It was morning and the library workers were preparing for the day. The doors had not yet opened to the public.
The bibliographic employees were jolted out of their a.m. reveries by a scream. A student worker ran down the stairs from the periodicals section to the reference area. She said she had seen a ghost.
This student was known to us as a serious, level-headed young woman, a responsible person. Not the type you would expect to see confabulating some yarn about a spectre. When things cooled down I asked her to return to the scene of the incident and recount what had happened.
She said a young, clean-cut man, completely shaded gray, came out of an invisible door and strode very purposely about 50 feet in a direct and straight line into another invisible door. He marched from north to south alongside the periodicals area.
Something about all this seemed familiar. Then I remembered one of the families who lost their property in order to make way for TESC told the daily Olympian in 1968 the school would inherit their ghost. That is to say, the ghost of a young man.
The article, “How about a course in parapsychology? Evergreen’s set to host a ghost” by Joyce Nelson appeared, appropriately enough, in the October 31, 1968 issue. The apparition described in the news piece was an exact match for the gray man seen almost 20 years later by the student. So far as I know, no mention of that ghost had been made on the TESC campus between 1968-1988.
I shared this information with my fellow librarian Ernestine, and then left Evergroove for another job.
Ernestine developed an interest in this story over the years. I saw her a few years ago shortly before she herself left our world. I asked her in a jolly way if the ghost was still tromping around TESC. She gave me a very serious, steady, this-is-no-joke look and evenly said, “Oh yes.” Something in her manner told me to leave it alone. In hindsight I wish I had pressed her for more info.
So it would seem SPSCC’s Lady in White and Evergroove’s Gray Man are young, single, and still at large. What else could it be but broken hearts that keep these two from moving on to the next step? We have to get this couple together.
“O, tell her, brief is life but love is long.” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
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