News flash: There may, or may not, be ghosts

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/1/19

Decades ago, when I first gravitated towards journalism as a career, I knew I wanted to work with words and facts and ink and paper and deadlines.

I never considered the work would involve …

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News flash: There may, or may not, be ghosts

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Decades ago, when I first gravitated towards journalism as a career, I knew I wanted to work with words and facts and ink and paper and deadlines.

I never considered the work would involve ghosts.

But I think it has.

I say “I think” because the problem with ghosts — one of them, at least — is establishing their existence.

I mentioned facts a second ago, and there’s no factual evidence I’m aware of to definitively confirm ghosts exist, or don’t.

Some folks believe in them; others dismiss the notion. The rest of us admit we haven’t a clue.

And that, despite a dozen seasons of “Ghost Hunters” on cable television, is about as far as science has taken us on the topic.

Nevertheless, my work in newspaper reporting has led me to two newsrooms that may — or may not — have been haunted; they certainly opened my eyes to the possibility, at least, of paranormal presences.

So here, as spooky as I can dress it up for Halloween re-telling, is my experience with the...unexplained.

Soon after college, I went to work as a reporter for a small weekly newspaper in the Sandhills, housed in a creaky old building that, according to local lore, had once been a murder scene.

I never tried to verify the murder story, though word of it came from reliable sources, but it made for good back-story when I was also told the old brick building, former murder scene or not, was haunted.

Old-timers around the office — the pressman, for instance, a middle-aged man who’d worked there since he was a teenager — warned me about unusual things that happened in the building at night. Likewise, the sports writer, the publisher, and a couple of the reporters confirmed the stories of ghostly noises, bumps in the night, weird things.

They didn’t lie.

Always — and only — occurring when one was alone in the building, such activity would ensue. Since I lived immediately next door to the office, and had a key, I was in and out at odd times and during those solitary work hours I often heard the strange sounds — footsteps, doors opening or shutting, knocking — that I’d been warned about.

The noises were frustrating more than frightening. I’d hear them, but the moment I’d go about checking the building for burglars or any other terrestrial explanation, the noises would stop. Back at my desk, they’d resume. I learned to ignore them.

Though never scared or unwilling to work alone at night, I became convinced of the presence of...noises. What caused them, I never knew; but it was kind of cool, I thought, to believe I worked in a haunted building, and even cooler to tell people so. So that was my story and I’ve stuck with it.

And that would have been enough close encounters for one lifetime, but the inexplicable wasn’t through with me yet.

Though I’ve worked at the Chatham News + Record for many years now, only recently — a few months ago, it started — co-workers began to talk about some unusual occurrences they’d experienced within our Siler City office building.

Some reported catching a glimpse of something — perhaps a woman, they said — briefly in their peripheral vision before the something vanished. Others reported hearing odd noises, similar to those I’d heard long ago in that Sandhills office: footsteps and knocking.

While I like my co-workers and believe them all to be reasonable people of sound mind and body, I initially dismissed the ghost chatter until a month or so back when, while working alone in the office on a Sunday afternoon, I heard stuff, too: mainly a knocking on the wood paneling on the opposite side of my office wall.

The knocking was loud enough, and distinct enough, that I thought somebody — maybe Don Beane was bored — was having fun with me, so I investigated and after walking through the entire complex, still half-expecting a familiar face to shout “Boo!”, I determined I was alone and the building locked.

My survey of the office complete, I resumed working and so did the knocking.

Possessing no proton packs or gigameters or any ghostbusting gear, I’m unable to draw conclusions.

But to aspiring young journalists, I offer this: There will be deadlines. There will be many hours writing alone, sometimes in an otherwise unoccupied office after dark. There will be lots of ink and paper and facts.

And there may — or may not — be ghosts.


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