Scary stories and a “Horse-man”

The end of October and the beginning of November usually bring out some of Yellow Springs’ most stunning beauty.  Fall 2013 seems to be right on point and on palette!  Climate change has brought a much warmer than average September and first half of October and has given leaves a chance to linger on the trees.  Under bright blue fall skies with accompanying October sun some sugar maples’ thinning canopies seem to show some semblance of bio-luminescence.   

With the same seasonal regularity every October, people will also call the Olive Kettering Library and ask Scott Sanders in Antiochiana and others if they know of any campus ghosts or “ghost stories.” Maybe with 160 years of history there ARE some spirits around. 

Years ago at the library we often thought we heard furniture being dragged across the floor upstairs (what is now the rare book room used to be a large audio/visual space and faculty meeting space with chairs and couches).  We would run up there and the room was always sans humans.  One wonders! 

I was here alone once during Christmas week in the early eighties and heard that “dragging couch” noise. Hmmm! I ran up there hoping to see the fabulous Flo Lorenz who ran AV for many years. That would have given me a fun break between all that pre-winter term paper drudgery. But alas, no one! 

Sometimes students used to hear or feel spirits in the basement when they were shelving books or bound journals. I would tell them it was just the old steam pipes. But students have said, “No way, no steam pipes are like that.” A student offered to bring in some cleansing “sage.” Well, maybe better to leave all those spirits rest; hold the burning sage please! As the steam pipes are no longer in service, if anyone hears strange sounds now, well, we shall see or not see.

For this trick or treat season we should add the potentially scary too. Are they tricks or treats?

There are some things that seem quite horrifying.

One of the truly scary things these days is the price of textbooks. Calculus? Try $269! Languages? Try $300 plus because super-site web access comes along with the book. Or maybe Economics…comes in at an economical $200. It doesn’t take long to spend $1,000! Of course between Library Reserves, Amazon.com, OHIOLink (the inter-library loan system), photocopiers, scanners that email you PDFs, and selling last term’s hand-me-downs, there are possibilities to make things more palatable or sustainable when money is always a scarce and scary commodity. 

Back in “ye olden days” when the dining halls had monopoly money-like books of coupon tickets called “meal books” (pre-1980), the richer, poorer and hungrier would trade them for a price, like fluctuating commodities. That was a way to get extra textbook money or extra eats. I think legend has it that some folks even used them as “poker” chips. Those wilder Antiochians!

On the scary list too would be a world without a College that asked people to win victories for humanity.  That college now has 187 students! (That is certainly more treat than trick!)

A final story for you would be a Horace Mann Statue story. Glen hikes through the woods and past the pine forest to “Horace” have mostly always been a treat.  About 20 or so years ago, I would bring my nephews from Dayton for a day trip.  They were tiny tots and were going to Horace Mann Elementary School in Dayton. I told them, “I will take you to see the person for whom your school is named.” 

We went on a long hike through a spring green Glen and after stops that involved skimming rocks across the Yellow Springs creek, those little tots and I, finally, exhausted, got to the Horace Mann Statue.  One of them immediately asked, “Where’s the horse? We thought you it was “Horse-man!” 

I always found the Horace Mann Statue to be in a nice serene spot and knew the side of its base in winter that would still feel warm on a cold sunny winter day.   One sunny Saturday morning in February, also about 20 or so years ago, I headed to my warm sunny spot and saw a body sprawled out beneath Horace’s feet at the base of the statue. At first, I figured they had parked their bicycle and were sunbathing.  As I got closer, I realized the gentleman had committed suicide.  After calling 911, the sheriff came and opened the man’s wallet and examined the contents, which included $250 dollars and a suicide note.

“Well, we know you didn’t do it,” the sheriff said to me. “But we would like to swab your hand anyway for powder burns before you take off.

I would still occasionally come by to visit Horace (sans horse) and once found that some probable vandals had spray painted his feet red. For a moment I wondered could that have been that person’s spirit or just tricksters.

Well enough scary stuff.  Every day here is more of a treat and a victory.  

Antiochians, who are out there, please squeeze in a sojourn here as you can.  And always please think about a visit, especially at Reunion.  You will find that this old place has new spirit and when it comes to spirits, well, that is for you to discern.  Sage advice welcome and that other sage, well, still keep that on hold!  

Happy Halloween to Antiochians near and far!