“Why don’t you go haunt a house? Rattle some chains or something.”— Oda Mae Brown in the 1990 movie “Ghosts.”
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It was really just a joke. After all, who was going to consider as serious, someone snooping around a building and mumbling, “I’m just looking to see if I have any ghosts hiding around here.”
It wasn’t haunting, chain-rattling apparitions I was seeking. Nor was I looking for the invisible variety with which I once shared a house with in Center, Texas. George was the name I gave that one, and we got along famously occupying the same dwelling. He made his presence known in playful ways but never caused a problem. And likewise, I gave him no trouble. After all, I was pretty sure he had lived there longer than I had.
My views on other-world spirits were noted in a column I wrote about George a few years ago. “While never investing heavily in paranormal perception,” I declared, “I’ve also never doubted unexplained occurrences. Particularly, personal experiences in a house I called home a few years ago, one built in 1900. Experiences that were, well … difficult to explain.”
Those I joked about last week were more like memories. Recollections aroused by returning to scene of my first assignment as a newspaper publisher 40 years ago at The Light and Champion in Center. Not the office on the corner of San Augustine and Austin Street folks in town have been familiar with since 1983, but the building nearby on Austin Street where the printing company is still located. That facility still has the offices once occupied by staff members, but since the newspaper was moved up on the square decades ago, they have been used only for equipment and storage.
Even so, “haints” were the last thing on my mind last Thursday as I trekked through the snow down to the pressroom to make sure the power was on. Although I’d been there numerous times in recent years amid the activity of presses and people, the empty quietness that cold morning greeted me with old memories and a feeling that something was beckoning to me. Instead of printing paraphernalia, I saw visions of receptionist Patsy McNamara at her desk to my left. Straight across to the newsroom, I saw Gary Stewart, Patricia McCoy, and Eddie Burke working on stories. And to my right were the ad guys, Richard Pierce and Doug Stark, busy on the phone. Busy throughout the building making sure everything was running smoothly was Lois Cooper.
I walked down the hall to the last office on the left and envisioned where my desk sat. The paper’s owner, Jim Chionsini, preceded me in at that desk before he named me the publisher. I was the last person to occupy it.
Feeling the familiar old vibes, I recognized the built-in storage cabinet to my left. Like every nook and cranny in the building now, it was filled with press-related parts except for a bottom shelf where a stack of yellowed, dust-covered newspapers rested.
Always curious to examine an old newspaper, I pulled them out. That’s when blowing the dust off brought me face to face with my ghost. In my hands were several issues of three publications; The Monitor in Naples, The Sabine News in Many, Louisiana, and The Plaquemine Post in Iberville Parish (Metairie), Louisiana. Every issue bore dates between 1975 and 1977.
So, what was that spooky about a stack of old newspapers? The common spirit in them was mine. I moved into that office in 1980 with previous experience at two publications. The first was The Monitor from 1973 to 1976, followed by The Sabine News in 1976 and 1977. While at the Louisiana publication, I gave it a new look resembling The Plaquemine Post, which I regarded as one of the best-looking newspapers around at the time.
That combination of newspapers from that time period could have gotten together in that cabinet by only one means—I put them there when that was my office. And the thick dust on them served as pretty good evidence they had remained where I put them four decades ago before I found them last Thursday.
I’m betting even George would consider the odds of that happening to be pretty spooky.
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