College Culture Final

It was just another night in Klinger-Neal theatre when I sat down with Taylor Clemens to ask him about the ghosts of the theatre. Rehearsal for the current production had just concluded and there were four people left in the theatre.

Two of us were in the lobby listening to Clemens recount his tales of ghosts both at Morningside and elsewhere. About ten minutes in to the interview though, we were interrupted. The fourth was in the main part of the theatre on the phone with her mom.

“Well, I am not going back in there tonight!” Amy Jackson exclaimed as she bolted out of the house. “I just saw two people sitting in the seats!”

Taylor laughed and asked her who it was. “No,” Amy said, “there were two people sitting on the seats behind the set and just starring at the curtain.”

Instantly the three of us who had been in the lobby darted in to the theatre looking for these people she spoke of. We asked questions and received answers both on my phone, as I was still recording from the interview, and in taps that we heard in the theatre. Clemens and I also saw shadow people walking around behind the set.

The night concluded as I viewed a female face looking down on us from the booth. “Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.” I exclaimed as I ran out the door. The others followed me. Taylor quickly closed and locked the booth door in order to contain anything that may be up there.

Ghosts and superstitions are a big part of the theatre community. Many theatres have their own ghost stories and their ways to keep the ghosts happy.

One of the most accepted ways to keep theatre ghosts at bay is through the use of a ghost light. The ghost light is one light, usually some form of lamp, left in the middle of the stage over night so the ghosts can perform their own shows.

Though every theatre takes part in this tradition, not many believe in the reasoning behind the light. However, Morningside theatre majors know how important it is because many of them have had supernatural experiences in Klinger-Neal Theatre.

Klinger is said to have three ghosts that reside there. Two in the basement and one on the stage. Clemens, who spends almost all of his time in the theatre has certain ways in place to keep those ghosts happy.

“They like things done a certain way. Whenever I go to the basement I say ‘Hello, theater!’ I tell them what I am going to do and I say goodbye when I leave. I also say good morning when I get to the theatre and when I leave I tell them goodnight and I always make sure to say that I will be back in the morning.”

There are many stories that are passed on from older theatre majors to freshmen such as the story of Dallas’ chair. It is said that if you move the chair in the back corner of the basement you will be tripped as you try to go back upstairs.

Many students and faculty, though have their own stories of weird and unusual things that have happened to them in the theatre.

Some days the aura in the theatre is so malicious that Professor Taylor Clemens has to instigate a rule that no one is allowed in the basement alone because “theatre ghosts be scary.”

One story he tells his students happened during the run of Next to Normal. “I went down to the basement to collect some props that the community theatre wanted to borrow and the whole time it just felt wrong. It was that feeling of someone being behind you. It got to a point that on the way up the stairs I stopped, turned around, and yelled at it to back the fuck off. After that I made the rule that no one was allowed in the basement alone until Next to Normalwas over.”

He has also had a number of unexplainable experiences in other theatres outside of Morningside. “I was working on a show at Fisher Theatre at Iowa State with Casey [Clemens]. She was the stage manager and I was working backstage so I was waiting for her to close up the booth and I watched her turn off the lights and walk downstairs and as she got down to where I was the lights just flipped back on. I pointed it out to her and she said ‘time to fucking leave.’ We were the only two people left in the theatre that night.”

Amy Jackson, a senior Theatre and English double major, has recently had unexplained experiences while conducting rehearsals for Octopus.

“There were only three people in the theatre that night and the atmosphere just felt…wrong. Like, it was dead silent even when the actors were performing. So then, at our second to last run of the scene I heard voices from the direction of the stairs [to the basement] that sounded like little girls. I wanted to put it off as people outside but we have never been able to hear people outside any other time I have been at a rehearsal in the theatre. It freaked me out. So I let rehearsal out a little early that night and I left.”

Last year, junior Grant Turner experienced some paranormal activity when he was in the theatre after hours. He was an acting partner for scenes presented at KCACTF and was doing a last minute rehearsal after dark in the theatre. His scene partner, who is a big believer in the paranormal, was transfixed on a piece of paper that was moving on it’s own on the “port-a-desk.” The two went over to investigate.

“We checked for a draft or anything that could be moving the paper but nothing was happening. So we decided to investigate other things in the theatre.”

They then turned off the lights and do some amateur ghost hunting performing EVP sessions and taking pictures of the theatre. While they were investigating there were a number of footsteps coming from the shop area, the upstairs grid area, and coming up from the basement. His acting partner was able to catch a picture of a misty human figure walking up the basement stairs.

Even with these reported experiences, some people are skeptical of the need for the ghost light. When he found out the reasoning behind the ghost light Jared Martin couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s what it’s for? I figured there was a REAL reason!”

Only about 37% of American’s believe in ghosts or hauntings. Turner didn’t believe in the stories until his own experience. “I normally consider myself a skeptic on the supernatural, but I was a believer that night!” Jackson said it takes a lot to make her even think that something is off but that rehearsal did it.

Clemens says that he absolutely believes in ghosts. He has had paranormal experiences since he was four years old. “I remember one time when I was at my babysitter’s house and I was upstairs and I heard a voice calling my name and I was like ‘NOPE’ and this was me at, like, four years old. I was always really creeped out by that house.”

Whether or not a person believes in ghosts, there are a number of things that happen in Klinger-Neal that are not immediately explainable. Because of this, theatre majors for years will continue to plug in the ghost light.

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