Boomerang Days: Ghost World

A Longhorn does college all over again.

 alcalde_ghost_world_2

It’s an eerily quiet night on campus. The moon reflects off the darkened windows of the aged granite buildings and a moaning wind blows past the shadowy statues. I’ve returned not to celebrate Longhorn spirit, but to seek out the spirits of Longhorns. I’m on a ghost hunt!

My guide on this macabre adventure is Gharith Pendragon, a birth name that allowed him the career choice of either professional clairvoyant or that guy at the Renaissance Faire who makes puppets out of potatoes. He chose clairvoyant. Ever since childhood, Pendragon has had the gift of seeing the unseen, knowing the future, sensing the “stains of those who have gone before.” I know how that feels. I remember finding similar stains on my Jester dorm mattress.

We’re standing on the steps of the Tower, gazing out on the deserted South Mall.

“I sense large crowds gather here!” he reports excitedly.

Considering the graduation bleachers have been set up, I’m not too impressed.

Pendragon has a sing-song voice, wispy white hair, and eyes that shine like polished pebbles. When I first meet him he hands me a binder thicker than my thigh. It’s full of letters of recommendation from university professors, law enforcement officers, and even the Pentagon. He’s helped find lost ships, solve cold murder cases, and discover missing children.

“I’ll email you more!” he says. Letters are a bit of an obsession with Pendragon. “Yay!” So is the word yay.

As we move across campus, he shares some less-than-startling observations.

“There weren’t always street lights here.”

“Students walk through this area.”

“Some of the professors on this campus are … arrogant.”

You don’t need a third eye to figure that out. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Gharith’s a good guy, but I’m not convinced he’s picking up on any ghostly vibes. But then he pauses and motions ahead.

“Someone is looking out that attic window.”

He’s pointing to the Littlefield House—the Victorian-styled home on 24th Street.

“She’s in there.” 

“Seeing me shudder, Pendragon explains that the spirit is not trying to frighten me. She may not be trying, but she’s doing a damn good job of it.”

I swallow my gum.

The windows are dark, the doors locked. We sit on a stone bench on the well-groomed grounds and Pendragon begins a ghostly conversation with whatever is inside.

“Her first initial is A,” he says. “Ann or Alice … ”

He tells me she’s the daughter of a former Confederate officer—slender, with dark hair and eyes. She was often locked away in the attic, driving her nearly mad. She died decades ago, but she’s never left.

“She knows we’re right here.”

I regurgitate my gum.

He tells me she’s an inquisitive woman who would have loved to study at the university she saw in its fledgling days.

“Perhaps she could audit a few classes?” I suggest.

He closes his eyes. “She’s pretty.”

“Really?” Things are getting interesting! I’ve seen Ghost—I know the drill.

Instead, the spirit describes other ghosts on campus—a young man who hanged himself from the rafters of a theater as well as a gaggle of ghostly girls in 1920s attire, lost students, murder victims, and more arrogant professors.

Seeing me shudder, Pendragon explains that the spirit is not trying to frighten me. She may not be trying, but she’s doing a damn good job of it.

“Are there other ghosts on campus who do want to frighten people?” I ask.

“Yes. Angry ghosts.”

I take it upon myself to revisit the Littlefield House in the light of day. The home was built in 1893 by Civil War veteran and gregarious businessman Major George Littlefield. The first floor looks much as it would have then. And on one wall, there’s an ornately framed portrait of a woman—slender, dark hair and eyes—just as Pendragon had described.

This is Alice Littlefield—the wife (not daughter) of Major Littlefield. She and her husband were generous donors to the young university, evidenced by the fountain and dorm bearing their name. There’s no evidence that she was ever locked in any attic. But she did live in this house—and maybe she still does.
The second floor of the Littlefield House is now home to the Office of University Events. I ask a bright-eyed office assistant if he’s ever seen anything ghostly. He smiles.

“No ghosts here.”

“Unless you’re one,” I counter. He stops smiling and asks me to leave.

Before I do, I sneak up a creaky side stairway, closed to the public, and reach the locked attic door. I wait and listen, wondering what presence lingers on the other side.

I owe Gharith a letter of recommendation.

 

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