Duke is haunted. You can find ghosts everywhere you turn: there’s talking statues, whatever Brody Theater is and the spook-tacular Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium (what else could be filling all those empty seats?). With this in mind, I decided to go on an exploration of the supernatural here at Duke and in Durham. I’m Jonathan Pertile, and this is my story.
The tale begins Friday, Oct 19. Knowing I have a trying day ahead of me, I start out my day with a spiritually-cleansing dose of Duke Puppy Kindergarten. It’s a good beginning for a day that will push me to my limits. I find a secluded spot on the third floor of Rubenstein Library, an apt enough place to do ghost research. Armed with NorthCarolinaGhosts.com, I discover stories about the Gray Man, who appears before devastating storms along the coast of the Carolinas, and of a stubborn piano in Salisbury that killed a woman, sending her to hell.
Disturbing, yes. These stories are enough to put me on edge, but I have more research to do. My next step is an interview with UNC Chapel Hill Ph.D. student Maxine Allison Vande Vaarst. Although she is currently residing in New York City, doing research on urban explorers there, she takes particular interest in what she calls “ghost lore.” Among her passions is leading ghost tours in Durham. From her, I learned of the haunted Trinity Methodist Church, where a satanic teacher brainwashed Durham’s children long ago, ultimately ending with the church being burned down with the witch and kids trapped inside. She finishes the story ominously:
“If you ever are standing between the pews at midnight you might see a woman with books in the crutch of her arm, and you might feel these little tiny creatures racing past your ankles, pricking at them as they go,” Vande Vaarst said. “That’s the devil’s teacher and her class, still holding their wicked coursework to this day.”
Okay, then. Now I’m scared. Satanic teachers? Right here in Durham? I decide that I am going to have to do a little firsthand reporting of my own to see whether or not ghosts really exist in Durham. It’s time to head out into the world of the paranormal.
The first stop for my ghost-busting tour is Abele Quad. Is it haunted? After walking around a tree a few times, my ghost-busting group and I concur that it is satisfactorily not very spooky. However, out of the corner of our eyes, we notice the James B. Duke statue standing tall on its pedestal. We then spot something that changed our entire view of statues here at Duke: they speak! Thanks to QR codes posted on each statue, each one is given a voice of its own. After a bit of thinking, we decide that, although QR codes aren’t particularly scary, they definitely do make the statues unnerving enough for us to move on to our next stop.
Somebody mentions that they’ve heard rumors of a haunted building over on East Campus. After a quick bus ride over, we begin the trek to Brody Theater. It’s dark, cold and a little spooky, but we safely arrive at the small venue without any incidents. The place is lit up, with every single light inside blazing. A little odd, especially given that it’s well past midnight and there is not a soul to be seen nearby. Surprisingly, the building is accessible. The door unlocks with a swipe of my Duke ID, and we are inside.
Once we get inside, things seem… off. Everywhere I look I see something spooky. The first thing I notice is the oddly arranged chairs. Next, we find the piles of strange black boxes. There’s brightly lit yet empty hallways hidden behind sinister black curtains. Finally, we notice a dagger conspicuously sitting on the whiteboard. What’s the deal with this place? Naturally, we decide to stay a little bit to try and stake out the ghosts that are obviously haunting here.
We didn’t have to wait long. While writing song lyrics on the whiteboard, we hear a sudden and startling clicking noise erupt from the wall. A ghost! It must be hiding inside the wall, possessing some bizarre dog trainer or an otherworldly pen. The mere thought of a phantom raising a hellhound puppy or preparing to write its magnum opus made me quake in my boots. This definitive proof of the supernatural, right here at Duke, was enough to convince all of us ghostbusters. With such conclusive evidence of the paranormal here at Duke, I can no longer in good faith deny the existence of ghosts. Thankfully for me, the ghost of Brody Theater was harmless. Other ghosts may not be as benevolent, so please be wary this Halloween. Stay safe!
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Jonathan Pertile is a Trinity junior and recess editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.