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Poor Wandering One

John Nickolaus, Minnesota, USA
October 2001

Back in the early 90's, when I was working as an actor, I had the bone chilling pleasure of hearing this story from a co-star of mine.....

Christopher was working as a set designer for a small theatre company back in the late 1980's. The building that the company performed in was originally an old Lutheran Church, until the theatre bought the building back in the 1950's. As if taking a cue from the pages of Leroux's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, stories about a "ghost" began circulating among the actors and staff almost immediately. Costumers would see a tall, dark shadow in the costume storage rooms, a chorus girl would see a gaunt figure seated in the empty audience or a stage manager would hear movement up above in the empty light booth. Part of initiating a new cast member into the company was to frighten them with the stories late one night after a rehearsal...on the dark, deserted stage.

The upcoming production of "The Pirates of Penzance" was keeping Christopher busier than usual. He was short staffed and opening night was getting too close for comfort. The set for Act II, an old dilapidated cemetery, was far from being finished. Rather than risk driving home in the winter storm brewing outside, he decided to spend the night at the theatre and work until sleep overtook his mind and body. There was plenty of space on the stage to sleep, and the stage manager, Greg, would be at the theatre bright and early the next morning, to wake him.

With thoughts of getting much done, Christopher put his copy of "Pirates" into the his cassette player (for inspiration, of course) and went to task. He toiled very diligently, for about an hour, happy to see some new progress on the set. And then the "voice" started. Mid-way through his cassette, the song, "Poor Wandering One", was being sung by the soprano of the show, as well as a low, muffled voice. He stopped the cassette. So did the voice. He pushed play again, and the song picked up right where it left off.....and so did the voice. Thinking it might be a defect in his cassette or the player, Christopher took the tape out of the machine and put it in his walkman. The song continued to play.....but without the mysterious voice. Thinking it was one of his crew playing a late night prank on him, he searched the theatre, finding no one.

A bit startled, but determined to keep working, Christopher went back to the stage and continued.....but without the cassette playing.

Finally, well into the night, fatigue began to get the best of him. Rather than risk making a mistake or causing himself an injury, Christopher decided to give in to his weariness and go to sleep. He unplugged his electric tools, turned off the work lights and stretched out on the old stage. With thoughts of the strange voice he heard earlier, he drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly, with a jolt, Christopher was awaken from his sleep. Feeling a light pressure on his chest, his eyes focused on the form of a little girl sitting on him. She was wearing a long, light colored, short sleeved gown. Her long brown hair hung in her face, as she looked at her folded hands in her lap. As Christopher watched, her head slowly turned towards him. Her face was shadowed by the long mass of locks on her head, but he could make out a faint pair of eyes and a small mouth. She looked at him for a few moments and then raised her tiny finger to her mouth, as if to quiet him. Then without warning, she sprang up and ran into the darkness of the theatre. Still watching where she had gone, Christopher heard the sound of boards falling to the stage. He whipped his head around in the direction if the noise, only to see nothing in the darkness. There was quiet for a moment. Then the sound of footsteps walking across the stage. Not the footsteps of a child, but those of a full grown man. Paralyzed on the ground, Christopher could not only hear the footsteps drawing nearer to him, he could FEEL them on the old wooden stage. As they reached his body on the floor, the footsteps stopped, paused for a moment, and then began again on the other side of his body, as if whoever it was STEPPED over him. Then the footsteps went off in the direction the little girl had only minutes earlier. Christopher waited in the dark for something to happen next, but there was only silence.

Christopher layed still on the stage for what seemed like hours. Finally, he got the nerve to move, and bolted for the lobby doors. It was morning, and the wind and snow were still quite active. Christopher needed time to process the events of the previous evening, so he decided to go out for a cup of hot, strong coffee. Knowing that Greg would be arriving at the theatre soon, Christopher left a note for him on the lobby doors, saying he would be back soon, and locked the theatre up tight.

Within the hour, the note blew off the door.

Stage Manager Greg pulled up behind the theatre and parked his car. He didn't see Christopher's van, but figured the set designer had simply parked in the back. Unlocking the front door, Greg heard the sound of Christopher's electric saw buzzing away on the stage. After dropping his coat and keys in the office, Greg headed towards the sound of Christopher's saw. When he arrived in the auditorium, Greg was a bit surprised. All the lights were off and no sound was coming from the stage. Puzzled, Greg left the auditorium and went looking for Christopher in the green room. No sooner had Greg left the stage area, when the saw began to run again. Hoping to catch Christopher red handed in his prank, he threw on the lights as he entered the auditorium. There was nothing. No Christopher. No sound. There was an electric saw, however.....unplugged with the cord neatly wrapped around it. Always a little on the nervous side, Greg decided he'd rather wait for Christopher outside. Grabbing his coat and keys from the office, he rushed towards the lobby doors. He swung to door open and collided with Christopher, who was just returning to the "haunted theatre". Both men were startled beyond there wits and screamed loundly upon coming face to face with each other. Finally collecting themselves, Greg began to explain what had just happened to his equally shaken friend. When he finished, Greg saw the look of terror on Christopher's face and knew that the set designer had a story of his own to tell.........

I remember when Chris told this story to us, he was a white as a sheet. I worked at that theatre many times, and my friends and I could always sense something. Who knows what spirits were trapped in that place.......

John Nickolaus, Minnesota, USA
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