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The Thinking Ball

September 2001

I am an admissions counselor at a Southern California Catholic university. Ours is the oldest institution of higher learning in Southern California and I recently had a very frightening experience.

You see, the Admissions Office is housed in a very old building that used to be the old priest's residence. This building was constructed in the late twenties, and it's this old stone edifice that's quite gothic and foreboding from the outside. Inside it is no different, so when I was hired and given an office there I was quite apprehensive about staying in the building after dark. However, at the time I arrived, one of the other counselors was a kindly old priest named Father Skip Perry. Now Fr. Perry had been there since who knows when and he went to great lengths to make me feel at home as a staff member of the university.

Our offices were right next door to one another, and over the next few weeks I noticed that I would periodically hear a rhythmic thumping against Fr. Perry's side of our shared office wall. One day I became curious and went into Fr. Perry's office to find him bouncing a racquetball against the wall. With a warm smile, Fr. Perry apologized and explained that he does this from time to time when absorbed in thought. Thus, over the course of the next few weeks, I nicknamed that ball the "thinking ball."

Over time Fr. Perry and I grew quite close, and whenever I heard the thinking ball bouncing against the wall I would go into his office and chat with him about whatever problem was occupying his thoughts at the moment.

Sometimes it was a tough decision about whether or not to accept a certain student. Sometimes it was nothing more than a personal dilemma.

One day Fr. Perry even admitted that he would occassionally bounce the ball against the wall just to get me to come and talk to him.

After I had been there about a year and a half, Fr. Perry took ill. I visited him several times in the hospital but he eventually passed away. A momentous funeral was held at the university for this departed friend and then things returned to normal around the campus.

One night, though, I was working late in my office. I went out at about nine p.m. to grab some dinner and when I came back the building looked even darker and more foreboding than usual. Two windows glowed with light and from outside they looked like lambent eyes sunk into the face of the building. As soon as I saw them, however, I knew the windows were my own office and that of Fr. Perry.

I went upstairs and found the place deserted and just assumed that the custodian had left the light on when she left. I turned it off and went back to my office, but several minutes later I heard the rhythmic thumping against the wall. It sounded just like Fr. Perry's thinking ball. This really unnerved me. The building was eerie enough without having to deal with creepy sounds.

I tried to ignore it, thinking my imagination must have run away with me and that I must be subconsciously missing my old friend more than I thought, but the thumping of the ball persisted for several minutes so finally I got up the nerve to go into the office. It was empty and there was no sign of Fr. Perry or his thinking ball. Even his things had been moved out to make way for a new employee.

I went back to my office and as soon as I did the thumping started again. I finally returned to Fr. Perry's office and sat in the darkness. In the past he had used the thinking ball to get me to come talk to him, so perhaps he just wanted another visit now. I sat in that room for a long time with the feeling that I wasn't alone. The fright slowly wore off and soon I just began to fancy that my friend was there with me in the room. Eventually I locked up and went home for the night with the sense that I had gotten one last visit with my friend. I have not heard from the thinking ball since.

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