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A Culver ghost story: the haunted auditorium?

October 26, 2013

Editor's note: When the Citizen requested local ghost stories from readers, Culver Academies fine arts instructor Robert Nowalk responded with the following spooky tale.

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Though I don’t believe in ghost stories and thought little of a summer staff member mention seeing a young man dressed in full early military Culver uniform, complete with feathered hat and cape, silently walking the corridors of the then Eppley Hall of Science at 11:00pm one early August night, I did have one Culver experience that gave me cause to think. This also involved an Eppley building: the Eppley Auditorium.

I was painting a backdrop on the set of Guys and Dolls and had dismissed the students who were helping me at 9:30pm. Being alone with a paintbrush, I completely lost track of time and just around midnight decided to step back and sit in the auditorium to check the progress we had made on the backdrop. As I sat down around the fifteenth row, I remember being very pleased with what I saw and began taking some mental notes on what to do next when I heard keys rattling the back door at the left side of the stage.

Figuring that it was the night watchman, I sat quietly so not to scare him. At this time, Eppley stage was more shallow than it is today and the backdrop was against the back wall; anyone who walked in would have to cross in front of the backdrop in order to get to the door at stage right. I heard footsteps coming up the stairs and onto the stage and thought that any moment someone would appear when suddenly the footsteps stopped and a short period of uneasy quiet came over me.

Though it lasted only a few seconds, I suddenly felt a flush of uncomfortable dread as no one appeared on stage. Suddenly, the silence was broken by footsteps on the other side of the stage, keys rattled, a door opened and closed, and then nothing. All I could think about was getting out. The next day I rationalized that the Security person must have gone down the stairs to the dance room and come up the other side.

Since I knew that such an effort would take well longer than the time that had elapsed, I spoke with our security personnel about when they had walked through Eppley Auditorium the evening before. Unfortunately, I was told, the person on duty had not felt the need to go into the building since they saw my car outside and figured I was working late. For many years afterward, I confined my work habits to the school day.

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