Newsroom ghost scared me half to death

Dennis DalmanColumn, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. JosephLeave a Comment


I’ll never forget that terrifying time when – in a split second – I suddenly saw a ghost.

Years ago, in the dead of a chilly fall night, I drove to the Alexandria news office to write a Halloween feature story about ghosts. Earlier that day, I’d interviewed five or six people in several cities of Douglas County who claimed they had seen or experienced ghosts at some point in their lives. Ever the skeptic, I listened intently as they told me their strange stories, but I kept thinking such creepy goings-on could be explained, somehow, by other natural factors. Real ghosts or not, the goose-bump stories were so wonderfully eerie. And I had to admit I couldn’t conjure up any rational reasons for what caused things to go bump in the night.

One couple I interviewed felt a blast of cold air in their kitchen and then pots, pans, kettles and dishes flew with a crashing clatter from cupboards.

Another story was about a ghost sometimes seen in an upstairs storage room of an old farmhouse. The ghost was a female wearing an old-fashioned dress from a previous century. She was glowing and semi-transparent and would appear in the room, walk across the floor, look out a window and then slowly fade. The apparition was so spooky, family members dreaded entering that room.

On my way to the office, I mulled over those and other ghost sightings, pondering how best to write the story. It was late at night, about 11 p.m., when I arrived at the office and let myself in with my key. The inner offices were dark so I turned on a couple lights. Then I sat down in my office, reviewed the notes I’d written and began to write the story on my computer.

The office area, like most newsrooms, was a large, mainly open area in which the work cubicles were separated by those movable, portable walls about six feet tall.

In the quiet office with my desk lamp glowing, I began to write the story, consulting my notes every couple of minutes. As I reviewed every detail of every ghost sighting, I began to get a case of the heebie-jeebies. In that big, empty, quiet news office, abandoned to the night, me in there all alone, the ghost stories were a lot scarier than they were during the day-time interviews.

“What if?” I paused to wonder. “What if ghosts really do exist?”

Those people I talked with were intelligent, level-headed – not the types to cook up ghost stories.

I kept writing, pondering . . . And then BOO!, I suddenly saw something bright-white skittering along the top of the divider wall a few feet from me. I jumped and let out a strangled gasp as my heart started pounding so loud it rattled my chest.

Just then, a woman was standing in the doorway, right next to me.

“Dennis, what’s the matter?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”

Whew! Relief! It was Liz the cleaning lady, working late that night in the news building.

“I just saw a ghost,” I said, heart still pounding.

“A ghost?!” she asked, suddenly scared, too.

“Yes, a ghost! That white dusting rag you’re holding. It was skittering on top of the dividing wall. A ghost. Liz the newsroom ghost.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just dusting.”

“Yes, and I’m mighty glad that rag was attached to the hand of a real human being,” I assured her.

I told her I’d just been working on a story about ghosts. She started laughing; I started laughing, but it still took awhile for that shock to wear off.

The ghost-sightings story was published that Friday. I learned later it scared a lot of readers, not to mention a writer – me. To this day, every time someone tells me about ghosts, I listen up, keeping old doubts at bay.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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