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Things that go bump in the office

Now is the perfect time of year to think of Halloween costumes, haunted houses, black cats and other suitably scary things.

But in Oakdale, specifically at the Oakdale Leader newspaper office, you could almost say it feels like Halloween all year long.

And no, it’s not the jars of candy a couple of co-workers keep on their desks for us all to dip into – it’s due more to the often eerie feel of the building we report to every day for work. The Oakdale Leader office is where we produce three newspapers – The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times – along with crafting stories for a variety of special projects and preparing our contributions for the 209 Magazine. The building is old; it has history. And according to many, it has ghosts.

Some staff members refuse to work in the building alone; others will not stay after dark.

Personally, I have never felt threatened by any kind of ‘presence’ in the building but it is something I have experienced. Catching glimpses of someone passing by my office when no one else was at work, having a television in the break room turn itself on from time to time, seeing a phone line light up as if a call was being made – again when no one else was on site – are just a few of the occurrences. Other times, you get the distinct smell of cigar smoke, conjuring up an image of a long-ago grizzled old editor, chomping on the stogie and hollering about deadlines, or catch a whiff of an overbearingly fruity perfume, a fragrance that you know nobody in 2015 is going to willingly wear. Lights turn themselves on from time to time. You hear the back door open and shut but no one has come into or gone out of the building. From my office, I have heard dishes being rattled in the kitchen – when I was there by myself.

More than once we have had teams of ‘ghost hunters’ come in to assess the building. It hasn’t really been much of a ‘hunt’ – there have always been some experiences to record.

We have caught voices on tape, we have captured orbs in photos, we have used special equipment and meters to ‘talk’ with these unseen spirits – all of which you can believe or disbelieve, but don’t knock it until you’ve experienced it.

Initials like EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) and EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) become part of your vocabulary; you talk knowledgably about Ghost Boxes and Thermal Imaging Cameras. All in the name of scaring up a few spirits.

Popular television shows chronicle the adventures of many mainstream ghost hunters. As these programs often portray, it can be a lot of time spent quietly sitting in the dark, listening for anything out of the ordinary, sometimes using the equipment to ask questions and hope for a response, either through the lighting up of lights on a K2 meter, or hearing responses later when you review the recordings.

It’s an interesting process and you actually try to explain the phenomena with down to earth possibilities, rather than immediately jump to another dimension.
But we have had enough unusual ‘happenings’ in our 1930s-era building that it seems a few people just never left. Even after their time-clock punching days were over.