While closing up one night during his first year as production manager at the Temple Performing Arts Center, Will Luff saw a dark-robed figure standing in the mezzanine.
Luff thought someone from an event held at TPAC earlier that afternoon was still up in the dark balcony.
“I’m looking up there, and immediately I get agitated,” Luff said. “I’m like, ‘You have to leave.’”
Luff called out to the person several times, but heard no response.
“So I go out the door and literally shoot up the steps,” Luff said. “And there’s no one there.”
Luff has seen this figure in the same area of the mezzanine multiple times throughout his three years at TPAC, as have many student workers.
Amanda Kijak, a junior theater and media studies and production major, works at TPAC as a production assistant, and said since working there she has heard many stories about strange happenings at TPAC.
“I had always known that people joked about it being haunted,” Kijak said.
Then one day she had an experience of her own as she was coming off the back elevator.
“I had just stepped off [the elevator], and I heard laughter,” Kijak said. I knew I was the only one alone in the building.”
Prompted by her experience, Kijak reached out to Temple’s paranormal investigation club, Hoot Paranormal, and asked them to investigate.
On the night of Oct. 5, six Hoot Paranormal members joined Kijak, Luff and a few other student workers to investigate the historic building, which first served as the Baptist Temple for Rev. Russell Conwell’s congregation in 1882.
Luff believes the strange activity in the back corner of the building might be caused by Conwell himself.
“I kind of jokingly, satirically have started the custom of saying, ‘pastor,’” Luff said.
Many Temple employees have told Luff that Conwell’s office is believed to have been located in that corner, he said.
Caryn Mousley, president of Hoot Paranormal, said during the investigation the group paid special attention to that corner of the building, where there is also an elevator known to open and close when it shouldn’t.
“We just kept asking for the pastor to open the elevator and it just kept happening, and then we went and sat down and were kind of calmed down and it just stopped,” said Mousley, a senior tourism and hospitality management major.
When the team of investigators asked questions to any present spirits, they usually addressed them to the pastor.
“I think a lot of the time when we were talking about the pastor we were referencing Russell Conwell,” Mousley said. “But there was also another story that in the chapel downstairs, there was another pastor who fell down the blocked-off staircase and passed away.”
The story of the second pastor has been passed down by TPAC employees and could not be validated.
Jared Horst, a sophomore undeclared student in SMC and a returning member of Hoot Paranormal, said the TPAC investigation was one of his favorites with the club.
During the investigation, Horst placed the group’s REM-pod on the edge of TPAC’s main stage, which was cluttered with music stands. A REM-pod is a device said to light up when spirits manipulate the electromagnetic energy emitted by the device.
Horst tried to record near the front of the stage, while the group tried to ask questions to any present spirits.
“I went up to the front and as soon as I picked up this music stand, the REM-pod went off and it turned blue,” Horst said. “Caryn asked something along the lines of, ‘Do you not like him moving the music stand?’ Then after she asked that, it turned red, and that was a little frightening.”
Horst said he felt some sort of energy in TPAC that night.
Hoot Paranormal shared their recorded evidence from that night with their general body members and with the TPAC staff, who said they feel validated in their past experiences by this investigation.
“Since it happened, it did kind of confirm everything that’s been going on the past few years, that something is definitely afoot at the Baptist Temple,” Luff said.
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jennyroberts511.