McMaster University – 1970
On his first week of work at McMaster, Richard Hamill not only saw a ghost for the very first time in his life, but he heard it, too.
Hamill was making the rounds on a Thursday night, ensuring the top floor of the library was cleared and that any books left in the study carrels were placed on the “to be shelved” carts in the main aisle. Though it was his first week, he’d become fond of the late shift and the wonderful quiet and solitude that came at the end of a long and busy day.
As he was passing an aisle he thought he saw someone out of the corner of his eye, just off to the left. It appeared to be an older man with grey hair in a dark jacket crouching to look at the books on the shelf second from the bottom.
Hamill turned on his heel and headed down the aisle prepared to politely ask the patron to retrieve their books and proceed to the checkout downstairs.
But there was nobody there.
He took a few steps forward to stand in front of the shelves where he thought he’d seen the figure crouching.
This was the drama section. The second shelf from the bottom held Shakespeare’s works. Hamill had been in the section not two hours earlier, having resorted the previously unordered books.
But they were strewn about again. A complete mess, as if a child had been searching for something and been unable to find it.
He was furious. He was certain the figure he had seen had messed up the books. Dashing down the aisle, he looked left, then right.
On the periphery of his vision, a scrawny grey haired figure shuffled by on his left, quickly disappearing behind the shelves of the aisle he’d just been in.
“Excuse me!” Hamill said, racing in that direction, unashamed of the loudness of his voice in such a quiet place.
But, as before, when he got to the end of that aisle, nobody was there.
He looked left and right.
The stacks were quiet and still.
Then, just as he was about to head back to the mess and tidy it for the second time that night, he heard a distinct low voice echo across the library, coming from the drama aisle he’d just vacated.
“All . . . all lost, quite lost . . .”
The voice faded in and out like a radio tuned to a strange station from another world. At the same time the words reached his ears, a cool chill, not unlike a stiff fall breeze, settled over him.
But in the same manner the words faded, so too did the chill, leaving Richard Hamill alone in the library to mark that day, April 23rd, as the start of what would later become a life-long passion of studying Dr. Marshall P. Emerson
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