The haunting of Northrop

Courtney Lewis

After the curtains rise and the lights dim, a dark stage supposedly sits empty overnight.

But stage crew members would say otherwise.

Justin Burke, a stage manager at Northrop Auditorium, said seven years ago, he was surprised to see a man standing on the stage when he was working alone.

He only received a glimpse of him, but after getting a better look, Burke said he described the man to Mike Damman, another stage manager.

“When he described him to me, I knew immediately who it was,” Damman said.

The man Burke described was a former stage manager who died three years earlier. Damman said he worked with the man briefly before the stage manager got transferred to Scott Hall. He said the old manager spent most of his time at Northrop Auditorium.

“He worked here; he drank here,” Damman said.

But that’s not the only strange incident that Burke experienced.

Two years after seeing the image of the former stage manager, Burke said a peculiar sound still haunts him today.

While in the light booth at the top rear of the auditorium, Burke said he was lowering ropes and heard the opposite door slam 10 times.

Assuming it was Damman, Burke snuck around the booth to startle him.

“When I got to the other side, no one was there,” Burke said. “Then I noticed Mike walking across the stage. There’s no way he could’ve got down to the stage in the time after I heard the slamming.”

The two men were the only people working that evening.

Damman has been working at Northrop Auditorium for 32 years. Built in 1929, the building and pipes usually make creaky sounds, he said.

Every once in awhile, Damman said the noises he hears when he’s alone are distinctly human.

“Sure, you hear things, but you assume it’s just the building,” Damman said. “But I’ve heard footsteps before.”

He’s not the only one who’s heard footsteps.

Mike Mooney, a junior mass communications major who has worked at Northrop Auditorium for a year, said he hears footsteps above him in the break room.

Although he hasn’t heard the sounds in a couple of months, he said the distinct rhythmic steps come from above him in the former stage manager’s office.

Now the space is used for storage, but it was previously occupied by stage managers. A small bed sits in the corner of a room where lights and posters pile up.

Mooney said he avoids the office anyway, but he especially kept his distance when he heard the footsteps.

“It’s too scary,” Mooney said. “I don’t go up there because of the stories I’ve heard.”

For now, he’ll have to do his job late at night. But hopefully, he said, with someone else around.


Martin Ludden contributed to this article.

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]