Friday, May 31, 2013

A Haunted Happening In My Erie Childhood

Old Time Erie: photo illustration by Debbi Lyon.

Ghostbusters! A Haunted Happening in my Erie Childhood
by Lita T.
Founded in 1896, St. Peter’s Cathedral Center is the oldest Catholic elementary school in Erie, PA.  My grandmother went to school there, and in 1984, I attended first grade (1B).  Music class was in the basement under the old school. Our music teacher was fresh out of college, a young handsome man that just about every girl had a teacher crush on. While the girls were more than willing to participate in class and sing, the boys often rolled their eyes and often were not interested. The music teacher even had a musical name “Mr. Martone.”  He wanted us to learn about Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven—but even with his charming personality, he couldn’t motivate us to learn the old masters.

As a good teacher, he needed to find something to stimulate us—some positive reinforcement or reward to deliver after 100% class participation. He discovered that the only thing we loved every week was to sing Ghostbusters with his piano accompaniment. If we were good in class and learned our Mozart, he pulled out his Ghostbusters sheet music.  When Mr. Martone tickled the ivory with those chords, excitement radiated through us all!

We looked forward to Ghostbusters on the keys every week.  He would play it for us at the end of class, and the more often he played it, the more boisterous we became.  Our singing of Ghostbusters reverberated through the old school disrupting classes many floors above.  Other teachers started to complain, and he was forced to close the door to try to contain the sound.  But then strange things started to happen.

As soon as he had sat down on the piano after closing the door, the door would open.  At first we thought drafts caused this, but Mr. Martone, growing increasingly frustrated, closed the door tightly so that it was properly shut and would not open from a draft.  When he arrived back at his piano and started playing, the door would open again. Then we suspected that it was a student playing a prank on us. But he checked over and over again, and no student was there.  When he would ignore the opening door, the door would slam shut.  This happening went on for several weeks.

One day while we sang Ghostbusters, the door became very active again—opening and closing, again and again and again. This repetition was unusual because air drafts could not have produced such frequent swinging and slamming. I remember feeling a strange chilly breeze swirling around the classroom and yet neither the curtains nor a strand of hair moved.  The lights flickered a bit. Even with all this strange activity, we would not stop belting out our favorite song.  He continued playing even as he noticed something was happening.  Finally we came to the chanting part of the chorus, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost,” that continued to build up louder and louder.  The piano keys quickened the tempo, the door was spastically going, and our chanting reached the breaking point: “I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOST!!!!”

At that moment, the fluorescent light fixture above us exploded and fell to the ground.  All the lights in the room shut off.  Silence in the dark.  We looked at Mr. Martone who gave us a face of shock.  Luckily no one was hurt. Then one by one we started giggling and said, “Oh that was so cool!” 

Strangely enough, after that day the door stayed put and the lights—after repair—were under control.  Everything was at peace. Nothing like that ever happened again to my knowledge—especially since three or four years later the music room in the basement became the boys bathroom.

About twenty-years later, I visited Mr. Martone at [the] school where he now teaches.  As soon as he saw me, he said, “Guess what I recently found?” From his bookshelf, he pulled out the tattered Ghostbusters sheet music which we had used to summon the spirit of St. Peter’s so many years earlier.  He sat at the piano and played it just for me. Though he was a bit rusty at the tune, I warmly approved of the performance.  It was sweet that we both remembered those old school days.

Enjoy more tales about Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

1 comment:

  1. Awesome story! Must have been the very-disapproving spirit of some ultra-conservative instructor. LOL