Friday, 11 April 2014 21:31

Mr. Karloff and the Art Supply Room

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Humans have occupied New Mexico for hundreds of years, perhaps several millennia or more. This region is rich with spiritual and folkloric intrigue. The area may even invite interaction form various unexplained phenomena.

During my art classes in high school in the Española Valley, I was always amazed at the natural talent from most of my classmates. I had been to a few more places than they had been, I had visited museums in large cities, and I loved Classical and Renaissance art. But most of these humble students were amazing talented.

We often worked on our art projects while talking about the latest interesting subjects in the news. It was the first part of February 1969 and the famous actor Boris Karloff had just passed away. He was a fantastic horror actor and was THE actor who played the original Frankenstein’s Monsterand The Mummy. He spoke in a cultured English accent and set your hair on end with his deep resonant voice.

So on this day in February we sat talking about him and someone else came up with the idea of conducting a séance to see if he would show up. I was still learning about Ouija boards and that I shouldn’t use them—but sometimes teenage hearts are fool hardly enough to try anything.

The art supply room would be the setting. We had the darkness of the windowless room and a candle. We also had a fifteen-minute break (we had a double class that day) coming up that we could use for the experiment. We told the others (that didn’t want to be in the séance) to get their supplies before we closed the door—since we didn’t want to be disturbed.

Yes everything was working out perfectly.

We brought in stools and sat them around the large square cutting table with the burning candle in a vase in the middle. Approximately twelve of us sat on the stools holding hands with the person next to us—gearing down to relax and concentrate on our mission.

The newly constructed walls seemed to be heavily insulated and solid concrete. The door must have been manufactured in a bank vault factory. It was heavy, took a while to open, and so dense that even a heavy knock on it yielded almost no sound. It was like knocking on a rock and expecting to hear the sound on the other side of the mountain. It just wasn’t there. After the first initial jokes and uneasiness, everyone became quiet and still on their stools.

Muffled silence and a promise of adventure filled the atmosphere. I remember that the flame flickered violently even though we all sat still and none of us were closer than three feet to the flame. There was no wind or ventilation of any kind. None of us were breathing that hard. In fact, we wanted to stay in the room for only a few minutes because of the feeling that the air was diminishing. The fiercely flickering candle should have sent us a message, but I guess none of us got the clue. Everyone sat quietly and seriously concentrated. The air seemed to grow thinner—something that is good for storage of books, paper, and art supplies—but not for humans.

Since no one took the cue to start speaking to the spirits, I began. “We are trying to contact the actor Boris Karloff who just passed away. Can you give us some sign that you are here Boris?”


Again, I repeated the words.


I repeated the words a third time and had already decided to call it quits if nothing happened this time.

Without warning, three thunderous bangs resounded from the closed metal door. Everyone jumped off the chairs and some were already standing—and I was one of them. None of us had ever heard a knock so loud on that door. I was convinced that someone was playing a joke and ran to the door to open it and catch the culprit. The thick heavy door opened up into the quiet and peaceful art room where everyone was quietly working on their projects. No one seemed giggly or out of breath and no one was near the big heavy door. Our teacher was a very large man, tall and heavily built—someone like him could have banged on the door loud enough—I guess. I immediately saw him through the glass panels in his office across the room.

I quickly ran over to his area and jokingly asked him if he had wanted in the supply room that badly.

His countenance was relaxed and he wasn’t a bit winded as if he had just run over. He acted surprised because he had been intensely engrossed in a small piece of jewelry he had been working on.

He kept denying he did anything or that anyone else in the room had moved.

Finally, he said, “You know,” he said, “I thought I heard something just a few seconds ago but I just thought it was something you guys were doing inside the room.”

“Oh, come on.” I begged (laughing), “Who banged on the door?”

“No one,” I’ve been sitting here and no one has even walked past that room since you guys went in.

I turned around and realized he could see everything across the room since his office was constructed more with glass panels than concrete walls. His room was a unique design. Both doors could be closed; in case he needed to talk in private to a student, but he could still clearly see the entire art room and doors to the art supplies, photography, and one other storeroom. He always had to be on the lookout for other teacher’s students who often skipped class to hang out in this particularly interesting part of the high school.

He and I had played a lot of jokes on each other so I sort of knew his reactions. However, he was so sincere I began to doubt my “trickster” reasoning. I left his neatly kept office thinking that it was only the middle of the school year and he (or someone else) would eventually brag about his scare tactic with me.

But you know what—he never did. Although I sometimes asked, I was always given the same blank expression. No one else ever confessed either.

Time rolls on and I have since learned to be a little more respectful of people who pass over. I try not to communicate with the recently departed and instead just try to send a silent request for them for peace and an untroubled arrival into the hereafter.

Over the years I have thought about that little incident in the art room and wondered that maybe . . . just maybe . . . Mr. Karloff did give us a visit. After all, I did ask for a sign from him.

It might have been the very nature of the man who played in so many monster and horror movies—to send one last message of terror (and fun) to some of his fans.

Maybe Boris Karloff did pay a visit to a few of his fans? What a grand gentleman—how nice of him!


—Raven DeVille

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Raven Q. DeVille

Raven was born in the extreme SE corner of New Mexico, lived in the 4-corners region for 11 years, and has spent the last 50 years in Española, Santa Fe, and especially in the city of Los Alamos. She writes of her own various first-hand experiences, second-hand tales of friends, and various theories regarding ghost stories, legends and general oddness of Enchanted New Mexico.

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