The Ghost is a Pianist! (Through the Years of Silver Hall)

Carleen Graff Music, Theatre, and Dance

piano onstage at The Silver Center

Upon my arrival at Plymouth State College in the fall of 1973 I was excited to be teaching in a tenure-track position.  Little else mattered, including the facilities.  The old Silver Hall built in 1956 served three functions: a physical education/athletic center, a music and theatre teaching/performance facility, and an all-purpose school assembly hall, the Gymnatorium.  There were countless small rooms in the building.  Faculty offices even had showers!  Light switches were on “the other side of the room,” and when one was alone at night, strange noises could be heard while trying to find the right switch.

The Nathaniel Rogers mansion, built in 1825, was razed in 1953 to make room for this original Silver Hall.  By that time the mansion was dilapidated and desolate.  It looked like a haunted house!  Were these noises the ghost of Silver, or did they originate from the tunnel system throughout the campus?

By 1973 the building housed the music and philosophy departments.  The piano lab was a very small room facing Main Street.  One of the philosophy offices (and shower) was off the piano lab, accessible only by passing through piano classes.

Six practice rooms were located along the upstairs hallway.  The original intent of these rooms is shrouded in mystery.  They were all connected by open vents.  These “studios” were so small one couldn’t even open a desk drawer all the way because it would hit the piano.  And if alone at night, she (or he) could sense another presence, perhaps in the vent.

Margot Swift’s office was off the choir room.  Either she or the custodian—I don’t recall which—one early morning saw the ghost, a shape in the corner wrapped up in the padded piano cover!  (It turned out to be a homeless man trying to get some sleep.)

The “auditorium” resembled an elementary school gymnasium.  Heavy curtains framed the stage.  There was also a backstage shop area for theatre productions.  A metal garage door separated the two.  Saw dust often filled the grand piano on stage.

Several fine students played their senior piano recitals on this “concert stage”: Christine Wilson Kissack, Don Williams, Stuart Shelton, Jim McLaughlin, Amy Puglisi Bisson.  During dress rehearsals they had to compete with scene shop drills, hammers, paint fumes, even crickets.  When practicing on stage late at night, and all was quiet, one might hear strange noises behind those heavy curtains or that metal door.

In 1992-93 the present Silver Center was under construction.  The Mary Lyon basement, dating back to the Plymouth Normal School, housed many of our classes.  The ghost was there.  Wherever there were pianos, it could be heard playing, generally in a minor key, molto misterioso.

What of today?  The ghost can still be heard playing the piano in the new Silver Center, most often in the practice rooms near the student lounge.  Late at night is best, Chopinesque music, played quite well.  But the music stops abruptly if anyone gets too close.

Peter Templeton, now on the faculty, swears the ghost also is present in the Smith Recital Hall.  It sits and listens from the back row, near the upper entrance.  He’s a friendly soul and a true music lover … after all these years.