Having grown up in a family who went visiting every Sunday afternoon, I now use it as a time of rest. So on this Sunday afternoon in fall, 1984, I planned to nap for a couple of hours, before getting ready for Sunday night service.
But before I reached REM, the phone rang. It was a young man, whom I will call Ronnie. He needed me to come over to the college quick, because there was a ghost in the dorm where his girlfriend lived.
I told Ronnie I would come, despite the fact that my experience with spirits was limited to what I have written about: an older couple with cold air streaming through their house every night, which no cranking the thermostat could stop…(and) their godly old preacher who said put up a picture of Jesus in the room and it will stop. They did and it did. Then a young couple who had an orange light appear in the corner of their apartment where the walls and ceiling met. They held a book over the orange glow, but it kept glowing. So the couple put pictures of the Lord all over the apartment and the trouble ceased.
I told Ronnie I didn’t think a picture was appropriate here, but I would do what I could to help. So, I put my shoes on and drove over to the college. There, I saw Ronnie and 15 or 20 coeds pacing the dorm lawn.
Ronnie came over with his girlfriend. She said that she and her twin sister shared a room next door to one where a coed was supposed to have died. No one had lived in the empty room since, and none of these students had thought much about room’s history, until a ringing telephone awakened the twins at 2:30 one morning. The phone would not stop ringing, so they got up and walked out in the hall to find the sound coming from the empty room. But just soon as they had located the sound, the ringing stopped.
“Probably a wrong number,” one twin said.
“Nobody’s going to call an empty dorm room,” said the other, so they went back their room and went to sleep. But when the phone rang again at the same time the next night, they woke their housemother. She got her key, unlocked the door, opened it and shined her flashlight in to reveal long cobwebs over two iron bed frames, two empty bookcases, and a desk with a telephone.
“Someone’s got the number for this room and is ringing it just to aggravate us,” the twins said, standing at the door.
“We can stop that,” the housemother replied, as she walked through the cobwebs to the phone, and traced its cord to a socket along the floor. She yanked the cord free. “There,” she said ,“That phone won’t ring again.”
“That ought to do it,” the girls said thankfully, as they all walked away.
And for several precious nights, the phone in the empty room did not ring. But then it started back — at the same hour of the night. The girls woke their housemother again, and the three of them walked back to the empty room to see if someone had reconnected the telephone cord. They had not — the cord lay unplugged on the floor, just where the housemother had left it.
“An unplugged phone just does not ring,” she said, shaking her head.
It’s impossible,” agreed one of the twins.
“And spooky,” said the other.
Although the housemother shrugged the matter off, the girls could not. An unplugged phone had rung, and they needed to find out how to stop it.
Standing outside, we decided we should go into the building and pray. The housemother gave Ronnie and me permission to enter the dorm, so he, the twins, some of their dorm mates and I walked inside. We found a large open space near the empty room, entered it, and formed a circle.
“I don’t think we are dealing with a ghost,” I told them. “I think we’re dealing with a spirit.”
“What’s the difference?” someone asked.
“I think spirits are people caught between this life and the next. They have left their bodies, but their minds and their energy fields are still here.”
“They do scary things.”
“They can. But sometimes they are really asking for help… to go to their rest.”
“They’re still scary.”
“Well anyway…if this is the spirit of the girl who died in the empty room, and she used her energy to ring the disconnected phone, we should try to help her.”
“What if she throws something?”
“We’ll duck,” I said. “But seriously, she just wants help. Let’s pray for her.” I looked at each one in the room.
“If you are comfortable praying for her, please stay. But if you are not comfortable doing this, I need you to wait for us outside. If you stay, your prayers will only hinder.”
Four or five of the girls excused themselves; 10 or 12 stayed. They said they were apprehensive, but willing to help, so I asked them to bow their heads and agree with me as I prayed. The words went like this:
“Heavenly Father, we are troubled. We believe a girl we cannot see is troubled too…that she has been calling out for help the only way she could …. we are asking for Your help. Please show us how to pray.”
We paused and waited. After I received something to say, I continued.
“Little girl we cannot see, we believe you are asking for help. We don’t know how to give it, but we know someone who does. You need to go to the throne of Christ. Go to Him, and He will tell you what to do. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
For some reason, we wanted to stay right where we were for a while. So we did. After that we walked back outside to join the others. It was still long before dusk when I told them all goodbye.
I don’t know if the girls became uneasy again when bedtime came. But I do know they all slept like angels.
The phone in the empty room never rang again.
Leon Smith, a resident of Wingate who grew up in Polkton, believes the truth in stories and that his native Anson County is very near the center of the universe.