Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Appointed Rounds, Everlasting


U. S. Post Office
729 4th Avenue
West Point, Georgia

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

--Inscription on the fa├žade of the James Farley Post Office, New York City, from the Histories of Herodatus.

Apparently, this inscription which is often considered the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service should also include death. It seems that something is still at work within this old post office; something still carrying on its appointed rounds perhaps?

I was first introduced to the West Point Post Office’s haunted state when I took the local Ghost Walk that’s held around Halloween each year (see my review here). The post office was included on the tour, though I was skeptical of the legend which involved a young girl in a bloody dress being seen outside the building. To me, it just seemed like local tripe. That is, until I received an email a couple of weeks ago.

West Point Post Office, 2012, by Rivers Langley. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Robin Jarrell, who has worked at this post office branch since 1996, wanted me to know about the ghost there; something far more believable than a girl in a bloody dress. They call him Joe, though his exact identity remains a mystery, and he tends to ramble about the building mystifying the employees. Robin invited me to visit, tour the building and hear their stories.

Built in 1932, the old building is quite intriguing. The main floor includes the post office and all of its functions. With the exception of a few modern additions, the lobby appears to be mostly original with banks of old post office boxes, marble flooring and original streamlined Art Deco-styled light fixtures. The post office’s main workspace occupies the remainder of that floor. The old, creaking wooden floor underscores the old techniques still employed to sort the mail here. No robots or complicated sorting mechanisms here, just the tried and true hand sorting that I imagine is still employed in small post offices throughout the nation. Above, a modern acoustical tile drop ceiling hides the catwalk that once existed above the floor from which employees were monitored to keep them honest.

From the lobby, a marble staircase leads to a series of rental offices upstairs. Again—in this now mostly empty series of rooms—the building really shows its age. This is also the domain of the ghost. According to Robin, footsteps are heard issuing from up here sometimes accompanied by the slam of a door. The employees downstairs often hear this but simply return to work with the chill of knowing that no one is up there.

Arthur, a postal contractor, is the one person who probably uses this floor more than anyone. His schedule driving the mail requires downtime and he uses one of the old offices to relax. Commonly, he’ll hear footsteps out in the hall or in other offices and he’ll hear things being shuffled through. The old doors of these offices are fitted with opaque window panes and heavy brass knobs that really provide the weight of age. It was through the window of the restroom that he actually saw something. He’d heard footsteps and looking up from the toilet he saw something pass by the door. The window’s opacity blocked out any details.

It is Arthur’s polite, but no-nonsense demeanor that is in sharp relief to his very odd experiences in his garret room in the post office. In the small, cluttered room with a desk, computer and air mattress, he’s had the computers turn themselves on. At times, he’s heard footsteps on the roof as well, though getting up there appears to be a bit of a challenge. He has also had some moments where he has been awakened to the feeling of being smothered.

The issue of sleep paralysis has been frightening people for millennia. In centuries past, the blame for these has been placed squarely on the spirit world and even more specifically on creatures called incubi and succubae. The male form—the incubus, from the Latin incubo, “to lie upon— was believed to attack females and to sometimes impregnate them. The female form, the succubus—from the Latin succuba, “to lie under”— was believed to attack the male in his sleep. Both entities were supposed, over time, to slowly drain the life from the sleepers. Shakespeare includes a description of an incubus in Act I of Romeo and Juliet with Mercutio chiding Romeo, “This is the hag where maids lie on their backs, That presses them and learns them first to bear, Making them women of good carriage. This is she—“

He is interrupted by Romeo who responds, “Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! Thou talkest of nothing.” Indeed, Romeo now has the weight of science behind his exclamation.

As science has explored and begun to understand “O gentle sleep!—Nature’s soft nurse,” (Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II) it has come to understand that sleep paralysis—a much gentler name than evil entities with Latinate names—is a common occurrence. An experience with such may only indicate an uneasy transition between stages of sleep. Though the experience may be terrifying it is not dangerous.

When people experience sleep paralysis in a paranormally active location, though, the black-and-white of science then meets the grey void of tradition and folklore. Could these instances actually be caused by spirit activity in these cases? Since I have begun interviewing witnesses to paranormal activity over the last few years, this is one of a few cases I’ve been privy to involving sleep paralysis in a possibly haunted location.

The first case happened at Unto These Hills Cast Housing in Cherokee, North Carolina. My friend, Philenia, was napping in the new dormitory building. The building occupies the footprint of the old girls dorm and while it is surrounded by buildings with fairly high amounts of paranormal activity, the new building—as well as the old one—had few occurrences. Philenia had been napping awhile when she awoke to the feeling of something climbing on her chest. She said she felt a hand over her mouth and could not move or breathe. When it finally released her, she jumped up upset and terrified.

While Arthur’s experience was not as dramatic as Philenia’s there’s still the question of cause left hanging. There are other cases of people being awakened by possibly paranormal activity. A cousin of mine grew up in an antebellum home in Newnan, Georgia. During the Civil War, Newnan was, like many Southern towns along the railroad, pressed into hospital service. Churches, government buildings and private homes quickly filled with the wounded and sick, my cousin’s home included. She spoke of being awakened to the feeling of something holding her feet down. She continued,

I could feel the pressure of hands. I assumed it was my mom. But when I looked down at the foot of the bed, I saw a small woman with a bun wearing a long, grayish blue dress that came all the way to the ground. It was a weird sensation because I could see her, but I couldn't make out details. What remains with me more than the brief image I saw was the feeling she gave me. It was extremely peaceful and sweet and real. It was nothing like I had ever felt before that day or since.


When my cousin married and moved into a home with her husband, she began to experience a far less positive haunting. “I had a lot of experiences where I would wake up in the morning (sometimes at night) and feel paralyzed. I was completely aware but unable to speak or move. That was not pleasant at all.” This was in addition to other activity, some of which centered on her young daughter. While this was going on she took a photograph of her youngest daughter in which a grayish hand appears reaching towards the child. She no longer lives in the house and has experienced nothing in her new home.

As for Arthur, he pointed out a lounge chair on the other side of the room and said he’d slept in that chair several times without incident. The only times he’d been awakened were while sleeping on the air mattress. He noted that he would sometimes leave a radio on upstairs to hopefully placate the spirit or at least keep it at bay. He removed the radio and the activity has returned. “I don’t think I’ve slept since I took the radio out.” He remarked. I made the suggestion that he try sleeping in the lounge again or that perhaps he move the air mattress.

As I toured the building from attic to basement, I didn’t really feel anything energy-wise that was off. I was guided up to the old attic entrance to the catwalks. The narrow, closet-like space felt quite different, though. As attics are wont to be, this one was hot and stuffy, though the atmosphere was charged with energy. It was almost like being surrounded by hot breath. While I’m not really sensitive, I do sometimes pick up on strong energy and what I felt was a feeling I’ve felt in only a few other situations. Needless to say, I didn’t stick around in the attic very long.

While the spirit or spirit may occasionally upset or mystify the employees at the post office, it’s not thought of as dangerous. Robin remarked, “We take it as a good spirit.” She thinks that the spirit is “looking for something or he needs something fulfilled.” Or perhaps he’s just going about his “appointed rounds.”

I’d like to thank Robin Jarrell and Arthur for extending me such hospitality on my visit and for sharing their experiences. I’m also grateful to my cousin and Philenia for sharing their experiences as well.

Sources
Conversation with Bonne B. 23 April 2013.
Interview with Arthur C. at the West Point Post Office, West Point,
     Georgia. 19 April 2013.
Interview with Philenia W. at the Cherokee Historical Association,
     Cherokee, North Carolina. 21 September 2012.
Interview with Robin Jarrell at the West Poing Post Office, West Point,
     Georgia, 19 April 2013.
Johnson, Forrest Clark and Glenda Major. Treasures of Troup County: A
     Pictorial History. LaGrange, GA: Troup County Historical Society,
     1994.
West Point Depot Visitors Center and Museum. Ghost Walk. 15 October
     2010.

No comments:

Post a Comment