Friday, October 15, 2010

You Can Hang Out with All the Boys...

College towns are a hotbed of spooky stories. Cambridge, Massachusetts is no different. But one of these stories is a bit different from what we're used to hearing. Furthermore it could quite possibly be one of the earliest televised mentions of a not-so-straight ghost. Perhaps the greatest irony is the location of the haunting. It's found off of Central Square in a building that houses the local Young Men's Christian Association, better known by its abbreviation: YMCA.

The Cambridge Family YMCA was organized on September 6, 1883 (according to the 1890 book History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts Volume I by Duane Hamilton Hurd (page 77), though their website claims 1867) and the following year they purchased the "beautiful and well-located building on Central Square". Durrell Hall, the Victorian theater housed in the building, opened in 1897 within the building and still is opened today. Property records indicate the building was built in 1905 which would be impossible if the theater existed 8 years before it was built. Although there is some confusion about the structural history, the haunted history is a bit more certain yet still as mysterious.

The basement houses the former locker room where people have reported lights being turned on and off and other pranks said to be caused by a male ghost who enjoys frightening people. His spirit, which sometimes takes the form of a glowing green apparition, has been sighted by employees and visitors at all hours of the day or night. The most popular story revolving around the ghost of the YMCA is that he was either a patron or employee who suffered a heart attack in the 1930s (others believe the 1970s). Some people believe he was gay and hangs around to spy on the young men as they change. Thanks for perpetuating the stereotype, mister ghost.

In Haunting Across America, an hour-long special released in 1996, they discussed the bizarre ghost story and invited Reverend Dr. Erle Myers, a minister with the Spiritualist Church, to uncover more information about the shamrock-colored specter. According to author Arthur Myers (October 24, 1917 - April 8, 2010) who was interviewed in the show regarding a ghostly encounter relayed to him in 1991, the ghost is of a male teacher who abused his male students. A séance was conducted to make contact with the spirit. Dr. Myers picked up on "a tall, thin man... probably in his 50s" dealing with repressed homosexuality. He encouraged the ghost to leave and "go into the light" and stated afterward that he believed the spirit had moved on and left the building for good.

But has he? According to YMCA president Jeff Seifert in the 2005 interview for Cambridge Day it sounds as though the phantom still lurks in the old basement. Many times when psychics, investigators, and paranormal groups go into a haunted place and claim to remove a spirit or "make him/her go to the other side" absolutely nothing changes. An that's understandable; would you leave some place you enjoyed simply because some stranger walks in and tells you to go? Not likely. So it's very likely that the gay green ghost of Cambridge still hides in the shadows of a place the Village People said was "fun to stay at" admiring the scenery and scaring the pants off other men.

No comments: