28 October 2013

Chills and thrills in Larson Hall

posted by UALR

Derrick Koon has the fancy title of UX/UI developer in the Department of Digital Strategy. In his free time, he drinks coffee by the gallon and is a paranormal PI.

I usually shy away from telling people I ghost hunt. I find that I retain some sense of credibility that way. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I do, it’s that I understand that some people may not understand or believe as I do and I want to avoid the arguments or the lengthy explanations. I have been ghost hunting for almost eight years now. I got into it for the same reasons that most people do, to answer “The Question.”

What I found quickly was that there is no simple answer, no evidence that can be trusted, ando proof you can offer that will satisfy the most ardent critics. What I also found was that I love the history of Arkansas more than I want to “prove” anything. That is ultimately why I wanted to investigate Larson Hall.

Ghost hunting takes a eye. Much like any hobby it is trained to look for things that most people dismiss. Shadows that are out of place, or reflections that have no origin are all candidates for suspicion. Often they pan out as tricks of light or what psychologists call “matrixing”, where we see patterns where there are none.  But sometimes you do get the unexplainable, the image or sound that cannot be attributed to anyone or anything. It’s those puzzles that help make this fun.

Larson Hall with a night-vision camera

First I want to say that Larson Hall is a beautiful building. I know it doesn’t have the technological feel of the Engineering or Business buildings but it does have its own charm. It was built in the early ’40s, before anyone cared where the ethernet cables were going to run or even if the insulation might harm you someday. It was built to serve a purpose, a purpose that it has dutifully fulfilled for better than a half century. That purpose is to be a place of learning, where you came to gain understanding.

Lens flare or something else at Larson Hall?

Where you came to be enlightened. Ultimately, that’s what I did a recent Friday night, standing in the dark, holding a nightshot camera and a voice recorder.

I started the investigation in the usual manner, setting up cameras and recording equipment. I then instructed my small team of five on where we could and could not go inside the building and let them know to be respectful of the UALR campus and rules. Other teams I have seen are not so kind to the locations that they visit. I have seen vandalism and theft and have called the owners on more than one person for doing it. After that we sat in the dark for a while. listening to University Avenue outside with its cars and bustle and trying to imagine a time when Popeye’s wasn’t across the street and this was the main building on campus. That is the untold truth of ghost hunting, you spend a lot of time sitting in the dark alone trying to understand why anyone, living or dead would decide to stick around.

Larson Hall - ghost hunt

Hunting ghosts is more than just trying to find spirits, it’s an exercise in understanding the history of a location and the people who were there. I sat in a classroom that night thinking about the students who had passed through the doors and the countless lessons that had been scrawled across the chalkboard. We walked the corridors and looked in every nook and cranny of Larson Hall. I got to know the building for what it was and is and what it could be. I enjoyed being there, looking for my own answers and paying homage to a rich history that people take for granted here on campus.

Can I say Larson Hall is haunted? No, but I am a skeptic at heart and my answer is always no, at least until logic dictates otherwise. What I can say is that Larson Hall is like a kind old grandfather whom I had the pleasure to visit. He has seen it all and holds secrets we will never know. I want to thank UALR for giving me the opportunity to investigate and get to know some of the campus history.

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