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STORY 4: PAST MEETS PRESENT

Good evening my dearest reader…

I’ve been preoccupied these past few days with my new friend. He’s a young boy of seven and he recently was left to his father. His mother has decided to leave him to have a new husband but I believe she has her reasons.

But the boy is truly heartbroken so I introduced myself to him. He has now abandoned killing himself and we are pretty close now.

Of course, he is not our story for today.

The stories will be told by two of my other student friends who have experiences both from the past and present that are oddly similar.

This is Edith‘s story (not her real name) and it features a story from the extreme past…

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In one of the Hamlet plays way back then (1980s) they used an actual skull for the Yoric scene. The story was that they looked for one in cemeteries that had graves “excavated due to non-payment of dues” and they asked for one of the skulls that were scattered at the gravedigger’s site. They were given a choice, so they took the one that was the “cleanest and biggest” then brought it back to the theater to be used for the production.

According to witnesses, during the last night of the play, a man entered the theater even though it had already closed its doors because the play was already running. Also, there were many other things that were odd about him…

First, he didn’t sit down despite the large number of vacant seats. It was the final show of the season at that time. He just leaned on the wall and focused on watching while standing up… for two whole hours.

Second, he was wearing a white, long-sleeved barong” (Filipino formal attire) and white pants. He didn’t have any shoes on, though

Well, isn’t that some cool fashion statement, ladies and gentlemen?

But the most amazing thing about him was that he didn’t leave even if the play was already finished. He even watched the set being dismantled before he approached the director. The latter, at that time, was very busy talking to the people who were putting away the costumes, sets, and props.

The mystery man waited for the director to look at him before he said,

“Yung bungo, pakisoli na ha. Salamat.” (The skull, please return it at once, alright? Thank you.)

Then he walked straight out of the theater.

The director stared into space for a bit and then decided to chase after the weird man. There was only around a minute between them when he got to the front.

When he got out of the theater, he didn’t see anyone. The director tried to find the barefoot man within the long corridors of the buildings. These would be the only way out of the college since the gates of the stairs, as well as the rooms, were now all locked.

Even if the corridors were at least 10 meters in length, there really was no one that can be seen

On that very night, the director boarded a bus, went back to the graveyard, and personally returned the skull to the gravedigger.

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This is Bernard‘s story (not his real name) and it features a story from the near present…

MY TURN! Back in 2007, for the Hamlet Redux of Tony Mabesa, the director insisted on getting an authentic skull, much to everyone’s trepidation. The stage manager thankfully knew someone from the College of Fine Arts who was close to someone who could actually get them a skull.

The skull came in a few days after Tony called for it and immediately caused a lot of whispering and “Angels and ministers of heaven, defend us!” (yeah that’s from Hamlet, too).

When one of our staff got a fever the next night, some of the more genre-savvy actors made lighthearted jokes about the skull being at fault. The others didn’t pay much attention to it or take it seriously at first, but others started calling in sick, from first-year students to tenured stagehands.

Of course, the others thought it was a coincidence, but people became extremely antsy and genuinely afraid when we discovered it was all the same sickness: fever with a lot of vomiting and even sores all over the body.

But the show went on despite the problems backstage. It got worse the next week, with the people who actually touched the skull (I call him Mauricio) onstage…

The gravedigger was always complaining about missing props from his table, the staff members who were still around would find their scripts in places where they never went, and even the other actors began seeing people walk past their mirrors in the dressing room… even when nobody entered the room.

The last straw was when the room the skull was placed started smelling like wet, filthy soil. It’s not a scent that’s easy to describe, but it reminded people of calachuchi, mold growing on old fruits, and dead rats. The smell was so strong, staff refused to be anywhere near the area.

After that performance night, the guy who brought the skull in returned it to whoever lent it to him. He himself said he had nothing bad happen to him during the skull’s stay, but he never came back for future productions and refused to talk to anyone from the theater ever again as well.

I miss you, Mauricio.

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And again, Edith with a story from the far past…

I was waiting for my cue in one of the wings onstage Guerrero theater when a co-actress went up to me, pale and shaking, and said “Edith, walang tao! WALANG TAO DUN SA CR!” (Edith, there’s no one there! THERE’S NO ONE IN THE COMFORT ROOM!)

I asked her to sit down, then tried to calm her down and get her to talk sensibly. Meanwhile, I was already hearing people crying and even shouting loudly backstage.

Turns out that my co-actress wanted to use the CR backstage, and she saw that the light was on so she waited outside. But the person inside was taking so long that more people have already started falling in line. They were already asking the one inside to hurry up, but they weren’t coming out. In her irritation, the girl kicked the door.

In response, whoever was inside also kicked the door from within. The door shook with the loudness of the kick’s sound.

“ABA! Ikaw pa ang galit ha! Tawagin nyo nga security ipabukas ito!” (OH! And you have the guts to be angry, huh?! Call security and have this door opened!)

The SM (Stage Manager) called the Security Guard. He took out his keys and opened the door…

Yup, there was no one there. The light was open, but no one was inside that small bathroom.

No one used that toilet stall for the rest of the play’s run, which is typically two weeks.

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And of course, the other similar story from the near present as told by Bernard…

I was in Anton Juan’s Shadows of the Reef” production. Our technical director needed to use the toilet, but the light was turned on and the water was running.

So thinking the said bathroom was occupied, he just waited for whoever was inside to finish.

They waited for around 10 minutes more before they decided to knock on the door.

No one was answering and the line was getting long, so they knocked louderit was a good thing there wasn’t a performance then

Then someone knocked from the inside.

The tech dee (technical director) got irritated and asked for the key.

However, before the person they told to get the key has gotten back, the water inside the toilet stopped running and the light was turned off.

Many thought that whoever was in there was going to come out now. Some of the impatient people waiting in line also loudly threatened whoever was inside that he was going to be sorry for making then wait so long.

Finally, the key was put in the lock and the door opened...

There was no one in the toilet.

Many of our actors and actresses quickly scrambled to get away from the haunted loo and to go looking for other comfort rooms to relieve themselves. It was funny though that everyone who needed the toilet, whether they were male or female, went off in pairs to look for other bathrooms to use.

Everyone had lost the courage to use the toilet just by themselves for the next few days of our production.

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Isn’t it wonderful how the past meets the present in these stories? You can’t even tell which is more terrifying between the two.

Maybe you can ask your parents or aunts and uncles if they have stories to tell of weird, unexplained experiences. Better yet, they would be familiar to you because it happened to you, too.

Goodnight, dear reader, and I hope you last the night…

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