Guest letter: Ghost haunting or thieves?

“Initially I was going to title this article ‘The Ghost of Heritage Hall’ until I realized that none of us really believe in ghosts — or do we? Room 109 at Heritage Hall is ideal for an office. It is much larger than the average office at Del Mar and as a history professor I had scads of books, models, and even historical artifacts, which I brought to use in my classes. I liked being able to unlock and raise a window to leave peanuts for the squirrel who became a regular visitor. And I never worried about security, not with the building locked up at night and weekends and around the clock campus security. Still, I would never leave money or any article I believed would be tempting. Once I carelessly left my office unlocked during an evening class only to discover later that someone had altered a grade in my gradebook that I had left on my desk!

But my sense of security suddenly came to an end a couple of years before my retirement in 2006. I do not remember exactly when things began disappearing but the first item I noticed missing was my model of an Egyptian pyramid. But who on earth besides a history teacher would be interested in having a model of an Egyptian pyramid! I was upset but did not regard it as serious enough to report until more items began disappearing, not just books but even an artifact I treasured, a banner given to me by a World War II Navy veteran. Since my main focus was always centered on my classes, the first of which began at 8, I never knew exactly when items had been taken or what items were still missing. What added to the puzzle was the disappearance from my desk of an official letter from the Vice-President of Instruction, a letter that would be of no possible interest to anyone but the two of us. It didn’t make sense! Far more serious, Professor Bryan Stone, whose office was next to mine, had his personal computer stolen. Adding to my dismay, I found that my unwelcome visitor was using my college issued computer! I still did not report any of this, wondering instead how I myself could identify the culprit; Delaney the history detective becoming the other kind of detective.

And then it happened. I arrived early one morning to find a stranger in my office, a young man wearing the garb of a Del Mar College groundskeeper. He was perusing through one of my personal scrapbooks and looked up startled when he saw me. What was a groundskeeper doing in my office? And why would he have a key to get in? Was he there for an authorized purpose? I needed to know. It crossed my mind that no thief would be dumb enough to be stealing in broad daylight with the likelihood of being caught. As I waited for him to identify himself he suddenly bolted out the door. Now what? If I had found him stealing I would have immediately reported him but perusing a scrapbook is hardly a criminal offense.  Del Mar scrupulously vets its hires and groundkeepers in particular would have had to be bonded. Theft is a serious matter but so is making an accusation without the evidence to prove it.

I never saw this fellow again and still wonder to this day why he was in my office. During the following days and weeks, items continued to disappear, the culprit, whoever he or she was, having become more brazen than ever. My list of missing items grew longer and longer. But when I left Del Mar the smorgasbord of items available to steal would have finally come to an end. Or did it?   

Whoever is the current occupant of office number 109 at Heritage Hall, I wish you well!”

Norman C. Delaney, Ph.D., 

Retired Professor of History

We followed up with the current occupant of Room 109 to see if she has experienced any hauntings or strange activity. Here’s what she said:

“Sorry, nothing exciting to offer you.” – Sara Kaplan, associate professor of English

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