Reminiscent of an Ole Miss Halloween – The Oxford Eagle

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Reminiscent of an Ole Miss Halloween

Posted at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 29, 2022

Years ago, on Halloween, when my office as Deputy Director of the Ole Miss Career Center and teacher was on the third floor of the unrestored Lyceum, I needed to work late – but first I made a short walk around campus in the cold, partly cloudy, crisp autumn air. As the sun went down, I stopped in front of the Civil War statue in the circle and under the lampposts I re-read the quote from British nobleman Lord Byron (1788-1824), a poet and politician who joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire and referring to 300 Spartan soldiers sent to certain death at the hands of the Persians at Thermopylae; “O stranger, tell the Spartans that we lie here, obeying their orders.”

During the Civil War (1861-1865), 260,000 Union soldiers and 258,000 Confederate soldiers lost their lives and this quote seemed appropriate to them, just as most soldiers were drafted and sent to war, including including me (Vietnam July 1969-August 1970), and fought because we had to, not for any ideology. After the bloody 1862 Battle of Shiloh in Hardin County, TN (less than two hours away), many buildings on Ole Miss campus treated wounded on both sides and those who died were buried together in a modest cemetery named “God’s Little Acre” located just south of the Tad Smith Coliseum.

Gazing at Ventress Hall from the circle, I reflected on the magnificent Tiffany stained glass windows housed there, depicting the University Greys, Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, made up almost entirely of Ole Miss students – the Grays have penetrated deep into Union Territory at Gettysburg in 1863 but suffered nearly 100% casualties. An icy breeze rustled the leaves and a shiver ran through me as I glanced down University Avenue and was startled by the sight of a huge orange harvest moon slowly appearing on the eastern horizon. The moon was large and appeared orange, I knew, because of the autumnal equinox and Halloween had its origins in religion.

31st of October, All Hallows Eve, legend has it that the spirits of the dead return to roam the land; November 1, All Saints’ Day is meant to remember those who died the previous year and would finally find peace – we Catholics celebrate this as All Saints’ Day, the second day, All Saints’ Day, commemorates the deceased worshipers believed to be in purgatory.

Cooled by falling temperatures and thoughts of the deceased, I rushed into the unoccupied Lyceum where my footsteps echoed eerily as I climbed the creaky old stairs to my third-floor office. After hours of working alone in the spooky, creaky structure, I fell asleep at my desk and was suddenly awakened by “Dixie”, then the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” followed by laughter, vocals, was ready to walk out in panic when a calm voice told me not to move.

A Confederate and Union officer, one black one white, appeared in full dress as Captain Kirk beamed aboard the Enterprise and said they were among those who died of wounds from combat when the Lyceum was used as a hospital. Then, movie-screen images played with Confederate and Union soldiers, wives, girlfriends, children, family, pets, talking, shaking hands and laughing on a glorious sunny day – it was the grove! The film ended, the officers reappeared and declared that these soldiers had been killed in action; wars were mistakes of mankind – the work of the devil and asked me to tell the world to avoid war at all costs and that the devil can be defeated through prayer and good works.

Then, the officers smiling, they slowly faded into infinity as I sat in my chair, stunned, felt so peaceful, was it real – whatever, it was time to go home and back among the living. Coming out of the Lyceum, the sky was clear, the moon full, and the Lyceum clock marked 12:01 – All Saints… the dead were at peace again….

Footnote: All of the above is true, office in the unrestored Lyceum, my walk before working late, many nights in the empty old Lyceum, my corner office on the third floor, so no elevator, a window across from the Library, the other Holman Hall School of Business, and the wonderful old Lyceum indeed had a lot of noise, especially with me alone there, and with all its creaking and moaning, I imagined this scene even at several times – but luckily… it didn’t actually happen… .

When my hero and father figure, Dr. Gerald Walton, Provost, gave me a personal tour of the high school being restored (1998-2000), it was completely gutted inside, wall to wall to rafter – some still charred by at least one of three major fires that have thankfully been extinguished. Twice, arriving early for work at the Lyceum, I discovered to my horror that I had left the coffee maker on – fourth major fire, my legacy, burning down the Lyceum! This expedition to the “ruins” of the “old” high school was an otherworldly experience for me and fueled my wild imagination. Thank you, Dr Walton, I miss you everyday…. Those of you who spent time at night working alone in the Lyceum, take this!

HAPPY OLE MISS and OXFORD HALLOWEEN… GO REBELS, beat A&M today at 6:30 PM in College Station, TX!

Steve is an Oxford resident, worked on campus, earned his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, is an LPC, NCC, and can be contacted at, [email protected].

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