October 31, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Oct. 31, 2011 — When Drury music students are practicing alone in Clara Thompson Hall, they’re often joined by a music lover who listens quietly, but no one has ever seen this spectator or can actually say that he/she exists. The music fan is known as the ghost of Clara Thompson Hall.
Drury's Clara Thompson Hall
For years, students practicing on Clara Thompson Hall’s stage have reported that when they’ve finished playing, they’re heard one of the theatre seats rise as if someone had just stood up after sitting—but all the seats are empty. Also, students have reported hearing the rustling of a dress, sightings of an apparition in the balcony and even experiencing the feeling of an embrace. “This is some sort of benign spirit that is not threatening at all,” says Bill Garvin, Drury archivist. “It’s a spirit that enjoys music.”
Who is this spirit? Many believe the ghost could be that of the building’s namesake Clara Wallace Thompson. The former Drury music student died in September 1895, shortly after the birth of a child, at the age of 21. An obituary in Drury’s student newspaper The Mirror from October 1895 said, “She was possessed of musical talent to a marked degree and soon developed into the finest pianist in the city.”
Clara’s mother Louise Wallace made a donation to build Clara Thompson Hall as a memorial to her daughter.
Others have suggested that the ghost might be Thomas Stanley Skinner, the dean of the Drury Conservatory of Music from 1920-1950. Many question this theory because ghost stories in Clara Thompson Hall pre-date Skinner’s death.
No matter the spirit’s identity, thankfully, it seems to mean no harm. As the former head of Drury’s music department told The Mirror in 1987, “I know it is gentle and I feel like it watches over us. I believe activity, especially with music, makes it happy. For example, the only times I have heard the moaning sounds have been over breaks or weekends when the building is deserted. It was at those times I felt that maybe the ghost was lonely and unhappy.”
Lucky for the ghost, and all other living patrons, music continues to fill Clara Thompson Hall, while the mystery of its ghost continues to provide whispered tales on campus this time of year.