Team bonding in a haunted dorm
Over the years, I've had my fill of spine-tingling, horror-laden adventures with friends at the Sauvie Island Haunted Corn Maze, Milburn's Haunted Manor, Fearlandia and even Fear PDX.
There is a colossal difference between a 5-15 minute adrenaline-rushed experience spent side-stepping, ducking and pinballing through a staged haunted attraction versus actually spending an entire 8-10 hour night inside an authentic, ghostly old dorm.
If you've visited Maui, chances are you've been to Haleakala, the island's volcano famous for the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets on the planet. It is a sight once described by Mark Twain as "the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed."
Nestled on the slopes of Haleakala is Makawao, the "Cowboy Capital of Maui," and a reincarnation of Sisters, Oregon — Hawaiian style. A mile above Makawao via a remote country lane is Seabury Hall, an exclusive $22,000 per year private college-preparatory school accommodating 500 middle and high school students on 65 acres.
It was here, inside a creepy, decaying dorm at Seabury Hall on Maui, that our varsity basketball team spent seven long nights in late December 2016 and early January 2017.
Seabury Hall is unlike any high school I have visited. Last May, "Architectural Digest" even named it as one of the most beautiful school campuses in the U.S. Perched high above rocky cliffs, with expansive views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the school features white villa-style buildings. Meandering pathways are gracefully lined with jacaranda tree canopies and an abundance of beautiful native flowers are everywhere. There are even crystal blue reflection ponds with stone benches expertly littered throughout the campus.
Breathtaking is an understatement.
Yet engulfed by such beauty, a strangely eerie feeling permeated within me during our time spent on campus.
Instructed to bring our own bedding — sleeping bag and pillow — we found our temporary home in an early 1960s, brick, two-story, 11,000-square foot dorm, which closed in the 1990s. Still frozen in the '60s, the residential dorm building is virtually abandoned except for the occasional group like us in need of a place to crash.
We stayed on the second floor. Each room contained two sets of large wooden bunk beds. We hunkered down in the first four rooms at the top of the stairs, one flight away from the exit.
The community bathroom, located down the hallway, sported the original white with now red rust stained porcelain sinks and 1960s yellow subway tiled showers. Many of the mirrors above the sinks were chipped and cracked.
Our seven days on Maui were filled with early morning practices and excursions off-site that included zip lining down the mountainside, beach time, a New Year's Eve luau, a catamaran dinner cruise, dinner at Bubba Gump's, a whale watching and snorkeling trip and two basketball games. We had the time of our lives.
We'd return late each night exhausted but carefree from the jam-packed day's activities and found our way through the darkness of the crisp mountain air to the foreboding Seabury Residence Hall. Located a generous three blocks from the nearest parking lot, we'd always approach the building with an apprehensiveness, as if something was there, inside, lurking, waiting for us in the shadows.
Throughout our seven nights, we heard intermittent shuffling, tapping, distant closing doors, creaks and groans. We'd either fall asleep mid-sentence tired from talking or with headphones firmly on, our music drowning out any unearthly sounds we refused to acknowledge.
We never felt alone. We were grateful we had each other, yet we were keenly aware there was something else. We never achieved a truce with that unsettled "being watched" feeling. It was that hair-tingling chill you get when something is not right, and you're too fearful to turn around, petrified you will actually see something.
Soon after we returned to Wilsonville, I learned from my Gramps that a long-time friend of his had attended Jimi Hendrix's "Rainbow Bridge" concert July 30, 1970 on Maui. In fact, the concert was just a few hundred feet above the Seabury dorms in a nearby horse pasture. His friend remembered the concert vividly because in September, several weeks later, the flamboyant rock icon was self-immortalized at the age of 27 in a London apartment. We also learned that a paranormal group had been doing research on campus a week before our arrival. They were in search of what native Hawaiians call "Night Marchers," phantom warriors that roam the darkness.
Nine weeks after Maui, our team won Wilsonville's third state basketball championship. I'd be remiss to say our time huddled together during those long, late nights inside Seabury Hall's creepy, old dorm further strengthened our bonds. Moreover, in our end-of-the-season yearbook, five other guys each, independently, referenced the haunted dorms.
And, in the distant future, if anyone ever happens to share their own paranormal tale with me, I won't laugh. I'll remember my time at Seabury Hall.
Jack Roche is a senior at Wilsonville High School.