In the upper levels of the august Royal Ontario Museum, secreted within a dark and sparse back wing, lies a haunted fifteen-foot section of wood-paneled flooring nestled in a sea of commercial carpet.
A museum ROMp
I often arrive for my morning volunteer shift at the ROM before the museum opens but after the exhibits return to their cabinets from coming to life overnight. The first thing I like to do once the museum opens and my shift begins is to climb up to the third floor and make my way through the old part of the building to the Europe: Evolution of style wing. It’s always empty at the front end of my shift as it takes a while for visitors to bubble up to the third floor. I circle around the examples of old European parlours and bedrooms until I arrive at the display containing A dining room in British neo-classical style. To get to this display, I need to cross the haunted wood-paneled floor.
Stay away from the shadows….
But before I do, let me back up a moment and give some background that led me to become a ROM volunteer.
All roads lead to the ROM
My father took me to the museum when I was a youngster, and the feeling of riding the train to Toronto to see giant dinosaurs was a fond memory. He bought me a couple plastic, grey, now-paleontologically inaccurate dinos as souvenirs, which I held on to when my other toys migrated to younger children through the years.
I eventually became a Torontonian, history degree in hand, and purchased a membership to the ROM so I could visit at any time. However, I really didn’t visit “at any time.” Just infrequently. My membership lapsed. For some reason the magic feeling that I experienced at the ROM as a kid didn’t come with my membership. I must have missed the fine print.
When I matured and became all career-y, and when I sought an activity outside work, my thoughts were again drawn to the ROM. However, I knew a membership wouldn’t cut it. I wondered if being an active part of the ROM would help me achieve that feeling I missed.
I attended the ROM’s biannual introductory meeting for potential volunteers, and spent the next several months completing the requirements to become a provisional volunteer. I got an inkling of the feeling when I was accepted and given a bona fide ROM photo ID badge. More feeling came when I was introduced to the volunteers’ common room, I suppose because it looked like it was last furnished and refreshed back when my father gave me those grey, plastic dino souvenirs.
A spooky ROMance
Anyway, let’s get back to the haunted floor. When I cross it to approach A dining room in British neo-classical style, it creaks. Ominously. Hauntingly. Listen:
My reasons for believing it’s haunted are fourfold:
- It’s such a small section of old wood floor seemingly out of place in an old, quiet part of the museum – the only one of its kind in the building. Why? Obviously some influential spirit prevented the removal of that small patch of wood when the rest of the floor was replaced with carpeting. What’s hidden underneath?
- It’s on the third floor – “the fateful third storey” as creepily described in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
- Well, the creaking, obviously. Imagine an empty, dim, quiet, old hallway when playing the above clip. I think it’s a warning.
- The haunted floor is on the same storey as where the mummies reside (that is when they’re resting in their sarcophagi during visiting hours). This can’t be a coincidence.
Paths of the mummies: two routes the mummies could take to reach the haunted section of floor
I don’t know what’s poltergeisting this bit of floor, but there are a lot of candidates when you consider the number of possessed artifacts that must be housed in the building. Maybe when I log more volunteer hours the spirit will reveal itself during one of my early-shift creaks. I’ll keep everyone posted.
A pROMpt postcript
My full, magic feeling did come back, by the way. My usual volunteering responsibility is to wander the ROM with an “Ask Me” badge. Counting among the people asking me for directions to the cafeteria or to the washrooms, eventually a kid, not unlike me several years ago, will ask where the dinosaurs are.
I like to think that this kid will also go home with a collection of inaccurate dinosaur souvenirs – along with her own magic feeling.
[I apologize for the ROM puns. I pROMise not to make them again in any future posts. Starting now.]