“…and his spirit still lives”

Contributed by Marla Taylor

October is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the changing leaves here in New England, the crisp air, and seeing all the creative Halloween costumes that people come up with.  This is also a time for sharing spooky stories and strange experiences…

Have you ever noticed this plaque at the Peabody?

This plaque is next to the front door of the Peabody Institute

Warren K. Moorehead (1866-1939) was the first curator and second director of the Peabody Institute (then known as the Department of Archaeology).  If you don’t know anything about him and his relationship with the Peabody, just try searching ‘Moorehead’ on our blog.  I’ll wait. 

Moorehead was definitely a strong personality.  And I, personally, think some part of his spirit does still live at the Peabody. 

Several years ago, there were a series of strange disturbances that were happening at the Peabody.  I don’t have the space to tell you everything, but here are a couple that I personally experienced:

One morning, Lindsay and I were the first staff in the building and let ourselves into the basement office space.  Sprawled across the floor by our kitchen area were paper plates, a glass shelf (an extra for the fridge), and various other little things that had been on top of the microwave.  These things could NOT have fallen like this on their own – it looked like something had swiped its arm and pushed everything onto the floor.  Lindsay and I had been the last ones out and were now the first ones in.  We immediately photographed what we saw (I am so sorry that I can’t find that photo!) and did some follow-up.  No motion alarm had gone off all night and our pest management company found no evidence of an animal.

Another time, a couple years ago, I was talking to work duty students and explaining that Moorehead used to exchange or give away artifacts that I really wish had stayed in our collection.  Just as I was mid-sentence in a rebuke of his cavalier behavior, a photographic portrait of him fell from the wall and smashed its frame.  This portrait had been hanging in the same spot for my entire tenure at the Peabody (at that point, about 10 years) and had never fallen before.  The students and I exchanged shocked looks and I quickly apologized to Moorehead for bad-mouthing him.

Moorehead (he is the one standing) now rests on the floor. Although this was printed for an old exhibition, I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of the photo.

Shortly after these incidents, Ryan wrote a note to Moorehead explaining that we were taking care of the building and the collections and that we respected and appreciated him.  Ryan slid the note behind the plaque by the front door and the strange occurrences stopped.

I am not big believer in the supernatural, but I do think Moorehead’s spirit does reside in the Peabody in some form.  In my opinion, he is a pretty benign ghost who just wants to ensure that the collection and the building are getting their proper respect and care – I strive to meet his standards.

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