What’s in the Shilling Clock Tower?


Photo by: Kathryn Coffey

Seriously, what is up there?

Charlize Pate, a fellow “Decaturian” staff writer, and I attempted to go to Public Safety to get both permission and instruction to go inside safely. However, we could not get the approval done in time, and so we didn’t have the chance to see what’s actually up there.

The Public Safety officer mentioned how unsafe the floorboards were, and that got me thinking, what else is unsafe up there? If I were a screenwriter whose job was to write a horror story about this, how would I go about it? 

Maybe there’s a ghost trapped in there, a student from the 1910s who could have died unexpectedly up there or whose death was caused by those floorboards. This might have led to the closing of the tower, and it goes untouched for about 40 years. 

That is, until a student from the 1950s decides to go up there on a dare. Maybe she goes up there during a weekday, and when she attempts to do so, not only is she frightened by the ghost, but her skirt or dress gets caught somewhere, leading to her supposed death before she escapes. 

The student, however, might feel empowered to go up there again, to see what in the spooky season is exactly up there, this time going on a Saturday, wearing her weekend pants. She could possibly befriend the ghost, and the plot would revolve around trying to free said ghost once and for all. 

Scratch that, maybe there is a ghost up there, but they aren’t sympathetic by any means. It could take place during modern times, where a couple of arts-tech students decide to go up there to shoot a film for a local film festival, and what’s more local than Millikin? 

As they get their permission from Public Safety, the front desk officer warns them about what exactly they are getting themselves into, and tells a story about a time they were responding to a disturbance call. She thought it was about the Clock itself not working anymore, and figured restarting it would solve the issue.

 She then realized it was the monstrous ghost making the noise, and ran right out of there. As the students’ faces turn pale, she laughs, revealing the story was fake. Or was it? The overall story would be left up to interpretation.

Maybe this mystery of the monstrous ghost never gets resolved. Not as in the ghost never goes away. Rather, no one really knows if there is even a ghost in the first place. What’s causing the creak every Wednesday night at 11:00 pm? Why are there so many different warm and cold spots up there? Why do the floorboards always sound like someone is walking on them when there is no one there? 

Isn’t that the real horror, never getting a true, objective answer? 

Maybe an alternative version of this concept could be that while the students never find out what is up there, the audience members watching this do. The noises stop, and everything goes back to normal. The students win the festival, and all is well. 

Until an abandoned house nearby the SPEC building and the 1030 Woods apartments starts making similar noises, much louder ones, too. Maybe the ghost doesn’t just limit itself to its new house, but also the 1135 apartments as well. 

That’s all I could think of regarding ghosts, but there’s plenty more stories to be told or written about the clock tower. My advice would be to not limit yourself in terms of themes. 

If you had to write a horror story about the Shilling Clock Tower, what message would be included? What point do you want to make? How will you use horror and scare tactics to do that?