The ballrooms of the Congress Hotel are not a regular stop for me these days – I can’t guarantee that we’ll be allowed in when we go there, for one thing. But last night one of our usual stops was definitely a no-go, so I took a chance and was able to bring a group into the notorious Florentine Room – the gorgeous old ballroom where, just about a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt announced he was leaving the GOP to be a third party candidate. He’s sometimes said to haunt the place – he didn’t DIE there, but from a certain point of view, his career did. He never held elected office again.
One night, a few years ago, someone asked me if I knew what kind of music they might have played at those rallies, so we could try some “era cues.” That’s a trick where you play music from a ghost’s era to see if it will make them want to show up. I’m not sure that it WORKS, but it’s fun to try, and it probably can’t HURT anything. The Bull Moose Party’s theme song in 1912 was the Battle Hymn of the Republic – people would spontaneously break out in full-throated renditions in the middle of TR’s speeches.
So, when first asked, i strolled up to the piano and picked out a scratchy soprano version, stopping in the middle of a phrase. Nothing happened, but it sounded so cool and spooky in the darkened ballroom that I decided to try it every time I was in the room.
One two occasions over the next year or so, there was another soft piano note as I walked away.
On the tour last night, there were FOUR of them.
As usual, it wasn’t the RIGHT notes to come next in the tune, but no one ever said that ghosts were good piano players!
For the record, I didn’t hear it, but just about everyone else on the tour did. A few people asked me why I hadn’t reacted, and then a show of hands on the bus indicated that practically everyone else had heard four more notes as I walked away.