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Halloween Is Coming

The Museum's ghosts are ready


A museum thrives on myths and legends about mysterious happenings within its halls that are full of historic objects and specimens. 

NHM staffers have passed down tales for generations about all kinds of strange occurrences throughout the Museum — some chilling, some harmless — but one thing is for sure: If you want ghost stories, we’ve got ’em.

NHM Sunken Garden

Let’s start with the “Curious Case of the Little Girl.” A group of schoolchildren were visiting on a field trip in the old Lando Hall of California History. They were doing an activity with their chaperones in the Times Mirror Room, when some of the kids started to notice a little girl who was hiding under a table. They tried to coax her out, but she just continued to sit there, crouching. The kids pointed the girl out to the chaperones, but the adults couldn’t see her, even though the children insisted she was right there. Now, this could have been a trick played by some schoolkids; but how is it that this happened more than once, in the same area, with different schools? We may never know.

The most famous of all the ghost tales at NHM is that of famed NHM and Caltech paleontologist Chester Stock.

It is believed by many Museum staffers that the ghost of Chester long haunted the Paleontology Department on the fourth floor. One fossil preparator heard keys jangle when he was alone and saw a shadowy figure walking about in a green jacket, with reflections in glass-fronted boxes. He is confident Chester was just playing “made you look” and meant no harm. Perhaps Chester is just trying to get the staff to work on some of his old fossil specimens. Or maybe he’s just having some fun in the afterlife.

Chester Stock at work
Chester Stock at work with some impressive bones

Perhaps the most famous Chester Stock incident (and several people witnessed it) was the “Case of the Falling Book.” A staffer had pulled out a box of fossils that Chester used to work on. The next morning, a book had fallen off a shelf located next to the box — and landed on the ground. No one knows how the book fell off the shelf — there were no staff around that night. But the bigger question was how it landed safely to the side of the fossils and not on top of them, as it should have.

So the next time you visit NHM, say “hi” to Chester and the little girl. Maybe they’ll say “hi” back, in their own way.