As Halloween approaches, Barkley Michaels muses about episodes in his long career as a disc jockey at Letongaloosa’s own radio station: WZBZ Mega-Radio. One episode stands out. Barkley calls it “The Control Room Ghost Story.”
Halloween night was a tough shift for a disc jockey. There were always lots of crank calls.
“K-R-U-D Radio. What’s your request?
“Does Letongaloosa Boulevard run past your station?”
“Yes it does.”
“Then you’d better run out and catch it. Ha,ha,ha,ha.” Click.
Barkley wasn’t even supposed to be on duty. His friend Garrison Storm, the station meteorologist had asked Barkley to fill in for a sick employee.
On top of all that it was Halloween and there was the ghost legend.
According to lore handed down over the decades, Mega-Radio was haunted by the ghost of the former station owner Reginald Wicker. Mr. Wicker had died of apoplexy in the control booth as he bawled out a new announcer. The announcer had mispronounced the name of the person who bought more commercial time on the radio than any other sponsor. His name was Kuless Klemelborg. The young announcer had pronounced the first name “Kluless” instead of “Kuless.”
Wicker went ballistic, and in the middle of his tirade, Wicker dropped dead right there in the control booth.
After Wicker’s death there were strange manifestations. Control room lights would grow brighter then dimmer, then go out. Announcers’ throats suddenly tightened up and they sounded like Minnie Mouse for a few seconds. Then their voices would go back to normal. It was pretty easy-going haunting. It was not threatening or scary.
But then there was the curse. Wicker’s ghost was condemned to haunt the station until some future announcer pronounced the name Kuless Klemelborg correctly. The incident happened years ago. Kuless Klemelborg has long since joined Reginald Wicker in the great broadcast network in the sky.
The odds of removing the curse became slim to none.
So there was Barkley on the air at KRUD-radio on Halloween night.
“K-R-U-D Radio, what’s your request?”
“Can you play a Golden Oldie for me?
“Sure thing, if we have it. What do you want me to play and who is the song going out to?”
“Please play “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” for my Great Grandpa, Chellsie Clinghampton,” said the caller.
But just as the caller began to give the name of the person to whom his request was going, a loud crackling noise came into Barkley’s headphones.
“Sorry, I didn’t get that name. Stay on the line while we go to a commercial.” Barkley told the caller.
At that very instant a ghostly voice came into Barkley’s earphones.
It whispered: “The song is for Kuless Kemelborg.”
` “Did you say Caroline Clemantis?” asked Barkley
` “Kuless Kemelborg,” said the ghostly voice emphatically.
“Okay, I’ve got it now. This song’s for Chelsey Clarington, right?” said Barkley.
“No. No! The name is Kuless Kemelborg.”
“That’s Chester Clemmelthorne?”
At this point the station was coming back from the commercial. Barkley pressed a button to cut the caller off, but the call light didn’t go out. The caller was still on the line.
“Play ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ for Kuless Kemelborg,” said the caller. Play it NOW.”
Barkley improvised. “Okay listeners. We have a special request for “It’s Now or Never,” for Claireese Caltenborn.”
There was a loud crackling noise, then static. The dials on the control board in front of Barkley started to jump around.
“Here we go folks “this number’s for Cleatus Carrlingberg, Carlene Clampton, Krystal Klomberg, Charlie Chinghammer,” Barkley’s voice lost its suave announcer quality. He sounded tinny and desperate. “Kleatis Klogsider, Karlos Kimmell, Klarice Kleenbopter, Kelly Kemmelwitz, Klaghorn Kipplemeyer, Konstance Kimberly.
Barkley paused, terrified. A quiet, ghostly voice came into Barkley’s headphones:
It said, “The name is “Kuless Kemelborg.”
“This one’s for Kuless Kemelborg,” screamed Barkley.
A loud pop sounded in the booth, a puff of smoke rose from the control board, and, with a shriek of joy, the ghost of Reginald Wicker, K-R-U-D Radio’s resident ghost, disappeared forever. Happy Halloween.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor and the author of Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia, a collection of humorous short stories available on Amazon.