By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wynona Thompson spent 30 years teaching speech, theater and English at Cody High School. From 1943-73, she led hundreds of students in developing a lifelong love of acting, including brothers Al and Pete Simpson.
But if you ask some of the staff who spend significant time in the auditorium that now bears her name, Thompson may not have ever left the building.
Ghostly voices coming from drains, lights turning off and on by themselves and a startling vision have convinced several people there’s something inexplicable happening at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium in Cody.
Something In the Plumbing
When Larry Munari started his job as the choral director at Cody High in 1997, he’d been warned that, from time to time, strange things happen in the auditorium, in the same part of the building his office would be.
“People would tell me all these ghost stories and everything,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “And I’m just going, ‘Yeah, right. It’s all in your head.’ I thought that that wouldn’t happen to me, that those people were just freaked out.”
That was until it did happen to him.
“I used to hear voices coming from that sink in the prop room,” he said. “I’d get up from my desk and I’d walk in there, and I’d walk up close to the sink. And I thought, how is that even happening?”
Munari said that phenomenon happened more than once.
“And it was never just one person,” he said. “It was like conversations going on, and I never could figure out if it was male or female or whatever.”
Another recurring oddity was a randomly flushing toilet in the restroom across from his office door – when he was the only one in the building.
“That always just kind of gave me the chills,” said Munari. “There wouldn’t be a soul in the bathroom. Like, the lights are off.”
He said that phenomenon would happen every few months or so in the years before and after the toilets were upgraded with motion-sensor hardware.
“Even when they were the old bathrooms and everything was manual,” Munari said.
Getting Her Attention
If you talk to Wynona, though, she appears to listen.
That’s the opinion of another staff member at Cody High School, who has experienced strange goings-on at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium.
“There was one night in the middle of rehearsal, the kids were on the stage and I was standing on the stage,” said Kennedy Corr, assistant drama club director. “And all of a sudden, everything went black. The fire exit signs came on. It was like somebody had just flipped all the breakers at once.”
Corr clarified that to turn out all the lights in the auditorium, there are several switches that have to be manipulated, so it wasn’t as if someone accidentally hit a button. Additionally, she said the extinguishing of the lights was not related to a fire alarm or maintenance work.
“So I said, ‘Hi, Wynona – can you give us the lights back?’” Corr told Cowboy State Daily. “About three seconds later the lights came back on, and it did not happen again the rest of the rehearsal.”
By far the most disturbing of the unexplained occurrences happened to Donna Lynn Murray in December of last year.
Murray has directed a number of productions at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium in the last 10 years as one of the leaders of the Cody Community Theatre group.
Less than a year ago, while preparing to put on the musical “Annie,” Murray said she experienced something that rattled her – something she has no way to explain.
“My friend and I were sitting on the stage, it was after a dress rehearsal,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “It was getting late, probably after 11. And I just looked up where the spotlight sits, and I saw this figure standing at the spotlight in a long, black dress.
“She looked at me, and then swirled her dress and walked into the old sound booth,” said Murray, who stressed that she is not one who puts stock in ghost stories.
But she has no other explanation for what she saw.
“It was not one of those things, like sometimes you’ll see something out of the corner of your eye that just flickers and you just think, ‘Oh, it’s just a shadow, whatever,’” she said. “No, this was a figure – a human figure.”
“And then I turned to my friend and I was like, ‘I think Wynona just told us it was time to go home,’” Murray said. “And we got out of there as fast as we could.”
Both Munari and Murray say they have never felt threatened in the presence of the unexplained occurrences, just a little unnerved.
And despite their own experiences, neither said they are true believers in ghosts.
“I’m just not a real big believer in in ghosts and stuff,” said Munari. “But I mean, gosh, I guess I haven’t ruled it out. Someone’s spirit could still come back and reside somewhere.”
Murray has put a positive spin on the idea that Wynona Thompson still haunts her theatre.
“I just think she’s a very friendly ghost and loves the fact that we’re all there doing theater still, and she gets to still watch,” said Murray. “I’ll probably join her after I’m gone, and we’ll watch together.”