It was a dark and stormy night, and all through the apartment not a creature was stirring except the cockroaches chewing on paper in the wastebasket. Yes, it's true.

It was a dark and stormy night, and all through the apartment not a creature was stirring except the cockroaches chewing on paper in the wastebasket. Yes, it's true.

The Field family lived in a bug-infested, two-bedroom, five-room (including kitchen and bathroom) apartment above our Corning, Iowa, newspaper for a year in 1983 before we found suitable housing. The single source of heat was a wall unit in the middle of the living room. The single-pane windows in the 1887 building had lost the caulking in most places, and it was common to watch the curtains move as the northwest winds pierced the building.

Two unforgettable moments pushed us to take our children (then 6 and 3) and move out:

•On one especially frigid winter morning, the temperature on the floor in the bedroom that Chris and Kelly shared was slightly above freezing

•Another time, Kathy and I awoke to the sound of something making a noise in the bedside wastebasket. As she flipped on the light, I looked over the edge of the bed to see a cockroach chewing on a piece of paper.

Within six months, we were in a brand new modular home. A sympathetic banker loaned us the money at a time when a man's word and handshake could secure a deal.

The newspaper was on the ground floor of a building that consumed a quarter of a block — street to alley. On the second floor facing main street was our infamous apartment, which in the early 1900s was part of an authentic opera house that drew traveling troupes and high school and community plays for years.

But now a different story is emerging.

We sold the newspaper business in 2001 to move to the Lake of the Ozarks, but donated the 100-plus year old building to the city which we hoped could secure funds to restore the decrepit opera house to its original condition. It took strong community leadership and $3.5 million from various grants and donations, but a couple of years ago the Corning Opera House was unveiled. The lower level was transformed into a lobby, a conference room, a kitchen and incidental rooms. The upstairs restored to a functional opera house.

Along the way, however, I read that strange things began to happen during the excavation and transformation. So creepy and so frightening that a team of paranormal investigators from near Des Moines conducted a series of tests. Yes, indeed, some claim the building is haunted by ghosts, or some type of spirit.

Workers claimed that doors mysteriously opened and shut; that they saw images or shapes or forms floating hither and yon.

Seriously. That's what they believe.

Whatever. Now there are tales that somebody died in the basement long before the building housed the newspaper and before that a bank. That a local undertaker would build his caskets in the bowels of the building. It's theorized that as workers began to remake the building they disturbed the spirits that had long ago settled in for eternity. As much carrying on as the Fields did in that building during work and play, we would have awakened them.

It would be my testimony should I ever be interviewed that their ain't no ghosts. At least not while we occupied the building for almost 19 years. As tenants of the apartment building, we never heard anything odd, or witnessed anything paranormal — unless you catalog hundreds of cockroaches and creepy crawlers as spirits from beyond.

None of the two generations of family from whom we bought the building ever said a word about ghostly inhabitants.

I as owner, publisher, editor and janitor spent many a pre-dawn hour and even more late-night evenings working on stories, building pages or developing film. Never did I feel the presence of an apparition.

Others in my family spent countless hours helping old dad do this or that; or sweeping out the back shop; or doing their homework while mom and dad were working. None of us ever sensed anything. Nada. Nothing.

Now, one could theorize that lifeless spirits could have assumed the form of a cockroach, or some other six-legged critter, or a spider. Occasionally, an errant bird would somehow find its way inside. If that's the ghosts' avenue of communication, then we have some challenges.


My daughter is a believer in ghosts and mediums and the like. Even she doesn't recall any special visitors from within the building.

I think it's a publicity stunt.