Special Collections co-hosts escape room in Doheny Library

Clues in the collections lead to spooky artifacts rarely on display.

On the bottom floor of the bookstacks in Doheny Memorial Library, astronautical engineering major Joseph Worthington was alone in the barren building. It was the summer and he was responsible for counting how many people were there–so he knew it was empty.

As he made his way through the endless shelves of books, he heard a tick-tick-tick, he said. It felt like someone was watching him from above. But there was no one.

It’s an experience many library staff members have, especially at night. A librarian reported seeing a ghost in the bookstacks and a security guard said when something unexplained happens, they blame it on the “ghost of Doheny.”

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An item on display at the Doheny Library Special Collections’ escape room event. (Photo by Natasha Brennan)An item on display at the Doheny Library Special Collections’ escape room event. (Photo by Natasha Brennan)
The library’s haunted reputation, coupled with the incredible finds in the Lion Feuchtwanger Special Collections, sparked a collaboration between the collections and CLIO, the history department’s official student association. Together, they’re putting on “Doheny After Dark,” an escape room event with some of the collections’ spookiest items on display.

“Some of these items, even if students have been here before, they probably wouldn’t have seen because they are related to Halloween or witchcraft or spookiness,” said Michaela Ullmann, the collections’ exile studies librarian.

For Ullmann, there are four must-see spooky items on display tonight students should hold and touch.

The Death Mask of Lion Feuchtwanger

Popular in the 1950s, death masks are plaster casts made of a person’s face after they have passed. Lion Feuchtwanger, for whom the collection is named for, has his mask at the collections and on display on a black velvet pillow tonight.

Feuchtwanger was a German-Jewish writer who fled Nazi Germany. Following his death from stomach cancer in 1958, a death mask was made of him. His personal collection and his treasures from local history were donated by his wife in the 1980s.

Victorian Broadsides

During the Victorian era, it was popular to print small pamphlets or pieces of paper detailing news, events, short stories, poems or ballads. History Professor Lindsay O’Neill had a class of her students pick what kind of broadside they would like her to purchase for the collections. The broadsides will be on display and part of the escape room puzzle.

“The Discovery of Witches”

History Professor Deborah Harkness, who wrote the book “The Discovery of Witches,” is currently shooting a UK TV show based on her novels. Materials that inspired her work, including rare books, are on display.

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Michaela Ullmann, Doheny Library’s special collections exile studies librarian, shows off a rare book in the collection.

The Mastodon Bone

On display will be the oldest item in the collections, a bone from a mastodon that was stuck in the tar of the La Brea Tar Pits. The bone is at least 10,000 years old, according to Ullmann. It’s split into two pieces, showing the inside and marrow.

The event and display of the items go to show that libraries have more than just books and paper, Ullmann said.

“By hosting events like tonight’s Halloween event, we are really trying to get a new audience. Many people don’t even know the special collections exist,” Ullmann said. “We have archives, rare books, artifacts, and really cool and rare materials you cannot find anywhere else.”

This event was inspired by an escape room event the collections put on for one of O’Neill’s classes. It will begin with refreshments in DML 241 at 5 p.m. and the escape room will be held in DML 206 at 6 p.m and Oct. 29.

Students and the public are welcome to the event.

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