"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Professor's Obituary; Or, How to Make Your Resident Ghost Very Happy

Via Findagrave.com

In the long history of ghost lore, there are frequent accounts of the dearly departed being unable to rest in peace because they are troubled by some unfinished earthly business.  Usually, it involves hidden wills, secret stashes of money, and the like.  In the following story, however, we are told that this particular ghost was restless for reasons that were more spiritual than practical: he simply did not want to be forgotten.

For many years, Sybrand Broersma was a well-respected physics professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  Although he was unmarried and apparently had no living relatives, in 1981 he built a comfortable four bedroom, three bathroom suburban house.  He retired in 1986.

On December 27, 1987, Paul Hendrickson, a former student of Broersma’s who was still a close friend, came to check on the professor.  Hendrickson was concerned that Broersma had not shown up as expected to a Christmas party.  He found the professor dead in one of the rooms.  The coroner determined that he had died of natural causes about a week before.  Hendrickson, who was the executor of Broersma’s estate, arranged the burial, settled the professor’s earthly affairs, and put his home up for sale.  That appeared to be the last the world would hear of Sybrand Broersma.

And it soon turned out that the late professor was not very happy about that.

Although Broersma’s charming cream-colored house quickly found a buyer, the new owners did not keep the house for long.  Neither did the next family who moved in.  For the next six years, the residence saw a remarkable number of people come and go.  One family moved out so abruptly they left their personal possessions behind them.

In 1993, a couple named Jon and Agi Lurtz moved in.  It was not long before they learned why this seemingly desirable house had such a hard time keeping owners.  In the middle of the night, the Lurtzes would awaken to the sound of old radio and TV shows.  Shows that were not being played on any of their radios or TVs.  After inspecting the house carefully, they concluded the broadcasts were emanating from somewhere between the floors.  Other strange events began happening that would be familiar to anyone who has studied poltergeist accounts--exploding lightbulbs, objects seeming to throw themselves through the air, inexplicable sounds of crashes and bangs.  The stereo took to blaring music by the German rock band Rammstein.  Even when the Lurtzes unplugged the stereo, the music would defiantly go back on.  One day, the Lurtzes were playing a CD by the Pretenders, when the stereo suddenly began playing the same song repeatedly.  When they tried fast-forwarding to another song, the CD player went back to the song it had been playing.

At this point, most people would have decamped for more ghost-free neighborhoods.  However, Agi Lurtz had lived in haunted houses before, and felt she had nothing to fear from a ghost with a curious taste in music.  The Lurtzes became almost used to such minor annoyances.  Then, one night in 1998, Agi woke up to find a figure standing at the foot of her bed.  Assuming she was being introduced to the home’s original resident, she asked the apparition why he had not moved on.  The ghost replied in heavily accented English, “Because I never had an obituary.”

Agi went to the local library and looked up back issues of the “Norman Transcript.”  She found that the ghost was quite right:  Broersma’s passing had never even been mentioned in the newspaper.  Mrs. Lurtz decided her ghost had a legitimate grievance, and vowed to remedy the slight.

When she began researching Broersma’s past, she found a remarkable story.  He was born in the Netherlands in 1919.  During World War II, he joined the Dutch resistance, which led to him being imprisoned and condemned to death.  Broersma managed to escape prison, after which he spent the rest of the war hiding in a laboratory basement.  In 1947, after receiving his Ph.D. in engineering physics, he moved to America, where he served as a visiting researcher at Northwestern University and the University of Toronto.  He specialized in magnetism and hydrodynamics.  He published many academic articles, and belonged to a number of scientific societies.  He also helped NASA develop some of the first truly effective sensors for satellites.

In his private life, Broersma had a passion for rare and exotic art, which he traveled the world to collect.  (Agi Lurtz commented that Broersma had designed his residence to be more of an art museum than a home.)  He was a supporter of the Oklahoma Symphony, and also enjoyed mountaineering.  He was universally described as a quiet, but brilliant and highly cultured man.  All in all, he had a life well worth remembering.

Mrs. Lurtz’s obituary of Broersma appeared in the “Norman Transcript,” and Broersma finally got his long-delayed memorial service.  After this, the professor’s ghost was never seen again.  Mrs. Lurtz told the “Transcript,” “He needed that before he could go on.”


  1. No one likes to be forgotten, especially if they have had an interesting and notable life. Good for the Lurtzes - though I find their aplomb remarkable!

  2. How strange. I'm an Okie, though I've never lived in Norman I've been there countless times. Now I'm going to have to look this up, it's a new story to me, and a local ghostie at that! I know the Hefner Mansion in OKC is supposedly haunted, and I think the Harn Homestead house is, and at least one major hotel in the downtown area is supposed to be haunted too.


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