Children’s laughter can be a joyous sound and is music to the ears of many people. But, what if that sound comes from a shadowy corner or a pitch-black room? For the owners and employees of the String & Horn Shop in Downtown Bryan, mysterious children’s laughter and voices have almost become a regular occurrence.
Paul and Susan Rieger bought the building in historic Downtown Bryan in 1994. Some time before it became the String & Horn Shop, it was a Duke & Ayers variety shop. After Duke & Ayers closed, Paul and Susan believe the shop exchanged hands fairly often, leaving many questions in its history unanswered.
Despite the unanswered history, Paul and Susan believe the shop was a refuge for widows at one time. Because so many men died at a young age in earlier years, many stores in Downtown Bryan are believed to have had widow lofts for the wives of the deceased men. Perhaps the children of these widows taunt The String & Horn Shop’s employees today.
At first glance, the shop is what you would expect for a place housing instruments: racks covered with musical supplies and delicate instruments lining the walls. With a lot of imagination, you might envision it as the perfect playground for spirited youngsters to roam around at night, laughing, giggling, and flipping light switches as they please, a story of which Susan recounts.
With instruments galore, there is no telling how noisy they might get as the night carries on. Susan explains the employees of the shop never stay late enough to find out, and make it a point to stay out of designated areas once night falls. Throughout the years, from early morning to late at night, shadows of all shapes and sizes have been seen and different noises have been heard.
“We have some employees that won’t go upstairs at night, because of these stories,” says Susan.
Several of the employees and Paul have heard distinct voices on numerous occasions. One evening after closing, an employee was carrying a few boxes upstairs, and tripped and stumbled over a conduit because of her bulky load. She reported hearing the giggle of a small girl from the corner, but assumed it was Paul and Susan’s daughter. When she made her way back downstairs, the employee realized she was the only one in the shop.
The children are not always about at night; they come out to play early in the morning, too. One morning, an employee was in the back of the store preparing for the day when she heard someone say, “Mommy, I’m coming… Mommy, I’m coming.” Thinking there was simply someone up front with Paul, the employee went on about her business. Meanwhile, Paul had just come into the shop to hear the little voice, thinking someone was in the back of the store. Both were surprised when Paul and the employee came across each other and realized they were the only two human beings in the store that morning.
After almost 21 years, Paul, Susan, and their employees seem to have worked out co-existing in the String & Horn shop with any night visitors. Though with Halloween just around the corner, you might want to take a few extra treats to the String & Horn shop to see if something will play a little trick on you with giggles or glimpses of shadows where no regular employees are on duty.