Every campus, it seems, has its own anthology of ghost stories. They are passed from student to student — often resident to resident — weaving tales that tell the horrors of campus tragedies. The stories are most often staged in residence halls, and for good reason. A haunted chem lab or lecture hall? Meh, no big deal. A haunted residence hall? Now that’s creepy.
I completed both of my degrees at Ohio University, a campus often referred to as the most haunted in the country. While I likely can’t tell you much I learned in Econ 103 my first year, I can still regale you with the alleged haunts of most residence halls on campus — the basketball team that dribbles balls in Washington on East Green, the old mental asylum, the locked room in Wilson Hall on West Green deemed uninhabitable after the death of a student and subsequent reports of mysterious activity. It’s probably not surprising given my own campus history and my love of story-telling that I’ve managed to find the ghost stories on each campus where I’ve worked.
Last week I sent out a call on Twitter for campus residence hall ghost stories. Paul Miller of University of Delaware shared the tale of Warner Hall, where a female student allegedly hanged herself. In an effort to help the community move forward, the site was repaired and blocked off quickly. But maybe too quickly… University of Delaware lore the spirit isn’t at rest and she disturbs the building with a repeated thudding noise, trying to draw residents to find her.
Amy Boyle of Loyola University New Orleans told the tales of Buddig Hall, where the students were so unnerved by faucets turning themselves on and off and doors slamming without cause, the director at the time requested a Jesuit blessing of the building (more to calm the nerves of current residents, he said, than the spirits). As students are wont to do, they elaborated the story, referring to the blessing an exorcism, which didn’t help the rumors. As recently as two years ago, students were spooked when a woman disappeared from an elevator in the time it took the doors to shut and reopen without the elevator moving floors.
As the stories continue to grow and change on campuses, they invite some excellent programming and community development opportunities — haunted tours of buildings are common. Another favorite is inviting the university archivist or historian to come share what they know about the tales, in some cases fueling the stories and in others dispelling them.
What are your campus ghost stories? How do you leverage them for community building?