Ghosts at Dominican University in River Forest, Part 1

Ghost NunBy Sarah Oplawski

It is widely known that the chapel in Lewis Hall has a ghostly organ player. I have never heard the organ myself but have wandered up into the choir loft where it is situated. The stairs are very narrow, steep, and rickety. Once reaching the top of the stairs, there is a space before entering the choir loft where there is a wall to the right and a door leading to the organ pipes to the left.

Every time I go up those stairs, I stand in this spot, paralyzed by some irrational fear that there is something bad waiting for me when I enter the loft. There never is. However, one of my friends had a different experience all together. She went up with a couple of guys and left a girl standing at the bottom of the stairs. The guys were rather incredulous about ghosts and decided to play a few notes on the organ despite my friend telling them not to. Suddenly, the girl at the bottom of the stairs asked my friend if she had come down.

It was dark in the chapel so it was difficult to see. My friend called down that she was still upstairs, and the girl said that someone or something had come down those stairs as she had heard them. The entire group left the chapel all together and ran down a flight of stairs into the large social hall. They paused to catch their breaths and one of the heavy windows swung open and banged shut rather loudly, and there was no wind that night.

Lewis Hall also boasts (or boasted, back in 2004) the art department on the 4th and top floor. The window sills on this floor are large enough to seat 2-3 people, so I would often find myself with a friend talking into the wee hours of the morning. Lewis Hall has 2 main staircases flanking an elevator, one to the south and one to the north. It was my freshman year and at about 2 AM one night, my friend and I decided to head back to the dorms to go to bed.

We approached the north stairway as it was closer and my friend bounded down a few of the steps and turned around to see me standing on the landing. I felt overwhelming pressure and it was as though there was a warning in my head to not go down the stairs. My friend asked me what was wrong and I said, “This is going to sound crazy, but we shouldn’t take these stairs. Someone died here. I can see something white in my mind…I think it was a nun.”

Nuns are to this day rather common at Dominican so this was a logical conclusion, though the nuns don’t generally wear habits, either white or any other color. I avoided that staircase for the remainder of the year. It was at the beginning of my sophomore year that I was with a group of people telling Dominican ghost stories and that staircase was mentioned. A person told me that back in the 1970s, an art student brought her young daughter to school when she had classes. The child would skip around and the halls and stairways, but one day she fell down the aforementioned staircase and died. She used to wear a white dress.

A psychic who had been invited in a couple of years before I began attending confirmed the presence of a child ghost. Needless to say, I was covered head to foot in goosebumps. This was the first time I had heard anything about that staircase. In talking with a lot of other people, I noticed a trend–male students did not notice anything unusual, but female students often avoided the staircase for reasons they didn’t understand. Some said that it always looked dark even when the sun was shining through the windows lining the stairs, and others said they felt sad. I have found no evidence of a child dying at what was then Rosary College, but it’s possible that it was not well documented.

Continued in Part 2 on Friday, Sept. 6

Sarah Oplawski studied for 4 years at Dominican University (2000-2004) and learned a lot of the ghost stories. She is a chemist and tends to approach things from a scientific standpoint. She always looks for a logical or rational explanation first. However, I she has had some occurrences that she cannot explain.


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