Originally part of the Spanish Empire before belonging to Mexico until 1848, the Southwestern United States is a vast region with diverse terrain ranging from desert to mountains and high plains. It is also one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse regions of the US. At Mysterious Heartland, we have found that such a rich cultural heritage also includes a rich tapestry of campus ghost lore. Most colleges in these Southwestern states have a ghost story or two, but which are the most haunted of them all?
10. Utah State University
Founded in 1888 as an agricultural college, Utah State University has a student population of around 28,700 and an extensive network of regional campuses and distance education centers. For such an expansive university, Utah State has a less-than-average amount of ghost stories. Its most famous, however, is unusually macabre. According to legend, shortly after Caine Lyric Theatre opened in 1913, an actor named Everett was murdered in a fit of jealousy. He and a fellow actor were playing gravediggers in a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and the audience seemed to be enjoying his performance the most. He disappeared shortly after, and an eerily lifelike skull ended up as a prop. Since then, and especially after the University renovated the theater in 1961, Everett’s ghost has been seen in the catwalks and the darkened seats. He is particularly active in house right, where he makes a chandelier sway and sometimes calls out to theater students.
9. Oklahoma State University
Founded in 1890 as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, Oklahoma State University in Stillwater is home to over 23,000 students. It is best known for having the largest Homecoming celebration in the country, with over 70,000 participants each year. The campus of OSU has undergone many renovations, possibly stirring up phantoms from the past. One of these inhabits the Seretean Center for the Performing Arts, which sits over the former location of Williams Hall. According to a popular campus legend, the building’s designer, Joseph Pierre Foucart, was buried in the courtyard of Williams Hall. When the Seretean Center was built, his ghost was thought to appear. A ghost named Fred is said to tap custodians on the shoulder and call out their names in Edmon Low Library. Cordell Hall, a former dorm, is haunted by a ghost named Cordello. This unseen specter behaves much like Fred, but also messes with the lighting.
8. Johnson & Wales University
Johnson & Wales University is a private university with several campuses around the country. Its Denver-based campus opened in 2000. Although this incarnation of Johnson & Wales is a relatively new institution, its buildings have been there for decades, and most of its ghosts predate the university. Treat Hall, one of the only buildings to keep its name, is a National Historic Landmark. It served as the main building for Colorado Women’s College. Unused for many years after the college closed, its fire alarm would go off without explanation, and emergency personnel would hear the laughter of a young girl when they went to investigate. She is allegedly the ghost of a janitor’s daughter, who died after accidentally falling down the elevator shaft. Formerly the Colorado Women’s College library, Aspen Hall has phantoms of its own. When Johnson & Wales took over ownership of the building, maintenance and security staff reported encountering the ghost of a woman believed to be Gertrude Johnson, founder of J&W University. Doors are said to open and close on their own, a common occurrence in haunted buildings.
7. Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Originally opened in 1876 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, Texas A&M University is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System, the fourth-largest university in the United States, and the largest university in Texas. It boasts over 56,000 students and a 5,500 acre campus. There are at least two known hauntings on its main campus. The most notable occurs at the Animal Industries Building, which opened in 1931. Now a men’s bathroom and fire escape, a meat lab was formerly located in the basement. In 1959, Roy Simms, the laboratory foreman, accidentally severed his femoral artery while cutting a slab of bacon. He died before he could make it to the elevator. Since then, students have heard his footsteps and screams in the hallways, accompanied by the slamming of doors. His ghost was also accused of messing with lab equipment. In Francis Hall, home to the School of Veterinary Medicine, a shadowy figure stalks the halls. Janitors report experiencing a number of odd occurrences in the early morning hours. No one knows who or what this entity is, but it seems mostly harmless.
6. University of Arizona
Founded in 1885, the University of Arizona is the oldest university in Arizona, predating the state itself by 27 years. It is a large school with a total enrollment of around 40,000 students and is known for its research in astronomy. Built in the mid-1880s, Old Main is the oldest building on campus, and it is rumored to be haunted by Carlos Maldenado, who helped supervise its construction. He was murdered in 1888. During renovation in the winter of 1941/42, construction workers began to report strange experiences. Since then, Maldenado’s ghost has been spotted around the building by students and faculty. A more recent specter supposedly haunts Maricopa Hall, a female dormitory. During renovations in 1992, students (especially early risers) began to see the ghost of a young woman dressed in a cape in the basement. Two ghosts are believed to inhabit Centennial Hall: that of a young man and a female. The male phantom is known for his loud, obnoxious laughter.
5. New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, New Mexico State University is the oldest and second largest university in the state. It has a student enrollment of around 18,400. It is also rumored to be home to a number of phantoms. The ghost of a laundress, or at least that of a young woman who is helpful with the laundry, is said to inhabit the laundry room at Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center. Students say she was either a student who committed suicide or who died after falling down the stairs. Regardless, she has been accused of folding laundry while students are away. Goddard Hall (pictured right), the engineering building, is believed to be haunted by the building’s namesake, Ralph Willis Goddard. He died in an electrical accident in 1929. Disembodied footsteps, slamming doors, and other strange noises are blamed on his ghost. According to legend, the building’s old bell tower is haunted by a student who hanged himself, though there is no evidence of it. Finally, a ghost named “George” is said to cause loud noises and manifest in a green light in Hershel Zohn Theatre, home to the American Southwest Theatre Company.
4. University of Colorado Denver
Located in beautiful downtown Denver, the University of Colorado was officially established in 1912 and has a long tradition of research in medicine. The university’s clinics and hospital serve more than half a million patients every year. Not surprisingly, a few buildings on campus as said to have resident ghosts. A former brewery that shut down in 1969, the University of Colorado Denver shares the Tivoli Student Union with the Metropolitan State College of Denver and the Community College of Denver. The Student Union opened in 1994, and since then students have heard strange whispers and voices and the sound of a riotous party coming through the vents. Additionally, some students have seen the ghost of a young lady in the Multicultural Lounge. She is shy and disappears upon approach. Up to three individuals are said to be responsible for mischievous activity in Mary Red Hall, which serves as an administrative building. Cold spots, flickering lights, stuck doors, scattered books, and pulled alarms have all been experienced there. A semi-transparent specter has been seen on at least one occasion in the DuPont and Renaissance Rooms.
3. University of La Verne
Founded in 1891 by members of a German Christian sect called the Church of the Brethren, the University of La Verne is a private college about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. It is a small-to-medium sized college, with around 8,700 students. Several buildings on its suburban campus are believed to be haunted, and the university is not ashamed to advertise that fact. Founders Hall, used for administrative offices and a computer science center, may be haunted by two former faculty members. Gladdys Muir, a part time Latin and Spanish professor, fell down a flight of stairs and died while exiting the east side of the building in 1967. In 1978, an AV director named David Glasa committed suicide in his office in the basement. Slamming doors, footsteps, and flickering lights are blamed on their ghosts. Strange things are also experienced in the director’s office in the International and Study Abroad Center, a former private home purchased by the university. Unbeknownst to them, an elderly woman had burned to death in a kitchen fire. The kitchen was converted into the director’s office. Items reportedly go missing and staff sometimes feel like they are being watched. Wing two of Studebacker-Hanawalt Hall has been plagued by strange noises including thuds, deep breathing, and gasps.
2. University of Texas at Austin
Established in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin is a state research university and the flagship institution of The University of Texas System. It has the fifth-largest single-campus enrollment in the nation, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff. One of the most notorious buildings at UT is the Victorian-Gothic style Main Building, or simply, the Tower. On August 1, 1966, a former Marine named Charles Whitman ascended to the observation deck with a rifle and proceeded to kill 14 people before police stormed the building and put him down. In addition to this incident, at least nine students are known to have jumped to their death from the tower. Dark shadows, specters, and flickering lights have been spotted in the observation deck. The ghost of former pianist and professor Dalies Erhardt Frantz is believed to haunt Jessen Auditorium, and an anonymous specter has caused disturbances in the Scottish Rite Dormitory. Coughing and other sounds have been heard in empty rooms, personal items move or go missing, and strange electrical malfunctions have all been reported. A former resident who committed suicide has been blamed for the activity.
1. University of Nevada
The University of Nevada was established in 1874 and is home to around 18,000 students. It is mainly known for its College of Engineering, with its impressive large-scale structures laboratory. Its Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism has produced six Pulitzer Prize winners. The University of Nevada is also home to a number of historic buildings that surround its central quad, an area which has been designated a National Historic District. The Church Fine Arts building is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a former professor. Built in 1917 near Manzanita Lake, the Frandsen Humanities Building is also said to be haunted. Doors open and close on their own, maintenance equipment vanishes without explanation, and disembodied voices are heard. According to Janice Oberding, author of Haunted Nevada, at least one custodian has heard his name being called when he was alone in the building. In DeLaMare Library, the playful spirit of Clarence Mackay has been blamed for stopping the clocks and turning lights off and on. Students and staff often feel her presence as they walk past the large portrait of her in the Conference Room. Finally, the historic Lincoln Hall is believed to be haunted by the ghost of James Champagne, a student who accidentally shot himself in 1906. His apparition has been seen on several occasions.
Read more about college ghost stories in Michael Kleen’s new book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges & Universities! At schools across Illinois, students tell ghostly tales, from beloved librarians who refuse to go home, to sad specters suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theaters, and more. In this one-of-a-kind book, current and former students and faculty tell their tales of mysterious encounters at their beloved alma maters. Kleen scours every source to bring these stories to light in the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore. Why do ghost stories continue to have such an appeal on college campuses? What are the scariest stories from universities in Illinois? Is there any truth to the tales? These questions and more will be answered. Go here to order!
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