Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico is the oldest public university in New Mexico. With a student enrollment of around 18,400, it is also the second largest four-year university in the state. The university is known for its extensive collections and research. Not to be confused with Zuul, demigod and gatekeeper of Gozer, “The Destructor,” the Zuhl Library and Museum at NMSU is named after benefactors Herb and Joan Zuhl. The Zuhl Museum is home to a world-class collection of ancient fossils. The university itself is rumored to be home to a number of phantoms. Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center, Goddard Hall, and the former Hershel Zohn Theatre are all believed to be haunted.
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. Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center was built in 1955 and named after Eugene Manlove Rhodes and Elizabeth Garrett, both authors, and longtime NMSU secretary Flora Hamiel. According to another legend, which may be transplanted from Goddard Hall, a student either hung himself or jumped from the bell tower over the Garrett Building.
“As soon as I moved into RGH, I was told by other students that it was haunted,” a freshmen named Neysla Cisneros told The Merge in 2012. “At first I was really scared to live here, but after a while I just got used to it.” Another freshman student told the publication, “I do not know who exactly haunts RGH or if there really even is a ghost, but one of my friends that lives here said his closet door would open and close on its own at night.”
Goddard Hall, the engineering building, is believed to be haunted by the building’s namesake, Ralph Willis Goddard. He died in an electrical accident in 1929 in the transmitter room of the college radio station. Disembodied footsteps, slamming doors, and other strange noises are blamed on his ghost. In 2009, Interim Dean of Engineering Ken White told The Roundup, “Over the years, people have talked about hearing doors open but finding no one there upon investigation. It has been especially disturbing to the staff members working alone on the weekends.” But Goddard is not the only ghost rumored to haunt the 102-year-old building. According to legend, the building’s old bell tower is haunted by a student who hanged himself, though there is no evidence of a suicide ever having taken place there.
The former location of Hershel Zohn Theatre. Photo by Michael Kleen
Finally, a ghost named “George” is said to cause loud noises and manifest in a green light in the former Hershel Zohn Theatre, home to the American Southwest Theatre Company. Students believe George died after falling from the catwalk above the stage. According to Haunted Colleges and Universities by Tom Ogden, he appears in a 19th Century top hat and cape. Hershel Zohn Theatre was recently remodeled and renamed the S.P. and Estelle Yates Theater, which is located in Pete V. Domenici Hall.
With its open spaces, southwestern scenery, and beautiful adobe-style architecture, New Mexico State University is a wonderful place to explore. Every year, the university campus lights up with over 6,000 luminarias in its kickoff to the holiday season, “Noche de Luminarias.” It is a magical sight to behold, and according to Christmas tradition, students share their own strange tales in the glow of this spectacle. Whether they are residents of one of NMSU’s haunted dorms, an engineering student in Goddard Hall, or an aspiring thespian, they have a rich tradition of folklore from which to draw.
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.