The Deep South was once defined as former Confederate states that relied on a plantation economy and were wedded to the institution of slavery, segregation, and an agrarian society, but that perception has slowly changed over the past century. Storied plantations have disappeared under urban sprawl and growing industry. The deep south now boasts some of the nation’s largest colleges and universities. At Mysterious Heartland, we have found that such a rich history also includes a rich tapestry of campus ghost lore. Most colleges in these deep Southern states have a ghost story or two, but which are the most haunted of them all?
10. Bob Jones University
Greenville, South Carolina
Founded in 1927 by evangelist Bob Jones, Sr., Bob Jones University is a private, Protestant university with a student population of around 2,800. It has been located in Greenville, South Carolina since 1947. Mack Library, Rodeheaver Auditorium, and the Museum and Gallery are all thought to be haunted. In Mack Library, the semi-transparent image of an elderly man has been spotted quietly reading in the main hall. No one is sure who he is or where he came from. Like many theatres, Rodeheaver Auditorium is said to be haunted by a phantom organist. This unidentified spirit plays sorrowful notes on the organ after all the students have gone home for the night and the doors to the auditorium are locked. The ghost of an adolescent girl wearing a long dress has been seen browsing the exhibits at the Museum and Gallery. Like the old man in the library, no one is quite sure who this girl is. The Gallery opened in 1951 and features a collection of fine religious art.
9. Athens State University
Opened in 1822 and originally known as the Athens Female Academy, Athens State University went through several name changes before ultimately being purchased by the State of Alabama in 1974. It is a two year college with a student population of around 3,500. The most famous ghost at ASU is named Abigail. She is thought to be the manifestation of Abigail Lylia Burns, an opera singer who once performed in McCandless Hall. According to legend, she died on her way home from the performance when her carriage overturned in a storm. She continues to appear in the auditorium wearing a white gown holding flowers. Students hear her footsteps and catch a whiff of her flowers. Constructed in 1842, Founders Hall is also believed to be haunted. During its days as a female dorm, the story goes, two young women tried to sneak out at night to meet their lovers. They held candles to light the way, and a gust of wind blew a spark into the hair of one of the girls. She burned to death, and to this day her ghost haunts the building. Her sorrowful spectre sometimes appears in the window, but most often manifests as rattling door knobs and chains, cold spots, and footsteps.
8. Florida State University
Established as a prototypical college called West Florida Seminary in 1851, Florida State University is a public research university with over 40,000 students. Its main campus is comprised of over 450 acres. During the Civil War, it became temporarily known as The Florida Military and Collegiate Institute, and its cadets successfully defeated a Yankee attack on Tallahassee. FSU is home to several interesting tales. Cawthon Hall, a coed dorm, is allegedly haunted by the ghost of the building’s namesake, Sarah Landrum Cawthon. Students have taken to calling her “Tissie,” and she has been spotted floating through the dorm dressed in green. Cawthon Hall is said to be home to another spirit, that of a young woman who was struck by lightning while sunbathing on the roof. She causes electrical disturbances and moves personal items. A phantom flautist is believed to haunt Gilchrist Hall, while the Chi Omega sorority house is haunted by the ghosts of two Ted Bundy victims. Those young ladies were brutally murdered in January 1978. The sorority continued to occupy the house, and the presence of the murdered coeds has been felt to the present day.
7. 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 enrolment 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, spectres, 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 spectre 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.
6. University of Montevallo
Founded in 1896, the University of Montevallo is Alabama’s only public liberal arts college. It was originally known as the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School and officially became coeducational in 1956. It is a small college with a student population of around 3,000. The most terrifying spectre to haunt the University of Montevallo appears in Main Hall, the oldest and largest all-female dorm on campus. It is the ghost of Condie Cunningham, who was badly burned in a cooking accident in 1908. She died of her injuries after two agonising days. Students report hearing her screams reverberating throughout the hall. According to Tom Ogden, author of Haunted Colleges and Universities, an image of the girl appeared on a door on the fourth floor. The college removed the door after students began to whisper about it. Both Palmer Auditorium and Reynolds Studio Theatre are believed to be haunted. Built around 1930, Palmer Auditorium is haunted by the ghost of Walter “Trummy” Trumbauer, a former drama professor. More activity is reported in Reynolds Studio Theatre, including windows and doors that open and close on their own, unexplained sounds, and gusts of wind. Another popular phantom is the Lady of the Rock. She appears crying, wearing a yellow dress and sitting on a rock in the quad.
5. Berry College
Mount Berry, Georgia
Berry College is a private, four-year liberal arts college founded in 1902 by Martha Berry, a wealthy philanthropist. It is a work college, in which students can be employed in various offices and operations owned by the school. Martha Berry made a lasting impression on the college, and not just because she was its founder. Some say her spirit has stuck around her former mansion, Oak Hill. Two other ghosts, a young child and a lady in white thought to be Martha’s sister Francis, are believed to haunt the home as well. The ghostly child is said to move toys and throw objects in the nursery. Stretch Road, which connects the college’s two campuses, is haunted by the “Green Lady,” who materialises in an emerald green haze. Her dress dates to the early 1900s, and she was first reported in the 1980s. Some witnesses report that she has no eyes. Another apparition missing body parts, that of a woman with no teeth, has been seen in the House o’ Dreams, a former getaway for Martha Berry.
4. University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi was founded in 1848 and is Mississippi’s largest university. Its main campus is home to over 18,000 students. During the Civil War, the entire student body enlisted in the Confederate army. The university became coeducational in 1882. “Ole Miss” is home to several restless spirits. The ghosts of Confederate soldiers have been spotted in the Lyceum (pictured right), the oldest surviving of the original buildings on campus. It was used as a hospital in the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh, and 250 soldiers are believed to have died there. Deaton Hall is supposedly haunted by a former professor named Eula Deaton. According to Tom Ogden, author of Haunted Colleges and Universities, she is a somewhat malevolent spirit who was blamed for the death of two students in an elevator accident. The Sigma Room in St. Anthony Hall is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a Delta Psi fraternity member who died in a car accident in the 1940s or ‘50s. Strange sounds, footsteps, and other unusual activity have been reported there.
3. 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.
2. Loyola University New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
Established in 1904 and chartered as a university in 1912, Loyola University New Orleans is a private, Roman Catholic university. With slightly more than 5,000 students, it is a small college, but still one of the largest Jesuit universities in the United States. One of the most disturbing legends at Loyola concerns Greenville Hall, which is located off Broadway Avenue, up the street from the main campus. It was built in 1892 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is rumoured that sometime in the past a nun broke her vows and became pregnant. Ashamed, she hung herself from the cupola. Her footsteps have been heard ascending the stairs to the top. Between 1916 and 1966, anatomy classes in Marquette Hall were taught with the aid of human cadavers. The corpses were lifted by crane to the morgue and laboratories on the fourth floor. According to legend, the ghosts of some of these individuals still wander the building, searching for their violated bodies. The 10th floor of Buddig Hall is also rumoured to be haunted. Students describe hearing strange noises, toilets that flush on their own, and doors that mysteriously open and close. Finally, strains of piano and organ music have been heard coming from Nunemaker Auditorium in Monroe Hall, even after it has been locked up for the night.
1. University of Tampa
Established in 1931, the University of Tampa is a private, coed college with a student population of around 7,600. It is located in downtown Tampa, and is one of a dozen schools with an anti-gravity monument from Roger Babson’s Gravity Research Foundation, an organisation dedicated to find ways to implement gravitational shielding. One of the most interesting buildings on campus is Plant Hall (pictured right). Built in an eclectic Moorish Revival style in 1891, it was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel. The university acquired the five story, 511 room building in 1933. Ever since, students and staff have encountered the ghost of a man wearing a brown three-piece suit near the grand staircase. The science wing is considered the most active part of the building. The ghost of an African American or Cuban man wearing boots and a straw hat has been seen there, accompanied by the sound of rattling cart wheels. Another building acquired by the university is the Park Theatre. It was purchased in 1962 and renamed David Falk Theatre. The theatre is widely believed to be haunted by an actress named Bessie Snavely, who allegedly hung herself in either her dressing room or the stairwell. Her ghost is helpful, however, unless the colour red is concerned. Red-coloured costumes have been torn or damaged without explanation. She has been spotted watching rehearsals.
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 spectres suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theatres, 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.