Border states with divided loyalties during the American Civil War, the states of the Upper South technically allowed slavery, but slavery did not flourish there as it did in the Deep South. The hills and valleys between the southern Appalachian Mountains and the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains gave rise to a distinctive culture with its own folklore and superstitions, including a rich tapestry of campus lore. At Mysterious Heartland have found that many of this region’s colleges and universities are thought to be haunted, but which will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Lyon College
Founded in 1872 by members of the Presbyterian Church and originally known as Arkansas College, Lyon College is the oldest independent college in Arkansas. It is home to the unusual tale of a smelly specter that is said to inhabit Brown Chapel and Fine Arts Building. First spotted in the early 1970s, it manifested as a strange blue green haze that smelled like an old basement. Students began to whisper that a tapestry in the Bevens Music Room was the source of the activity. According to this legend, the tapestry had served as a rug during the Civil War, on which a Confederate soldier bled to death. Since then, the creepy haze followed the tapestry wherever it went. The only problem with this legend was that it wasn’t true. A folklore student tracked down the origin of the tapestry and found it was quite mundane. The haunting continued, however. Cold spots, phantom footsteps, and moving seats are all reported to this day.
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. Northwest Missouri State University
Northwest Missouri State University was founded in 1905 as a teachers college, and was originally known as Fifth District Normal School. Its Administration Building has suffered several accidents. It was struck by a tornado in 1919 and a fire destroyed most of its west wing, central wing, and auditorium in 1979. It was a different accident, however, that gave rise to Northwest Missouri State’s most enduring legend. On April 28, 1951, a gas tank exploded outside Roberta Hall (then unimaginatively known as Residence Hall). The fireball blew out many windows and injured several students. Roberta Steel received third degree burns over most of her body, and lingered for several months before she died. According to A.S. Mott, in his book Haunted Schools: Ghost Stories & Strange Tales, students began to hear sad piano music coming from an empty room in the basement. Roberta has also physically manifested, appearing as a shadow or a figure in a window. In one incident, she disturbed two coeds as they slept. Roberta Hall is named in her honor.
7. Washington College
Chartered in 1782, Washington College has a long history and a rich tradition. It is the 10th oldest college in the United States. It began as Kent County Free School in 1723, however, so the history of the campus goes even farther back. Middle Hall, the oldest building on campus, was erected in 1844. Though unconfirmed, the Hynson-Ringgold House, home of the college’s president, has long been rumored to be occupied by spirits. A Jamaican maid employed by Henry and Ilma Pratt Catlin, who owned the home from 1912 until 1946, complained incessantly about being bothered by a ghost that stroked her cheek at night. Other accounts are less specific. The most haunted place on campus is Tawes Theatre, which is thought to be haunted by no less than four entities. The ghost of an adolescent girl, a man wearing a tuxedo, a former student, and a janitor are all believed to make appearances there. Mysterious cold drafts and electrical disturbances have been reported as well.
6. East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee
East Tennessee State University began in 1911 as a teacher’s college called East Tennessee State Normal School. It is home to over 16,000 students and faculty. Gilbreath Hall is one of the most haunted buildings on campus. It is said to be haunted by its namesake, Sidney Gordon Gilbreath, who was the founding president of the university. His ghost materializes as a glowing red light in the window. The ghost of a former librarian is also believed to reside there. She causes the lights to flicker and windows to open and close on their own. One of the saddest ghosts is that of Christine Burleson, a former English professor who allegedly shot herself after becoming confined to a wheelchair. According to Tom Ogden, author of Haunted Colleges and Universities, students have reported her “restless moans” in Burleson Hall. An adolescent boy who plays with marbles is believed to haunt Lucille Clement Hall. Students staying in the dorm reportedly hear marbles dropping on the floor. When they yell at the ghost to stop, all the marbles clattering to the floor at once.
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5. Berea College
Berea College is unique in that it has a long tradition of offering free education to low income students in exchange for their labor. Founded in 1855, it was the first coed and racially integrated college in the South. For such a small college, Berea is practically infested with ghosts. Nearly every building on campus is believed to be haunted. At least two residence halls are thought to be haunted by the ghosts of young women who became pregnant at the hands of a stranger. At Fairchild Hall, the oldest building on campus, her name is Abigail. She is seen wearing a white blouse and a long dark skirt. “Carol” haunts James Hall. Her wet footprints appear leading to the janitor’s closet. Phantom footsteps are also heard in Pearsons Hall. They belong to a “running ghost” that races up and down the fourth floor hallway after midnight. Jekyll Drama Center, Grey Auditorium, and Boone Tavern are also believed to be haunted.
4. Mount Saint Mary’s University
Mount St. Mary’s is a private Catholic university in the Catoctin Mountains. It is a small school, with a little more than 1,800 undergraduates. Founded in 1830, it doubled as a boarding school until the early 1900s. Bradley Hall is a remnant of those boarding school days. Mount St. Mary’s is home to several unusual tales. The first involves a phantom hand belonging to Leander, an indentured slave who had been gifted to the university. Leander was known as a thief, and eventually his hand was cut off to teach him a lesson. The hand was supposedly buried on campus, and to this day students swear they hear it tapping on windows or catch a glimpse of it crawling down the hallways. A faceless phantom, that of a young Confederate soldier who was thrown in a nearby well and landed face down, is said to approach students from behind, tap them on the shoulder, and ask to be turned over. The most famous ghost on campus is Father Simon Gabriel Brute, who haunts Room 252 in Brute Hall. Since the 1970s, occupants of that room have reported strange activity. Father Brute’s ghost is not confined there, however, and has been spotted around campus.
3. Glenville State College
Glenville, West Virginia
Glenville State College is a small public college in rural north-central West Virginia. Founded in 1872, GSC has a tradition of being an excellent teacher’s college. A persistent specter on campus is that of Sarah Louisa Linn, who was murdered in her home by an unknown assailant in 1919. GSC built Verona Maple Hall, a female residence hall, over the location of her home. Strange activity was reported there from the beginning. When that building was demolished, Sarah’s ghost began to appear in Clark Hall. Students and faculty report hearing furniture move and chains drag. Lights turn on by themselves and the window blinds move on their own accord. The ghost of Sarah is such a part of campus life that she has come to be known as “Sis Linn.” Room 225 in Bennet Hall, a former male dorm, was frequently visited by a lady dressed in white who would appear at the foot of the bed. Since becoming an office building, staff have heard the sound of someone running on the fourth floor. The Harry B. Heflin Administration Building is also said to be haunted. For years, the bell in the bell tower would toll thirteen times on Halloween night without any explanation. The bell has since been removed.
2. University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee is a public university located in eastern Tennessee. Founded as Blount College in 1794, it is now home to more than 27,000 students. A burial mound from the Woodland period (c. 644 AD) sits on campus at the corner of Joe Johnson Drive and Chapman Drive. Ghosts of Union soldiers and the sounds of battle from the Civil War have been reported on campus. The Gothic-revival James D. Hoskins Library is believed to be haunted by a female spirit nicknamed “Evening Primrose.” The scent of warm cornbread is said to follow her around the old library, and she has been blamed for knocking books off shelves and moving the elevator. Until it closed in 2008, Strong Hall served as a female dormitory and was home to the ghost of Sophronia Strong. She liked to play pranks on the residents, appear in mirrors, and generally make her presence known in other conspicuous ways. Finally, given the fact that an Amerindian burial mound is located on campus, rumors abound that several buildings were built over ancient burial sites, leading to a few restless and angry spirits.
1. Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Western Kentucky University has a complicated history of moves and consolidations, and went through several name changes before settling on its present title in 1966. No less than twelve separate buildings at WKU are said to be inhabited by restless spirits, including several fraternity houses. A man dressed in white appears in Van Meter Hall, the oldest building on campus. He is said to have been a construction worker or student who fell from the rafters above the stage. The bloodstain left behind from the fall was impossible to remove, and the boards themselves had to be replaced. Potter Hall is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a girl who hung herself while the building was a female dorm. She is also known as “Penny” because she makes herself known by playfully tossing or leaving pennies. Another former female dorm, Schneider Hall, is home to Western Kentucky University’s own version of “the roommate’s death.” That story involves a resident assistant who was supposedly killed by an ax wielding madman, but it is an urban myth. Mattie McLean is said to haunt McLean Hall as a protective lady in gray.
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.