13 Most Haunted Campuses in the U.S.
Around the country, students attend colleges that are rich in history and tradition—and sometimes rife with residents that aren’t there to earn a degree. Schools that have old buildings may also have old secrets of the ghostly variety, including the 13 most haunted college campuses described below. From a chancellor who is upset about campus drinking to a bride that was not to be, these college ghosts are providing a different kind of education to the students who encounter them.
Since Boston University opened Kilachand Hall—originally called Shelton Hall— in 1954, residents on the fourth floor have reported strange occurrences, such as elevators stopping on the floor when no one’s using them, lights dimming for no reason, and the sounds of doors being knocked on when no one’s actually there. Legend has it that these things happen because the spirit of playwright Eugene O’Neill has taken up residence in this hall and often makes his presence known.
O’Neill’s ties to the property go back to when Shelton Hall was the Shelton Hotel, where the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning dramatist spent the last few years of his life staying in a fourth-floor apartment. When he died of bronchial pneumonia in 1953, his widow reported that she had been visited by his spirit and even after Boston University bought the building a year later, O’Neill’s ghost stuck around. Today, some students use the haunting as an opportunity to receive creative inspiration by intentionally trying to connect with the dead playwright when they have writing projects to do.
O’Neill’s ghost is not the only famous haunting that is occurring on the Boston University campus: Myles Standish Hall is also reportedly haunted because of the gruesome Boston Strangler murders of the 1960s. People believe the serial killer now haunts the building because one of his last victims lived there. In fact, students claim that sometimes when they return to their dorm rooms, they find their dresser drawers ransacked and chairs moved around, as if the killer is still hunting for possible victims in his afterlife.
Footsteps can be heard when there’s no one else in Mead Hall. The attic door opens by itself. Security guards report seeing a shadowy figure that disappears whenever they get close to it. And when a fire broke out in the building in 1989, two firemen claimed they saw a woman dressed in 19th-century clothing who suddenly vanished when they attempted to rescue her during the 23-hour blaze that nearly burned the hall down to the ground.
All of these events are believed to be caused by the ghost of Roxanna Mead Drew, who was married to the founder of the college, Daniel Drew. Although her husband passed away in 1879, she has chosen to remain in the building named after her and regularly interact with the people who go there.
When Founding President Sidney G. Gilbreath was in charge of East Tennessee State University, he oversaw the school’s early curriculum that consisted of courses in English, science, history, agriculture, and education. During his tenure, which spanned from 1911 to 1925, East Tennessee State University opened its library, published its first issues of the school yearbook and campus newspaper, and established new academic departments.
But Gilbreath’s work wasn’t done after his death. According to folklore, Gilbreath still looks out for the best interest of the school by turning off lights and closing windows as needed around campus. In addition, some say he goes to the school’s theater to enjoy student performances.
Another ghost on campus is experienced on the second floor of Burleson Hall, where English teacher Christine Burleson is believed to watch people pass by through the eyes of a portrait of her father—former dean David Sinclair Burleson—that hangs on the wall. And in Clement Hall, people hear the playful sounds of marbles on the top floors of the building, which is believed to be a ghost that is known by only the nickname Marble Boy.
Say the name Henry Morrison Flagler in Flagler College’s Ponce de León Hall and the lights will flicker on and off. People on campus believe this is evidence that the school’s namesake—an industrialist who managed the construction of the Hotel Ponce de León building that is now a residence hall—is trapped inside for eternity. Flagler’s last wishes were that all of the building’s doors and windows be opened during his funeral, but an unaware janitor closed them when he began his shift during the funeral procession. According to a psychic that attended Flagler’s funeral, the janitor’s actions resulted in the businessman’s soul being trapped in the building, where it resides to this day.
People who don’t experience Flagler’s incarcerated spirit may be visited by the ghost of a young boy looking for a playmate in the hall. The child, who is believed to have died after falling off a balcony, taps people on the shoulder and asks them to come outside and play with him. He can also be heard running around the building late at night.
From the outside, Fordham University’s Keating Hall has a Gothic look that made it a perfect location to film parts of the classic horror movie “The Exorcist.” However, the inside of the building is no less scary than the outside. Rumored to be built on the tunnels of a morgue, Keating Hall is the home of a young female ghost who stares at residents as they enter the shower room and then disappears. Also, people in the building claim they can hear chairs being thrown against the walls, as well as feel cold spots and a disembodied hand lightly rest on their shoulder.
The rumored ghosts in Finlay Hall do not have such a delicate touch, however. Students who live here say they have felt someone pulling their feet as they sleep and in some cases, they wake up to hands wrapped around their neck.
Michigan State University’s Beaumont Tower is surrounded by ghosts who are searching for something—and they sometimes ring the bells to let people know. One tale associated with the tower says it’s haunted by the spirit of a student killed during World War II who has hung around campus in search of his long lost love. In another story, the paranormal activity at the building is attributed to a group of deceased students who are looking for the residence hall they died in. College Hall, which was located around where Beaumont Tower is now, had its walls collapse in 1918 and the students have been trying to find their destroyed dorm ever since.
Another hotspot for the supernatural on campus is Mary Mayo Hall, which is named after Mary Anne Mayo, who was a beloved professor when Michigan State University was known as Michigan Agricultural College. Although she died long before the construction of the hall named in her honor, Mayo watches students in the building, turns the lights off and on, and plays the piano at night.
Students aren’t the only ones partying in New York University’s Brittany Hall. Formerly the Brittany Hotel, the building is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of those who frequented the rooftop speakeasy—and even after their death, they don’t want the jazz-fueled party to ever end. Some residents report hearing music and seeing flickering lights in the building, while others have actually felt an eerie presence staring at them in their bedrooms.
But this residence hall is not the only haunted location on campus. The Brown Building of Science, which was formerly the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, is the site where 146 workers died when the building burned down in 1911. Today, people say they smell smoke and hear strange noises that are reminiscent of people trying to escape being burned alive.
Ghost experiences are such a large part of Pennsylvania State University’s campus culture that the school has its own paranormal research group. One of the most famous hauntings at the college is taking place in the Old Botany Building, where the ghost of Frances Atherton, who was married to the school’s president in the early 1900s, guards over her husband’s final resting place from the windows of the building.
Another hotbed of hauntings on campus is the Schwab Auditorium, as those who visit say performing arts majors are not the only ones putting on shows there. A noisy ghost can regularly be heard pushing chairs around in the attic—and the cacophony only gets worse when students are trying to take exams.
Not satisfied with being outdone by human hauntings, the ghost of the school’s first mascot, Old Coaly, is also spending its afterlife on campus. The mule was taxidermied and displayed in Watts Hall after its death, and its spirit’s hooves can still be heard by students as the animal roams around the halls. Some even claim to hear hee-hawing late at night.
The haunting at the 150 Elm Street residence hall of Smith College isn’t linked to a specific ghost, but that still doesn’t stop residents from having unnerving experiences while living there. Stories about this building include the lights going out for no reason, knocking being heard on walls and ceilings, bookcases mysteriously moving against doors so they can’t be opened, and broom closet doors opening on their own volition.
While 150 Elm Street has no specific resident ghost, Sessions House has the most well-known apparitions on the Smith College campus. British General Johnny Burgoyne, who was imprisoned in the building during the Revolutionary War, and Lucy Hunt, the granddaughter of an American lieutenant, had a forbidden love affair that lasted until Burgoyne was sent back to his native land. The two never saw each other again, and since the couple could only meet in a secret hallway of Sessions House, people claim to see their ghosts walking through it. Although some think the pair are wandering around looking for each other in the house, others believe they have been happily reunited and spending their afterlife meeting each other in their familiar spot on campus.
Some students at the University of Denver may be annoyed by drunken parties on campus, but the ghost that haunts Buchtel House has made it his death’s mission to voice his displeasure about student drinking. Henry Buchtel, who was the school’s chancellor, was a staunch prohibitionist who now slams doors, thumps on walls, and creates cold spots throughout the building in protest of alcohol being served in the house that bears his name.
Similarly, people who go to Margory Reed Hall report the feeling of someone watching them, as well as odd sounds and whispers in the building. This haunting is rumored to be caused by Margery Reed, a former student who met her husband while on campus. She died under mysterious circumstances, with some people believing her husband killed her for financial gain. After Reed passed away, her mother donated money to the school to build the hall in her memory, and people say the ghost has been there ever since.
The members of Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority at the University of Georgia are haunted by much more than finals and formals at their campus home. At the end of the 19th century, the building was a wedding gift given to Susie Carithers, who couldn’t wait to get married to the man she loved. But the blushing bride-to-be did not get to enjoy her new home for long because of a misunderstanding of Shakespearean proportions that left her thinking she was abandoned at the altar, when in reality, her fiancé was actually running extremely late to their ceremony. The heartbroken Carithers reportedly hung herself in the property’s loft, and today she can be seen in the sorority house staring out the window, presumably waiting for her fiancé to finally come.
Similarly, ghostly occurrences are experienced by the students who live in the Phi Mu sorority house, where the ghost of Anna Hamilton is said to reside. Hamilton can be seen standing in front of the building because, according to legend, her fiancé was murdered by his family and buried in that spot. The devastated woman now stands guard over the grave of her beloved, ensuring that no one else can ever hurt him again.
Some students who live at the University of Notre Dame’s Washington Hall may hear a variety of sounds at night, including music, slamming doors, and footsteps on the roof. Others say they have received a pat, or in some cases, a shove, on the back as they walk through the halls. This noisy and playful ghost is believed to be college football player George Gipp, who got locked out of the dorm one snowy night in 1920 and developed pneumonia. As he was on his deathbed, Gipp was reported to have told his coach, Knute Rockne, “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”
Several tragic legends that circulate around Wells College are thought to be the source of various hauntings at the school. One of the most notorious is the influenza outbreak that took the lives of several students who were quarantined on the fourth floor of the college’s main building. Since this happened in the middle of a harsh winter, there was no way to immediately bury the bodies, so a makeshift morgue was created in another room and painted red to alert passersby not to go in. After the bodies of the students were buried, the door was repainted—but their spirits wouldn’t allow the tragedy to be forgotten that easily and the red color of their temporary resting place re-emerged on the door. Rumor has it that the door was painted several times with the same thing happening until the building was eventually remodeled.
In Zabriskie Hall, the spirit of a hardworking science student who was betrayed can be seen by those walking to their classes. According to folklore, this student spent many late nights in the building conducting research and was pleased when one of her professors took an interest in what she was doing. Unfortunately, she later found out that he had actually stolen her work and published it as his own, and when she confronted him about his double-crossing ways, he then literally stabbed her in the back. Now students say they see her ghost walking up and down the halls asking for help removing the knife from her back—and she immediately attacks anyone who does.
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