Penn State Paranormal

Spooktober is almost over but I still have plenty of ghostly, scary tales to share.

When I wrote articles for Paranormal Rag, a now defunct online magazine, I did a series on haunted colleges. I have yet to hear of a college/university that doesn’t have its share of ghosts.

This particular article looks into the spirits at Penn State University. Apparently, there are so many ghosts in and around the campus of the Nittany Lions, they have their very own paranormal investigation group which was aptly highlighted in the television reality series, Paranormal State. Even though the show is no longer on, I still hold it up as one of the premiere ghost hunting shows to this day.

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Paranormal Phenomenon at Penn State

By KC Freeman

 

One of the most popular places for ghostly tales comes from colleges and universities. Every school seems to have its share of paranormal activities. But none more so than Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). The main campus in State College, Pennsylvania is renowned not just for excellence in academics and sports, but it tops the list of institutions of higher education in another less publicized category – ghosts!

Founded in 1855 as the Farmers High School of Pennsylvania, the school underwent many name changes over the years and officially became Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in 1953. But not before the land and the buildings had seen their fair share of tragedy and death.

Two of the most note-worthy ghostly residents are a former president of the college, George W. Atherton (president from 1882 until his death in 1906) and the industrialist, Charles Schwab. George is buried next to Schwab Auditorium, near the Old Main building. There have been reports of the ghostly apparition of the president inside the auditorium taking in some of the shows there, possibly alongside another popular ghost – Charles Schwab himself who donated the majority of funding for the construction of the auditorium. Students and staff have witnessed the stage curtains moving when no one is near them. Even creepier are the accounts of seats being pushed down by an invisible force during performances and then goes back up when the show is over as if someone was sitting there watching the show. Mr. Schwab’s ghost has even earned the affectionate nickname of “Schwaboo the Ghost” from the students. Other ghosts are said to haunt the auditorium, including a janitor and at least one female spirit. Students and staff have experienced noises from upper levels when no one is there, footsteps, being scratched, and seeing objects move supposedly by themselves.

200px-George_W._Atherton_grave PSU

However, it’s the ghost of Atherton’s wife, Frances, who spooks students the most. She keeps vigil in an upstairs window of the Old Botany Building (the original location of the school’s botany department) overlooking her husband’s grave.

Penn_state_old_botany_building_exterior

The building itself was investigated by the Penn State Paranormal Society (A&E’s Paranormal State) in 2007. Mrs. Atherton keeps herself busy. Reports of lights going on and off and the sound of footsteps in the locked room from which she watches over the grave; electronic devices mysteriously malfunctioning; and even an apparition of an elderly woman rocking in her chair while knitting. She has also been seen floating along the corridors of Atherton Hall, a former girls’ dormitory (now home to the Schreyer Honors College) named after herself. Other ghosts are reported to reside in Atherton Hall – a former house mother nicknamed “Gumshoes”, and the ghost of someone who was rumored to have died in the elevator shaft.

So far Penn State’s ghosts appear to be friendly, or at least non-threatening. If you’re up for a bigger fright, you may want to park yourself in the Pattee Library late at night for a study session in spookiness. An unsolved and mysterious murder happened there on November 28, 1969. Graduate student, Betsy Aardsma, was stabbed multiple times from behind. There was no sign of a struggle and very little blood at the crime scene. Betsy’s ghost is said to haunt the stacks of the library near where she was murdered. She makes her presence known by sudden drops in temperature, moving objects around, and her apparition has been witnessed by several students studying late at night. One male student was intrigued by a pretty girl passing him in stacks. After gathering his courage to talk to her, he walked in the direction she had gone only to find it was dead end and…no girl. Still seems harmless, right? Not so for one female student who felt invisible hands gripping her neck in the same location as the murder. Other students have reported hearing screams from the library basement, shadow figures, and red glowing eyes in the darkness. Creepy!

Want to go on a ghost walk? Sadly, Penn State’s own Ghost Walk trail no longer exists, but that doesn’t mean the ghost(s) went away. The secluded path once traversed from the Old Botany Building to the far northern section of campus. It is marked today by a lone spruce tree between the Old Botany Building and Burrowes Building. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, there’s a good reason it was given the name Ghost Walk. Back in the 1860s, a student became lost in a sudden blizzard and froze to death. Since then an apparition has been witnessed by students to be roaming the trail.

There are countless other tales of paranormal activity at Penn State, but by far the cutest ghost story (yes, I said “cutest”) is the one of Old Coaly, the mule. This particular mule was part of the pack team during the construction of the university back in the 1850s. Old Coaly stayed on campus after his work was done and was the first mascot for the school. He died New Year’s Day 1893 but still roams the campus. Sounds of his braying could be heard along with his thudding hooves through Watts Hall late at night. Why inside a building? Well, Old Coaly’s skeleton has been kept on display at the university. His bones have been moved numerous times, but wherever his remains are exhibited, his ghost follows. Currently, Old Coaly resides in the HUB-Robeson Center.

Old Coaly PSU

 

There are so many other tales of ghostly shenanigans at Penn State, it would take a full-length novel to include them all. Spirits are reported to rattle pipes in Beam Hall; a ghost hard at work late at night in Ihlseng Cottage; a poltergeist frightening students in the Keller Building by locking doors and ransacking rooms; disembodied voices in the Pollack Laptop Library; and too many ghost encounters to count in Runkle Hall – just to spotlight a few. Thus, why Penn State is considered to be one of the most haunted college campuses.

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Crimson Ghosts

Halloween season also happens to be football season, specifically college football. Where I originate from, the great state of Alabama, the latter season is sacred.

Most colleges have their share of ghostly tales. But the multi-national football champions from the University of Alabama could claim another national title…most haunted campus!

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Crimson Tide Ghosts – Hauntings at the University of Alabama

To anyone who even remotely follows college athletics, if you hear “Roll Tide Roll” you know exactly who and what it means. University of Alabama. More specifically, Bama sports. And more likely than not, it’s associated with Bama football. The university and the team are quite famous. After all, they won seventeen national football championships. Most of the country’s college football fans either LOVE the Tide or HATE them. For purposes of this article, I will refrain from expressing my own opinion.

But do you know what else Bama is famous for?

Ghosts!

Since its inception in 1831, the hallowed campus grounds in Tuscaloosa, Alabama have experienced trauma and bloodshed (and not always related to football rivalries gone bad).

In the early days, it was common for gun fights to break out on campus. Later on, the university was turned into a military academy to train Confederate soldiers for the Civil War. After the war, it reverted back into an institute of higher learning, but violence still marred the land and gave rise to numerous reports of paranormal activity.

The Little Round House, also known as Jason’s Shrine, was a cadet guardhouse during the Civil War. Three Union soldiers still reside there after their grisly murders. The legend tells that two Confederate cadets stayed behind while the Union army burned the buildings on campus. One cadet was accosted by Union soldiers looking for whiskey. He directed them to the cadet guardhouse where the other cadet ambushed the soldiers and killed them. The soldiers’ boots can be heard stomping around inside the building. When someone ventures in to check out the cause of the sounds, no one is there.

The shadow of a young woman who committed suicide by lighting herself on fire still wanders the 13th floor of Tutwiler Hall. Others experience feelings of foreboding and of being watched in the basement of the same building.

The tramping of horse hooves can be heard throughout the main floor of Smith Hall, located on the Quad, where there is an exhibit of its namesake, Dr. Eugene Allen Smith’s carriage. It is accompanied by the sounds of disembodied horses neighing and horse whips cracking. There are also reports of voices, and when someone investigates, they find desks that had been arranged neatly just moments ago to be in disarray. The room where this phenomenon occurs happens to be a former boiler room where a boiler explosion killed several students.

Marian Gallaway, former theater director, still roams the Gallaway Theater in Rowand-Johnson Hall. Some theater students claim a person can call forth Mrs. Gallaway by standing center stage (alone) and asking her, “How’s my blocking, Mrs. Gallaway?” Her ghost also voices her displeasure if students are not working hard enough by slamming doors to get their attention.

One student claims that after the opening night performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the main theater, one student came up to a group gathered in front of Mrs. Gallaway’s portrait. He remarked that he saw Mrs. Gallaway in the audience and she appeared to thoroughly enjoy the show. When the group laughed and stated that was impossible, he pointed to the portrait and affirmed that was the woman he saw in the audience. He was shocked to discover Mrs. Gallaway had been deceased for some time.

An interesting side note is rampant speculation that Mrs. Gallaway was the inspiration for the character of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

What’s a college ghost story without a haunted library? The University of Alabama is no different. The Gorgas Library is still overseen by its namesake, Amelia Gorgas. She mostly haunts the fourth floor, so much so that the elevators have been programmed to NOT stop on that floor. However, students in the library late at night have experienced the misfortune of the elevator stopping and the door opening on the fourth floor.

Mrs. Gorgas is not alone though. Her husband, former University President and Confederate General, Josiah Gorgas, haunts the Gorgas House where he lived and died. Reports include claims of the sound of his sword banging against the walls.

Most colleges have a center of campus, commonly called a quad. Well, Bama students are wise to avoid the Quad on foggy nights. If one is unlucky enough to have to traverse the Quad on such a night, walk fast. Otherwise, you may bear witness to up to three ghosts – a Confederate soldier in full military garb of a Commandant, and two deceased professors whose bodies were cremated and their ashes scattered across the campus.

Following college football as closely as I do, I am surprised to find there has not been a reported sighting of the ghost of the legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. If anyone happens to come across him, please let me know. There are a hundred plus football coaches that would like to pick his brain for game day strategy. Perhaps that is how Nick Saban is such an amazingly winning coach – is he channeling the Bear? Maybe there’s a Crimson Ouija Board in the field house? (see previous articles on ouija boards)

Whether you love Bama or hate Bama, one thing is clear – even death can’t stop Bama faculty, or students from hanging around campus for their Crimson Tide.

 

Haunted Halls of Queens University

Another spooky tale. This time let’s study the school spirits haunting Queens University in Charlotte, NC.

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The past few years I had opportunities to visit college campuses across the southern United States as my oldest son looked for his “home” for the next four (at least) years. I adore the older campuses with the weathered brick buildings and towering tree-lined quads. While my son was more interested in the sports teams and what his social life would be like, I soaked up the atmosphere and listened to tour guides regale us with the school’s history. Sometimes that included a ghost story or two. Now, being so inclined to cling to every word of a ghost tale, it got me to thinking – universities have some of the best ghost stories and those stories should be told to a much wider audience. So…I decided to dedicate at least one article an issue to haunted universities. Let’s face it – what college over two years old doesn’t have some rumored paranormal activity?

Queens University was founded in 1957 in the heart of Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a small campus that you may miss driving by if you blink. But it is prestigious and a bit pricey. Initially, it was established as the Charlotte Female Institute            and then changed to the Seminary for Girls from 1891-1896. The university then merged with the Presbyterian Female College. In 1912, the new college moved to its current location in the Myers Park neighborhood. After World War II, the college admitted its first male students.

Long before Queens University was founded and much earlier than its move to its current location, the land experienced events that scarred it and led to tales of Civil War ghost battles playing out in the student courtyard at the center of campus. Students have reported blood-chilling screams and sounds of gunfire out on the courtyard and at Burwell Residence Hall.

Checking into the history of the land, there were no reported battles fought at the site. However, two facts support the claim of possible Civil War ghosts haunting the campus. First, the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, fled to the area when the Confederate capital of Richmond was overtaken by the Union army. Second, the Confederate Naval Yard was moved from Portsmouth, Virginia to Charlotte in 1862. Either incident could account for the ghost soldiers.

Due to no actual reported fighting on the land, I sought to verify the claims by asking some current students, who wish to remain anonymous. Most have never been in the campus courtyard after midnight and thus had not heard any ghost battle noises. However, one enterprising young man, did venture out there after my inquiry. Although he did not see anything, he did hear muffled yells. Whether this was rebel soldiers re-enacting their grisly deaths or real people off in the distance, he refused to speculate. But he also said he would not be going out to the courtyard after midnight ever again. There have been enough reports of the phenomenon to grant it some credence so we won’t rule out the possibility of Civil War ghosts in the courtyard just yet.

Some past students at Queens University have reported seeing a dark apparition of a man hanging from a tree in the courtyard. Initially, this was attributed to the Civil War era as well. New information contradicts the timing though. As most of the other ghost stories of the college, it revealed that a student hung himself. Since the school was not co-ed until after World War II, his death – and subsequent ghost – would not be connected to the war.

Aside from the “ghosts with a rebel yell”, Queens is plagued with ghosts of suicide victims. The most frightening haunt being a young woman who slit her wrists in the Albright Residence Hall in the 1800s. Rumor has it that she was humiliated and distraught after her family discovered she was having an affair with another woman. Being the time period, that behavior was more than frowned upon so the family wasn’t quite understanding of the situation. The poor woman killed herself in her dorm room. There have been reports of loud knocking sounds inside the walls of that particular room and the door flies open of its own accord. It is even said that the lover’s name, Julie, appears on the wall above the bed as if written in blood.

Another chilling ghost tale of Queens University residence halls involves Room 303 of Hall Brown (also known as Overcash Hall). A student woke up during the night to see her roommate slumped over the desk. She tried to wake the girl only to realize her roommate was actually still in her bed. The figure at the desk sat up, looked at the girl, and promptly vanished when the resident screamed.

In the Belk Residence hall, a student was shaken awake. When she looked around the room, the desk was violently vibrating back and forth. It stopped when she got out of bed to check. About an hour later, the same shaking disturbed her sleep again. The student did what any self-respecting person would do – she made to run out the door. But this prankster ghost had other plans. The woman stared in shock as the door locked by itself. Then the face of a young girl manifested on the closet door. Three years later, another student reported seeing an apparition of a girl peeking out from the same closet door.

Wallace Residence Hall also has reports of strange things happening in a particular dorm room, including banging sounds and cold spots. However, to prevent students being scared of their room assignments, the room number has been kept secret.

It’s not just the dorm rooms at Queens University that house ghosts. Students often go to practice their musical performances in the Suzanne Little Rehearsal Hall underneath Dana Auditorium. Many have reported seeing a well-dressed ghost lady pass them and then vanish.

Queens University has a long history of paranormal experiences, easily making it one of the most haunted places in North Carolina. If you visit the Queen’s City of Charlotte, be sure to take a tour, especially if you have a child looking for a fabulous university and you don’t mind forking out over $32,000 a year. The student guides won’t unveil all the ghostly secrets of the university, but feel free to ask any students roaming the courtyard. Just make sure those students are corporeal.