Ghost stories haunt nation’s campuses

By Janet

College Press Exchange
Almost every campus has its ghost story, and most stories are full of enough chilling details to send tingles up the spine.
At Huntington College in Montgomery, Ala., the “Red Lady” is said to roam the corridors of Pratt Hall. The “Red Lady” was so obsessed with the color red that she decorated her room in a red carpet, curtains and bedspread. She wore red clothes, a dormitory employee said. She’s never seen the ghost, she said, but has heard stories about her.
“They say she couldn’t keep a roommate because she was so weird,” the employee, who asked not to be named, explained.
Finally, the frazzled freshman felt so rejected that she slashed her wrists in her red room. Her blood poured red onto the crimson carpet and ran beneath the door into the hall.
Years later, students occasionally say they see her or flashes of red shimmering in the hall. Or so the story goes.
At Indiana State University, the resident ghost is heard, but not seen, faculty members and students say. “We have a barfing ghost,” said English professor Ronald Baker.
In Burford Hall, a girls’ dormitory, residents claim to hear someone throwing up when there’s no one there. “First, they hear somebody vomiting, a toilet flushing, then hideous laughter.”
Often the ghost stories involve stressed-out students who suddenly ended their lives. “There’s a building on campus where they say a woman hanged herself,” said senior Adam Miller at the University of Florida in Tallahassee. “It happened 20 or 30 years ago, and supposedly she’s still there and wanders around.”
Simon Bronner, a folklore professor at Penn State University in Harrisburg, lists a number of resident campus ghosts in his book, “Piled Higher and Deeper: The Folklore of Student Life.” A tour of his crew of specters includes:
ù Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. There a ghost student and her lover, a Confederate soldier, haunt Senior Hall, where the two supposedly met.
ù The University of North Alabama. Around exam time, the ghost of a young woman named Priscilla, who killed herself over failing grades, wanders an old dorm.
ù Oberlin College. The apparition of a student who killed herself during finals can be heard sobbing and has been spotted peering through a dorm window, pleading for help.
ù The University of California at Berkeley. A ghostly woman with long, diamond-painted fingernails taps on the roofs of parked cars at nearby Tilden Park. Her daughter was raped there, and she is trying to warn other young women.
ù Michigan State University. The ghost of 17-year-old James Egbert, a computer genius who committed suicide, is said to haunt Holmes Hall.
On most campuses, ghost stories are easier to uncover than actual witnesses to the apparitions. But banquet manager Luis Cutolo insists he has had run-ins with UC-Berkeley’s Faculty Club ghost. “I can honestly tell you that sometimes you hear noises,” he said.
Once Cutolo left a darkened room and locked it, but when he returned the light had been turned on. “I was the only person with the key,” he said. The Faculty Club has a long history. Built in 1903 for male faculty members who wanted to avoid the commute to San Francisco, each of the 24 rooms was once occupied by a different professor, each now deceased, explained Cutolo.
Since the club has been converted into a hotel, maids and guests have claimed it is haunted. A professor visiting from Japan reportedly woke in the middle of the night and sensed he was being watched, said Cutolo. “He saw a shadow sitting next to the fireplace watching him. At one point, the shadow’s head separated from its body and came flying toward the man. The visiting professor screamed and came running out of the room,” he said.
Still, Cutolo said the club’s invisible long-term boarders demonstrate how great the place is. “The professors loved this place so much that even in eternity they come to visit us,” he said.
But it’s hard to convince Bella Scheiber than any of the campus ghost stories are the real McCoy. He’s the founder of the Boulder, Colo.-based organization, the Rocky Mountain Skeptics. There are no such things as ghosts and goblins, ESP or (sorry, X-Files fans) outer-space aliens, they say.
He offers alternative explanations to campus ghosts. Students who think they see and hear bizarre things probably are either studying to hard or partying too hard, he suggests. “I know what it’s like to go 24 hours without sleep from my days at CU-Boulder. You start seeing things.”
Or maybe students just want to make-believe, suggests Scheiber. “Ghosts are wonderful because they’re forever,” he said. “They satisfy our need for mystery and immortality. People just like to think there’s something more to life than making a living or taking tests.”