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Campus hauntings – there’s a ghost in my house

There's a possibly concerning trend for campus hauntings, as highlighted by FOI requests and international media coverage. The truth is out there.
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

Universities can be spooky places it seems. A recent Freedom of Information request sought information from the University of Nottingham on

the number of complaints we have received from staff/students/visitors about haunted buildings, ghosts or other paranormal phenomena on our premises in the last 10 years.

He also requested to know what action was taken and how much did the action cost…

Hauntings are clearly very commonplace in the US higher education sector as this Chronicle report from a few years back noted:

At the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, locals say the Temple Building, home to the department of theater, speech, and dance, has long been the site of paranormal activity. Campus legend tells of a young carpenter who fell from the building’s attic to his death on the stage, four floors below. Students report a cold, clammy feeling at one spot on the stage, and Juliana Hagemeier, the department manager, says that people sense a similar chill at one place in the attic, even on 100-degree days.

Other reported noises, of tap dancing on the empty stage and applause from an empty balcony, could be the work of another ghost, Dallas Williams, a onetime department chairman. He was known for throwing chairs when excited or annoyed, and the sound of thrown chairs is occasionally heard in empty rooms, Ms. Hagemeier says. The eeriest happening that she experienced involves donated clothes that had been stored in a closet. She found them stuffed in nooks around the building, and some had bloodstains.

Even further afield there is a rather ropey Thai horror flick ‘Haunted Universities’ in which students confront ghostly activities at universities in Thailand. I’ve never seen it.

In the UK St Andrews, Durham, Southampton, Cambridge, Exeter and Oxford are among those listed as haunted in this Telegraph piece. It also reports that ‘Big Bertha’, the spectre of a six foot tall matron wearing a brown overall and with her hair pulled back into a bun is understood to be a familiar sight to those who live and work on one of the campuses of the University of South Wales (formerly the University of Wales Newport campus).

Meanwhile, back in the US:

In 2001, ghost hunters visited Mansfield University of Pennsylvania to investigate the legend of North Hall. Built in 1874 as a women’s dormitory, it is reportedly haunted by a ghost named Sarah. The original Sarah, a student in the late 1800s, leapt to her death from the top of a circular, six-story staircase. Photographs taken in 2001 at night were said to reveal images of a woman’s torso and a head peering around a pillar. An audiotape recorded at the same time purportedly captured a breathy voice chanting “never, never, never.”

Employees at Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland, have experienced mysterious events in a building that was once used as a clinic. The night cleaning crew has reported slamming doors and buckets that overturned for no reason. The elevators in the building frequently skip the fourth floor and open their doors without warning when people approach them. “I’m not a superstitious fellow, but our building is haunted,” says Merwyn R. Greenlick, a professor emeritus of public health. He always makes a point of saying “thank you” to any unseen passengers on the elevators.

Some final examples from the Chronicle:

  • Bryn Mawr College: M. Carey Thomas, the college’s second president, haunts the cloisters.
  • Illinois State University: Ange Milner, the university’s first librarian, patrols the book-storage stacks.
  • Illinois Wesleyan University: Three women named Frances haunt Adams Hall.
  • Kenyon College: A runner uses the track in Wertheimer Hall.
  • University of Cincinnati: A former classics professor resides in the rare-book room of Blegen Library.
  • University of Notre Dame: George Gipp, the football player, rides a white horse into Washington Hall.

So, it seems there really are some really rather spooky campuses out there. Roll on Halloween.

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