School ‘Spirit’: The Top 10 Haunted Campuses in the U.S.

You never know where you’ll find inspiration for your next campus marketing initiative. Here is a list of campuses I think make up America’s “most haunted.”

Dooley on Campus - Photo Source: Emory Univ
Dooley on Campus - Photo Source: Emory Univ

Emory University (Atlanta, GA) – “Dooley” is a skeletal ghost that haunts Emory and has become the known as the “Spirit of Emory.” The story of the skeleton that sat in a science lab after the turn of the century is a fascinating one (watch it here). During “Dooley’s Week” each spring, Dooley roams the campus with bodyguards who speak for him. Tradition has it that if Dooley enters your class and squirts your professor with water, class must be let out immediately.

Huntingdon College (Montgomery, AL) – This college perpetuates the formula for ghost lore with another young lass killing herself on campus. “The Red Lady of Pratt” was a shy student named Martha whose father forced her to attend college there against her will. Martha reportedly was an awkward girl who couldn’t make friends and was often mocked and shunned for her obsession with the color red. Apparently, she decorated her room in red and dressed in red constantly. Legend holds that she slit her wrists in her room while dressed in a red robe. Students have reported brief encounters with a young woman dressed in red inexplicably vanishing through closed doors. Some say they have felt bursts of cold air pushing through rooms where students were being teased by their peers.

Keene State College (Keene, NH) – No haunting is complete without a wheelchair. Former Board of Education employee Harriet Huntress is said to haunt a former girls-only residence hall that is named after her. Students often tell of strange noises, like scrapes and rolling sounds, coming from the building’s attic, where the wheelchair Huntress used later in life remains today. Local paranormal investigators have conducted field reports on the site, and the building was recently featured on the Travel Channel.

Haunted area of Williams Hall - Photo Source: Pantagraph
Haunted area of Williams Hall - Photo Source: Pantagraph

Illinois State University (Normal, IL) – The library at Williams Hall was used as a temporary holding place for older books that were not needed or referenced very often. The space is said to be haunted by the ghost of Angie Milner, the school’s first official librarian. Paranormal researchers have taken electronic readings in the library and have supported the theory that there are peculiar energy anomalies present. Students and researchers conducting work there have described books flying off shelves, smokey white apparitions among the aisles of the stacks, and feeling something brush up against them while they are reading.

St. Mary-of-the-Woods College (Terre Haute, IN) – This heavily wooded campus on the outskirts of Terre Haute should be a peaceful place.  However, this all-girls college gets a little crazy when sightings of a ghostly nun appear and disappear in hallways, rooms, and wooded areas on the 67-acre campus. The suspected nun-turned-ghost was apparently an avid painter who was painting a self-portrait when she passed away but had not completed the face. Legend holds that one Sister saw a fellow nun crying over the portrait and went to console her. When the crying nun turned, her face had no features and was made up of pale gray flesh. Frightening student encounters with the nun walking around campus during the day and night in period garb are still reported to this day.

Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) – Students and custodians of Hunt Hall at Bucknell University claim a ghost has been haunting the building for more than 20 years. Custodians claim the phenomena is most active during the summer months, when students are away. Custodians report tools being hidden inexplicably and lights turning off on them while they work. Witness accounts say the ghost emits a smell of strange perfume and speak of radios turning off and on by themselves. One student described an invisible body filling a dress hanging on the back of her door and an unplugged phone ringing on its own. No one has identified the ghost or ghosts, but most rumors tie the activity to students meeting untimely deaths.

The Theta Phi Alpha sorority house. Photo source TPA.
The Theta Phi Alpha sorority house. Photo source TPA.

University of Dayton (Dayton, OH) - The Theta Phi Alpha sorority house is believed to hide the ghost of an older man who flat out terrifies female students. Residents at the house allege having their personal items go missing only to be found in totally bizarre locations (like the refrigerator). Female students constantly report feelings that they are being watched, experience an unusual loss in physical energy, and feel random, contained cold spots as they walk around.

Eastern Illinois University (Charleston, IL) – Pemberton Hall is said to be haunted by a woman who, in the early 1900s, was tragically assaulted and murdered by a deranged janitor while she was playing piano on the fourth floor. The steps she crawled down to search for help before she died have an eerie feeling to them today. Students report sounds of her scratching and thumping on the stairs and the piano quietly playing on the now closed-off fourth floor. The school counselor who discovered the body was tormented for a long time by sightings of the murdered girl pacing the hallways and subsequently had to be institutionalized.

Ohio University (Athens, OH) – This is the oldest public institution in Ohio, so it’s no surprise that stories of haunting circulate there. Various legends of suicide, apparitions, and poltergeist activity flow from the school and are well known to students. Though no county records show suicide reports, it doesn’t stop the stories from living on. One of the scariest places on campus is room 428 of Wilson Hall. The room has apparently been closed off ever since a girl allegedly died there while dabbling in the occult. Students say they have experienced sightings of the girl around the building and images of a demonic face appearing in the wood grain of the door to that room. 

University of Wisconsin Whitewater (Whitewater, WI) – In the 1890s, the Morris Pratt Institute was established as the only Spiritualist college in the nation. The building housed a room for séances and other pagan rituals. Townspeople were less than amused and referred to the building as “the Spook Temple.”  The original structure has been torn down, but that hasn’t stopped rumors from flying about Wells Hall that presently stands in its place. Alleged bizarre accidents and deaths envelop the campus, including a recent freakish story of a student falling from an eighth-floor dorm window in a bizarre fashion. Other fascinating rumors regarding Whitewater revolve around secret literature locked within the university’s library. Apparently, the contents of a certain book held there are so disturbing that three college students killed themselves after reading it.

Recommended reading. Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses by Elizabeth Tucker

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About Jason Bakker

Jason Bakker is a native Minnesotan and has been working in the area of youth marketing for nearly a decade. He currently works with Minneapolis based Campus Media Group as the Director of Marketing and is responsible for following trends in the ever-changing landscape of youth culture and media usage, and for consulting advertising agency and national brand professionals on how to develop integrated marketing programs that reach college youth.

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