15 Haunted Colleges and Universities
Which one has the best school spirits?
Photo By: Bryn Mawr College
Photo By: University of Montevallo/Alyssa Luna Green
Photo By: Getty Images/Jeff Greenberg
Photo By: Getty Images/Patrick Smith
Photo By: Wichita State University
Photo By: Getty Images/Education Images
Photo By: Cydney Scott for Boston University Photography
Photo By: University of Northern Colorado
Photo By: The University of Alabama Strategic Communications
Photo By: The University of Oklahoma
Photo By: Flagler College
Photo By: Getty Images/Jeff Greenberg
Photo By: Hollins College
Photo By: Getty Images/Portland Press Herald
Photo By: University of Tennessee Knoxville
Bryn Mawr College
Every college and university in the US has its own distinctive history and timeline which often extends back into the colonial or Victorian era. And it’s not surprising to discover that local legends and even ghost stories often become part of the school’s colorful backstory along with the official public record. A perfect example is Bryn Mawr College which was founded in 1885 and became an influential national advocate for the advancement of women. Emily Balch, the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, is one of their graduates. Lesser known are stories about the oldest dorm on campus, Merion (pictured), which is said to be haunted by Lillian Vickers, a student who died in a fire in 1901. Even today students talk about doors opening and closing on their own, mysterious noises and unexplained power outages. Is that you Lillian?
University of Montevallo
Like Bryn Mawr, University of Montevallo was originally dedicated to promoting educational opportunities for women when it was first founded in 1896 as the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School. In 1956 the university became co-ed and today it is famous for College Night, a tradition that began in 1919. The annual three-day event in mid-February culminates in the performance of original one-act musicals by competing teams. Montevallo also celebrates their spooky past occasionally with ghost walks that honor local legends like Condie Cunningham, a 1908 student who accidentally set her nightgown on fire while making hot chocolate. She died from the burns and supposedly haunts Main Hall (pictured). Sightings of a ghost covered in flames and the sound of a screaming woman running through the halls at night are part of the story's ethos.
College of Charleston
Charleston is world famous for its history, culture and cuisine but it has also suffered losses during the Civil War and weathered hurricanes and an earthquake in 1886. The South Carolina seaport has its share of haunted places too such as the William Harrel House at 12 Glebe Street (pictured) which was built in 1855, purchased by the College of Charleston in 1966 and renovated as a guesthouse. Since then, some visitors have reported seeing a tall, well-dressed man at the foot of their bed, trying to speak to them. Maybe that renovation wasn’t such a good idea.
Penn State University
Penn State University is well known for a lot of things such as its famous mascot the Nittany Lion, their impressive football venue Beaver Stadium and THON, the largest student run philanthropy on the planet. It also has an abundance of ghost lore and some of the most haunted spots on campus are the Schwab Auditorium (some have claimed to have seen a ghostly janitor in the wings) and the Pattee Library (pictured), where various students have been freaked out by the unsettling atmosphere in the basement stacks. Some paranormal researchers suspect that the negative energy is related to the unsolved 1969 murder of a graduate student in the library basement.
Wichita State University
Since first opening its doors in 1895, Wichita State University has grown from a small Christian college into a large state university where education, public health and mechanical engineering are the most popular areas of study. What you probably don’t know is that some of the most haunted places in Wichita are on this campus. Henrion Hall, the former school gymnasium which is now a studio space for art majors, is supposedly haunted by the ghost of an electrician killed on the job in the mid-1950s. Fiske Hall (pictured), the oldest building on campus, was once an infirmary during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and is of interest to ghost hunters because of the effect it has on their electromagnetic field detectors. Do the readings indicate spirits or is it just dust and humidity?
University of Wisconsin at Madison
The oldest and largest public university in the state, UW-Madison was founded in 1848 and is renowned for its picturesque setting on the shores of Lake Mendota. Aviator Charles Lindbergh, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and playwright Lorraine Hansberry are among its famous graduates and the campus contains four national historic landmarks, one of which is Science Hall. The original building was destroyed by a fire in 1884 and its 1887 replacement has become a popular stop on local ghost walks because of the spooky legends that surround it. Reports of strange creaks, groans and what sounds like footsteps walking behind you could be attributed to the building’s noisy ventilation system. Or maybe it is haunted by the spirits of cadavers that used to be housed in Science Hall for the UW Anatomy Department.
If you’re looking for a college that can name-check numerous celebrities and public figures among its alumni, Boston University is high on that list. Nobel Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr., singer Joan Baez and Pulitzer Prize winning historian Robert V. Bruce are just a few who studied there. The university even has its own literary ghost and it stalks the fourth floor of Kilachand Hall, formerly a luxury apartment/hotel known as the Sheraton Apartment Hotel which was built in 1923. Playwright Eugene O’Neill moved into the fourth floor of the hotel in 1951 and died there in 1953. Boston University bought the property in 1954 and it became Shelton Hall (pictured), a women’s dormitory. That’s when strange things started happening — unseen entities knocking on doors, an unexpected dimming of lights and elevators that stop, open and contain no occupants inside. Could it be the ghost of Eugene O’Neill?
University of Northern Colorado
Diversity is one of the hallmarks of this long respected institution in Greeley which was founded in 1890 as the State Normal School and changed its name two more times before becoming University of Northern Colorado in 1970. Both the Marcus Garvey Center for Black Cultural Education and the Cesar Chavez Cultural Center are situated on campus and so are a few mischievous ghosts. Edith, the ghost of a former student who enjoys playing marbles, haunts both Wiebking and Wilson Hall and can sometimes be heard indulging in her favorite pastime. Turner Hall (pictured) is the playground for Stoney Ghosty who leaves phantom smells of burning marijuana and is allegedly the spirit of a student who died from a drug overdose.
The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa
The oldest public college in the state since 1831, UA at Tuscaloosa is well known for its excellence in athletics, especially the Crimson Tide, their beloved football team which has scored 27 wins in the SEC championships. The school also has a rich historical legacy which extends back to 1860 when the institution briefly became a military school, training Confederate officers for war. That might explain why the ghosts of Civil War soldiers have allegedly been sighted over the years in Woods Hall or marching along the Quad on foggy mornings. One of the most haunted places is The Gorgas Library (pictured) where the ghost of Amelia Gayle Gorgas, wife of the former university president, has been spotted by some students drifting around the fourth floor, overseeing the book shelves.
The University of Oklahoma
Situated in Norman, the University of Oklahoma was founded in 1890 and has grown since that time into an institution with 21 different schools offering more than 170 different majors, everything from meteorology to international business to Native American Studies. The campus has a fascinating history and paranormal investigators are particularly interested in Ellison Hall (pictured), a former infirmary which is now home to the College of Arts and Sciences. After-hours reports of noises coming from empty halls and knocks on walls and doors are not uncommon but the most famous legend involves the ghost of a roller skating boy who allegedly died in the infirmary. Occasionally the university offers ghosts tours that delve into their most famous hauntings.
Housing accommodations for many undergraduate students usually means small, cramped quarters in cinderblock buildings painted in drab institutional colors. But not at Flagler College, which was once the opulent Hotel Ponce de Leon, a Spanish Renaissance wonder built in 1887 in St. Augustine, Florida. Female students get to reside in Ponce Hall (pictured), which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of the college founder Henry Flager and his second wife Ida Alicia, who went insane and was committed. Some students have claimed to have seen shadowy figures in their rooms and in other parts of the residence such as a woman dressed in black (allegedly a former mistress of Flagler) and a little boy playing on the balcony, possibly the victim of a tragic fall.
Known as the sixth oldest college in America and the first to educate women, Moravian College was founded in 1742 as the Bethlehem Female Seminary, the first boarding school for young women. It later merged with two boys’ schools, Theological Seminary and Moravian College, eventually adopting the latter name in 1954. Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the liberal arts college survived the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and it has the ghosts to prove it. The Brethren’s House (pictured), which is home to the school’s music department, was once used as a makeshift hospital during the Revolutionary War. Various paranormal incidents have occurred here over the years with students claiming to hear the sounds of gurneys rolling up and down the halls as well as sightings of spectral nurses and soldiers.
Although Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia was originally established in 1842 as a co-educational school known as Valley Union Seminary, it became an exclusive all-girls institution in 1852 and is well known today for its liberal arts curriculum which offers graduate programs in dance, creative writing, children’s literature and film studies. Hollins graduate Margee Kerr wrote a book entitled Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear which refers to her former alma matter as a haunted place. Most of the stories involve Presser Hall (pictured), the music department, where some students have experienced being locked in practice rooms, seeing chairs move across the floor and hearing phantom music at night.
Chartered in 1794 in Brunswick, Maine’s oldest college first opened its doors in 1802 and can count such famous historic figures among its alumni as poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary. Just as famous as some of their graduates are the ghost stories that surround some of the older buildings on the Bowdoin College campus such as Adams Hall, which in the 1920s served as the medical school and housed cadavers in the basement for anatomy classes. Students and Bowdoin employees have reported seeing unsettling apparitions in the building over the years and a former custodian even reported being pushed down the stairs by an unseen entity. Ghost walk tours of the campus also include stops at Hubbard Hall, the site of various hauntings, and the Searles Science Building (pictured), where some visitors have reported the presence of something unseen walking behind them in the long hallways.
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
What do NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., singer Dolly Parton and NASA astronaut Henry Hartsfield Jr. all have in common? They are all alumni of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, which was first founded in 1794 as Blount College. Today the university is well known for its football team — the UT Volunteers — Smokey, the blue tick coonhound mascot and their Department of Nuclear Engineering which has turned out the most PhD graduates in US history. Equally celebrated on the campus are some of the reputed ghosts which haunt certain buildings. The Hoskins Library experiences visitations from a playful ghost known as Evening Primrose who enjoys knocking books off shelves. And Strong Hall (photo courtesy of the UT Archives) is rumored to be haunted by the woman it was named after, Sophronia Strong. She died in 1867 but her spirit likes to sometimes appear before random students or as strange hovering lights in the hallways.