Mysterious America

Southern Illinois University’s Spectral Alumni

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois has had a long and colorful history. Its mascot, the Saluki, is an ancient Egyptian dog breed and a salute to the region of southern Illinois called “Little Egypt.” Nearly every campus building is said to be haunted, from the lost girl of Faner Hall to the ghost of “Henry” in Shryock Auditorium. The campus even boasts a labyrinth of underground tunnels.

Southern Illinois University was founded in 1869 as Southern Illinois Normal College, and its cornerstone was laid on May 17, 1870. Originally a small teacher’s college, the university grew to over 23,000 students by 1980. Enrollment has remained relatively consistent ever since.

While noted as a research institution, SIU has also been popularly known as a “party school.” During the late 1990s, Halloween celebrations broke out into riots, forcing the University to close its campus on Halloween weekend.

A 15-year-long city ordinance that prevented three popular bars on Carbondale’s main strip from doing business on Halloween and the following weekend was finally lifted for a one year trial period in 2013.

Wheeler Hall, Faner Hall, Anthony Hall, Shryock Auditorium, and Mae Smith Residence Hall are all home to macabre tales.

Scott Thorne, owner of Castle Perilous Games, told author Bruce Cline that Wheeler Hall has been the scene of poltergeist activity. According to Thorne, a popular legend maintains that a woman working in the hall late at night was disturbed by chairs thrown by unseen hands.

Faner Hall is one of the strangest buildings on campus. Designed in Brutalist style using bare concrete, Faner opened in 1972. Its corridors are deliberately confusing in order to discourage student rioters from taking over the building. In Haunted Illinois (2004), Troy Taylor related the campus legend of a young woman who became lost in Faner’s maze-like interior and died.

Some storytellers say she fell from a window shortly after the building opened. The coed’s ghost is said to wander the halls, appearing confused and disoriented. When students approach her to help, she disappears.

One of SIU’s most famous legends is that of Henry, the ghost light of Shryock Auditorium. The $135,000 auditorium opened in 1918 and was named after then SIU President Henry William Shryock. On April 13, 1935, Shryock died suddenly just before a morning assembly. Since his death, a stage light has mysteriously turned on and off at will. Students have nicknamed it “Henry.”

There are other reports of missing items, doors opening and closing, and phantom footsteps. According to Bruce Cline, a shadowy figure has been seen near the stage and pipe organ.

The ghost of a broken-hearted resident assistant supposedly haunts Mae Smith Residence Hall. Another female ghost is said to haunt Anthony Hall. She was reportedly a secretary who died on the job. Since then, people have reported hearing the sound of fingers tapping at a typewriter and file drawers sliding open.

Finally, maintenance tunnels crisscross SIU’s campus, and they are rumored to be home to one or more students who were unfortunate enough to become trapped down there. Some parts of the tunnel system have not been visited by maintenance staff in decades. What gruesome discoveries await their return?


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