Student Housing Comes with Ghosts at Illinois Wesleyan University

Photo by Michael Kleen

Several restless spirits are believed to play host at two residence halls and one fraternity house.

Click to expand photos

A group of 30 civic and religious leaders founded Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in 1850, and construction began six years later. The United Methodist Church partially supports it, but its administration is secular. Its students, primarily focused on the liberal arts, believe several buildings (both on and off campus) are haunted. Fitting, since the university’s namesake, theologian John Wesley, held a strong belief in ghosts after experiencing poltergeist activity in his childhood home.

Bucking traditional dorms, Illinois Wesleyan University has repurposed several local homes to use as student housing. When the lights are low and leaves turn shades of orange and yellow, students whisper that they may share International House and Adams Hall with specters of long-deceased residents.

Also known as Kemp Hall, International House (I-House), at 1207 N. Main Street, was built by A.E. DeMange and his wife in 1907. A few years later, following his wife’s death, DeMange sold the classical revival building to the university. Ever since, students say the house is haunted by a “lady in red”: Mrs. DeMange herself. On certain nights, she is said to appear in a large mirror.

Adams Hall, at 1401 N. Main Street at the corner of Beecher and Main, is thought to be home to three ghosts, each named Frances. One is a middle-aged woman who died in a carriage accident, the other a young girl, and the third and old lady. The sound of footsteps and a rocking chair have been heard. On another occasion, residents heard incessant ringing throughout the hall, even after they disconnected all the phones.

Located on East Chestnut Street in the quiet neighborhood of Franklin Park, a fraternity house used by students at Illinois Wesleyan University is home to one macabre tale. Now occupied by Phi Mu Alpha (a music fraternity), a local doctor and his wife built this home in 1898.

According to legend, their daughter fell in love with a sailor and became pregnant. Her father attempted to abort the pregnancy himself, but she died in the operation. He dismembered her body and lowered the pieces into the basement, where he buried them. In 1971, a student claimed to see her ghost in his bedroom on several occasions. She was wearing a white veil. Others have seen her apparition sitting on the couch. Eyewitnesses never describe these encounters as threatening.

In the basement, bricks placed over where her body was allegedly buried continue to “sink,” no matter how many times they are replaced and the depression is filled with new soil. According to research done by Anna Deters, the original owner of the home was a physician who did in fact have a daughter, but she married in 1903 and had several children of her own.

Whether it be the classic haunting at International House, or the ghastly legend told at Phi Mu Alpha, John Wesley’s belief in ghosts and the spirit world is alive and well at Illinois Wesleyan University. These tales help create a sense of place that endears students to their alma mater.


Further Reading

  • Anna Deters, “Campus Haunts,” Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine (Winter 2003).
  • Southall, Richard. Haunted Route 66: Ghosts of America’s Legendary Highway. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2013.
  • Senger, Deborah Carr. Haunted Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2016.
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Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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