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Mysterious America

The Ghost of Mary Hawkins and the Legend of Pemberton Hall

Sometimes Mary manifests herself as a prankster. Other times, she appears as a benevolent matriarch who makes sure doors are locked at night and warns “her girls” of trouble. But at all times, Mary Hawkins commands the respect and admiration of students at Eastern Illinois University, even 103 years after her death.

Jessica and Ashley sat in their dorm room, a cool autumn breeze blowing in from the window. A single lamp illuminated the room in a soft yellow glow, casting shadows of stuffed animals on the walls. Ashley sat on the floor with a tablet in her lap playing Angry Birds, her back resting against the bed. Jessica, her roommate, sat on her mattress curled in a pink Snuggie.

Without warning, a door down the hallway slammed shut, followed by the sound of something scraping across the old wooden floor. Jessica and Ashley jumped.

Ashley put down her tablet. “Oh my God, what was that?” she asked.

“Maybe it was Mary,” Jessica (or Jess for short) replied. Seeing her roommate’s puzzled expression, she continued. “You know this place is haunted, right?”

“Shut up.”

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Mysterious America

Illinois’ Haunted Colleges

Every college has its traditions, and perhaps even a ghost story or two, but the following Illinois colleges rank high on the list when it comes to eerie campus legends and tales.

The first college in Illinois, McKendree University, was established in Lebanon in 1828. Since then, over 70 private and public four-year institutions dedicated to higher education have opened throughout the state. Each has its own history and traditions, traditions that often include a ghost story or two. Some colleges seem to have more than their fair share. Millikin University, Illinois College, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, and of course, the University of Illinois are just a few of the many with eerie campus legends and tales.

Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan University was founded in Bloomington in 1850, but no buildings were constructed until six years later. Primarily focused on the liberal arts, it is partially supported by the United Methodist Church, but its administration is independent.

Several buildings on campus are believed to be haunted. International House (I-House) 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.

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Mysterious America

Illinois State University and the Enduring Legacy of Ange Milner

Founded in 1857, Illinois State University is said to be haunted by the ghost of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a beloved librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. Does she still haunt the university archives?

Jesse W. Fell, a Bloomington newspaper publisher, founded Illinois State Normal University in 1857 with the help of his friend, lawyer and legislator Abraham Lincoln, who would go on to become our sixteenth president. Originally a teacher’s college, ISNU became Illinois State University in 1968 to accommodate a broader curriculum. The university is currently home to around 23,000 students and faculty, as well as one tenacious ghost.

The ghost is said to be that of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a beloved librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. Although now often spelled Angie, Angeline is commonly abbreviated in the original French as Ange. In Charles William Perry’s 1924 biography of Miss Milner, he omitted the ‘i’ from the diminutive form of her name. As head librarian for 37 years, she was so beloved by the school that Illinois State University named its library after her.

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Mysterious America

Western Illinois University and the Ghosts of Simpkins Hall

For years, students and faculty in Western Illinois University’s Simpkins Hall have told similar stories, but the ghost of an adolescent girl is only one of the apparitions rumored to haunt the 80-year-old building.

Imagine you are a student going off to college for the first time. At home, you gave a sigh of relief as you opened your acceptance letter. Now, you are ready to put childhood behind you as you tuck your English lit textbook under your arm and enter one of the three arched doorways to Simpkins Hall, a stark, neoclassical building rising four stories with rows of windows cut along its face. Your footsteps echo in the foyer as you climb the stairwell to the first floor. Where are the other students? Florescent lights flicker on and off. Without warning, the laughter of a young child echoes down the dark corridor.

For years, students and faculty in Western Illinois University’s Simpkins Hall have told similar stories, but the ghost of an adolescent girl—so seemingly out of place—is only one of the apparitions rumored to haunt the 80-year-old building. Many other odd occurrences at the hall are attributed to “Harold,” a former janitor or graduate assistant who lurks among the classrooms on the third floor.

After classes finish for the day, the disembodied sound of keys jingling, doors opening and closing, or a typewriter clicking, rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned educator. Never-the-less, tales of encounters with the ghost of Harold and the phantom child have made believers of some, but many in this ivory tower remain skeptical.

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Saudade

A Freshman’s Lament

My first semester at EIU at the dawn of the new millennium wasn’t quite what I expected.

As a newly minted 18-year-old at Morehouse College in 1947, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

That must be why, in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, hangs a large portrait of the building’s namesake covering his forehead with one hand in a gesture of either bewilderment or exasperation.

On Orientation Day the summer before my freshman year at Eastern Illinois University, my fellow prefrosh and I nervously and excitedly shuffled into the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union ballroom to watch a video addressing our fears of dorm life and living away from home for the first time. “EIU doesn’t have dorms,” it assured us. “It has residence halls.” The freshman in the video anxiously dreamt of having a nightmare roommate, but when they finally met, they became best friends.

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Mysterious America

Twin Haunted Mansions of Marian University

Since acquiring the Allison and Wheeler-Stokely mansions, rumors persist at this Catholic university that both former estates have an active spiritual life, and not of the religious variety.

Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana was established in 1851 by the Sisters of St. Francis as St. Francis Normal in Oldenburg, Indiana. In 1936, it merged with Immaculate Conception Junior College to become Marian College. The Sisters of St. Francis purchased Riverdale, the former James A. Allison estate in Indianapolis, and moved in. Marian College officially opened on September 15, 1937. Its name changed to Marian University in 2009. Since occupying the Allison Mansion, and in 1963, the Wheeler-Stokely Mansion, rumors persist that both former estates have an active spiritual life, and not of the religious variety.

Built for automotive mogul James Asbury Allison (1872-1928) between 1911 and 1914, this Art & Crafts Country-style mansion quickly gained a reputation as a “house of wonders”. It was revolutionary at the time for integrating the latest advancements, including intercoms, automatic lighted closets, an indoor swimming pool, and even an electric elevator. Allison co-founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, co-founded the Prest-O-Lite Company, and founded the Allison Engineering Company.

Architect Herbert Bass designed the mansion’s exterior, but Allison fired him before completion and hired Philadelphia architect William Price (1861-1916) to design the interior.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenberg purchased Allison’s estate at 3200 Cold Spring Road in 1936 and moved their school there, renaming it Marian College. It served as their main administration building, library, and living quarters for decades. Allison had previously worked with the Sisters of St. Francis to open a hospital in Miami Beach, Florida. After his death in 1928, rumors spread that his ethereal form remained at his beloved Indianapolis estate, which he called “Riverdale”. 

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Mysterious America

Decades-Old Mystery Hangs Over Rush Rhees Library

At least one University of Rochester employee refuses to stay dead, according to this 88-year-old campus legend. But was he–or his accidental death–real?

Established in 1850 as an independent offshoot of Baptist-born Madison University, the University of Rochester grew to become a mid-sized research university along the Genesee River in Rochester, New York. Benjamin Rush Rhees, a Baptist minister and namesake of Rush Rhees Library, was the University of Rochester’s third president, serving from 1900 to 1935. His long and steady leadership oversaw the university’s growth into a modern institution.

Rush Rhees Library was constructed between 1927 and 1930 in neoclassical style, and its tower, which contains a carillon featuring 50 Dutch bells, stands 186 feet high. The library’s impressive collection contains over three million books, as well as beautiful neoclassical artwork and sculptures. But does something otherworldly flicker through its halls?

The ghost story at Rush Rhees Library is as old as the library itself. In 1929, during construction of the central library tower, a Sicilian immigrant and laborer named Pete Nicosia fell 150 feet to his death. James Conroy, his foreman, supposedly signed Nicosia’s death certificate and made burial arrangements, or so the legend goes. Since then, Nicosia’s disembodied spirit has materialized before bewildered and unsuspecting students.