University of Delaware – Historically Haunted?

Nearly every college and university can claim a ghost story or two, but if even half its stories are true, the University of Delaware is among the most haunted in the country.

The University of Delaware opened in 1834 as Newark College and has undergone dramatic expansion in the intervening 186 years. It was established by Presbyterians under the auspices of the Academy of Newark, a school which graduated three signers of the Declaration of Independence. It became Delaware College in 1843 and the University of Delaware in 1921. Twenty-four years later, it merged with the Women’s College of Delaware to become a fully coeducational institution. Each change not only expanded its campus and enlarged enrollment, but cultivated stories and legends as well.

Take, for instance, the legend of the “Kissing Arches.” Storytellers say that when the Women’s College of Delaware opened on an adjoining campus in 1914, brick archways near Memorial Hall separated the two campuses. Young lovers rendezvoused under the arches before returning to their respective schools, and to this day, couples that kiss five times beneath the arches will be blessed with marriage.

It’s a romantic tale born from this unique relationship between the formerly distinct colleges, however, a university archivist told UDaily that men were always allowed to escort their dates back to the women’s campus. If they stopped to make out under the arches, it was by choice.

It’s the ghost stories, however, that have most captured students’ imaginations, and the University of Delaware has more than its share. Reportedly haunted locations include the Academy Building, Old College, Mitchell Hall, Smyth Hall, Memorial Hall, Recitation Hall, and Christiana Tower East to name a few.

The Academy Building at 105 East Main Street replaced a Colonial Era structure in 1841 and was originally part of Newark Academy. The University of Delaware acquired it in 1976 and today it is home to the Office of Communications and Marketing. Appropriately, this building is rumored to be home to the college’s oldest legend.

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Drink with the Ghost of Poe at the Historic Deer Park Tavern

Deer Park Tavern not only shares the physical location of the old St. Patrick’s Inn, many patrons and staff insist it shares something of the metaphysical as well.

Deer Park Tavern, 108 W Main Street in Newark, Delaware, towers above the intersection of W Main Street and London Avenue at the northwest edge of the University of Delaware campus. For nearly 170 years, it has been at the social center of Newark, but the location’s history goes back even farther. The current red-brick, ‘U-shaped’ building sits near the site of St. Patrick’s Inn, which was built circa 1747 and hosted storied figures including Edgar Allan Poe. Many patrons and staff believe a few of their spirits remained behind, even after the original structure disappeared.

Some sources say St. Patrick’s Inn was built as early as 1743, but historians disagree. A man named John Pritchard owned it in 1750, and it was sometimes referred to as “Pritchard’s Hotel”. The hotel was a hot spot for travelers in the Colonial days, and it even (supposedly) quartered George Washington. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon based their operations out of the hotel while surveying the boundary line between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware between 1763 and 1767. The “Mason–Dixon line” later became famous as shorthand for the border between slave states and free states.

But St. Patrick’s Inn is most famous for playing host to legendary Dark Romantic poet and storyteller Edgar Allan Poe. On December 23, 1843, Poe gave a lecture at the Newark Academy and spent the night at St. Patrick’s. According to legend, upon returning to the inn, he tripped while exiting his carriage and fell in the mud. “A curse upon this place!” he said. “All who enter shall have to return!” Onlookers were so amused they carried him inside. Later, it was said Poe either wrote or was inspired to write his famous poem “The Raven” while staying there. Poe spent another week lecturing on poetry at Newark Academy in 1849, shortly before his death.

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