Mount St. Mary’s is a private Catholic university outside Emmitsburg, Maryland in the Catoctin Mountains. It is a small school on a 1,400 acre campus, with a little more than 1,700 undergraduates. It has a storied history, with a legendary foundation.
In 1805, a French priest named Father John DuBois saw a light in the hills as he passed between Frederick and Emmitsburg. It was growing dark, so he traveled toward the light, thinking it was a farmhouse. Exhausted, he laid down for the night beneath a large oak tree. When he woke up, he saw he was in a beautiful spot in the Catoctin Mountains. Local Catholics called it “St. Mary’s Mountain,” so it seemed an ideal place for a church.
DuBois also established a school, which grew into a seminary. Father Simon Bruté became a teacher there in 1812. The university was officially founded in 1830, and it doubled as a boarding school until the early 1900s. Bradley Hall is a remnant of those boarding school days. Not far from where Father DuBois erected his church, he also created a small shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is now known as the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, with extensive gardens and statuary.
Some visitors claim to have seen an apparition of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton wandering the grounds and gardens. She founded the Sisters of Charity and was the first native born U.S. citizen to be canonized as a saint. She also founded Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School for girls, the first free Catholic parochial school in the United States, a few miles from Mount St. Mary’s in 1809. The two schools have since merged.
Rockford, Illinois’ first college, established before the city was even chartered, was Rockford Female Seminary. Jane Addams, who would go on to fame as a social reformer and co-founder of Chicago’s Hull House, was a graduate of the seminary in 1881. In 1892 RFS became known as Rockford College, which remained a predominately female academy until 1958.
In 1964 the campus was moved from its home along the river to its present location along State Street. It changed its name to Rockford University in 2014.
While rich in history, Rockford University is also rich in ghostlore and the origin of a wide variety of alleged haunts. No less than three buildings are said to be home to restless spirits, along with one memorial arch, which was built using materials from the original Rock River campus.
Blanche Walker Burpee Center, Adams Arch, and the Clark Arts Center run the gambit of ghostly phenomenon, from disembodied voices, to moving objects, to phantom reflections, and a whole host of other unexplained things.
Out of all of the buildings at Rockford University, the Clark Arts Center, which contains both Cheek and Maddox theaters, is thought to be the most haunted. Ancient frescos depicting figures in various stages of celebration, often playing instruments, line the hall outside Maddox Theatre. Their cherubic faces, it has been said, change expressions and even watch the audience as the guests filter in for a performance.
Founded in 1857 and originally a teacher’s college, Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois is currently home to around 23,000 students and faculty, as well as one tenacious ghost. This ghost is said to be that of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. As head librarian for 37 years, she was so beloved by the school that Illinois State University named its library after her.
Angeline Vernon Milner was born on April 9, 1856 in Bloomington. By all accounts, she seemed to be destined for the work which would become her legacy. According to Charles W. Perry, who assisted the famed librarian for several years and wrote her biography, she learned how to read before she was four-years-old.
Ange began her fated job at the university library on February 1, 1890, and the Normal School Board was so impressed with her skill and dedication that they appointed her as the sole and head librarian in the fall of that same year.
“Aunt Ange,” as the students called her, died in 1928. According to legend, she collapsed while organizing a section of biology books. She was buried in Bloomington’s Evergreen Cemetery, but for whatever reason did not have a headstone until a short time ago. In April 2006, former Governor Rod Blagojevich, along with Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, issued dual proclamations declaring April 10th “Angie Milner Day.”
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.
Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico is the oldest public university in New Mexico. With a student enrollment of around 18,400, it is also the second largest four-year university in the state. The university is known for its extensive collections and research. Not to be confused with Zuul, demigod and gatekeeper of Gozer, “The Destructor,” the Zuhl Library and Museum at NMSU is named after benefactors Herb and Joan Zuhl. The Zuhl Museum is home to a world-class collection of ancient fossils. The university itself is rumored to be home to a number of phantoms. Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center, Goddard Hall, and the former Hershel Zohn Theatre are all believed to be haunted.
The ghost of a laundress, or at least that of a young woman who is helpful with the laundry, is said to inhabit the laundry room at Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center. Students say she was either a student who committed suicide or who died after falling down the stairs. Regardless, she has been accused of folding laundry while students are away. Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center was built in 1955 and named after Eugene Manlove Rhodes and Elizabeth Garrett, both authors, and longtime NMSU secretary Flora Hamiel. According to another legend, which may be transplanted from Goddard Hall, a student either hung himself or jumped from the bell tower over the Garrett Building.
“As soon as I moved into RGH, I was told by other students that it was haunted,” a freshmen named Neysla Cisneros told The Merge in 2012. “At first I was really scared to live here, but after a while I just got used to it.” Another freshman student told the publication, “I do not know who exactly haunts RGH or if there really even is a ghost, but one of my friends that lives here said his closet door would open and close on its own at night.”
Founded in 1885, the University of Arizona is the oldest university in Arizona, predating the state itself by 27 years. It is a large school with a total enrollment of around 40,000 students and is known for its research in astronomy. The aesthetically appealing campus occupies 380 acres in the heart of Tucson, Arizona. While attending class and strolling its park-like paths and sidewalks, students have occasionally reported startling encounters with the unknown. Although scientific pursuits have led many to dismiss these sightings, rumors of ghosts in several campus buildings persist. Old Main, Maricopa Hall, and Centennial Hall are just the most prominent places believed to be haunted.
Built in the late-1880s when the University of Arizona was known as Territorial University of Arizona College of Mines, Old Main is the oldest building on campus. It is rumored to be haunted by Carlos Maldenado, who supervised its construction and lived in Tucson from 1841 until his murder in 1888. One dark night, startled construction workers found Maldenado sitting in a chair in the unfinished building with a large buffalo skinners knife sticking out of his throat. It was believed that he had been murdered by locals angry over Tucson losing its position as territorial capitol in favor of becoming home to the college. The historic building fell out of use in the early 1900s and was in serious need of repair when the United States War Department took it over to train officers at the outbreak of World War 2.
During renovation in the winter of 1941/42, construction workers began to report strange experiences. Since then, Maldenado’s ghost, described as a shadowy figure, has been spotted around the building by students and faculty. While working on more repairs to Old Main in 2013, Sundt Construction foreman Tomás Avilez told University of Arizona News that he had twice seen Maldenado’s ghost. “He doesn’t stand still long enough to take a picture,” he said. “He kind of hides. I’m not afraid of him, because I’m not afraid of stuff like that, but if you sit in the attic long enough, he might appear.”
Michael Kleen earned a M.A. in History from Eastern Illinois University in 2008 and a M.S. in Education from Western Illinois University in 2011. He is the author of several books, including Haunting Illinois, Tales of Coles County, Six Tales of Terror, and Paranormal Illinois. Michael has spoken about local history and folklore at conventions, libraries, cafes, schools, and colleges; and he has presented research papers at the 2007, 2010, and 2011 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. His latest book, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities, was released last month.
How did you come up with the concept for Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities? What makes this book different from other books about haunted places in Illinois?
I have always enjoyed college lore. Both of my alma maters, Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University, had their own ghostlore. WIU was remarkable for the sheer number of alleged hauntings, but EIU is the setting for one of the most well-known ghost stories in Illinois: the legend of Mary Hawkins at Pemberton Hall. I had personal experience with a number of the schools in the book, whether through friends or relatives. So last year, when I was thinking about what to write next, it occurred to me that no one had ever attempted to write a book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore. I decided to dive into my love of collegiate life and make that a reality.
There are a lot of books of ghost stories out there that simply tell the tales without going into much detail. For the main chapters in the book, I did in-depth research and really fleshed out the legends and lore, citing all of my sources in the process. In some cases, I attempted to uncover the origin of the legends. In other cases, I showed how the ghost stories were similar to stories told at other colleges and universities. In the first chapter, I discuss how and why these types of tales flourish at colleges and universities, and why students are so attracted to them. In the second chapter, I focus on types of buildings common to college campuses and give examples of ghost stories set at those locations throughout Illinois. To my knowledge, there are no other books on Illinois ghostlore organized this way.
What are some of the colleges and universities discussed in the book?
To begin with, the book includes chapters on Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Rockford University, and Southern Illinois University, and stories from nine other colleges throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area, including the University of Illinois, Millikin University, Illinois College, and Loyola University Chicago. Nearly every college and university has a ghost story or two, but I tried to include substantive stories that would keep readers interested. Strangely, I’ve never been able to find any ghost stories at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, so maybe that is the exception.
This is it — the print edition Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities by Michael Kleen is now available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com! Just in time for the fall, you can own a copy of the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college folklore and ghost stories. Published by Crossroad Press, Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities is 166 pages and retails for $12.99. The book includes in depth chapters on Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Rockford University, and Southern Illinois University, and stories from nine other colleges throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area, with 24 high-quality photos. More than just a collection of tales, this book examines the how and why behind the stories. It also includes a unique look at the phenomenon of legend tripping as it relates to campus life.
On a dark and stormy night on a college campus near you, a young coed is about to make a grisly discovery… or so the legend goes. At colleges and universities across Illinois, students tell ghostly tales, from beloved librarians who refuse to go home, to sad specters suffering from a broken heart. Join Michael Kleen as he explores the history and mystery behind haunted college dorms, libraries, classrooms, theaters, and more. In this one-of-a-kind book, current and former students and faculty tell their tales of mysterious encounters at their beloved alma maters. Kleen scours every source to bring these stories to light in the first book exclusively devoted to Illinois college lore.
Why do ghost stories continue to have such an appeal on college campuses? What are the scariest stories from universities in Illinois? Is there any truth to the tales? These questions and more will be answered in Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities. With a foreword by Elizabeth Tucker, Professor of English at Binghamton University and author of Haunted Halls.
From the foreword by Elizabeth Tucker:
It is a real pleasure to contribute a foreword to Michael Kleen’s excellent book about the ghostlore of colleges and universities in the prairie state of Illinois. An expert in the folklore of Illinois, Kleen not only understands the state’s ghostlore extremely well but also loves to collect it. I can see how much he enjoys his subject matter, because I also have a long-standing passion for collecting ghost stories on college and university campuses. It is exciting to hear college students tell stories about supernatural encounters and to dig up intriguing material from campus archives. I wrote my book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses at the turn of the millennium and have been teaching courses and giving talks about folklore of the supernatural ever since. Once you start collecting ghost stories, it is not easy to stop.