Monday, September 27, 2010

Haunted College and University Buildings of the South (Photographic Essay)

N.B. This article is currently being revamped and rewritten. As I cover the locations in this article, I'll remove the listings. These are the new versions for Alabama and Florida and Georgia.

I started this entry with the idea that it would be something I could quickly put together, but nothing in my life is quick and easy, so this turned into something far more complicated, though I hope it is enjoyable for my readers. My primary source for this entry is Daniel Barefoot's Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities, which I used heavily is the entry on the University of Tennessee campus as well. These images have come primarily from the Library of Congress, but I have supplemented these with images from Wikipedia as well which usually utilizes images in the public domain or with Creative Commons licenses.

I initially wanted to provide two buildings per state, but lack of usable images has prevented that, nor could I find any images for West Virginia.

Old Morrison Hall
Transylvania University
Lexington, Kentucky
Old Morrison serves as the centerpiece of the Transylvania University
campus and its most enduring legend. In 1819, brilliant scientist Constantine
Rafinesque joined the school's faculty but was dismissed before the end of
his tenure. As he left, Rafinesque pronounced a curse upon the University. The
scientist returned to Philadelphia where he died a pauper some years later, but
leaving a brilliant legacy of scholarly work. Old Morrison burned after Rafinesque's
dismissal but miraculously his possessions were not scorched. Thus began the rumors
of a curse which would be revisited with every tragic incident on campus. In 1924,
Rafinesque's remains were brought to the building and enshrined in a special
crypt in order to pay homage to his brilliance. Still odd occurrences and tragedies
occur in the building.  Photograph by Lester Jones, 1940, for the Historic American
Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Division.

Seminary Building
Jefferson Community and Technical College
Louisville, Kentucky

Built in 1903 as the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the
building was restored and became a part of Jefferson Community College in 1968.
Shortly after, a ghost, presumed to be that of Lucy Stites Barret, began to stir.
Mrs. Barret was the wife of James Rankin Barret who constructed this building
and dedicated it to his wife with an inscription on the fireplace in the library. Mysterious
letters have appeared inscribed with LSB, Mrs. Barret's initials and purporting to be
from the ghost. In addition, disembodied footsteps, flickering lights and a hazy
apparition of a female have been reported.  Photograph for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Mount St. Mary's University
Emmitsburg, Maryland
An 1863 photograph of unidentified buildings on the campus of
Mount St. Mary's University, the oldest independent Catholic college in
the United States. Father Simon Brute has been seen walking the campus in flowing
black robes. Courtesy of the Library
of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The Lyceum
University of Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi
The Lyceum is the heart of the campus of the University
of Mississippi and appears on the University logo. Staff and
students often hear odd sounds in this landmark structure.
During the Civil War, this building served as a hospital for
soldiers wounded in the Battle of Shiloh. Perhaps their spirits
still remain. Photograph for the Historic American Buildings Survey
(HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.

Callaway Hall
Mississippi University for Women
Columbus, Mississippi
An early 20th century postcard showing the clocktower of Callaway Hall. It was
this same clocktower where a young nurse hung herself during the Civil War when
her fiancee was killed. Her revenant is still heard crying late at night and has appeared
to terrified students and staff. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives
and History, Cooper Postcard Collection.

McDowell Columns Building
Chowan University
Murfreesboro, North Carolina
The McDowell Columns Building is the centerpiece of this Baptist school.
It was here that a young woman died, possibly of a broken heart, after her
fiancee was killed in battle during the Civil War. She returns to the building as
The Brown Lady. Her spirit appeared shortly after her death and has continued
to appear. In the 1990s, an appearance of The Brown Lady stopped a man
from attacking a coed. When the attacker saw the ghost, he ran away terrified.
Photograph by Thomas T. Waterman, 1940, for the Historic American Buildings
Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Old Playmakers Theatre (Smith Hall)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Built in 1851 as Smith Hall and now a National Historic Landmark,
the Old Playmakers Theatre has served a variety of functions on campus.
In 1925, the building was converted to use as a theater. According to
Cheralyn Lambeth in her book, Haunted Theaters of the Carolinas,
the theater may be haunted by the ghost of Frederick Koch, founder
of the Carolina Playmakers. Photograph by Wikipedia user, Caroline Culler.

Tillman Hall
Winthrop University
Rock Hill, South Carolina
This dramatic Romanesque edifice is named for Benjamin Tillman,
the South Carolina governor and U.S. Senator who pushed for the
creation of Winthrop University. "Pitchfork Ben," as he was known,
after a colorful remark he made at the expense of President Grover Cleveland,
is also believed to be the spirit that haunts this hall.  His portrait, hanging in the lobby,
has inspired nightmares for some staff working in the building but worse
are the odd noises emanating from the abandoned fourth floor at night. Photograph by
Jack Boucher, 1986, for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of
the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Belmont Mansion
Belmont University
Nashville, Tennessee

Built by Adelicia Acklen, who was left with a fortune after the
death of her first husband, Belmont Mansion was built and furnished
as the most sumptuous house in the South. Upon Acklen's death,
the Mansion became the home of a women's school which developed
into Belmont University. The wraith of Adelicia Acklen still roams
the rooms of her precious manse, with visitors hearing footsteps,
feeling uneasy in certain locations and even seeing her spirit on occasion.
Photograph by Lester Jones, 1940, for the Historic American Buildings
Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.

Old Barracks
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, Virginia
The National Landmark Old Barracks at VMI is said to be
haunted by a nonhuman entity known as "The Yellow Peril."
The hideous, yellow face with a bleeding wound has been
seen by terrified cadets peering through the windows of this
building. Photograph, 1968, for the Historic American Buildings
Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Division.

Christopher Wren Building
College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, Virginia
The oldest university building in continuous use in the U.S.
and located at the heart of one of the oldest universities, the
Christopher Wren Building has a prestigious pedigree and ghosts
as well. Completed around 1699, this building has seen three fires
and was used as a hospital during the American Revolution. Perhaps
the spirits of the soldiers who died there as well as the students who've
studied there over the centuries return to create the supernatural
racket that is sometimes heard in this building. Photograph, 2008, by
Wikipedia user Jrcla2.

Healy Hall
Georgetown University
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
With the high Victorian architecture of Healy Hall, it's not hard
to imagine it being troubled by ghosts. Its immense size has given
rise to the legend of it having a closed fifth floor from which mysterious
noises emanate. Two other legends tell of young Jesuits dying in this
building, leaving their spirits behind to walk the halls. Photograph, 1969  by
Jack E. Boucher for the Historic American Buildings
Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints
and Photographs Division.

Alexander, Sheridan. "Hauntings at Georgetown University's Healy Hall:
     Washington DC ghost stories and haunted places."
     1 October, 2009.
Barefoot, Daniel W. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and
     Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
Gallegher, Trish. Ghosts and Haunted Houses of Maryland. Centreville, MD:
     Tidewater, 1988.
Lambeth, Cheralyn. Haunted Theaters of the Carolinas. Atglen, PA: Schiffer,
Mount St. Mary's University. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 26
     September 2010.
Parker, Robert W. Haunted Louisville: History and Hauntings from the Derby
     City. Decatur, IL: Whitechapel Press, 2007.


  1. Wonderful Post! I had no idea there were so many haunted Universities in the South.

  2. I really love that old Ponce de Leon hotel. It reminds me of the Winchester Mansion in a way.

    And the Berry campus is always beautiful. I have some friends that go to Berry that I will ask to see if they've seen anything.

  3. Thanks, Jessica and Andy!

    Andy, the Berry Campus is swarming with ghosts from what I have read.

  4. An article on the Athens State U. ghosts, Athens, AL.