Ghostly rumors drift through campus
By THERESA HOGUE
Is there something scarier than a pop quiz lurking at Oregon State University? Are there frustrated students or staff on campus whose souls remain while their bodies long ago departed?
Building Service Manager Larry Kennedy says he's never seen anything ghostly on campus, but he has been privy to the old stories that have been floating around OSU for years. For instance, there's the tale of a student supposedly electrocuted in a room in Dearborn, whose handprints are still supposed to adorn the walls, and whose pitiful screams are said to echo through the room.
"I have been in there, but I have not seen the handprints or heard the screams," Kennedy said. The room is currently off limits due to electrical danger in the room.
Kennedy also has heard the tale of a student who supposedly drowned in the pool in Langton Hall, where the old gymnasium is located, and who is still seen swimming in the pool from time to time.
Benton Hall is considered one of the most haunted sites on campus. Kennedy worked in the building for several years and never had a problem, but said he played his radio loud enough to drown out the creaks and groans of the old building. However, he recalls a rather macho employee who used to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to work each evening. The man quit after three days of working in Benton Hall because "the ghosts would not quit moving his dust mop and hiding his other equipment when he had his back turned," Kennedy said. The man's claims were never proven, but his actions speak of his own conviction.
Other custodial workers have reported a woman's voice singing in a vacant room, and pianos and drums playing themselves in a ghostly band.
George Edmonston, editor of the Oregon Stater, has heard tales of Waldo Hall, where furniture was once heard being moved around on the fourth floor, which had been sealed off from occupants. Edmonston speculated it might be the ghost of the university's first librarian, Ida "Mother" Kidder, who lived in room 202 of Waldo Hall until her death there in 1920. Kidder was an enthusiastic, spunky woman who in her older years traveled the campus in a wicker cart after becoming unable to walk.
Dave Brauner, a professor in the anthropology department in Waldo Hall, has often had friends and colleagues ask him about the ghost rumors surrounding Waldo, but said that after talking with numerous alumni who used to live in Waldo, he's never heard one firsthand ghost account. And the only frightening occurrence he ever encountered in his office had a sadly mundane explanation.
Brauner was in his office at about 1 a.m. one night when a partial elk skull he kept on a shelf began to wiggle, apparently by itself.
"It got my attention," Brauner laughed. "But when I was finally brave enough to lift it up and see why it was wiggling, this great big cockroach came out."
Joyce Jacobs has worked in custodial service at OSU for 32 years, and now serves as a supervisor. While she has experienced a few of the ghostly events herself, she also has rather more practical explanations for a few of the old legends.
"I've heard the noises and the music myself in Benton Hall," Jacobs admits, but adds that once the staff found a woman had been secretly living in the building at night, which could have contributed to a number of the odd noises. She also blames extremely noisy old pipes for creating the sense that someone else is in the older buildings at night.
"Here on campus, there are always stories here and there," she said, recalling the tales of the haunted dressing rooms in Withycombe, and the noises on Waldo Hall's fourth floor.
"I did hear one explanation about (Waldo,)" she said. "I heard kids were getting into the fourth floor that was closed off."
Weatherford Hall is rife with tales, especially now that it's been unoccupied. But even when brimming with activity, it had its own spooky history.
"I heard the stories. I worked in Weatherford for three years, and I had heard about the resident ghost
there," she said. "I worked days so I didn't see anything, but Weatherford was a totally different dorm than the rest of the dorms."
Jacobs has yet to see a spirit herself, and says most times, she's the source of her own fears.
"I've scared myself," she laughed.
Theresa Hogue is the higher education reporter for the Gazette-Times. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 758-9526.