blog by S.J. Velasquez • October 25, 2011 @ 12:26pm
What is it about academic settings that incite the creepiest of lore? It feels like universities are the most haunted places, and there’s always a creepy story that goes along with the otherwise inexplicable activity.
I’ve heard all sorts of stories about Western New York campuses, some of them the same from school to school—whether a sick child once inhabited the current dorms, pregnant nuns lived in the attic, unborn babies were buried in field out back, or a student drowned in what was once the pool. Either these tragic events really happened, or we have sick imaginations and no reverence for historical accuracy.
Meh, who cares? It’s the quality of the ghost story that matters!
I called around to different local colleges, and members of the Buffalo.com team reached out to readers on Facebook and Twitter to collect your college ghost stories. Here’s what we gathered so far:
St. Bonaventure University:
Lori Vossler wrote on our Facebook wall, “I went to St. Bonaventure and took this Theology class (can’t remember the exact name) but it was nicknamed ‘Spooks’ and the friar who taught it always kept an empty seat in the front for the ‘poltergeist.’ Sometimes the door to the classroom would open all by itself and no one would be there, and the teacher would always acknowledge that we had a ‘visitor.’ I think many students really believed it.”
Back in 1988, a student published a news story in the Bona Venture about the college’s alleged hauntings. That article exists in its entirety in an online archive. The fifth floor of Devereux Hall is often the setting for ghost stories, the most popular of which involves the suicide of a student. According to the article, the resident director of the hall back in ‘88 “said there has never been a suicide nor an attempted suicide” on the fifth floor of the dorm.
Another popular rumor back in the ‘80s was about a “Black Mass” performed by students in an effort to conjure evil spirits. “Some form of a Black Mass was indeed performed by three students on Fifth Dev,” the Rev. Alphonsus Trabold, an assistant professor of theology, told the school paper back in 1988. Trabold also confirmed that the three students involved in the Black Mass had stolen consecrated hosts from the chapel for the devilish ceremony. “Shortly thereafter, one of the three students was supposedly treated for psychological problems,” the article states.
According to Niagara’s official website, “Thomas Hopkins, a student from Brooklyn, was killed in the fire of Dec. 5, 1864. Legend has it that his ‘ghost’ still haunts Clet Hall.”
Facebook friend Jill Marie Stadelmaier provided some more information about these alleged hauntings on our Facebook wall: “Nowadays, water fountains go on when no one’s in the building (as reported by a summer RA), the college completely closed off the 4th floor, the 3rd floor is FREEZING despite the temp being set at 90 degrees (and the college insisting that the heat works). The gym is now a theatre, and the old track that ran around the top is now a lighting track, but you can still hear people running around it late at night. And, I was in there one night with a Ouiji board (I know, cheesey), and 4 theatre seats (the ones that stay stuck in the up position unless you’re sitting on them), fell down on their own. Ask Lynn Ward, she was there with me!”
If you search “Daemen College” and “haunted” on Google, a bunch of ghost-related websites tell a tale of two brothers who fought each other, then unbeknownst to the other, hanged themselves on opposite sides of Curtis Hall. According to legend, the two brothers’ spirits still linger around campus, and they will occasionally move chairs around or tie shoelaces together.
On Facebook, Remy Rotella Orlowski told us another story: “There is a dorm room on the 5th floor of Canavan Hall (formerly Lourdes aka ‘The Virgin Vault’) that has been known to be haunted since I went there so for over 30 years now. A girl was always rumored to have killed herself in the room. I have a conversation going in my sorority group about it right now. One sister who stayed in that room wrote, ‘No joke, the doors to the cupboards would be open, my makeup case was flipped upside down one day, we watched ‘Children of the Corn’ in the room after we crossed, and the VCR shut off when they showed a crucifix and wouldn’t come back on until after that part. The Ouija board night was freaky, candles blew out etc.’”
Not only does Medaille have rumors circulating about children haunting the campus, but the college even supports a paranormal club for students. A representative from the college was kind enough to get me in touch with Jennifer Comstock, president of the school’s paranormal society. Comstock explained that she and fellow club members investigate different accounts of ghostly activity, and they research possible explanations for activity in certain areas of the campus. It’s been a challenge for the club members to fully explain all activity, as some historical documents have been difficult to track down. According to legend, children haunt Medaille’s halls. One popular ghost story included the appearance of boys in dated clothing wandering the school, asking for the location of specific classrooms and teachers. Comstock said that while Medaille once housed a school for boys and an infirmary where students from St. Mary’s School for the Deaf were treated, she and members of the paranormal society have never experienced related activity.
There also exist stories of a nun who meanders across campus, primarily in the main building. Comstock has documented heightened levels of activity in the main building. The group uses cameras to capture images and other ghost-hunting tools that measure temperature and electro-magnetic fields.
Comstock originally intended on investigating hauntings by spirits who died within the last century, but she’s learned that Medaille’s location on battlegrounds could contribute to the paranormal occurrences at Medaille and nearby Canisius College. After a bit of research, Comstock came across a map that places barracks from the War of 1812 directly on Medaille’s campus. After she and members of the paranormal society failed to receive confirmation on one suspected ghost’s identity as a former student/nun/teacher, she asked about the war. The students’ ghost-hunting tools immediately recognized a response. “We believe we may have communicated with a pre-Medaille presence, possibly from the War of 1812,” Comstock said.
John Bray, a representative for the college, forwarded some information on the rumored hauntings at the campus, and a little bit of historical background that might explain some of the eerie incidents.
“There is a legend at D’Youville College involving an orphan girl named Marie who was brought to the convent in Montreal as a baby, brought up, and educated by the Grey Nuns at Holy Angeles Academy and came to Buffalo when the nuns came here in the 1800s. Holy Angels was housed on Porter Avenue in what is now the Koessler Administration Building before they moved to their current location on Shoshone Drive,” Bray said. “D’Youville then took over the building.”
Bray continued, “according to Sister Mary Kathleen Duggan, GNSH, retired D’Youville archivist and former president of Holy Angels Academy, the young girl considered Holy Angels her home and asked to remain on as domestic help. It was said Marie was a ‘trickster’ who loved to pull jokes on people. One story had Marie hiding under the refectory table before the Nuns seated themselves for dinner, and tying their shoelaces together so that when they rose together for grace after meals it caused quite a scene. After Marie died, there were weird sounds echoing through the dorm in the building that sent the girls into terrified huddles on Halloween Night. Some say a figure could be seen at night appearing to clean the hall and rooms as Marie had done. It was said the girls always found apples and oranges mysteriously deposited on their beds at the conclusion of a Halloween sighting.”
There’s also the rumor of the elderly nun who was walking through the chapel. When a night watchman approached her, the nun disappeared. Bray acknowledged in a statement that Halloween is synonymous with the relationship between life and death, and that perhaps ghosts do return for this special night. “At D’Youville, no one plans to be on the upper floors of the old building to see if the nun or Marie returns for a visit,” he added.
I’d never really heard about the ghosts of Canisius when I was a student there, until I had a few inexplicable experiences, myself. I lived in a handful different residence buildings during my four years at the college, including Frisch Hall, Campion Hall, Village Townhouses and Griffin Hall. I never experienced anything out of the ordinary in Frisch or Griffin, but Village and Campion hold a special, chilly place in my heart.
I spent the summer going into sophomore year as an orientation leader, so I lived alone in my own apartment in Village Townhouses—building H, room 5. One day, within a 24-hour span, I’d experienced three different strange occurrences. I returned home from training to find all of my dining table chairs moved into the hallway. Let me repeat: I lived alone. The door to the hallway was locked. I honestly didn’t think much of it. I figured maybe campus maintenance was doing a little work in my room while I was out. Later that evening, I walked into the bathroom, and the entire overhead light fixture fell from the ceiling, dangling inches from my head by electrical cords, spilling years worth of dust and dead bugs in my hair. I freaked out a little, I admit, but the college had the fixture fixed for me in no time. That night, I went to bed, only to be awoken by the shrill noise and pulsating light of the fire alarm. I rushed out of my room as firefighters bolted up the stairs, looking for the source. In the end, there was no fire, no smoke and no signs of electrical problems. Also, only my room’s alarm had sounded. If I remember correctly, I’d been told that in the case of a fire, alarms in each of an affected building’s apartments would go off.
The following fall semester, I took a resident assistant position in Campion Hall, the intercultural living center where many of our international students lived. I kept a few framed photos on top of the armoire, which I could reach only by standing on a chair. I’d originally positioned the photos to face the bed, but one night, I noticed the photos had been flipped 180 degrees, now facing the wall. Dismissing this as the product of some gradual shift of the earth’s gravitation pull that affected just these three framed photos, I got up on a chair and rearranged the photos so their faces were facing my bed. Again, within days, the photos were facing the opposite direction. I should note that I lived alone in this room, which locked automatically when the door shut.
I’m still waiting for my friends at Canisius College to call me back with a statement. But I’m not the only student who’s experienced such skin-crawling phenomena. According to popular ghost stories, students and staff have reported chilling experiences on the fourth floor of Lyons Hall, Griffin Hall, Christ the King Chapel and Village Townhouses. While I was an RA in Campion, one of my residents came to my room to report that the resident above him was making slamming noises, as if the person was jumping up and down repeatedly. We both turned sickly white when I told him that the room above him was vacant, as was the next nearest room.