Goosebumps to Bumps in the Night: Westminster’s haunting lore is alive and well
The Forum of Westminster College
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 Volume XXXX: Issue 6
They all start similarly: “On a dark and stormy night...”, “What I am about to tell you is a true story…”
The legends, lore, myths and “true” personal encounters of spooks flourish on Halloween, including those on campus. Several historic buildings of Westminster are said to be haunted.
True or not, these five major ghost stories on campus have been handed down and written about in books.
Woman in White
Up in the center gable of the east side of Converse, a woman looks out the third floor window and waits. Dressed in white, she laments her lost life and love. Westminster is an institution that used to host weddings. Legend considers this woman its dark-haired, most-beautiful bride. Karen Hendry, senior administrator to the dean of students, said, “[The ghost] may have been married in Gunton Memorial Chapel (now vacant) and held her reception in the parlor of Ferry Hall.” Newly married to a young man about to make his fortune, the woman had a promising future. After their wedding, the couple drove to their honeymoon in Wendover where their car was struck by a drunk driver. Both died at the scene. The bride’s ghost found her way back to the last place she was happy in life—Westminster. It is in Converse where she looks for her husband and waits for his return.
This ghost in white may be the previous ghost in Ferry Hall, a building demolished to make way for the Gore School of Business. During the dedication of the newly built Gore on Oct. 19, 1998 in the Gore Auditorium, the elevator lights (at the back of the stage) came on and the doors swung open. The car was empty. The story goes that Charles Dick, president (1985-95), interrupted his speech and said he hoped the ghosts approve of the new building. This spirit of Ferry Hall was often seen by students, faculty and staff as a three dimensional image.
Joe Ferrari, former Westminster student and former campus security guard, has heard the story of the Converse-Ferry ghost. He said theater students used to dress up mannequins in turn-of-the-century period costumes and placed them in windows “to frighten the freshmen.” He was on campus patrol for eight years and never encountered ghosts in either Gore or Converse; however, Ferrari did experience something in Nunemaker that still gives him the shivers.
Legend says, the Nunemaker ghost is also a woman in white. She was the mother of a little child who either drowned or got lost in Emigration Creek on campus. She walks up and down the river, looking and crying for her lost child.
In the ‘90s, before the new south residents’ halls were built, the plot of land was a parking lot. It was in this parking lot that Ferrari was making his nightly rounds. Around 3 a.m. he saw lights on inside Nunemaker. He radioed his partner, Tom, and asked him to meet him outside the building. The doors were locked. The security guards entered the building and locked themselves in. The pair started on the third floor and worked their way through the building, turning off most of the lights. Once they reached the bottom, all of the lights came back on. Then the lights dimmed off, filling the building with darkness. Within a 15-second time span, they all came on quickly again, then most turned off. The two checked the breaker box, which was located in a locked closet. Everything was as it should have been. Ferrari said that Tom, who left his security position at Westminster long ago, never went back into the building, nor would he talk about what happened that night.
Ghost of Hogle Hall
In the 1980s, Tom was the graveyard-shift security guard and watched over the only residence hall at the time, Hogle Hall. There was a security desk at the front entrance where he was stationed from midnight to morning. About 17 to 18 years ago he encountered the most talked about ghost on campus, the Ghost of Hogle Hall.
Ferrari told the story, as told to him by Tom, who has no reason to doubt what he said. In the middle of winter, after a fresh snow storm, Tom walked around the building. He heard a boy’s mischievous laugh, but could not tell from where it came. It was cold and late—not fit for a little boy to be playing hide-and-seek. There weren’t any fresh tracks in the snow, so Tom thought the laughing was coming from inside Hogle Hall, though he knew the windows in the rooms were frozen shut because of winter condensation. With no reasonable explanation for what he was hearing, he called his partner on his radio. But then the laughing stopped.
About a week later, Tom was at the front desk in Hogle Hall. It was around 4 a.m. and he had just come inside from walking the building. He had seen two students, a male and a female, on the second floor preparing for a test the next day. Moments later the two of them ran down the stairs. The young woman was crying; the young man was pale. When Tom asked what was wrong, neither would tell him what happened. “You would not believe it,” was all the male student could repeat.
After reassurance from Tom, the young man started to talk. He said the two of them were studying with flash cards on the second floor. He was reading a question from a card to the female student. She did not respond. He looked up at her and she was looking over his shoulder. He turned. There they both saw a little boy, dressed in a yellow T-shirt and blue denim coveralls, between the wall and where the drinking fountain attached to the wall. He was peeking at them playfully and mischievous laughing. His legless body floated across the room and through the balcony door on the same floor. As he disappeared into the empty space, the room darkened.
All of Westminster’s property used to be farmland. The land where Hogle now stands continued to be farmed even as Converse was being built. The legend is that the 4-year-old boy was playing hide-and-seek in the fields as his father cut grain with a motorized combine. The father did not see his son. The combine picked the boy up and cut off his legs. He died instantly.
The Hogle ghost story has been told for years. Ferrari lived in Hogle when he was a student, but never encountered the ghost. A Catholic Hogle hall-mate of Ferrari’s had a priest exorcise the hall-mate’s room. Jeff Bell, the school’s campus counselor, performed a Native American cleansing late August 1994 on the building. The ghost of the little boy has not been seen since…
Ghost of Foster Hall
The Ghost of Foster Hall is the most mischievous ghost on campus, according to Linda Dunning, paranormal medium and author of “Specters in Doorways, History and Hauntings of Utah.” In her book, she writes, “All the signs of an interactive presence are there.” The ghost is known for repeatedly moving furniture and professors’ personal belongings. “I have a ghost that lives in the drawer of my desk where I keep the [masters of communication] field project proposals,” said Dr. Helen Hodgson, professor of communication and department chair. Her office in Foster is room 404. “The drawer opens frequently, all of its own accord,” said Hodgson. “When graduate students observe this phenomenon, I tell them that it is the spirit of unfinished projects trying to escape.” No other fourth floor professors have reported supernatural activity in their offices.
In her book, Dunning said things may have moved in the presence of the living, but only if the witness was alone. The author tells the story of a professor who kept a bottle of whiskey in his office, of which he had a shot between classes. The professor would pour a glass, leave the room and lock the door. “He would come back, unlock his door and find the whiskey glass empty,” writes Dunning. This happened every time he tested the ghost. It only stopped when the professor rearranged his furniture. Dunning writes, “Missing the game, [the professor] moved the desk back and the phenome[non] started up again.”
The Ghost of the Science Building
The last story was recently told by Westminster resident folklorist and English professor Dr. David Stanley. He and his wife, Dr. Nan McEntire, a professor from Indiana State University, also a folklorist, were guest storytellers at the honor’s students’ “Urban Legends Overnight” on Oct. 19. It is the story of the ghost of the Charles Dick Science Building.
Charles Dick was the college president credited for saving Westminster from financial ruin. It is in Dick’s namesake-building that the campus cadaver, used in anatomy classes, is housed to this day. Security staff walks through this building, checking doorknobs and securing rooms. One night years ago, an unidentified security guard walked into the cadaver lab; a faculty member was there working late. The guard saw a “large, thick gray figure huddled in the corner,” said Stanley. The guard asked in a cracked, frightened voice, “What is that?” to which the teacher replied, “What is what?” The figure disappeared.
Stanley told of another spooky occasion in the Charles Dick building during the early 1990s. A different security guard heard music and saw lights coming from inside a professor’s office. It was during the graveyard shift and too late for the instructor to still be working. This unidentified guard turned the doorknob and opened the door. “As the door opened, the lights turned off and the music stopped instantly,” said Stanley.
When he walked down the halls, the building made noises. The floor creaked sounding as though someone was following his footsteps, but he never saw anything. Dr. Peter Conwell, assistant professor of physics, has his office across the corridor, in Malouf Hall. “I’ve not seen a ghost; I have not seen any credible evidence of ghosts,” he said. “Are there things we can’t explain? Absolutely, but if paranormal activity is properly investigated and studied, one could find a conventional explanation.” Dr. David Goldsmith, professor of geology, whose office is across from Conwell’s, said lightly, “I have seen remarkably pale students, but that’s about it.”
“Right now, there are things where there is no explanation or solution,” said Professor of Biology, Dr. Larry Anderson, who does not believe in ghosts. “For example, 100 years ago we did not know of the existence of bacteria. In that case, there were limitations of what we could know,” Anderson said. “There is a romantic notion in ghosts; maybe we don’t want to know too much.”