Tales of Campus Hauntings: University Museums hosts annual Ghost Stories event

A large crowd gathered at Morrill Hall on Halloween night to hear ghost stories from around campus during the Haunted Iowa State event on Oct. 31. 

Melanie.Van Horn.Com

It was a dark and spooky night as people gathered around for University Museums’ annual “Ghosts Stories of Iowa State”. The event is an opportunity for museum staff to share legends and lore surrounding campus hauntings, and allowed members of the campus community to share their own experiences with the paranormal.

“It’s been really neat to build on the haunted stories of Iowa State,” said David Faux, interpretations specialist with University Museums.

The event used to take the form of a walk around campus, but University Museums employees reimagined the event after the walk led to some damage to museum property. This is the fourth year the event took the storytelling format.

Fisher Theater is home to many theater productions, but it is also home to a ghost with roots in the theater department. Many theater majors have reported seeing the ghost of Frederica Shattuck, an actress who began a theater troupe on campus. Shattuck faithfully attended performances even into her later years, when she required the use of a wheelchair. Students began seeing a shadowy seated figure while they rehearsed their performances.

“First, they questioned their sanity, then they questioned their professors and faculty who had been there for a while,” Faux said.

According to theater legend, the sight of Shattuck before a performance is a sign of good luck. One night, a student was practicing alone in the theater and saw a shadowy figure near the top of the theater. He ran up to investigate, but found no one. As he was returning to the stage, a prop wheelchair began rolling across the stage, but no one was in the wheelchair.

There have also been many sightings of ghosts and spirits in the residence halls across campus. In Linden Hall, students have reported seeing football players in full gear. In Merrill House, a mirror near the stairs had to be removed because so many people believed they were seeing ghosts in the reflection.

In Friley Hall, students refuse to live in one room because those who live there either disappear or die. Students reported waking up and feeling like they were “in hell”, with walls dripping blood and a man in a black hat watching them. Despite what students say, the room is also unoccupied because it lacks a fire escape.

Strange activity has also been reported in the Greek community. During a holiday break in a fraternity house, a radio began turning on by itself at the same time each day. When the other fraternity members returned, they discovered that one of their fraternity brothers had been killed in a car crash. Strangely enough, the radio belonged to the student who had passed away, the radio turned on the day the student was killed, and the radio was not plugged in during the break.

Another strange occurrence happened to a University Museums employee who was working in the Farm House over a holiday break. The employee had set up some fancy dinnerware for a holiday event, and by the time she returned in the morning the silverware had all been turned at a 45-degree angle. This happened for several days, and the employee finally contact DPS to check the key log to see who had gone into the building. But when DPS checked the log, no one had entered the building after the employee had left.

However, the spirit of the season can cause some people to get carried away. One campus legend surrounding the Farm House developed when window shades began rustling, and the story said the spirit of one of the Curtiss daughters was waiting to sneak out to meet with men while unchaperoned.

“The problem with that story was that she eventually became a Mrs., and she was still alive at the time the story was circulating,” Faux said.        

Those in attendance were very willing to share their own experiences with ghosts on the Iowa State campus. One former Linden CA reported an incident where he and another CA on duty got two simultaneous calls about residents getting their mirrors broken.

“When we got it all cleaned up, we got back and the other CA’s mirror had also fallen down,” he said.

One student told the story of a group of people who went to swim in a creek last August during heavy rains, and two of the students felt someone grab their ankles while they were swimming. Another student said she knew of a girl who moved out of Friley because her microwave would turn on by itself.