New England has long been known as the hub of some of the finest higher learning institutes in the country. Many of these schools, like the State of Massachusetts itself, are rich with history and folklore.
During this particularly “spooky” time of the year, it is easy to believe that many historic New England colleges may provide an eye-opening education of paranormal activity with ghost stories and unexplained happenings.
Harvard University was founded in 1636, so it is no surprise that there are reports of more than one ghost roaming these Ivy League hallways.
Thayer Hall, Harvard’s largest freshman dorm, was originally a textile mill. Many residents claim to have seen the ghost of mill workers dressed in period clothing, walking the halls to their workstations. On snowy nights, lines of mill worker phantoms are said to be seen outside waiting to enter the building.
While Thayer Hall claims to have many ghosts, Massachusetts Hall, Havard’s other freshman dorm, claims to have just one.
It is said to be the ghost of Holbrook Smith, a member of the class of 1914. Supposedly, this Harvard graduate enjoyed his time at Harvard University so much, he has chosen to relive his youth in his afterlife by returning to Massachusetts Hall every fall to play pranks on the new freshman.
Emmanuel College, founded in 1919, is nestled in between the hustle and bustle of the Fenway. Despite having a small, quiet campus, Emmanuel possesses some big, phantom yarns.
Rumor has it that the ghost of a former student, who died unexpectedly, roams St. Joseph’s Hall, unable to cross to “the other side” until she has completed her education at Emmanuel.
This student specter has been known to open windows, run faucets, and move residents belongings in rooms that are locked.
The most common reporting seems to be the “bathroom haunts.” Students have reported seeing the image of a young woman with long, wet hair in the bathroom mirrors and felt the presence of someone standing behind them when they step out of the shower, only to find no one is there when they turn around.
One evening during spring break when the campus was mostly empty, a security guard allegedly saw a young woman in old fashioned clothing standing at the top of a staircase in the building that is connected to St. Joseph’s Hall. When he called out to her, she turned to walk away and disappeared.
Emerson College’s campus, located adjacent to Boston Common, is the home of the Cutler Majestic Theater. The Majestic is Boston’s second oldest theater and is listed on the Massachusetts and the National Register of Historic Places. It is also considered by many to be the city’s most haunted theater.
The ghost of Boston’s 1908 Mayor, George Albee Hibbard, is believed to be one of the many spirits to regularly visit the Majestic.
Although it is well documented that Hibbard was a great fan of the theater, his passion to haunt the Majestic may have more to do with Mrs. Hibbard.
After Mayor Hibbard’s death, his wife became an actress, debuting her new career at the Cutler Majestic Theater. At the time, acting was not considered a respectable career for a woman, so many felt Mayor Hibbard’s after-life presence at the theater was to keep an eye on his wife’s new, questionable lifestyle.
Reports of unexplained power disruptions and noises are the norm in the theater’s sound room. Many students also complain of an overwhelming feeling of being smothered and unable to breathe when backstage at the Majestic.
Random theater seats are commonly found flipped down. Students feel that these are the ghosts of audience members that were killed during a tragic incident when stage lighting fell from the ceiling. Apparently, these spirits return to the theater to watch current performances.
Out of respect for their phantom audience members, Emerson theater students avoid sitting on flipped down seats and politely say “excuse me” if they must pass in front of a turned down seat.
Of all the Boston area college haunts, Boston University boasts some of the most famous afterlife celebrity spirits.
Boston University, founded in 1839, has slowly expanded across the City of Boston, purchasing hotels and apartment buildings as needed for student housing throughout the years.
In 1954, Boston University bought the Sheraton Hotel, now known as Kilachand Hall.
Just one year before the purchase, Irish American Playwright Eugene O'Neill died on the fourth floor of the Sheraton Hotel. School officials named the fourth floor “Writers Corridor” in his honor, but students claim the spirit of this playwright haunts the hallways, even controlling the elevators to randomly stop at the fourth floor regardless of its original destination.
The Myles Standish Hall on Boston University’s campus has a similar background as it was originally the upscale Myles Standish Hotel.
Baseball legend Babe Ruth was said to be a regular guest at the Standish Hotel. Stories claim he enjoyed his stays at the Standish so much, he continues to visit periodically in his afterlife.
Another literary spector tied to Boston University is a relative of playwright Arthur Miller. Miller’s uncle committed suicide on the ninth floor of the Standish. He was said to be the inspiration for Miller’s Willy Loman character in Death of a Salesman.
Students who live on the ninth floor complain of roaming cold spots and unexplained movement of items and furniture.
Higher education hauntings are not exclusively in the Boston area, as UMass Lowell provides some bone-chilling stories of its own.
In the 1980’s UMass Lowell's West Campus, located in Chelmsford, acquired a parcel with several old buildings that housed the Middlesex County Truant School for Boys, which was founded in 1898. The buildings from this old reform school were used by the university until the early 2000’s when most fell to disrepair and were torn down.
Until the demise of these buildings, reports of moaning and screaming from inside the buildings were common, and unwelcome visitors reported incidents of unexplained touching.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell main campus has a more modern aesthetic, with newer buildings. However, ghost stories still run rampant on the main campus area of Leitch Hall with a frequently told tale of a ghost dressed as a clown that wanders the halls, knocking on doors until he is confronted, then disappears without a trace.
There are also rumors of a sealed underground tunnel that ran from Leitch Hall to Bourgeois Hall. Although undocumented, the existence of such a tunnel is possible as many New England colleges once featured such tunnels for easy travel during the winter months. Students have allegedly heard loud groaning and banging coming from the area where the tunnel is thought to have been.
As the Halloween season draws near, remember to take in these college ghost stories with a grain of salty skepticism. It may become apparent that there is more fun than fact to these tales about higher education hauntings.
After all, any educated person knows that the scariest thing about college is most likely your tuition bill.