Living on a haunted campus
October 31, 2011
Darkness and mist enveloped the night while members of the Tribe family gathered around the Sir Christopher Wren building by lamplight for the campus ghost tour, led by members of the William & Mary Revolutionary War Reenacting College Company this Halloween weekend.
Standing in a white dress in the Wren courtyard, Sara Rock ’14, member of the College Company, beckoned the tour group to gather closer to her as she told them tales of the ancient building.
“During the time of the Revolutionary War, the Wren building was used as a hospital for soldiers … because the main means for dealing with significant injury at the time was amputation, the courtyard was often filled with amputated limbs,” Rock said.
Rock also discussed the inexplicable sounds that came from the building at night and the crypt under the chapel. The crowd appeared sufficiently spooked as she led them to the next location, the Brafferton building. Dorothea Sullivan ’13 told the tale of a Native American boy who was held captive by colonists and escaped every night to run free.
“The boy would climb out his window from a rope he fashioned from his bed sheets at night. He ran at night to reconnect with the natural world. These runs were permitted because he always came back. But one night, he did not come back. There are many stories as to how he died — some say he drowned, others say he died of exhaustion,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes, students still see him running across the Sunken Garden late at night.”
The College Company tour guides led the group across the field to the President’s house.
“There are a few strange things that have happened in the President’s house. When there was a fire in the building in the 18th century, it was believed that everyone made it out alive. However, shortly afterward, children reported a comforting presence … some believe this to be the spirit of a man who died in the fire and misses his children,” Rock said. “There was also a door that never closed in the building, no matter how hard people tried to shut it. They would push cabinets against the door and press on it as hard as they could, but the door never stayed closed. One day, while they were doing renovations, they found the skeleton of a young girl in the wall of the closet. We do not know who she is … but after they gave her a proper burial, the door stayed closed.”
The guides then led the group through the pathways to Tucker Hall, an infamous building on campus associated by students with mysterious College suicides.
“During exams in the mid 1980s, a female student is believed to have [hanged] herself in the upstairs bathroom while studying. A few years later, another female student [hanged] herself in the same spot, with a note that said, ‘She made me do it.’ Then again, in October of 2004, a College alumni killed himself in Tucker Hall,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan explained further sightings of a white, female student in Tucker Hall who would ask studying students how their exams were going. If they responded that they felt good about their exams, she would pitch a fit and slam her hands on walls and windows until they left.
As the group walked to Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, members of the College Company dressed in colonial garb with faces painted like skulls waited around corners to frighten the group.
When the group collected on the steps of PBK Hall, Sullivan told them of the supernatural encounters some students have had with a white dress in the building.
“The haunting at PBK all started when the girl who was going to be in a play died back home … The new lead of the play found the dress sitting upright in the seats one night when she was practicing alone,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan mentioned a few other mysterious events that occurred in PBK Hall, including strange sounds upstairs that led to the white dress and a boy being locked in the chamber pit after a spectral voice asked him not to stop playing piano late one night.
As the campus ghost tour group dispersed, friends clung to each other on their walk home and talked about which stories they thought were the scariest, looking expectantly over their shoulders. Some were full of questions about these stories.
“My favorite part was Tucker Hall; the suicide of the girl in 1980 is well known around campus, but the other two suicides and the possible relation between two of them was frightening and made me wonder why it’s been closed,” Kate Hay ’12 said. “It’s an academic building on the Sunken Garden. With the current overcrowding problem, you would think the College would use everything at their disposal to accommodate the students, yet this building stands empty.”