Forgotten Ohio: Ohio University



Ohio University in Athens is probably the most haunted college campus in the entire country, if not the world. As Ohio places go, it's ancient: established in 1804, just one year after statehood, the nation's first institution of higher learning west of the Appalachian Mountains. The sheer number of haunted places on campus is impressive enough, and that's not even counting the numerous other legends floating around Athens County. FOX even taped an episode of its Scariest Places on Earth program at OU. The show aired in 2001 and took a somewhat less-than-studious approach to the local ghost legends--but really, do we expect any more from FOX? I've attempted to assemble the well-known stories here; if you know of anything I'm leaving out, please let me know.




Delta Tau Delta


According to stories I've read, the members of Delta Tau Delta fraternity (which has been at Ohio University since the 1860s) stole a tombstone from the famously haunted Simms Cemetery and immediately began to experience weird poltergeist activity at their house. They eventually returned the stone and were left alone after that.




Alpha Omicron Pi


A slave named Nicodemus haunts the home of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. Once it was the Zeta Tau Alpha House, but before that it was a private residence and a stop on the Underground Railroad. They say that when locals found out that the house at 24 E. Washington was harboring fugitive slaves, they stormed it. They managed to find only Nicodemus hiding there, and shot him as he fled through a hidden tunnel. For years after that he haunted the building through its possession by several different sororities. The Zeta Tau Alpha girls had extensive encounters with him in 1972 and 1973. Later it was the Sigma Nu frathouse, then Alpha Omicron Pi; now it's Sigma Phi Epsilon. Do the Greek groups keep moving because of the strange disturbances, or is it just a coincidence? I'd have to say that, if you're a ghost and you're stuck haunting someplace through eternity, you could do a lot worse than a sorority house.




Brown House


Donated to the University by Millie Brown, who spent a lifetime there and enjoyed watching local children playing in the swimming pool in her backyard. Her granddaughter dated Paul Newman during his time at OU--or so legend has it. Legend also has it that she can still be seen in the window, watching the college town she loved so much over the years. Some say they can hear the sounds of her long-gone swimming pool, filled with splashing children. It currently houses the Contemporary History Institute.




Jefferson Hall


The story behind this building says that students were exploring the attic shortly after the beginning of fall quarter, 1996. In an unused room, sitting at a desk, they saw a woman who looked like a schoolteacher, dressed in 1950s fashions. After they tried to talk to her they noticed that she was transparent and floating above the ground. They ran and got their RA, and then returned to find the door securely locked with no one inside. After that, more strange things happened: lights flipped on and off, toilets flushed by themselves. One girl in a bathroom stall had the rolls of toilet paper in the neighboring stalls unroll all over the floor. When hers began to unroll by itself she ran screaming from the bathroom. A common disturbance here is the "marble sound," which often occurs even on the top floor of the building: the sound of someone dropping hundreds of marbles onto the floor above you.




Washington Hall


This building has an entire ghostly basketball team, which haunts the whole building, but especially the hallway over the arch that connects Washington with Read Hall. The legend is that a girls high school basketball team visited OU years back and had such a good time that, after they were killed in a bus accident, they decided to relive their good time every night in Washington Hall, where they stayed in between practices. Another, more likely version of the ghostly basketball story is set exclusively on the top floor of Washington, the attic, which used to be a rec room when it was a men's dorm. This time the team is all men.




Bush Hall


A poltergeist haunts this women's dormitory, pulling pranks like turning water faucets on and off and playing with the lights. The mysterious "marble sounds" are present here, as is the sound of dripping liquid.




Shively Hall


A female student living in Shively in the 1970s participated in cult ceremonies at nearby Hanning Cemetery, and when she stopped, experienced a number of unexplainable things in her dorm room. She felt like she was being pulled to the northeast, back toward Hanning, though what eventually happened to her is a mystery.




Perkins Hall


Someone or something may haunt the halls of Perkins Hall. A student named Summer relates the following story from her time in the residence hall:

"I was an RA there one year and all RAs would move in 2 weeks before the students. All of the people on my staff were next door in Shively Hall watching a movie, so I was the only person in the building. I was in my room (corner, second floor) standing on a chair in my doorway hanging a cable for my TV around the door when I heard a female voice say. "Hey!" I looked down into the doorway and there was nobody there. I could see clearly down the hallway. There wasn't enough time for anyone to run and hide because it was literally the blink of an eye between the voice and me looking down. I called over to Shively where all the other RAs were and verified that I was the only one in Perkinds Hall at the time. I still get chills.

"During the course of the year I had several other experiences in that room. Around Halloween, my residents and I were in the hallway decorating for a Halloween Decoration contest. I had a few items in my room that I wanted to show a few of the girls so we walked to my room. I walked over to my bed on the far wall to get the items and one of my residents was standing in the doorway when we suddenly heard a very strange laugh coming from somewhere between where I was standing and where she was standing. We both ran screaming from the room. About ten minutes later, one of my residents went to her room to get some tape when her stereo turned itself on.

"One night my TV turned itself on. Another night, I woke up when the door to my dorm fridge opened up on its own. Another thing that happened was one afternoon I had been in my room talking to a friend of mine. I went to the bathroom and my friend stayed in my room where she was sitting on my bed. After a few seconds, she came screaming into the bathroom and said that right after I left the room she was sitting on the bed when she suddenly got a cold chill, my box fan started spinning like it was on (windows were shut because it was winter, so it wasn't the wind) and she said that she felt like there was someone right in front of here face staring at her in a confronting manner. From that day on, she refused to stay in my room unless someone was with her."




Voigt Hall


Strange things have been reported by residents of Voigt Hall. The first-year student who experienced these things asked not to be named, but her roommate was good enough to vouch for her version of events and keep in touch.

"About a month ago I had an incident where I woke up during the night and heard things being moved on my desk. The next morning I found things strewn upon the floor and a newspaper was torn.

"Last night I awoke in the middle of the night and looked to my left. I saw a woman standing in front of my closet door. I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was just imagining the figure, but the woman was still there. She was wearing a dark, conservative, long-sleeved dress that came up to her neck. She was tall, resembling a thicker Susan B. Anthony. The woman had a cold blank stare. She and I held eye contact for about a minute.

"Terrified, I decided to simply roll over, face the wall, and go back to sleep. I was completely freaked out. Again, things on my desk began to move. I continued to try to fall back asleep. My laptop rests on a table next to my bed. I began to hear the keys of my computer clicking. The typing sound lasted for a few minutes. Then everything stopped."




Crawford Hall


A story with a more concrete basis in fact, freshman dorm Crawford Hall began to experience ghostly phenomena after the Easter 1993 death of Laura, a resident who fell from her fourth-floor window. Lights would flicker and doors would slam or open--especially on the first floor. One night an RA in a first-floor room was awakened at night by the silhouette of a girl who had opened his door. She said, "I'm sorry, I've woken you," and closed the door. The RA went into the hall but there was no one there. He later learned that his room's window faced the spot where Laura hit the sidewalk. CD and tape players there will refuse to play the Bob Marley song "Laura."




Cutler Hall


In use since 1816, Cutler Hall is surprisingly unhaunted. Its sole spirit resides in the bell tower. (See OSU's Orton Hall for another college bell tower ghost.) Inside you'll find the office of the President of the University.




Wilson Hall


Wilson is truly the main campus's most famous haunting; it's the one primarily featured in Scariest Places on Earth and the building most people point to when they're talking about "Haunted Athens." As such, many of the stories are vague untruths about student suicides and various rooms that no one will stay in for long. It's a relatively new building (constructed in 1965), but in that short time it's acquired an unusual number of tales, including that it was built atop one of the Athens Mental Health Center cemeteries. Almost certainly not true, but that's what they say. Shadowy, ghostly figures are sighted in its halls. Another common explanation for Wilson Hall's curse is that it supposedly sits dead-center in the middle of the five "pentagram cemeteries" around Athens. You can read more about the pentagram story below.




The Convocation Center


Known around campus as the Convo, this building is where the OU basketball team plays, and it also houses dorms along the outer shell. It is home to many spirits, including the ghost of a student who died in her sleep and whose ghost embraced a later resident who slept in the same bed. One of the rooms has a haunted closet, whose door opens and closes on its own and from which books and clothes fly. One of the legends about the Convo says that an RA was killed there by her former boyfriend, and that she still walks the halls, making sure doors are locked. An article about the Convo's ghosts ran in the Halloween 2001 edition of the Athens Post.




College Green


Buildings on OU's West Green have good reason to be haunted: legend has it that the West Green is built on an Indian burial ground. The river which once ran near here can still be heard, as can the chants of native Americans. The main college green is haunted by Stroud, a headless buffalo who was killed by Confederate soldiers hunting in Ohio during the Civil War. The rebels were taken by Union soldiers, but before they captured the last one he hid the treasure they had plundered from surrounding farms in Stroud's head, which is supposed to hang in Buffalo Wings and Rings in Athens. You have to wonder A. where a buffalo got a name, and B. why they don't just go ahead and get the treasure out of the severed Buffalo head.




The Pentagram Cemeteries


I hesitate even to mention this one because it's so ridiculous, but it is far too common a story in Athens to leave out of any overview of local hauntings. The previously mentioned Wilson Hall even gets a certain part of its story from it. Here's the legend: five cemeteries (or is it ten?) form a pentagram around Athens, with Wilson Hall sitting dead center, at the heart of the vortex of supernatural energy a cemetery pentagram generates (obviously). The cemeteries mentioned as points on the pentagram are, variously: Simms, Haines, Hanning, Cuckler, Higgins, Zion, Hunter, Slaughter, Cutler, Mansfield, and Peach Ridge. Some of them are said to be points on the circle which connects the tips, making it a pentagram instead of just a star. But there are something like 270 graveyards in Athens County alone, which means you could connect the dots and draw a star or a pentagram anywhere, with its center anywhere. You could also write your name on the map using cemeteries, if you really wanted to, but it wouldn't mean the ghosts of the dead were sending you a message. It's hard to believe anyone buys anything about this one.




The Ridges - Lin Hall


Now called Lin Hall and home to the Kennedy Museum of Art, this local landmark was for years the State Mental Hospital for the Southeast Region. Its more familiar name is The Ridges, and you can view an exploration of its history and legends here.



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OhioU.edu
The Ridges
The Athens Spectre - Webzine about local haunts
Athens Post Article: "Catch Me" (Haunted Athens Part 1)
Athens Post Article: "The Truth Behind Haunted Athens" (Haunted Athens Part 2)
Athens News Article: "Fox Ghost Story More of a Fish Story"
Athens Post Article: "Publicity Increases Break-Ins at The Ridges"
Athens Post Article: "'Haunted Convo' Might Not Be So Scary After All"
Athens News Article: "Ready For Some Different 'Haunted Athens' Stories? Read On."
Athens News Article: "Groups Hope to Bury Mental-Health Stigma"
Athens News Article: "Reader's Forum: Let's Get Away from the Ridges' Reputation as a Haven for Ghosts and Ghouls"
Ohio's Haunted Colleges
Haunted Athens
Delta Tau Delta at OU
Alpha Omicron Pi at OU



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Sources

Claussen, Nick. "Local Author Audits Ghost Quotient Across State of Ohio." Athens News. September 7, 2004.

Evans, Chris. "Fox Ghost Story More of a Fish Story." Athens News. October 26, 2000.

Everett, Lawrence. Ghosts, Spirits, and Legends of Southeastern Ohio. Haverford, PA: Infinity Publishing, 2002.

Geyer, Steven. "Recreated for Storytelling Purposes." Athensi. October 31 2002.

Gilbert, Cicely. "Catch Me." The Athens Post. October 26 2006.

Gilbert, Cicely. "The Truth Behind Haunted Athens." The Athens Post. October 27 2006.

Gohlke, Christopher. "Ready for Some Different 'Haunted Athens' Stories? Read On." Athens News. October 30, 2004.

Mirrotto, Pat. "'Haunted Convo' Might Not Be So Scary After All." Athens Post. November 1, 2001.

Myers, Nancy. "Publicity Increases Break-Ins at The Ridges." Athens Post. October 31, 2000.

Nieparte, Monica. "Athens Makes Fox's List of 'Scariest Places': Film Crew Documents Local Legends." Athens Messenger. July 30, 2000. pg. A1.