by Sam Scott
The University Archives made sure students had a few good Halloween scares last Friday night when they hosted a roundtable of Sewanee ghost stories. Guests and Archive staff alike appeared in costume and enjoyed trick-or-treat candy and a skull-shaped chocolate cake. Once everyone had settled in, the staff set an appropriate mood by dimming the lights to campfire wattage. Librarian Cari Reynolds began with a rundown of haunted locations on and near campus, with stories of ghost sightings from each of them. The Sanborn Cravers house near Fowler turns out to be home to a ghost that gets very upset when anyone outside the family stays there. She causes doors to fly open, even after the residents changed their locks. One night, she manifested herself from the feet up, appearing as a nine foot tall figure without a head.
Fulford Hall is also haunted, in its case by two young twins whose painting is on display there. No one seems to know just why they remain in the land of the living, but renovations in 2008 uncovered a human femur in the wall. In Johnson Hall, a ghost appears who was written up in this very paper a hundred and four years ago. Residents have seen a tall girl standing on the stairs to the basement, and have felt her sitting on their beds while they slept. One student opened her door and was knocked down by a powerful blast of wind that no one else felt. And then there is the cursed room of Tuckaway, where the door once became stuck so that it couldn’t open from either side. Unlocking it did nothing, and even after the fire department ripped the hinges off, it still stayed in place. Cleveland residents shouldn’t feel left out though, since they seem to have a haunted room of their own. One student felt the warm breath of someone whispering in her ear, and then felt the ghost crawl into bed with her and smash her head against the wall. She assumed it was a dream the next morning, only to find that the bruise was still there.
One of Sewanee’s most familiar ghosts is the Perambulating Professor. He taught at Sewanee in its earliest days, and was known when he was alive for going on long walks in his slippers. Reynolds related a conversation between two students who made the mistake of going for a walk late at night:
“Hey, do you see a dog walking behind you?”
“No… But there’s a dude walking behind you…”
At the Rivendell estate surrounding the old Percy house, a little girl appeared to several tenants, doing nothing but holding her hands out and saying “Mama… mama…” over and over again. But after one tenant moved in, she disappeared. This woman had lost a daughter in a fire years earlier… and her daughter was exactly the same age as witnesses described the ghost. Towards the end of the night, Reynolds opened the floor for students to tell about their brushes with undeath. Lance Hardeman (C’16) told about the time he stumbled across a bagpiper dressed all in black practicing in the cemetery. As Lance walked past, the bagpiper began following him through the graveyard, playing faster and faster he caught up with him.
It may or may not have been a ghost, but it’s still pretty freaky, right?