To get in the Halloween spirit, students gathered in the living room of Rea House on Monday, October 20, to discuss the folklore surrounding Chatham’s spectral residents.
After all the lights except an iPhone flashlight were extinguished, first-year McKenzie Gordon began the spooky evening—originally scheduled for the Labyrinth in front of Berry Hall but moved due to chilly weather—by talking about the admissions building itself.
According to Gordon, Berry Hall was a private residence until it was converted into dormitories in 1895. Residents of the dormitory would allegedly hear a baby’s cries. The former dormitory also contained a rocking horse, which would rock on its own.
“So we don’t live there anymore,” said Gordon, in conclusion.
Next, Gordon detailed the ghosts who roam the corridors of Fickes Residence Hall making mischief.
According to Gordon, a woman jumped to her death from a third floor window, and her forlorn presence can be felt throughout the house.
A child named Billy also fell from a window, pursuing a fallen ball. Some students have seen Billy on the third floor where he supposedly tries to poke residents or engage them in play.
Finally, Gordon told of Mr. Fickes himself, who supposedly haunts residents by shuffling papers, moving belongings, and even climbing into bed next to sleeping students. According to Gordon, Fickes is, “one of the strongest presences at Chatham.”
Next, Gordon spoke of Laughlin and Rea Houses, which were connected by underground tunnels for getting, “from one house to another in the dead of night without being seen,” according to Gordon.
Allegedly, Julia Rea and James Laughlin used these tunnels to carry on an affair. When Mrs. Rea’s husband James Rea found out, he and Mr. Laughlin fought, which supposedly led to Mr. Laughlin’s suicide in his home. No one has reported witnessing the ghost of Laughlin; instead, students have claimed to feel a “presence” of the former owner.
Despite Mr. Rea’s anger at his wife’s infidelity, he too allegedly had an affair with a housemaid. When she learned he planned to fire her, the pregnant maid hanged herself in the Rea’s dining room. Residents have reported seeing her ghost from time to time.
Gordon has witnessed paranormal phenomena first-hand in Rea, like the opening and slamming of doors and the sound of knocking on walls and doors when no living things are around.
Gordon went on to speak of the ghost of Andrew Mellon, who haunts Mellon Hall.
“He lived in that house for 20 years, and he wasn’t about to let death stop him from living there,” said Gordon.
Students have reported smelling cigar smoke and hearing chatter and music in the swimming pool (now Mellon Board Room) and the bowling alley (now the Broadcast Studio) in which Mellon and his friend Henry Clay Frick used to spend time.
Legend has it that if one forgets to wave at the portrait of Mr. Mellon hanging in the building’s entrance, he or she will do poorly during finals.
Finally, Gordon told of the Blue Lady of Woodland Hall, Chatham’s most famous ghost, according to her. Woodland Hall was once a mental hospital, and a woman in a blue dress who is assumed to have been a patient has been reported on the fourth floor, usually hovering above sleeping residents. This ghost, however, has not been seen recently.
After Gordon’s presentation, other students shared their own ghostly experiences on campus.
Senior Cat Giles told a story about a classmate who woke up in her Fickes room to find a sixteenth-century party in progress. The student made a noise of alarm, the “guests” looked at her, and then she woke the next morning remembering nothing after their glare. According to Giles, this student has since transferred.
Giles also reported waking up in her own Fickes room last summer to see the Grim Reaper standing in the corner of her room.
“The whole day, I was like, ‘I’m going to die today. I’m going to Chipotle six times, since this is my last day on earth,’” she said, recounting her fear.
Fortunately, Giles survived the sighting.
The conversation progressed to paranormal experiences outside of Chatham, including those of ghosts in parents’ or grandparents’ houses, haunted elementary schools, clairvoyant experiences, and Abraham Lincoln sightings. The gathering broke up about an hour after it started with everyone ready for the holiday less than two weeks away.