Van Meter plagued with unexplained events

Kayla Swanson

One of the haunts that “Ghost Hunters” investigated for their episode on WKU was in Van Meter Hall, where a student or workman may be causing havoc for people in the building.

Tamela Smith, manager of Interactive Video Services and Communication Technology, said while preparing for The Atlantic Paranormal Society arrival to campus, she found an article from the Courier-Journal in the Kentucky Library about a student falling through the skylight of Van Meter.

The article, which was published on Sept. 3, 1918, said Bowling Green Business University student Henry Clegg from Wadley, Ala., fell through a skylight while watching for an aviator to arrive in Bowling Green.

Erika Brady, folk studies and anthropology professor, said some people have reported hearing the footsteps of the workman’s wife or the voice of his young daughter, but said she is suspicious of the workman version of the story.

“It’s a variant of a story that you hear a lot in other parts of the country having to do with people being startled by the airplane and falling to their death,” she said.

Brady said that version isn’t out of the question, but she hasn’t seen any documentation associated with it. She said auditoriums and theater buildings are generally perceived as haunted.

“The theater is a temple to a belief in things that don’t exist,” she said.

Smith and Brady said they have had people come to them with stories of unexplained occurrences in Van Meter.

A former WKU police officer told Smith about seeing someone going inside Van Meter one night.

The officer went in the building and heard footsteps and followed them into an office, but couldn’t see anyone, Smith said.

“He goes in and looks around and there’s nobody in there, and then he hears the sounds back outside and realizes there’s nobody there,” she said.

Brady said a musician with the WKU music department has also had an experience in Van Meter while practicing piano late at night.

“He saw someone in the back of the auditorium and went back to what he was doing, and when he looked again there was nobody there,” she said.

Jeff Smith, technical director for Van Meter, said he works in the building late at night and has had several experiences with unexplainable things.

Smith said during the spring after the Van Meter renovation, he decided to take a quick nap in the green room before finishing up some work.

“The TV is on and I look up at the TV and there’s somebody in the theater,” he said.

Smith said he saw a person bending over, looking at a seat near one of the statues in the theater.

“I thought ‘What’s somebody doing in the theater this time of night? All the doors are locked, there’s not supposed to be anybody in here,’” he said.

Smith said the number of people on campus when Van Meter first opened might contribute to the unexplained happenings in the building.

“When you go back and look at all the faces of all those people who were in this building that had such high hopes, that had all their dreams, their youth in front of them and you think back to how many thousands of people that came through here and how many people died at the time … who knows?” he said.