Haunted Hill

Lindsay Sainlar

One night in 1988, Tamela Maxwell, a former campus police officer, was dispatched to the second floor of South Hall. She was investigating a call about a crack in the wall between two dorm rooms. The crack seemed to be bulging and growing.

Maxwell approached some girls who had congregated at the end of the hall. Some of the girls said they had been playing with a Ouija board, but stopped after becoming frightful of their deceased communicator. The girls said that’s when the crack appeared.

Maxwell called for backup. A carpenter, a masonry supervisor and an electrician all arrived on the scene, but none of them could explain the split in the wall. ?

Boards were placed around the walls to prevent the concrete blocks from breaking loose. Several of the girls were relocated for the night to ensure their safety.

Maxwell has been at the receiving end of many supernatural occurrences at Western, all of which have accelerated her interest in the unknown.

“I believe there’s something,” said Maxwell, now an assistant manager for Interactive Distance Education. “But I’m not sure what it is. I don’t think we know all that’s out there.”

With Western dating back to 1906 and Bowling Green even further, the Hill that plagues some with shortness of breath and beads of sweat is full of stories and legends. Some are unexplainable, some are too extreme to believe. ?

These myths and more contribute to the unofficial history of Western. These ghost stories, often told to freshmen entering Master Plan, have been passed down generation after generation.

Folk studiies professor Erika Brady said these stories are not exclusive to Western. She said these narratives seem to spread around college campuses like wild fires, especially stories of ghosts haunting classroom buildings and residence halls.

“They tend to cluster in areas of anxiety,” Brady said about freshmen and students not used to being dependent on elevators or being alone. “Any little thing that happens can lend (itself) to a supernatural happening.”

However, Brady said there have been real episodes of tragedies at Western, misfortunes that have been highly publicized and scrutinized by the media and students alike. ?

Some of these ordeals have led to supernatural and unexplainable events in various buildings around campus. Some of these have been documented in the archives at the Kentucky Museum, one of the many buildings around campus rumored to be inhabited by spirits.

“We don’t know what happens to us when we die. These stories give us something to think about; the unknown,” Brady said. “We tend to accept out of ordinary explanations for what happens to us as opposed to ordinary explanations.” ??? ???????????

Brady said studies show one in five people will experience some form of communication with the dead in their lifetime. These communications rarely include sightings, she said, but rather the mere existence of a presence. ?

This sixth sense could be felt through a sudden extreme coldness, causing every hair on the neck and arms to rise, or through the smell of a perfume or cologne from a deceased one that shouldn’t be otherwise present.

“Quite frequently, people will be sleeping and awake to their name being called out, it’s very intense,” Brady said. “But it’s very rare to see things.”

Brady has vowed to remain neutral about believing in ghosts in order to allow her students to come up with their own beliefs.

“We can believe very strongly in their existence,” she said. “But no one can prove anything.” ???????

The following stories were researched through documents found in the Kentucky Museum archives, back issues of the Herald and interviews conducted with those who claim to have experienced the supernatural.

Not all stories or legends have been proven or documented. Some are merely hearsay, generated through telephone mills and passed down for the sole pleasure of scaring.

Van Meter Hall

According to stories reported in the university archives and unpublished documents stored at the Kentucky Library, curiosity killed a construction worker sometime between 1909 and 1912 when the 2,000-seat auditorium in Van Meter was being built. ?

The construction worker was working on a skylight above the stage, which is now covered up, when he spotted an airplane flying overhead. Airplanes were a new phenomenon that still intrigued those in this era. This worker was so distracted that he lost his balance and plummeted to his death.

On the stage was a large pool of blood that has been said to appear during dramatic play scenes and rainstorms since his death. The stage has been replaced twice since his death and still his blood has found a way to surface.

It has also been reported that janitors will turn off lights at night, only to walk three feet away and have them turn on again. Actors have also reported looking in the mirror only to see people standing behind them that weren’t there.

It was told to Maxwell that one of her colleagues saw a man entering Van Meter, which she said was locked and closed at the time. Upon entering the building to find the intruder, she said the officer heard sounds of footsteps and followed his lead through hallways and closed doors before finally hearing the footsteps enter a room with only one door. Thinking that he had his intruder cornered, the officer walked into the room and found nothing.

At that moment, the police officer heard an “evil cackle” coming from in the hallway just outside of the room he was in. He turned quickly, flashed his flashlight, and again – nothing.

Barnes-Campbell Hall

In 1967 another tragedy struck Western’s campus. This death involved a freshly showered resident assistant and a date with destiny. ?

Upon leaving the shower, a RA wearing nothing but a robe noticed that the elevator was stuck on the sixth floor.

According to a Herald article printed on Nov. 9, 1967, a 20-year-old Leitchfield junior named James Wilbur Duvall came upon an elevator key and entered the elevator shaft on the opposite side of the stalled car to trip a switch that would trigger the stuck elevator to start moving again.

This RA had done this before, but this time he forgot the most important step of all – looking up to see if any elevator cars were descending upon him.

When he reached in to flip the switch, records state that Duvall was crushed to death by the moving elevator when be became pinned between the outer wall of the elevator shaft and a steal beam. It took rescue workers more than an hour to remove his body.

Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life, said the elevator will move on its own to the sixth floor, even when no one is using it.

Bailey said he has experienced supernatural events in this building on several different occasions when worked as hall director in Barnes. ?

It was a typical humid summer and Western was as desolate as any Saturday night in the school year.

Bailey was alone in the dorms; it was his job to monitor Barnes during the summer. He said every summer the cleaning crew would clean the building from top to bottom, even scrubbing the metal trash cans that were once present in every dorm room. Bailey said they would stack the cans on the lobby of each floor by the elevators to dry. ?

Bailey said on several occasions he would be sitting alone in the empty dorm, when out of nowhere he would hear what sounded like someone throwing the metal trashcans down the stairwell. But he said no one else was in the building.

“Late at night they would come tumbling down the stairs,” Bailey said. “They weren’t even stacked by the stairs.”

Still, Bailey said he still refused to live in fear.

“Oddly enough, I’m not one that can tell you I believe in ghosts, I don’t have an explanation. If I let these things really bother me, I’d probably have a difficult time coping,” Bailey said. “I just know it happened and I accept it.”

Potter Hall

Potter Hall was built in 1921 as an all girls’ dormitory. In 1994 it was converted into an administrative building. ?

According to funeral papers, a distraught female named Theresa Watkins was living in room 7 on the basement floor when she hung herself by a belt from steam heating pipes that draped the ceilings in her dorm on April 21, 1979. ?

“I remember the night like it was last night,” Bailey said, who worked in Potter Hall at the time for the Residential Life office. “It was a devastating event.”

Legend has it that Watkin’s spirit, which is rumored to go by the name of “Allison” on a Ouija board, has told her communicators that she loves to move stuff that isn’t supposed to move on its own. ?

Maxwell said the sounds of money being dropped into vending machines, footsteps, moving chairs and creaking doors have been reported for years in Potter Hall, but reports have been few and far between since it was converted into an administrative building.

One of the most disturbing stories of all occurred to Maxwell herself during her time as a police officer. ?It was during a school break and the building was empty. She and another police officer were doing a routine check on various buildings around campus. ?

As they entered Potter Hall, she said she began to tell her colleague about the alleged ghost when they heard a banging coming from the direction of room 7. ?

They walked closer and heard new noises coming from that room. While Maxwell was searching for the key that would open the door, the other officer stated, “I saw that.” ?

Maxwell looked at him and asked, “Saw what?”

He pointed to the doorknob, which was turning, as if someone on the other side was shaking it. At that moment, Maxwell opened the door to see who was on the other side and to her surprise there was nothing but old mattresses. She said there were no pipes in the room and the window was shut tight and locked.

McLean Hall

There’s an oil portrait of Mattie McLean hanging high in the lobby of McLean Hall, and Jonathon Aivazis, a sophomore from Brentwood, Tenn., said he was told that if he stared at the painting long enough, she would smile at him.

He’s convinced that it’s true.

“She really does smile at you,” Aivazis said.

But some say her smile isn’t the only way she makes herself known.

In the Kentucky Museum archives, records have stated that Miss Mattie, as she was called, gives a very soothing and comforting feeling when she is present, like the motherly figure she acted out as secretary in Cherry and Garrett. ?

It is also known that she plays tricks on people, like turning on and off stereos and alarm clocks or knocking things off walls.

Legend has it, she never made her presence known until a couple of students started using a Ouija board to talk to her. ?

According to an essay by Dana Albrecht, who did a study on haunted buildings around campus, Miss Mattie appeared to three girls who were communicating to her with a Ouija board.

They first asked her if she was in the room with them and she replied yes. Then they asked her if she would appear before them and she again replied yes. The girls turned off the lights and all three reported that a bright light appeared and they saw a woman with gray hair, lighter gray face and an even lighter gray outfit.

It was also reported that these girls would ask her questions about her life and then research the answers that appeared on the Ouija board. They said the answers she gave were accurate to that of Miss Mattie’s life story.

Pearce-Ford Tower

This legend behind the spirit inhabiting Pearce-Ford Tower involves another elevator fatality. ?

For whatever reason, there was a resident who never took showers on his own floor. He would travel to other floors and use their bathroom facilities. ?

One night, after waiting for the elevator to take him to another floor, the doors malfunctioned and opened, causing him to step in with no car waiting to receive him on the other side.

Needless to say, he fell a long way before checking in eternally at PFT. They say his wet footprints can be seen inside the elevator from time to time.

Rodes-Harlin Hall

The haunting of this dorm comes from a story about a young girl who committed suicide by jumping off this nine-story building. ?

She returns every year on the anniversary of her death to spook the new residents in Rodes-Harlin.

Students on the ninth floor have reported hearing footsteps pitter-pattering around on the roof, and some have even said they’ve spotted her hanging around her old dorm room.

Reach Lindsay Sainlar at [email protected]