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New encounters bring Ohio State hauntings to light

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In February 1893, a new building opened on Ohio State’s campus named Hayes Hall, after President Rutherford B. Hayes, a key supporter in OSU’s first years as a university.

Unfortunately for Hayes, he was never able to see the completed building — he passed away two weeks before it opened.

Even so, the building would later become living quarters for students from 1915-20, and back then, campus housing had a strict curfew policy.

One brisk October night, two men missed their curfew again and didn’t arrive back to their home, Hayes Hall, until about 10 p.m.

Afraid of getting in trouble, the men did not want to draw attention to themselves and decided to throw rocks at friends’ windows so they could let them in. This usually worked whenever the two came back late.

But on this particular night, the two men got lucky when an older bearded man noticed them standing outside and let them in.

They then asked who he was, because they did not recognize him. The man said he was the building curator.

The two men likely didn’t think anything of the bearded man who helped them that night until they saw a picture hanging on a wall in the building of Rutherford B. Hayes: the suspicious curator of the hall who they never saw again.

For a university that is 144 years old, OSU has its fair share of ghost stories. With a look into the university archives, these stories can come back to life — and it seems Rutherford B. Hayes isn’t the only Buckeye to visit campus after death.

“We did a podcast episode last fall called ‘Haunted Oval Tour’ that covers some creepy fact and fiction about campus,” said Lindy Smith, a research services archivist with university archives, in an email.

According to one Lantern article from 1994, a psychic/channeler, Cindy Bethel, said, “there’s thousands of (ghosts) and they’re everywhere.”

Despite documented evidence, some OSU students and at least one faculty member said they are doubtful of the stories.

“I’ve been around the building, even the basement which gets spooky at night, and I’ve never seen anything,” said Polly Graham, building coordinator for Hayes Hall. “I don’t really believe in ghosts. People kind of have their own imagination.”

And even though some might doubt the presence of spirits, some incidents are hard to explain or ignore.

Orton Hall

As the second-oldest building on campus, Orton Hall has seen many students and faculty members come and go. But it’s rumored that some people have decided to stay in the aging building for the afterlife.

The building is said to house multiple ghosts — the most well-known ghosts are of Edward Orton Sr. and a prehistoric man.

According to university archives, Edward Orton Sr. was the first president of OSU and the university’s first geology professor in 1873.

Orton would often be found reading in the bell tower by lamp light after dark and it is said that you can occasionally still see the flicker of light from the tower.

Before his death, Orton founded the Orton Geological Museum in 1893. The museum, which is still there today, houses more than 54,000 specimen and the skeleton of a giant three-toed sloth.

These artifacts are also said to bring the ghost of a prehistoric man to the building who is upset and confused about his modern day surroundings. He can be heard slamming doors, banging on walls and occasionally making grunting noises. Although Patti Dittoe, the library associate for geology, has been working in Orton Hall for 17 years and is familiar with these stories, she said, personally, she has never experienced anything in relation to these or any ghosts.

Even so, some of Dittoe’s coworkers have felt differently.

“One of my former students said she saw a man’s boots upstairs in the main room that we took over from the museum and when she went around to see if she could help him, there was no one there and it creeped her out so badly she wouldn’t go down there at night alone to close things down,” Dittoe said.

Another tale she has heard is of the university’s first full-time librarian, Olive Branch Jones, who gets angry if the books in the library experience water damage. Her ghost can also be encountered in Thompson Library.

Thompson Library

One of the most recent stories of ghosts comes from Thompson Library.

Olive Branch Jones worked there, and at Orton Memorial Library of Geology and eight other department libraries. She collected more than 300,000 items for campus libraries over her 34-year tenure at the university and died in 1933.

It is said that there is one part of the library where Jones occasionally makes appearances: the basement stacks that hold some of the university’s special collection items.

One worker felt she was not alone and occasionally heard footsteps and the rustling of a dress.

Another worker experienced something similar but was shaken when the footsteps and rustling did not go away but led to a woman dressed in black walking past her.

The two workers were shown a picture of Jones and “were shaken,” according to the podcast provided by university archives.

Hannah Cowman, a fourth-year in anthropology and worker in Thompson Library’s special collections department, was told the tale of the university’s first librarian and her eyes widened.

“It’s weird that you say that because I remember telling my coworkers I saw a woman in white (downstairs),” Cowman said. “One of my coworkers wouldn’t go downstairs after that.”

It seems as though Jones might have brought a change of clothes with her to watch over her beloved books.

Bricker Hall

Herbert Atkinson, an OSU alumnus, was a Buckeye for life and possibly a Buckeye for his afterlife as well. Atkinson played varsity basketball for three years, was a member of the varsity cheerleading squad for one year, received his law degree from OSU in 1913, served as vice president of the Ohio State alumni association for 13 years and was a member of the board of trustees for 23 years.

His dying wish was that his ashes would be kept on OSU’s campus and, because of his service to the university, the Board of Trustees complied.

His remains are now kept behind a plaque in Bricker Hall and, as rumor has it, his ghost can occasionally be seen drinking punch in the lobby.

Ryan Gundlach, a fourth-year in agribusiness, works in Bricker Hall and said he wasn’t aware there were human remains located merely feet from his desk, let alone a ghost in the lobby.

“I’ve never seen it,” Gundlach said.

Mirror Lake and Pomerene Hall

As a university with so much history, some of the ghost stories have become jumbled, like the one of the widow of Frederick Converse Clarke.

Clarke, a professor at the university and the head of the department of economics and sociology, shot himself on a hill by Mirror Lake on Sept. 19, 1903.

According to an article by The Lantern published on Sept. 21, 1903: “Professor Clarke had been worrying a great deal recently and had become despondent over some financial reserves. This is given by his most intimate friends as the cause of the action.”

Before his suicide, the professor went to then-President William Oxley Thompson for financial help but was not taken seriously.

After learning of the way her husband’s concerns were handled, Clarke’s distraught widow vowed to never leave the university — to which some say she’s still here.

Nineteen years later, on that same hill where Clarke took his own life, Pomerene Hall was built. It is rumored that Mirror Lake and Pomerene Hall have different ghostly presences but perhaps both are the same ghost of Clarke’s widow.

Anna Fout, building coordinator of Pomerene Hall, said she felt she was always being followed by a hostile spirit when she first began her job about eight years ago.

“It sounds funny but one day I just turned around and said, ‘It’s OK! I’m just locking up the building,’” and from then on I’ve felt happiness in the building,” Fout said.

Although Fout believes she calmed the angry spirit, she says custodians still complain about doors being unlocked when they have locked them and vice-versa.

2 comments

  1. These ghosts on campus are as mysterious as this current USG Administration’s track record.

  2. Check out the podcast Haunted Oval tour!

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