Hauntings of CMU: Students and staff share their encounters with paranormal activity on campus
Halloween is the time of year where ghouls and ghosts appear in the form of stories and entertainment.
But who still lurks on campus when the jack o’lanterns go out and the snow hits the ground? Who watches students, staff and faculty when nobody’s around?
Welcome to the dark side of Central Michigan Life, to see how our ghosts fire up in the afterlife.
These are haunts of Central Michigan University.
North Campus: The Darkness that Lingers
Dearborn Heights sophomore Tierra Wright said her first floor room in Calkins Hall embodies the cryptic chilliness provided by the north campus of CMU.
North campus is the home to CMU’s oldest buildings and the most haunting tales.
It is the setting for a freshman to be discovered dead under the covers by her roommates in 1951. It is also where a cafeteria employee was strangled to death in Warriner Hall during the 1930s. Her head became trapped within a small window leading to an elevator shaft in 1937 that immediately resulted in her death.
Wright said she did not realize her dorm was haunted until after an incident that occurred in September.
“One time our friend was waiting outside our door when nobody was in the room. She heard two women from behind the door mumbling about someone waiting outside,” she said.
Wright and her roommates have been subjected to doors closing by themselves, and fans flying off the window sill and being flung across the room.
“One day (my roommate) Alyssa couldn’t find her command hook and out of nowhere it slipped down the wall,” she said, explaining the hook had slid against the wall as though a magnet were leading it to the floor from the other side.
Wright said numerous orbs appear on the screen of two video recordings she made with her roommates in the dorm.
“I just know that things don’t fly off walls normally, and the fans just flew across the room too many times for it to be a coincidence,” she said.
It’s not just students reporting hauntings in north campus, but staff too.
Ruth Barrett, a custodian at CMU, has been working for 35 years and was assigned to work in Barnes Hall from 1994 to 2012.
She recalled a story of a girl who had hung herself near a window looking out on Washington Street. She said residents later would consistently report lights and other electronic devices, such as televisions, being turned on-and-off in the room.
“I never really had a problem with Barnes Hall, but a lot of students did,” Barrett said. “I heard the stories, but I could never get them substantiated. I asked several people about it, but they would never talk, which tells me something.”
Barrett said students would avoid a study room, located in the basement.
“They said they would have the weirdest feelings down there,” Barrett said.
Her most personal encounter with paranormal entities happened in Anna M. Barnard Residential Hall, a former residency that opened in 1948 and was demolished in 1997.
Barrett said she was doing maintenance in the hall after students had gone home for winter vacation and the campus was left in solitude.
“It was an interior hallway, the doors were all shut and the lights didn’t blink,” she said. “There was nobody else here.”
Barrett said amidst the isolation of her shift, a shadowy cloud has appeared as a tall, human-size figure and walked past her.
“I saw it go by me and there should have been nothing there,” she said.
She believes the ghost is of a freshman who died in her sleep in 1951 on a Sunday morning after spending the previous day at a picnic with her roommates. When the ambulance arrived at Barnard Hall, her body had to be removed from the hall through a back staircase leading into a courtyard.
“The stairway to me was just like any normal residency stairway,” Barrett said. “But once you got to the first floor landing it would be freezing cold. The radiator was always pouring out heat but you couldn’t feel any of it.”
Barrett said prior to Barnard’s demolishment, custodial staff had come to believe the student’s spirit was released and would no longer be tied to the root of her untimely death.
Other north campus halls that have been the setting to paranormal activity include Larzelere Hall.
Indiana sophomore Shane Guenin said nearly every morning last year he was greeted by the sounds of something moving around in an empty bedroom.
He shared a dorm with a front desk employee on the third floor of Larzelere Hall. He didn’t want to believe a ghost had been residing in his suitemate’s bedroom.
“He left for the weekend and it happened again. I was in the bathroom Saturday morning when I heard someone moving,” Guenin said. “I (peeked) my head in and looked around and there was nobody there.”
His next paranormal encounter took place after returning back to an empty dorm late in the evening.
“I go to lay down in my bed and I swear (that) as soon as I turned off the lamp I hear a little girl giggle in the corner of the room,” he said.
Guenin spent his Saturday night sleeping in the common room with chairs pushed against both of the bedroom doors, keeping them shut tight.
The ghost of Moore Hall
Barrett said she has experienced decades worth of ghostly encounters at CMU.
She has been chased out of Finch Fieldhouse by an unsettling energy that followed her during a late night shift. Barrett calls out the ghost of Warriner Hall by name. She’s even been in the tunnel system that exists beneath campus.
She said her first paranormal encounter was with Ernie, the ghost of Moore Hall.
Barrett said Ernie is the ghost of a custodian from Clare who worked midnight shifts in Moore. He died in the back of room 101 after suffering from ingestion at the beginning of his work shift.
"(My husband) said when Ernie hit that chair he was dead,” Barrett said. “He said they would experience the strangest things and that the hall would never be the same again once Ernie passed away.”
Doors in Moore Hall will lock and unlock on their own, Barrett said, and elevators will operate on their own.
Ernie was first sighted during summer 1993 when a husband and wife had been doing labor work for the second elevator that was installed in the hall, Barrett said.
The wife requested to use the custodial break room for the weekend as they spent the entire time digging up the space where the elevator would be placed.
Barrett left from work Friday morning and did not return until late Sunday evening. She said the wife claimed that a custodian was spotted walking near room 101.
“There is no custodian at this campus on Sunday at 4 (p.m.),” Barrett said. “She said that he had an olive drab uniform and our guys haven’t work those uniforms in years. I’m convinced, the building was locked (and) there’s nothing going on this campus at that time in that year in the summer.”
Barrett said she believes Ernie’s spirit still lurks in Moore Hall, roaming the main hallway and riding the newest elevator closest to the Townsend Kiva.
Ouija Boards, Falling Pictures and Evil Spirits
Mai McKnight said her first encounter with paranormal activity began during her first Welcome Weekend as a freshman.
The Grand Rapids junior and her roommates at the time were in the common room getting to know each other then one of them had revealed a certain fascination with ghosts and life after death.
“One of my roommates is into suspense, mystery and horror,” she said. “She showed us she has an Ouija board and we immediately told her to put that away because we don’t mess with it.”
The roommate agreed to keep the board tucked away in her bedroom closet, but McKnight said she and her other roommates still felt an unwanted presence lingering in the room.
She said doors would open and close and objects would fall from closets without a known cause.
“A week and a half into the semester, I’m in the bedroom with my friends sitting on the floor. We were just talking and minding our business and a shoe flew out of the closet,” McKnight said. “It did not just fall, it literally flew out of the closet and almost hit my friend.”
Later that semester the group returned to their room on the third floor of Merrill to discover the Ouija board had been taken out of the box and laid out on the floor.
McKnight said the experience has assured that a ghost was present in her room along with rumors that a student had committed suicide on the floor.
“All I know now is that we don’t mess with the spirits, the demons or the lions, the witches and the wardrobe,” she said. “We just don’t do anything in that nature.”
Grosse Pointe senior Christina Amato said living on the terrace floor of Cobb was nothing short from spooky. She said the basement-like space was more quiet and isolating than the floors above, making the possibility of her freshman dorm room being haunted all the more likely.
“The RAs said the floor is unlike anything else in the hall,” she said. “It’s almost like a completely different world.”
Amato said whenever she would wake up in the middle of the night she felt as though someone were standing in the center of the room, watching her every move in an invisible silence. Amato and her roommates would frequently hear knocking on the walls, but she said the strangest encounter was when a large canvas painting of Charlie Chaplin was thrown into the center of the room.
“One night it flipped off the dresser and landed facing right side up on the floor,” she said, Amato added the canvas was placed leaning against the wall on a dresser with other items and knick knacks sitting in front of it.
She said nothing else had been moved off the dresser and it appeared as though the 4x4 canvas was lifted up by an unknown force.
“We ran out of the room,” Amato said. “My roommates and I were literally too scared to sleep, so we left all of our lights on overnight.”