by Zazie Tobey, staff writer
Believers in hauntings claim that souls remain in places they were most positively or negatively invested in. There are many skeptics of paranormal activity and a diverse range of opinions on the matter of hauntings and ghosts. Whether these spiritual manifestations are grounded or not, there have been several speculations of our very own Warren Wilson hauntings that have surfaced throughout the years.
In ancient Egyptian, Celtic, and Hindu cultures the Owl symbolizes a guardian of the underworlds. Winging its trapped soul from the physical world into the realm of spirit, the owl, Wilson’s mascot, can be viewed as a protector of the dead. From an aerial view Jensen Lecture Hall, named after Henry W. Jensen, is constructed in the shape of an owl. This strange shaped building, lined with concrete walls and small angled window slits, is usually darker than the afternoon outside. Even on the rainiest of days with the florecenats turned on and a classroom full of warm bodies, Jensen can feel dark and lonely.
Jensen has been rumored to house eerie, ominous activity. Students working on the Heavy Duty crew have alleged strange incidences of vacuum cleaners turning off and ceasing to work, lights flickering and breaking, the elevator running at night and clanking noises coming from the professor’s quarters.
An adjunct professor who used to teach in Jensen claimed that she was sensitive to spirits in Jensen after an impressionable experience she witnessed inside. Tom Wilder, the crew boss of Heavy Duty has affirmed the adjunct professors feelings, stating that the professor felt certain of a spiritual presence. Wilder has gotten some strange feedback from students after shifts, especially after night cleanings in Jensen. Although some of the observations of lights and noises could be debunked, students who wish to remain anonymous still report possible paranormal activity within the darkened doors of the humanities building.
The archeology lab is located on Jensen’s second floor and contains many of the artifacts excavated from the Pisgah culture village, home to ancestors of the Cherokees as well as the Berry Sight. The Berry sight is a Native American town located in Morgantown whi was occupied between 1400-1600 C.E. Some of the artifacts found at the Berry sight have been brought back to the Jensen laboratory. Students have speculated the significance of removing these possibly sacred artifacts and housing them in Jensen, wondering if this is a possible explanation to the strange occurrences experienced.
Wilson’s campus has been around since the early 1800s, once a plot of land and one farm school building, now a campus designed to house over 900 students. Still many buildings from the early days of the college remain, such as the Sunderland Dorm, constructed in the late 1920s and Dorland in the mid 1950s. The rooms in the older dorms have housed multiple generations of students and have hosted unfortunate accidents and suicides. One near death accident that occurred in Dorland made headlines in the 1959 edition of Inside Detective titled “Crazed Coeds”, which can be found in the Library’s archive. On the night of May 15, 1959, Patricia Dennis, who lived on the second floor of Dorland snuck downstairs with a hatchet in hand to the room of her former roommate, Rosa Watterson. Dennis struck Watterson’s face with her hatchet multiple times, mutilating her in a nearly fatal attack. Dorland residents have reported suspicious activities such as doors not staying shut, dropping temperatures on warm days and strange feelings while walking the brick corridors. Perhaps the anger of Patricia and the fear of Rosa still linger within Dorland’s thick walls.
Sunderland Dormitory is another one of the original campus residence halls and although the inside was renovated last summer, it remains structurally untouched, much like Dorland. The basement of Sunderland used to be a slaughterhouse for large livestock, mostly cattle. The basements morbid history makes some residents uncomfortable and although there have been no encounters with phantom cattle, students have reported uneasy feelings and one student who wished to remain anonymous claimed that they have smelled blood strongly on a few separate occasions. It is not just the old dormitories where students have claimed to experience strange phenomena. Kittredge theatre has also been known to make hairs stand on end, and chills run down spines, as if someone is watching from behind.
Helen Kittredge sits properly in her light blue dress in the lobby of the Kittredge theatre that she made possible with her generous contributions. Her portrait hangs inside the ticket booth, but many believe Helen to be out of the frame, flickering lights, breaking things, and pacing around the theatre. One theatre crewmember was working alone downstairs in the prop area, when allegedly a baby carriage started to roll across the floor. Another student working this summer claimed she heard footsteps on top of Kittredge, heavy heels stomping on the slanted roof that could only be climbed with serious gear, or a bucket lift.
“You can tell when she doesn’t like a show,” said Belle-Pilar Fleming, a sophomore on Theatre Crew. “During 9 to 5 the Musical there were an unusual amount of broken sewing needles, we broke four or five over the course of three days!”
Towards the end of one of the recent theatre crew meetings the lights started to flicker at the time they were supposed to finish, an eerie reminder that some claimed was Helen’s doing. The crew often uses the catchphrase “Thanks Helen” in response to unexplainable disturbances.
“Buildings might be haunted here, but the forests…I bet the real hauntings manifest in the trees,” said Wilder.
Cherokee religion believes that spirits are the guardians of trees, and the diverse forests around campus have been rumored to host a wide range of energies and emotions. The Cherokee archeological site is located on campus and many artifacts have been discovered including human remains that were re-buried and laid to rest back at the sight around 1999.
Many believers of spirits of the dead believe that matter cannot be destroyed, only transferred.
“Do I believe in ghosts? Certainty,” said Wilder, “In my mind you can’t deny that matter is vibrational frequencies bound together.”
Do vibrational frequencies exist as spirits on our campus? Why is it that certain buildings make students feel as if they are not alone? Does Wilson’s history run deeper than the remains of the old farm buildings and the Native American Pisgah settlement?
Perhaps there are residents who have never left campus, refusing to retire from the beauty of these mountains. Perhaps the Wilson hauntings are true, or maybe they are just explanations to things we can’t yet understand.