Apparitions & Archaeology: 5th Annual Haunted Campus Tour

Apparitions & Archaeology: 5th Annual Haunted Campus Tour

Happy Halloween! Yesterday we hosted our 5th annual Apparitions & Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour. For this year’s tour, we decided to change several of the stops and the MSU Paranormal Society added stories from their investigations of each area! If you weren’t able to attend the tour last night, below you can read about some of the stories told at each stop:

Southeast corner of Beaumont Tower, 1928. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Beaumont Tower:
Prior to Beaumont Tower, College Hall, the first building on campus, was located at this spot. It was erected in 1856 and was the first structure in America that was dedicated to the instruction of scientific agriculture. 

The tower itself was constructed where the northeast corner of College Hall once stood. Some of the foundation walls for the original building still exist underneath the sidewalks. In the fall of 2009, the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) tested areas north and south of Beaumont Tower and discovered the foundation of College Hall and cinder pathways that would have been used by the first MSU students!

There are many stories of hauntings around Beaumont tower. For example, specters of couples in old-fashioned dress holding hands have been seen walking slowly by on foggy mornings. On very dark nights, there have been multiple sightings of a man in tails and a stovepipe hat wandering around the tower.

Saints Rest:
Saints’ Rest was the first dormitory on campus, constructed in 1857. Unfortunately in the winter of 1876, while students were on break, the building burned down. In 2005, CAP investigated the debris left behind from the building, and determined that the fire likely started in the basement where construction tools were found burned in place. 

Students outside Saints’ Rest ca. 1857. Image from MSU Archives.

Although there were no reported deaths in the fire, there have been numerous sightings of ghostly students in 19th century clothing wandering through this space, looking for their lost dorm building. When the Paranormal Society investigated this area, the flashlight set on the ground near the Saints’ Rest sign flicked when asked if there were any spirits that wanted to communicate…

Mable Reconstructed
Mabel Post-Reconstruction

In 2015, a privy associated with the Saints’ Rest dormitory was discovered and excavated by CAP. Not only was this the bathroom for students, but it also served as a dumping ground for illicit items–such as smoking pipes and alcohol bottles–that students wished to hide forever. Also discovered in the historic privy was the head of a porcelain doll, who came to be known as Mabel. Why someone living in Saints’ Rest, an all-male dormitory, was seeking to get rid of a doll remains a mystery.

Mary Mayo Hall:
The area by this dormitory was once known as “Faculty Row,” as it was where the first faculty homes were built on campus. The only Faculty Row building still here today is Cowles House, which is the oldest standing structure on the MSU campus. 

In 2008, CAP excavated between Landon and Campbell Halls and uncovered early construction materials including wood plumbing and bricks made of clay sourced from the Red Cedar River. 

Mary Mayo Hall, a stop on the Apparitions and Archaeology Tour, is said to be haunted
Mary Mayo Hall – Image courtesy of MSU Archives.

Mary Mayo is supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings on campus. Several strange occurrences have been reported. A woman’s figure has been seen near the piano in the West Lounge and sometimes the piano plays all by itself.

MSU Museum:
Long ago, a very different building stood in this spot: Williams Hall, which was the second dormitory on campus. It was built in 1869, but like Saints’ Rest, it burned down in 1919 during winter break. 

Although limited archaeology has been done in the immediate vicinity of the museum, just to the west of Beaumont Tower, a small Archaic campsite, dating to between 3000 and 500 BC was discovered and excavated by CAP.

MSU Museum - Image courtesy of MSU Archives
MSU Museum – Image courtesy of MSU Archives

In the MSU Museum over the years, archaeology graduate students working in the basement labs reported hearing people walking around on the first and second floors, as well as strange noises coming from behind the exhibits.

Beal Gardens: 
Beal Botanical Garden is the longest continually maintained university garden in the nation. It was established by William Beal, MAC’s first Botany professor. In 1879, a Botanical Laboratory was built in the area near the Botanical Garden. 

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR
Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Campus Archaeology excavated between West Circle Drive and the Beal Garden gazebo in 2016 and found building remains believed to be the remnants of the Botanical Laboratory. Artifacts recovered included building materials, melted glass, and charcoal, most likely associated with the 1890 fire that destroyed the building. 

Students and faculty members have reported seeing a male apparition dressed in clothes from the 1920s – some say it is Professor Beal coming back to the garden to check on his seed experiment that he started in 1879.

CAP fellow, Kate Frederick standing by historic steam tunnel.
CAP fellow, Kate Frederick standing by historic steam tunnel.

Steam Tunnels:
Throughout north campus there are historic steam tunnels; they are a series of honeycombed tubes that are over 100 years old. In 1884, the first boiler and power plant was constructed on campus, behind Olds hall. The steam created by the boiler was used to heat the original Wells and Williams Halls, the Chemistry building, library, and museum. 

During the 2014 West Circle construction, Campus Archaeology was able to excavate one of these historic steam tunnels. We were lucky to be able to document this stretch of tunnel, as most of the historic tunnels have been deeply buried, are caved in, or have been removed by construction.

Author: Autumn Painter

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