Thursday, May 23, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Todd Hall has been the source of accounts of paranormal activity over the course of many years. Building manager Nancy Ganson reported hearing children's footsteps sprinting up and down this hallway at 2 a.m., only to find the corridor deserted.
October 30, 2012
MONMOUTH -- Nancy Ganson first heard about unexplained phenomena happening inside Todd Hall soon after moving to Monmouth in 1986, years before she ever become manager of the building at Western Oregon University.
It wasn't until the early 2000s, however, that she had her first run-in with whatever has taken up residence here.
Ganson was working in the facility late one evening and heard footsteps sprinting up and down the hallway of the third floor above her.
To be certain, professors bring their kids to the office on occasion -- but not at 2 a.m.
"I redid my data entry, went up the stairs and there was absolutely nobody there," she said. "I came back down, saved quickly and went home ... it freaked me out.
"From that point on, any time I came back in the evening, I brought one of my dogs with me," she continued. "And not one of them has ever enjoyed being in this building."
Todd Hall has been a reputed source of paranormal activity over the years: The mysterious sobbing in its "Painted Alley"; kids' voices inside a day care facility when it's empty; and a swing in the basement play area that -- you guessed it -- swings back and forth by itself.
It's not the only building at WOU that's spawned ghost stories.
The Academic Support Programs Center off Jackson Street housed Western's books and archives before Hamersly Library opened in 2000. Jerrie Lee Parpart, Hamersly's curator, used to work in that facility and said students swore that books fell off the shelves by themselves or had a "creepy feeling" while walking through aisles.
Some blamed Dessa Hofstetter, a former student and longtime librarian who worked at ASPC during the 1940s.
"She was known in later years for walking around, 'sshh-ing' people and poking them with her cane when they misbehaved," Parpart said.
Rice Auditorium houses the university's theater program -- and, according to some, the ghost of George Harding, who taught drama at WOU for almost 20 years until his death in 1965.
After the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 destroyed the school's original theater at Campbell Hall, plays were relocated to the gym of the old Monmouth High School at the corner of Powell and Warren streets. The ghost of Harding was rumored to have taken up residence at the old school.
"You would think you turned off the lights when you were done with rehearsal, you could get across the room, and they would come back on," said Richard Davis, a retired humanities professor. "Or you would come back part way to turn them off, and they would go dark."
Rice was built on the same block in 1976. Davis said he's heard that the lighting quirks and strange sounds attributed to Harding have manifested here, as well, though he admits he's never experienced anything here firsthand.
Retired humanities professor Richard Davis in Rice Auditorium on WOU's campus. The theater is rumored to be occupied by the ghost of George Harding, a former drama professor to whom strange lighting occurrences are attributed.
"George has never ruined a show," Davis added. "His personality was he would have wanted it to go on."
Not every ghost on campus is benevolent -- certainly not the one at Campbell Hall, said Rebecca Eldred, a communications major.
Eldred said she and friends have taken Halloween-season tours led by a paranormal researcher of the facility during the last two years. The guide runs through the normal investigative techniques, such as asking questions while running an audio recorder to capture electronic voice phenomena (EVP) during those programs.
During her first trip, Eldred said you can plainly hear a "huge scream" during playback inside an upstairs art classroom. The tour leader asked questions to the supposed spirit in the same location; Eldred said attendees could feel themselves being pushed or having their hair pulled.
WOU student Rebecca Eldred outside Campbell Hall, where she had several eerie experiences - despite her skepticism about the paranormal tours she was on.
"One girl left and started crying," Eldred said.
Last year, Eldred said the guide used a device that displayed words based on electromagnetic activity. The machine spat out her name, the word "twin" and the name of Eldred's twin sister, who wasn't on the tour.
"That was crazy and really freaky," Eldred said. She noted she would go on another tour of the site "because I'm really skeptical."
"I can tell you now, though, that I don't want to go in there by myself," she said.
Keith Carlton, a WOU public safety officer for more than 16 years, said there are incidents that can be explained away with a building's age, and others that can't.
One was on Christmas Eve at Todd Hall in 1997, when Carlton and a dispatcher were the only employees on campus. Somehow, every sprinkler valve in the fully-locked and empty building had been turned just enough to trigger a fire alarm system.
Carlton went to investigate the oddity. When he returned to the dispatch center, he viewed footage from security cameras that were turned toward the west end of Todd Hall.
In a third-floor room, one could see light brighten, dim, and brighten again for 15 minutes. Carlton said he opted not to go back to check it out.
"I knew that what we were looking at wasn't normal," Carlton said. "In that room were just some tables and chairs ... there was nothing in that room that could glow."
Ghost investigations have yielded a presence in the Fireside Room of the building of "a sturdy woman with a 'my way or the highway' attitude," Ganson said.
That could only have been Jessica Todd, former dean of women during the early 1900s and the facility's namesake.
"Do I believe in ghosts?" Ganson asked. "I don't disbelieve."