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Do College Campuses Host ghosts?

Most college campuses have claims of ghostly activities, from eerie noises to potential ghost sightings. Mills College is no different with its many tales of ghosts living on the College campus. Whether or not people believe in spirits or ghosts, many have heard stories of ghosts at Mills.

A view of the Mills cemetery. (Bridget Stagnitto)

“I’d be willing to bet that there are ghosts on campus because it’s old and semi-creepy,” said senior Katy Metchnikoff. “I’ve been studying with my friend in the Ethel Moore Library and doors have slammed with no open windows or anything like that.”

According to Fiona Broome, a paranormal investigator and author of many ghost-related books, colleges are hotbeds for spirits.

“Colleges should account for more spectral activity than most settings,” Broome said. “Poltergeist events most often occur near someone between ages 8 and 25. Most poltergeist cases involve a young woman, usually ages 14 through 19.”

According to Broome, it is because these girls have more emotional energy to spare.

However, Broome is quick to point out that there is a difference between an actual ghost and what she calls “residual energy hauntings,” such as eerie feelings people experience or when they suddenly get very cold. This is not the work of ghosts, Broome claims, but of lingering emotional energy.

Former Mills student Alexa Turner wrote about various ghost stories in The Campanil in 2007. One of the stories featured was about a room, unspecified, in Mary Morse where a girl slit her wrists and bled onto the floor. Blood is said to occasionally reappear due to the ghost returning, sometimes leading to the need of new floorboards.

According to Broome, suicide is a reason a person may stay around as a ghost.

“Whether or not the death was an accident or intentional, (they) deny what has happened,” Broome said. “They want to change the past so they can return to the living and live the lives they’d dreamed of.”

However, not every paranormal investigator believes in ghost hauntings. According to the article Haunted Swindon – A Census of Hauntings by Javier Ortega on the website Paranormal Site Investigation, hearing footsteps in an attic does not mean there is a specter unless every “rational” explanation has been ruled out.

These may include bad plumbing, mice or death watch beetles — a beetle that burrows into wood or old furniture and makes a clicking or ticking noise by bumping its head or jaw on the tunnel.

These investigators say they have yet to encounter anything they can say is an actual supernatural being.

Broome is also ready to point out that not every seemingly haunted place is haunted.

“80 percent of the homes I investigated aren’t haunted; they just need simple repairs for the weird stuff to stop happening,” Broome said. “And, even if the home is haunted, it’s usually residual energy, not a ‘trapped’ spirit.”

Alex Wright, son of a Mills faculty and staff member, created the website, which is dedicated to the Mills ghost stories. He puts the rumors he has heard up on the internet and also allows students to send them their own experiences to display on the site.

One is the ghost of Lisser Hall, usually thought to be Susan Mills or Louis Lisser. The ghost is known to pace the Lisser Hall stage, but there is never a sign of a ghost, just the sound of the footsteps on the stage. However, most reports are usually just of footsteps, which may or may not be some kind of spiritual energy.

The ghosts of Mills go beyond sounds. According to Wright’s website, in April 1996, two foreign exchange students claimed to see the ghost of a man sitting and reading a newspaper and then walked right through the wall when he realized they were watching him. Both said they had not been drinking.

Whether or not there are ghosts or other “spectral activity” at Mills, the stories of ghosts remain, and according to Broome, they have a right to be here.

“The ghosts have as much right to live there as you do,” Broome said. “You’re in different realities, most of the time. I recommend learning to live with each other, respect each other’s rules and so on.”