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ISSUE 119 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/28/2005

Friendly ghosts roam dorms

By David Henke
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 28, 2005

It’s inevitable that a school as old as St. Olaf will accumulate a fair share of ghost stories. In fact, the college seems to be extraordinarily endowed with a paranormal presence – so much so that, in an online survey of the most haunted places in Minnesota, St. Olaf College is listed four separate times – more than any other single site in the entire state.

St. Olaf students and administration candidly acknowledge their school’s reputation for spookiness; Greg Kneser, Dean of Students, leads wary first-years and prospective students around on “Ghost Tours,” and many Oles are familiar with the various spectral stories floating around campus.

Adam Pearce ‘07 believes that ghosts exist on campus. Although he has not had any close encounters of the spectral kind, he has heard the tales. “Thorson’s the most haunted,” he said. “But I’ve heard some stories about Hill-Kitt too.”

Nolan Cook ’08 not only believes in ghosts, but actively searches for them as well. “We’ve looked for [ghosts] up in the attic of Mellby before,” he said. He didn’t find any spirits while he was ghost hunting, but Cook still believes that Mellby is the most haunted dorm.

Kathryn Parker ‘08 and Michelle Liesmaki ‘08 disagree on which campus building is the most haunted. “Mellby freaks me out,” Parker said, while Liesmaki thought that the third floor chapel in Hilleboe was the creepiest place on campus.

Annie Johnson ‘06 was a little skeptical about Ole ghosts at first. “I thought that I didn’t [believe in ghosts], but then weird things have happened, so I don’t know,” she said.

Three dorms in particular – Thorson, Mellby and Hilleboe – are notorious for paranormal activity. Thorson is believed to be occupied by the “Red Hat Boy,” a ghost that was, as legend goes, first seen by two roommates in the window of their room.

The girls noted that other strange occurences coincided with the ghost’s arrival. Their stereo would mysteriously play Pachebel’s “Canon in D” at random intervals. Rumor has it that the room that the girls occupied was also the room that the ghost occupied in life.

Another story, taken off the website states that a biology student witnessed the ghost of the “Red Hat Boy” running through one of the exterior walls of Thorson. The “Red Hat Boy,” so named because of his trademark red baseball cap, is rumored to live on the first floor of Thorson.

Mellby Hall has also been the site of a number of manifestations attributed to the ghost of Agnes Mellby herself. Mellby’s specter, as well as two other ghosts dressed in Victorian style clothing, appeared in the fourth floor hallways, the lounge and the stairwells of the dorm.

Hilleboe is arguably the most haunted of the dorms on campus; two distinct ghost stories have been attributed to it.

The first story contends that, a number of years ago, a woman living in a single in the dorm committed suicide by throwing herself from a window. When police and the college administration searched the room, they found a number of notes written on the walls claiming that a disembodied woman’s voice had convinced the student to commit suicide. The investigation also noted that neighbors had heard screaming emanating from the girl’s room before she killed herself.

The second story concerns a member of the Residence Life staff who, during the summer, reported hearing child-like singing and a piano playing in the Lounge of Hilleboe. When she went to investigate she found that child-sized handprints had appeared on the outside of a number of the windows on the third floor, and that all the faucets in the sinks on the third floor had been turned on as well.

At any rate, students have accepted ghosts into part of the culture at St. Olaf; Dean Kneser’s latest “Ghost Tour” was well attended, and Pearce notes that, like their living counterparts, most of the ghosts attending St. Olaf “seem rather friendly.”

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