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ISSUE 119 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/4/2005

Chronicles of a ghost hunter

By Ian Anderson
Executive Editor

Friday, November 4, 2005

I had the opportunity to go on a ghost hunt with psychic and ghostbuster Carol Lowell last Friday during the mid-afternoon, which, in itself, is strange because a beautiful Friday afternoon just doesn’t sound suitable for the tracking and hunting of the supernatural. But Lowell isn’t a normal ghost hunter.

When she arrived on campus, she didn’t exactly look like a “ghostbuster” or a “ghost-anything” for that matter – she was normal. Instead of carrying a giant vacuum-like backpack and a tractor-beam ghost trap with a superhero jumpsuit covered in green slime from past conquests, she walked onto campus with an air of confidence and professionalism, but with a sense that she knows a lot more than she lets on – plus she looks like Lucy Lawless (Xena the Warrior Princess).

“So, where do we start?” she asked eagerly.

I thought it would be best to hit the most renowned “haunted” locations: Mellby Hall’s chapel, Hillboe Hall’s second-floor chapel, the first and third floors of Thorson Hall and Rolvaag Memorial Library.

From the Buntrock Commons parking lot where we met, Lowell, cinematographer Erik Martz ’07 and I (later to be joined by photographer Joe Mignano ’06), set out for Mellby Hall excitedly talking about our plans and the history of ghosts in Northfield.

“Northfield has tons of ghosts,” she said. “I’ve done many ghost jobs down here.”

Mellby Hall

We entered the building expecting to head directly to the first-floor chapel, but as we walked by the student lounge, Lowell took an abrupt turn into the room. She began to slowly circumnavigate the area with her right arm outstretched and her palm facing the ground – a practice that she uses when she is looking for contact .

“There isn’t anyone here right now,” she said. “But, the air is so thick. Is there a basement?”

We walked the long stretch of the basement hallway, which proved to be uneventful, except for a “hunch” she had about the honor house storage room.

Unlocking the two doors, thick air escaped into the hallway as she entered. The ceiling of the storage space is about six feet high, constraining mobility. Poor lighting and the heavy, stale air enhanced the atmosphere of spookiness.

“Wow, this is the perfect place for ghosts to hang out,” Lowell said.

She put her handbag on a couch and slowly began to move around the room, just as she did upstairs. But this time, she appeared to find something. As she walked to the far left corner of the cement-walled space, she stopped and remained still for a moment, as if perking her ears to hear something approaching from a distance. All we could see was her long black hair and trench coat blending into the shadows of the surrounding pipes and storage shelves.

After what seemed like a long, awkward silence, she snapped out of her daze. She walked quickly across the room to our corner and explained what was going on.

“There isn’t somebody in here right now,” she said, still looking around the room. “But it feels like a female keeps coming down here. [She] checks out people’s stuff and then comes in here for privacy.”

We then went into the chapel to find what we were looking for.

She sat down at a pew and began to ask for answers to what she discovered downstairs (Coincidentally, she sat at the third-row pew which has written on it, “Ask and ye shall receiveth.”) She sat silently, tapping her right foot slowly. After four minutes, she shot up out of her seat while staring off into the distance behind the altar. Suddenly, she turned to us and asked, “Do you know if a girl died in this building in the early 70s? A blond girl? … It’s the same energy as the gal who was downstairs.”

Picking up her things, she explained the situation.

“If people have been in [the chapel or storage space] and they felt depressed or like somebody was in there – it would be her,” she said. She described the girl to have blond hair just below her shoulders, and that she lived in Mellby during the early 1970s and had depression.

“It is in this building that [the death] happened,” she said.

Hillboe Hall

Hillboe Hall’s second-floor chapel was our next destination, where, according to St. Olaf legend, the “woman-in-white” resides.

Lowell opened the heavy wooden doors of the chapel and walked to the back of the room passing the altar and a stained glass mural of the Virgin Mary. “Finding” nothing, she said she felt like checking the student lounge directly below the chapel.

On the way, she admitted, “Usually before I show up, my guides show up. So [the ghosts] sometimes stay away and observe.” As a ghost buster, she helps ghosts cross over to the “other side.” Her presence, however, often scares off resident ghosts who do not want to cross over. So, she sat silently again to ask for attention.

After five minutes of silence, she walked to the far window of the room and extended her hand towards a chair sitting at the windowside table – her first “contact.” She repeatedly moved her hand horizontally over a three-foot long area as if smoothing a blanket on a bed. Slowly, she started to shape what her hand was touching into a silhouette, like forming clay on a wheel. She focused on the area above the chair for another few moments before asking us if there was a basement on campus that she could see.

“[The ghost is] saying that she is only here to help me, because I [was saying that I would] ‘really like to find some ghosts … let’s start something,’” Lowell said. “She started talking about a place like a basement, like an administration building.”

The contact she made was with a 50-year-old woman who actually doesn’t haunt St. Olaf, but a nearby location. The woman heard Lowell’s request for help, and the kind ghost came to recommend the administration building as a paranormal hotspot.

We explored the administration building and found nothing.

Thorson Hall

Thorson Hall is home of the Red Hat Boy, arguably the most legendary of all ghosts on campus (made famous by his reccurring appearances of playing cards on the first and third floors of the dormitory).

We didn’t find him.

Just in case, I asked her to check the entire building. The lofts, empty. The basement lounge, likewise.

On the third floor, however, she saw something.

Walking down the narrow hallway, she increased her pace towards the north end of the building. She began combing the walls with her fingers as she approached the far end of the hallway. There, she stopped and slowly retraced her steps.

She said she saw a well-dressed man in his late 40s wearing a suit and bowler hat at the end of the hallway, but, as we came closer, he saw us and ran away – out the window.

“I don’t know if there is a female ghost here that he is courting, but when he saw us coming, he left,” Lowell said.

“Maybe he figured out it was a girls’ floor and realized he didn’t belong here … I don’t think he went to this school. I think he lived in town and dated one of the girls here … Unless he just likes to come into the girl’s dorms.”

She laughed.

Rolvaag Memorial Library

We investigated the library hoping to find the famous grumpy librarian who organizes books on the fourth floor above the front entryway. But when we walked in, Lowell immediately wanted to see the basement.

As soon as we set foot on the first floor, we fell silent. She slowly walked amongst the stacks, passing through them without a word. She held out her hand unfolded in front of her, as if using a dividing rod. Stopping every minute or so, she seemed to be looking for something in particular.

Then she found it, or him, for that matter.

She walked up to a desk in the far eastern corner of the basement by a row of open windows and started moving her hand back and forth above a chair next to the desk, as if running her fingers through someone’s hair or touching their shoulders like she did in Hillboe. This time, it was different. She spent a long time smoothing and kneading the ghost’s aura, as if comforting it. She stood in silence for five minutes massaging the air.

She turned to us and quietly asked us to start taking photos and running tape, suggesting that we might be able to get him on film.

“He might be a sophomore or a junior,” Lowell said. “He’s got brownish-red hair and it feels like he died from … I don’t know what, but I just see him sweating and he’s sick.”

Motioning with her hands, she described his state of health as she continued to move her hand through the air.

“He’s your guys’ age and he just has no place else to go,” she said. “He couldn’t go home back with his parents, he just stayed here … It doesn’t feel like he [overdosed], but I can just see him sweating.”

She then described how, as she approached him, her hands began to get warmer as her healing energy transferred to him.

“He could feel that I was sending him energy, so as soon as I touched his aura, that’s when he looked at me,” Lowell said. “I would say that he died in the last four years. He could have died at home or in the hospital; he just didn’t know where else he could go, so he came back here. And has just been hanging out here … I don’t feel like he goes to any of the dorms or anything, he just hangs out here.”

She then asked her guides to come and help him cross over.

“He’s just asking ‘You can help me?’ and I am saying ‘Yes, I can help you,’” she said.

Then he was gone.

This article is the first installment of a series exploring campus legend and local paranormal activity.

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