The tour concluded with a bonfire behind Thorson, where guests enjoyed s'mores and hot chocolate. There Dean Kneser told the story of the Red Cap Boy, the event which he said started the ghost story tradition.
In fall 1991, Kneser said, two young women who were living in Thorson told him about strange occurrences in their room, including electrical problems with their CD player, and claims that they had seen a boy in their room wearing a red cap, who appeared late at night but was never there when they turned around. Furthermore, another girl on their floor had seen the boy in their room when one of them was gone and the other was sleeping.
This story, Kneser said, was the first to go into what is now a "ghost file" of sorts. While this is only the third year that Kneser has led an official ghost tour around the campus, he has been telling these stories around St. Olaf for about 10-12 years.
When asked how many stories he has, Kneser was ambiguous: "About a dozen. Some of them are linked together, some of them stand on their own," he said.
For example, Kneser has said during ghost tours, he has received many different accounts of the Woman in White from Mellby which support one another.
Kneser said he gets "something new and creepy every year or two" from students, faculty and staff to add to the record. "Sometimes it's hard to understand what people are telling you, but when it is something that really makes your skin tingle, you remember it."
Kneser's favorite story, he said, is one about a St. Olaf librarian. In the story, a St. Olaf student encounters a librarian in the library, later to learn that her picture hangs on the second floor of the library; she is one of the deceased faculty members, memorialized for over 30 years of service to the school. "I still get the creeps telling that one."
Kneser added that most of the St. Olaf community does not take the stories very seriously. "Some do, but not most. They are like me. The stories are fun. They're folklore, and you can enjoy them if you believe in ghosts or not. I'm a skeptic, so I don't have a lot invested in whether this is all myth."
Regardless if Kneser believes his stories, however, many in the St. Olaf community enjoy the legends. Last year, Kneser said, "I got a kick out of a St. Olaf student who showed up at my house last year trick-or-treating wearing a red baseball cap as his costume. He claimed to be the Red Cap Boy. That was a new one."