School Spirits | Hood's Haunted History

A spooky statue in Coffman Chapel

Tracing Hood College's history of folklore and legends.

Hood's Haunted History

After a long night of studying at Hodson, you pack up your books and head back to your dorm, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before class in the morning. Campus is deserted. Only a few glowing streetlamps guide the way. As you walk towards Blazer, a strange figure catches your eye. There’s a little girl dressed in white. Her clothes are old fashioned, like something from the Civil War era. She holds a flickering candle. You meet her gaze and your chest grows heavy. You manage to call out, “Are you lost?” The girl does not respond. Instead, she turns to face Coffman Chapel, takes a few steps and vanishes. No, this is not the opening scene of a horror movie—this is just another day at Hood College.

In its 100 plus year history, Hood has racked up a fair share of otherworldly encounters. Hazy apparitions. Mysterious orbs of light. Inexplicable noises. Objects moving on their own accord. All this and more have been reported by students and faculty alike. Legends have persisted for decades that Hood is home to a bevy of spirits.

Why is it we find tales of terror so appealing? “Thinking in particular about fear and ghosts, I’m struck by how these stories we tell over and over are an ongoing attempt to make sense of mortality, loss and grief. Putting these things in a context, however terrifying that context may be, is a way of trying to order our world,” says Dr. Amy Gottfried, professor of English at Hood College. “Ghost stories give us the chance to face what scares us the most—that someday we and the people we love won’t be alive—but to deflect or displace that fear onto a story that is not ours. Plus, these stories are just plain fun.”

SPOILER ALERT: Frightening as the following accounts are, no concrete evidence exists that any of these stories are based on real events. They are most likely the product of some imaginative alumni looking to scare unsuspecting freshmen. This does not make them any less entertaining.

The most well-known tall tale—and the grisliest—involves a student who was supposedly stabbed in the basement of Meyran Hall while doing laundry. She managed to crawl up to the door of her room before dying. A bloodstain marks the spot where she drew her last breath, and reappears even when the carpet is replaced.

Similar stories are tied to Shriner, where a student is rumored to have been murdered in the kitchen. Now, when the windows are open, her ghastly screams can be heard echoing through the space. On the 4th floor, you might run into a ghost named John. When John caught his girlfriend with another man, he threw himself out the window in despair. He likes a bit of mischief, often hiding students’ possessions in random places.

If you’re bunking in Memorial, chances are you’ve heard of a ghost named Sheila. Her backstory is certainly tragic—a rejected suitor chased her through the first floor and killed her near the elevator. To this day, Sheila’s spirit refuses to leave the elevator, which operates erratically according to her whims. The doors open and bang shut in rapid succession, while students are shuttled to random floors without pushing buttons. Associate professor of art history April Morris remembers encountering Sheila during her time as an undergrad at Hood. “When Sheila was unhappy, we learned to take the stairs.”

One of the most active hotspots for supernatural phenomenon at Hood is Brodbeck Hall. Built in 1868, Brodbeck is the oldest building on campus. The former German biergarten (which according to some also operated as a brothel) is notorious for unexplained occurrences. Numerous witnesses have reported hearing laughter, music and footsteps from unoccupied rooms in the building. Ghostly remnants of partygoers from the past, perhaps?

Others have seen strange orbs of light floating on the stage and misty specters standing near pianos. Doors have been inexplicably locked and unlocked. Lights have turned on and off by themselves. A contractor working in the basement claimed his boots were repeatedly moved when he was the only person who had access to the room. The third floor, which is normally off limits, is said to house an entity, who has been seen staring out a window.

Smith Hall is another focal point of purported hauntings. A popular urban legend recounts a student burying her illegitimate child beneath the front stairs—now the infant’s cries can be heard late at night. Ghosts have also been spotted roaming the halls. A former student resident recalls waking up one evening to find a man wearing antebellum-style clothing standing by his bed, who then quickly disappeared.

The fact that these stories have been passed down from generation to generation speaks to their staying power. People have been telling ghost stories since time immemorial, a tradition that continues to this day. Here at Hood, the undead are alive and well.

Special thanks to Mary Atwell and Al Weinberg for providing the author with references.