Driven by stress and by guilt, the night before what should’ve been her graduation, the student went outside and crossed the tiny wooden bridge above the waterfall of Lower Lake. Today, the bridge is known as Spider Bridge because (as it’s name suggests) it was always crawling with spiders.
The student, perched herself up on the ledge and tied a rope around her neck. But not before drawing out a knife and plunging the blade straight through her chest. Of course – as the logic of physics would have it – she fell.
Later that night, another student walked across the bridge to return to her dorm when she heard a voice saying, “Help me! I’m down here.” Naturally, the student looked over the bridge and saw the bloody and strangled body. The suicidal student’s icy toes dangling just above the water beneath her.
When the student called the police, they cut the rope and dragged her body back to the bridge. However, when the student recounted hearing the words, “I’m down here,” the police gave her a grave look. The body, it turned out, had been hanging over the bridge for more than an hour.
To this day, every night during finals week in the spring, some students have claimed to see The Lady of Lower Lake, swinging from the bridge or even heard her whisper “I’m down here,” as students cross the bridge during the late hours of the night.
Thankfully, you can rest easy at night, because the story is unequivocally false. It was a story that was easily debunked since there were no records that exist of this outrageous account actually taking place. It was just a myth.
But myth or not, the stories like The Lady of Lower Lake had grown legs (if you will) and had begun to creep and manifest into the minds of the students at Mount Holyoke. And can you blame us for growing so close with these implausible stories?
It’s no wonder that these stories refused to stay buried, even when they have been proven to have been debunked. Stories like The Lady of Lower Lake still has one foot in our world. And the only thing keeping that story and the other countless ghost tales that we had heard during our years at Mount Holyoke, is us. By retelling the stories, over and over again, they grow roots and feel more real than ever.
To help you get into the Halloween spirit, I've gathered a couple of tales for you to enjoy. Tales that were told to me as an undergrad about the ghosts that lived among us. Each of these stories is a personal favorite, and each one cuts right to the chase. So settle in, and turn the lights down. Because boy, do I have stories to tell you.
Hopefully, you’re not reading this at night.
The Lakeside Insane Asylum
The hospital was designed to house 122 patients, covering a wide spectrum of mental illnesses who were served by a team of one dozen staff. It had four floors and a glass covered mezzanine in the attempt to expose more patients to sunlight in the hopes of a quicker recovery. But frequently, the patients were only offered pain and suffering.
Before the days of institutional care for the mentally ill – this was the late 40’s / early 50’s after all – the jobs at Lakeside were mostly left largely to independent contractors. People who were hired, by the state, to look after others. That was a system with too many opportunities for abuse. The patients at Lakeside were routinely placed in cages or stalls for long isolated periods. They were even chained and beaten into submission. Violence and death were everyday occurrences at Lakeside. The blame was pointed to decreased state funding, but that didn’t justify the staff’s inhumane treatment of its patients.
With a mental hospital so close to the college campus, the students at Mount Holyoke would on occasion hear the screams of terror from the patients on their way to class. Worse, some of the patients who occupied the rooms of Lakeside were former Mount Holyoke students. Students who had a sudden severe mental breakdown, were forced by the college to be shipped off to Lakeside for a few nights of treatment. But those few nights always turned into years. The former Mount Holyoke students (now Lakeside patients) would regularly be subjected to hydrotherapy and electroshock therapy. And yet, they never got better.
The horrors of Lakeside ended in 1954, when the drug Thorazine was introduced and was marketed as a chemical lobotomy for mental patients. The number of patients at Lakeside dropped dramatically, and soon, the hospital closed its doors in 1956. The state of Massachusetts, donated building to the Mount Holyoke campus and the school turned it into a dorm, renaming it Torrey Hall, in honor of Louisa Torrey (class of 1845), who was the mother of former president William Howard Taft. But the nightmare didn’t stop when the building was open for students to move in.
Reports began to filter out of hearing a woman sweeping up and down the hall, or sounds of whistling or humming reverberating against the walls of the basement. One account said that a student and her roommate were both asleep when they were awoken by a man’s loud laughter in their room. But there was no one there.
The rooms that once played host to the mindless victims of the staff and doctors at Lakeside became the home of newly arrived Mount Holyoke students. They built their lives around the glass covered mezzanine, the dining hall and the bathrooms. They were probably the healthiest inmate population the building had known for years.
The Starving Student
At the soirées no men found the girl attractive, and the girls on her floor were talking constantly about the latest dieting fad. The girl became convinced that her unattractiveness resided with her weight. She called her mom and told her these fears. Her mother on the other hand, added to her daughter’s distress. Well, she was enrolled at a prestigious all-women’s college, a competitive market if one wanted to mingle and breed with the right kind of people. This only brought on more pressure about the girl’s appearance. So, she suddenly, stopped eating.
“Come eat with us!” The girls on her floor would try and coax her. But she declined. The girl refused to eat. She ate nothing that day, and nothing the next night. She claimed to have already eaten breakfast before leaving to go to class. And she would purposely fall asleep through her lunch period. The other girls on her floor could feel the stress coming off of her, palpable and terrifying. Nobody acknowledge any of this, at least not aloud. Anorexia was a mental disorder after all. But nobody dared to be involved in something they themselves could not quite yet understand. All at once, the girls on her floor, stopped socializing with her. Sure enough, the girl gradually grew skinnier and skinnier. The change was obvious.
Before, according to her neighbor, she was lithe and glowing. But a month later, she was gaunt. Her eyes looking sunken into her face, her head too big for her body, weighing her neck down and her skin was turned to an ashen pale. The fat on her wrists had receded to thin knobby sticks and all the tendons in her neck bulged like puppet strings whenever she turned her head. She looked . . . brittle.
A week before the Thanksgiving break, the girl’s neighbor invited her to come home with her for the holiday. She had taken pity on the girl and thought that maybe a homecooked meal and a plump turkey might make her look more lively. But when she knocked on the girl’s door. There was no answer. Three days went by. The neighbor figured that maybe the girl had already left with another student for the Thanksgiving Break. So the neighbor packed up and left to join her family.
After a long week back home full of pumpkin pies and stuffings, the neighbor returned back to 1837 Hall, but noticed that the girl’s door was still closed. The other residents on the fifth floor became curious about the girl’s whereabouts. As far as they knew, the girl didn’t go home with anybody for the Thanksgiving Break. By Monday, the girl’s door was still closed. One girl reasoned that she had went home early and missed the last bus to take her back to Mount Holyoke. By Tuesday, the door was still shut closed. Wednesday, still nothing. Finally, by Thursday, the girls on the floor began to worry.
On Friday night, the girls of the fifth floor woke up their House Mother who got the spare key to the girl’s room. So the House Mother headed upstairs, the girls following behind her. Once at the door, the House Mother fit the key in the lock and turned it open.
The girl was lying on top of her bed, her cheek pressed against her pillow. She was curled up, and completely naked. It was the very sight of her that terrorized both the girls and the House Mother. The girl, was all bones and knobs. Every bump in her spine protruding and visible. Her hips poked out at odd angles and her knees were skinny and pale. And the sharpness of her her shoulder blades rose out of her skin like the wings of a baby bird. She had died. Starved herself.
1837 Hall sealed off her room for three years before reopening it again. But her presence, no matter how thin she had spread herself, had somehow filled up the entire fifth floor of that dorm. Over the years, students had recognized seeing her in their room, reporting that a woman “wrath-looking” would be staring right back at them. Despite the fact that she had died in her old room, the most activity to be reported on the fifth floor was actually the bathroom. This actually made sense since she was found naked, and the bathroom was likely the only place for her to purge any meals she may have eaten while suffering from her disorder. One student claimed to have woken up at 3 AM, gone to the bathroom on the fifth floor, and as she was washing her hands, looked up and saw the thin woman gazing right back at her.
The Pearsons' Murders
However, before Pearsons’ Annex was adopted by the school, the owner of the Brick Store lived there with his wife and child. Both were young and recently married. They had immigrated to the US to escape the hardships that had befallen them in their home country of Ireland. But the wife had come from a very superstitious family. Her ancestors had believed in fairy folklore, mostly stories about fairies substituting one of their own for a kidnapped human adult or child. A challenging, if you will. And this wife took this fairy folklore very seriously.
And her logic was simple: If a child was born sickly or ill-tempered, they were often thought to be a fairy substitute, left behind when their real child was taken from their home. Or if an adult went missing and suddenly turned up again, people would often assume that they had been swapped with a fairy that looked, sounded and spoke exactly like their loved one. And the over-well being of the wife’s family was hinged on the knowledge of these changeling creatures.
It started when the wife found out her husband was having an affair with a woman in town. This was a sign, to the woman at least, that her beloved husband had been swapped by a changeling. He had been showing the symptoms of what she had been taught to recognize a changeling. Lately, her husband had been suffering from mood-swings, becoming more argumentative and had lost complete and utter interest in spending time with his friends outside of work. Worse, she had started to suspect even her own baby of being a changeling. The baby never stopped crying and always seemed to have an enormous appetite. An obvious sign – to her, at least – that the baby she was carrying for, wasn’t her baby at all.
One rainy night, the woman’s husband left home on an errand. There was no doubt that this so-called “errand” was really an excuse to meet with his mistress. But later that evening when he had returned, things took a turn for the worst. Upon entering his home, he had discovered a pool of blood in the middle of the kitchen floor, leading up to the sink. As he slowly approached the basin of the sink, he saw the small pink body of his child, dead with it’s tiny throat slit open. That’s when he heard the floorboards creaking behind him. He turned, just in time to see his wife charging at him with a butcher knife. The blade, already bloody from its first kill. She tackled her husband to the floor.
“You’re not my husband! You’re not my husband!” She cried over and over again as she held his face in front of the burning fireplace while holding the butcher blade to his throat. She demanded that her husband state before God that he was indeed her husband and not a changeling. But even though the husband answered yes, his wife did not believe him. His wife was convinced that if she killed him, just like how she killed the child she had believed to be the changeling, then both her real baby and her devoted husband would come home. Again, she pressed the blade of the knife a little deeper against her husband’s throat, and demanded that he declare his identity.
But this time, her husband refused. He pushed his wife off and rolled on top of her. Caught off guard, the butcher knife slipped out of her hands, and her husband scrambled to grab it, before plowing the blade of the knife directly into the center of her chest. Both his child and his wife, were now both dead.
What happened next, can only be speculation. In one telling, the realization of his dead wife and child sent the husband mad. The neighbors had heard the screams next door and called the police. When the local authorities entered the house, they found the husband trembling by the dead bodies. He was taken to a mental institution, where he died thirty years later.
In another telling, the husband was so distraught by what he had done that he drowned himself in Lower Lake. Eventually, the Brick Store was sold to the school. But whatever horrific events had happened to both the husband and his child, the wife seemed to not have gone anywhere.
Having extended herself, her spirit had apparently reached the grounds of both Pearsons' buildings. One sophomore who lived in Pearsons Hall awoke to see that the light to her roommate’s closet had suddenly turned on, only to be aware of a dark female figure standing right next to the closet’s doors.
In her report, the sophomore claimed that just by looking at the figure, she could tell that she was rabid with anger. She kept making frequent visits again and again to the student’s room, glaring at her with menacing eyes or whirling her arms in the air as if to hit her. Or, more precisely, wielding a butcher knife at her.
The Portrait of Mary Mandelle
A group of girls on the fourth floor were puzzled by Matilda’s death. She had locked the door to the Tower Room behind her, and slashed her wrists with a knife she had stolen from the dining hall, ultimately bleeding to death. No suicide note was found. After the school locked off the Tower Room, that was when things started to get disquiet. The girls on the fourth floor began to hear sounds of someone wailing outside their doors in the middle of the night. But when they opened their doors, no one was there. One of the girls even woke up and saw the image of Matilda sitting in her chair across the room. Another claimed to have left the bathroom just as the lights above her flickered off, and the shadow of Matilda stood watching her at the end of the hallway.
The group of girls on the fourth floor all agreed that these sightings of Matilda were strange. They didn't know how to explain Matilda’s appearance to their House Mother nor any of their friends, but something had to be done. One of the girls suggested to perform a seance in an attempt to communicate with Matilda. She believed that if they could reach out between the curtain of life and death and feel for something tangible that might’ve explained Matilda’s suicide, she might leave the girls alone and find some peace.
So in the late hour of the night, the girls conducted their own seance right in the common room of the North Mandelle’s. Why the North Mandelle’s common room instead of the South Mandelle’s? Because the North Mandelle’s common room had an activate fireplace, and it was the chosen common room that they knew Matilda liked to spend the most time in before her untimely death.
Side note: What made the North Mandelle common room interesting, was that hanging just above the fireplace was a portrait of Mary Mandelle, one of the biggest donors to the college. I’ll get to her in a second. Because, even though this random portrait of a Mount Holyoke donor might seem like a random diverge from the story, it isn’t.
Anyway, as the girls were gathered in a circle around the fireplace, holding hands, they called out a response from the spirit world. The girls reported a distant knocking, but nothing that indicated Matilda’s presence for the rest of that night. The girls decided to try it again the next night. But that was also when things started to escalate around the fourth floor of the South Mandelle’s. Later, details were reported of objects appearing out of thin air, and slowly moving across the room. Even the fireplace tools in the North Mandelle’s common room during the nightly seances were said to move around the common room on their own. Granted, these moving objects and knocking sounds were what the majority of the girls believed to be unmalicious activity. They just thought it was Matilda trying to communicate with them.
But then the physical attacks began. It started off at first as just pinches and slaps until it became more life threatening. One girl was awakened when she felt her pillow being pressed down against her face, and another girl suddenly felt a pair of hands throttling her throat. Both girls survived, but it became clear to the rest of the group of girls that Matilda – if that’s what it really was – was far from being benign. Books and clothes were thrown at the girls in their rooms during study period on multiple occasions. One girl even witnessed her roommate being thrown across their room. All by an unseen force. And much to the concern of the group of girls, the final straw was when one of them was dragged by their hair across the floor during a seance towards the licking flames of the fireplace. Thankfully, the girls had pulled her away in time, unharmed and put the fire out. But the threat was very real.
The girls became more and more frustrated, and began to shout to whoever was responsible for these attacks. They assumed it was Matilda, and they demanded her to stop. But she never did. As a final attempted to free themselves from whatever force was threatening them on the fourth floor, the group of girls decided to perform one last seance in the hopes to negotiate with Matilda to have the attacks stop. The seance began and according to the girls, the spirit identified itself. But it wasn’t Matilda. It was Mary Mandelle, the donor whose portrait had been watching them since the very first seance. But it was still unclear what Mary Mandelle wanted. The girls took a moment to plead with Mary to cease her haunting of them on the fourth floor but the spirit only laughed at them. What happened next was chilling.
The spirit had responded that she would never stop, not after the fun she had tormenting their friend Matilda. At the mention of their friend’s name, some other force moved around the room. The portrait of Mary Mandelle, they noticed, began to shake and rattle, finally tearing itself from the wall and landing into the fire. And then, everything went quiet. The knocking noises stopped, and the throwing of objects halted. All, was back to normal. But why?
A few days later, one of the girls did some background research at the library about Mary Mandelle. What she discovered, she later shared with the rest of the group of girls: Mary Mandelle had died four years earlier in Detroit, burnt alive from a house fire. Whatever had knocked down her portrait into the flames of the fireplace had severed the connection of the harm she was causing to the girls from beyond the grave.
And what exactly had knocked down Mary Mandelle’s portrait into the fireplace? A little after the last seance, the girls would recognize the ghostly image of their friend Matilda wandering the halls on the fourth floor. The girls could only guess that Matilda had been watching over them, and had been the one that saved them from Mary Mandelle’s presence in the common room.
While today, the fourth floor of the South Mandelle’s is relatively quiet, some slightly out-of-the-norm occurrences still happen on that floor. Matilda for one, is still up there, wandering the hallways. Some students have heard her slow-moving footsteps, others had watched her shadow creep under the crack of their door. As if making sure, that all is right.
The Wrath of Hannah Porter
You see, her husband, Deacon Porter, was very good friends with another woman. The woman as it turns out was Hannah Coleman’s rival: Mary Lyon. For those who do not know who Mary Lyon is, she was the founder of the now established Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. And Hannah hated her.
This wasn’t the first time Hannah had a feud with another woman for her husband’s attention. In fact, prior to her marriage to the Deacon, the second woman that Hannah couldn’t stand had actually been dead for five years. The woman, was Deacon Porter’s first wife, Clara. And she despised her for the fact that her husband would accidentally call her by his first wife’s name on occasion. It was safe to say, that Hannah felt as if she were invisible around her husband. His mind was either focused on his former dead wife, or attending to the living and breathing Mary Lyon.
But what’s also important to note, is that shortly after his marriage to Hannah, it was said that Deacon Porter swore to his new bride that if she ever suspected him of ever being unfaithful, he would willingly eat his own hat. As Deacon Porter was away, aiding Mary Lyon in the construction of the school, things took a darker turn.
A rumor began to spread throughout the town of South Hadley that Mary and the Deacon were having an affair. Of course, the rumors were brought to Hannah’s attention and drove her more and more into an unfathomable jealous rage. And some historians think that this rumor was what sparked the vengeful blaze inside of her.
One document described how when Hannah suspected the affair, she invited Mary Lyon to dinner and served a steamed pudding that held a strange similarity to her errant husband’s stovepipe hat. And she did it, to see if her husband would actually eat it. If he did, it proved that he had been going behind her back with Mary. If not, well then the rumors weren’t true. And even though she was still unconvinced of her husband fidelity when he didn’t eat the pudding, Mary did and declared it to be delicious. So much so, that she would serve the dessert to her students in honor of the Porter’s contributions to the establishment of the school. Hannah was beyond furious. Her response was to accompany her husband everywhere he went, mainly to supervise his meetings about the school with Mary Lyon. Hannah was determined not to let her husband out of her sight.
When Mary Lyon passed away in 1849, she was buried in the middle of the school’s campus. Today, her grave has been the spot for ice cream socials and Laurel Parades. But there were theories that suggested that Mary Lyon’s body wasn’t buried on Mount Holyoke’s campus at all. There had been some debate as to where exactly her body had ended up being buried. Some sources had claimed that she was interred in a family cemetery in her hometown of Buckland, Massachusetts. Others swore, that her body had been carried away before her burial at Mount Holyoke to Wheaton College, the second school Mary Lyon had helped established. And probably the grimmest version of it all, was that Hannah Porter had ordered Mary Lyon’s body to be unearthed.
She had believed that after Mary’s death, her husband would finally give his full, undivided attention to her. But instead, she continuously found him on the Mount Holyoke campus grounds, paying his respects to Mary Lyon. Enraged, Hannah privately hired an associate to rally a group of Amherst students down the road to dig up the body of Mary Lyon. The orders were to sneak out onto the campus late in the night, excavate the grave, open her coffin and steal the body to be reburied in an unmarked grave on Amherst College’s campus. That way, at least, whenever her husband would be visiting Mary’s grave, Hannah would have the satisfaction of knowing that he would only be talking to an empty tomb.
However, Hannah Porter might’ve taken her actions too far. Years after Mary Lyon’s funeral and the alleged removal of her body, the influx of students enrolling at Mount Holyoke seemed to have begun reporting on a couple of mysterious occurrences. One student claimed that she had seen a figure standing in front of Mary Lyon's grave. Other students had felt an overwhelming sense of anger. Another student who was cheerful to start her first year at Mount Holyoke, took a walk through the campus after dinner only to return to her dorm shortly after telling her peers, “I never want to go near that tombstone, again.”
Noises had been heard throughout each of the first dorms established on the campus. Safford, Pearsons, and Brigham Hall. Knocking sounds, footsteps, and what sounded like the snapping of branches have all been reported by students. Compared to the three dorms on campus, a fourth dorm had claimed to be afflicted most by these unexplainable sounds. And that dorm was none other than Porter Hall, named aptly in honor of the contributions made by Deacon Porter no doubt. It seemed like Mary Lyon’s spirit – if it was her – had known who had removed her body from her grave, and seeked to wreak havoc on the students who were occupying the dorm named after her former rival.
The students living in Porter had heard what sounded like distant harsh voices of two women arguing with each other. And sometimes, the movement of furniture. Others have heard what they have described as a screaming woman, someone who is exercising rage and fury. Those who were familiar with the rumors of the rivalry, have assumed that it is Mary Lyon, fuming over her defiled body. A few have even seen the figure of an older woman wearing a mop cap and a black dress in various places in Porter, looking as if to strangle someone.
When both Deacon Porter and Hannah Porter passed away, both of their portraits were hung up in the common room of Porter Hall. And as if the only problem was the wandering spirit of Mary Lyon, something new had entered the atmosphere of Porter Hall as soon as both of those portraits were hung up. The portrait of Deacon Porter, was admired greatly by the students, yet Hannah’s portrait was unsettling. This time, rather than a second ghost occupying the residents of Porter Hall, the portrait of Hannah Porter seemed to almost be glaring at each of the students whenever they looked up at her frame. One student had looked into the eyes of Hannah Porter’s portrait for too long that she fell to the floor and went into an epileptic seizure. The student was carted away to the nearest hospital, but not before these epileptic episodes began happening more and more frequently in the Porter Hall common room. Evidently, news of these appalling seizures had reached the administration where they concluded to take down Hannah Porter’s portrait. Coincidentally, the seizures just also happened to stopped.
The Woman in White (or The Wilder Ghost)
According to a popular Mount Holyoke legend, it started with the arrival of a woman back at the turn of the century. They say that this woman was extremely beautiful, and after a year studying at Mount Holyoke, she met a young man from Amherst College who was instantly captivated by her. The couple was always seen together on the college campus. She, having a smile on her face in his presence. And he, holding her lovingly close to him.
For an all-woman’s college during this time, witnessing a woman and her beau strolling together on the campus grounds wasn’t an unusual sight. It usually meant that an engagement would happen soon. Naturally, people talked. And that talk spread to conversations of excitement for the young couple. In an era when a woman’s duty was to find a suitable husband, it seemed like things were going well for the woman during her first three years at Mount Holyoke.
Then on April 6th, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany. Men, all across the US offered their services to the fight. And among them, the woman’s beau. While the woman was devastated to see her significant other go, he promised that he would return in time for her graduation ball by the end of her senior year, and marry her. A year later, in 1918, the beau was captured by Germans forces and taken to a reprisal camp in Ingolstadt where he was imprisoned.
These reprisal camps in Germany during the First World War were notorious for their unsanitary conditions and the diseases that went wild through the inmates. They were often located in regions where the climate or the terrain made life more difficult, and the prisoners were often kept in tents resting in mud.
Soon, during the evening of her graduation ball, the woman received word that her suitor had died while incarcerated in a German POW camp. She was dressed in her white gown from the Laurel Parade earlier that day. Grief consumed her, and she left the ball to return straight to her room on the fourth floor of Wilder Hall.
After a time, the woman’s peers became worried. Their friend hadn’t come back to rejoin them at the ball. And so, they made their way across the campus to Wilder Hall and asked the undergraduates inside if they had seen her. They climbed the steps up to the fourth floor and found her door slightly opened. When they pushed the door back, they discovered a grim sight.
Their friend, the woman, dressed in her white gown, was hanging by a noose from one of the rafters of her room. Dead. The body was taken back to the woman’s family. The woman and her beau were buried in their hometown cemetery. But due to burial customs of the time, they were not allowed to share the same plot. Instead, they were separated by forty feet. Close, but not close enough.
It sounds like the end of a tragic love story, and in some ways it is. The couple were never able to marry, and their young lives were cut short. But in other ways, the woman lived on. Interestingly enough, before her death, the woman’s parents, who were big donors to the college, commissioned to have a portrait to be painted of their daughter, dressed in her white gown. The painting had been completed a little over a week after the woman’s suicide. Unable to bear the sight of their once beloved child, the parents donated the portrait to the school, where it was then hung in the Wilder common room.
Then things started to get weird. According to some students, they thought the portrait of the woman in white was a morbid shire to the woman’s suicide. So they tried to take it down. Except, they couldn’t move it. They called the administration to remove the portrait, but the frame refused to come off the wall. As an alternative, the administration decided to cover up the portrait with a second portrait that’s still there to this day. That seemed to appease the students for a short time, until several reports were released about the the restless spirit on the fourth floor of Wilder Hall.
As the years went by, residents who had ended up living in the woman’s old dorm room, claimed to have seen a strange figure dressed in white. They say it’s the Wilder Ghost – the Woman in White – gliding into the room where she used to occupy. But this ghost, was seen apparently very often on the fourth floor. So often that it nobody wanted to sleep in her old room again.
The President of the college at the time had to deal with an overcrowded housing crunch that year and tried to prompt students to move into the eerie room on the fourth floor of Wilder. But there were no volunteers. The President, of course, had heard the tale of the Woman in White, and decided to prove the student's wrong about the ghost’s presence by sleeping in the room herself for a night. And the next day, the president had ordered the room to be boarded up and locked.
Nobody knew exactly what the President saw that night, but the students had an idea that the Woman in White had made her presence known to her. But even though today her room has finally been prohibited, many students still feel anxious living on the fourth floor of Wilder. Students say, you could hear voices murmuring on the fourth floor. When on rainy days or when the snow falls into sheets, the fourth floor inhabitants claim that you can hear something besides the claps of thunder or howls of the snowy winds. It’s the sound of a woman crying out in pain.
Rumors circulated about a second motivation for her suicide. In an alternative telling, the woman had gotten herself pregnant as she awaited her beau’s return. And instead of receiving a message declaring his death, it was a message declaring his return. So in an act of guilt and infidelity, the woman hung herself in her room before her beau could see her.
During the winter of 2006, there was a heavy storm that knocked over a large tree that had been in front of Wilder Hall. The tree had crashed into the building during that storm, caving the ceiling of the infamous haunted room. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the students wondered if maybe this event had released the ghost from Wilder.
Others have said, she is still there, waiting for her and her beau to be reunited, once more.
I really liked Persons. Despite the fact that I lived on the fourth floor, and the dorm itself didn’t have an elevator nor a dumbwaiter to help me carrying up my mini fridge up the narrow flights of stairs, it felt homey and comfortable. I still think about Pearsons as my home whenever I’m feeling nostalgic for the good-old college days.
I shot a short movie for my film class in the sunroom, served tea to my friends as we were studying for finals in the piano room, and hosted parties in the grand dining room that shared a fireplace and old love seats near the windows. My friend Sojie even once threw a toga party at Pearsons for her birthday. It was the place where I built and crafted my memories of senior year.
But I could only imagine how the students in 1897 felt about living in here. The well-worn carpets, the imperfect wallpaper, the noisy plumbing, the finicky lights and the sounds of a settling structure made me more and more curious about the previous occupants that used to roam throughout the dorm. Or any dorm on the Mount Holyoke campus for that matter. What stories were told behind those dorm walls? What events took place on the college grounds? Or how many ghosts have wandered these halls?
You will be happy to know that the seven stories that you had just read earlier, were all fictitious.
They were tales that we were told that got passed down from student to student in order to ensure our behavior on the college campus. Yet, there are some truth to those stories. We, as young undergraduates, had related to the characters and places so personally that we could almost sense a type of ghostly presence in the late hours of the night.
When we felt like we were about to lose our minds during a midterm or a final, we were reminded of The Lady of Lower Lake and The Lakeview Insane Asylum. When we found ourselves jumping too fast to dark conclusions, we were haunted by the telling of The Pearsons Murders. If it seemed like a student might be in distress or isolating themselves, then the story of The Starving Student comes to mind to motivate us to lend a helping hand. Opening a door that should’ve remained closed gave us frightening chills whenever we would remember the story of The Portrait of Mary Mandelle. We would often reevaluate our feelings of jealousy whenever we thought about The Wrath of Hannah Porter. And we weighed our broken hearts against the grief of The White Woman. These stories you see, kept us on our toes. And it’s only a matter of time before we create new stories and weave new narratives to the next wide-eyed undergraduates.
And soon, we ourselves, become the ghosts.
MHC Alumnae Association | Mount Holyoke College
Haunted Mount Holyoke
Archives & Special Collections Assistant
The Odyssey Online
The Odyssey Online