Have you ever felt like someone was in the room with you, even when you’re alone? Have you ever heard a bump in the night, or footsteps when there was no one else around?
Elmhurst University has a long and storied history, dating back to the late 19th century. From the days of the pro-seminary, to the establishment of a full collegiate institution in 1924, EU has seen over 40,000 students in its tenure. Many former students and faculty return to campus from time to time, but some have never left.
A haunting story most students are aware of is the ghost in the Mill Theater scene shop, located off the back of the Alexander parking lot.
The story alleges that in 1968, a young technical director named David Payne died in a hit-and-run car accident during winter break.
Shortly after his death, when students returned for J-term, a student went to the scene shop to get a blueprint for a set being built for the “Marriage of Figaro.”
Who gave that student the blueprint?
The dead set director.
The student was not aware that Payne had died until his peers told him that after they met his ghost. It has been confirmed that there was a faculty member named David Payne, hired in mid-1968, with a singular photograph of him in the 1969 edition of the former EU yearbooks, The Elms. His name is displayed under his photo by another faculty member’s name.
Junior Jessica Sanderson, an active actress in the theater department, has not just heard of David Payne, but has quite literally heard him.
“I’ve heard footsteps above me while I’m the only one there,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson stated that this has happened a few times while she’s been in the scene shop. Other students have had similar experiences, dating back to when Payne died, yet his ghost is not the only one that roams campus grounds.
Rumors of the residence halls being haunted are common speculation among many students on campus, given that the oldest residence hall is over 100 years old. Surprisingly, one confirmed ghost resides in Niebuhr and has been seen personally in its entirety.
Senior Skylar Schulz has never felt alone in her dorm room, as she “felt like there has been someone else in the room in all three dorm rooms” she’s inhabited. From Niebuhr Hall to Schick Hall to West Hall, Schulz has felt an otherworldly presence each year.
Schulz has the abilities of a medium, a person with the clairvoyant ability to see spirits, and similar to “The Sixth Sense,” she can indeed see dead people.
“I have heard of one haunting my freshman year, and this year with the same type of haunting in Niebuhr Hall on the first floor,” Schulz said.
Schulz also heard about the haunting from current first-year students living in Niebuhr Hall as well as from Niebuhr resident advisors, with claims of footsteps running up and down the halls in the dead of night.
The haunting is by the ghost of a girl named “Becky”, who supposedly died in her room in Niebuhr Hall 10 to 15 years ago. Stories vary on how she died, but the most common one told is that she committed suicide.
This haunting has been confirmed to Schulz via Dr. Phil Riordan, vice president of Student Affairs. Schulz is a resident advisor on campus, and she, like the other RAs, had a one-on-one meeting with Riordan.
In that meeting, he did confirm that there was a death of a girl named Becky in Niebuhr Hall.
Becky’s ghost primarily haunts the first floor, and when asked, Schulz stated, “Why she haunts the guys’ first floor, I do not know.”
There have been no other confirmations of residence hall apparitions, but dorms are not the only places where ominous figures have been seen on campus.
Christopher Baraglia, a graduate from the class of 2023, worked as a night custodian between 2020 and 2023 and has encountered paranormal activity on campus in the twilight hours.
“I was in the basement in one of the corner classrooms in Koplin Hall, vacuuming, when, out of the corner of my eye, it looked like someone was peering half their body through the door,” Baraglia said.
This incident occurred around 2:35 a.m., according to Baraglia.
“It freaked me out,” Baraglia said. “I paused my music to hear if anyone was calling my name.”
At this point, Baraglia heard nothing, and then he “saw a flash of somebody running from the door. I thought it was someone who wasn’t supposed to be there. I looked around the basement and saw no one.”
The same apparition appeared again two days later while Baraglia was in another basement classroom.
In another incident, around 3 a.m., Baraglia was waiting in the Alexander parking lot for the train when he witnessed someone across the tracks “dancing in the dark, by themselves.” Baraglia couldn’t make out who the figure was and speculated it may have been a “drunk man.”
However, once the figure moved under a street light, it appeared the figure was looking directly at him.
“That’s when I got up and left,” Baraglia said.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if there were many other ghosts on campus, as many students and other people have been on EU’s grounds over the course of 152 years. Schulz has seen other ghosts on campus, and the “most common place for ghosts would be the Mall area.”
Schulz stated that for some of the ghosts, she knows “who they are,” but for others, she only sees “them passing by.”
Be reassured though, as according to Schulz, “ghosts are not evil, and there is nothing bad that would happen on campus from them,” and that, “ghosts can not physically hurt anyone. The only thing they can do is mess with our technology; that’s it.”
Some believe that ghosts return to places where they had the most joy in their lives, and for those that roam campus grounds, it must be apparent that they had their greatest joys at EU.
“It is just benevolent beings on our campus that are trying to either enjoy their time here or still have unfinished business down here that they have to finish before moving on,” Schulz said.
In a similar ring to the University Alma Mater song, the third verse goes as follows:
“When life’s closing days draw nearer
Sad the heart may be,
Still shall dreams of youth and glory
Linger long o’er thee.”
This practically states that at the end of our lives, we will think back to our youth and glory here at EU, and so maybe one day our ghosts will roam campus grounds, much as we do now.