Boos in Bushnell
As a sophomore, Claire Tomasi ’17 lived in Bushnell Residence Hall, a women’s dormitory. Late one afternoon in March, around 4 p.m., she was recording herself playing guitar on her computer when she noticed something odd. After stopping the recording and putting the guitar down, she returned to the recording and noticed a small sound wave right at the end of the tape. She was unsure what it was, so she played it back.
“It’s a man’s voice,” she said. “I live in Bushnell. A man, very close to me, clearly says, ‘You’re pretty.’ And it’s like audible enough that you can hear it on the recording very clearly. I didn’t hear it in the room, but I watch enough Ghost Adventures to know that ghosts show up on plug-in recordings and stuff.”
Tomasi said that, at first, she was not scared by the voice. She simply sat there for a few more minutes, closed her laptop and went to Peirce Dining Hall. There, she told her friends about what had just happened, and later listened to the recording again. The more she listened to it, the more frightened she became.
“Maybe there is a guy watching me who’s sentient enough to have an idea of what he finds attractive,” she said of her thought process at the time.
Tomasi continued to play the recording for other people until she encountered someone who was particularly struck by her experience — someone who had lived in the exact same Bushnell room as Tomasi.
The former resident guessed Tomasi’s dorm and room number before she had even mentioned it. “She says, ‘That’s the guy who had been harassing me all year last year,’” Tomasi said. “And I was like, ‘What, what do you mean?’ And she was like ‘Yeah, he didn’t like me. I would always feel like I was being watched. Things in my room would move.’”
Tomasi read a suggestion online that said if you are haunted by a ghost, you should try talking to it. So, every day when she returned to her room, she would ask the ghost how his day was and tell him about her day. She continued the conversations until the Tuesday of her finals week that semester, when she came home late and forgot to speak to the ghost.
Right before she fell asleep, all of her desk drawers opened and the poster above her desk was torn down. It didn’t just peel off, Tomasi said, but was ripped from the wall. Since that was near the end of the semester, Tomasi moved out a week after that experience.
“The scary thing for me I guess is it really changed my perspective on things that we can’t even comprehend at all,” she said. “I know a lot of people — this is really personal — a lot of people are afraid to die because some of them are sure that nothing happens and they go into oblivion. But like obviously that’s not true. Something happens.”
Few people come out of childhood without a healthy fear of basements, but sometimes you need to brave that spookiness for a clean pair of underwear.
“[The Caples basement is] dark, it reeks of sulfur, so it’s already a creepy environment,” Dounia Sawaya ’19 said. “I was so scared that I thought ‘If anyone walks in here, I’ll pee myself.’”
When she was putting her clothes in a bag to transfer them to a dryer, Sawaya heard a dryer start. She thought this was odd, considering and there was no time left on the display, just the price marking.
Then, three more started up too — there was no time left, just the price that the machines display when not in use.
“At this point, I was like ‘okay!’” Sawaya said. “Everything’s fine, everything’s great. Technology is changing and this is fine.”
Finally, as she bent over to put clothes in the dryer, the machine right next to her started up as well. This was the last straw for Sawaya.
“I ran upstairs to my roommate and was like, ‘Hannah, I can’t do it! I’m just so scared!’”
After returning to the laundry room shortly after, Sawaya reportedly saw nothing out of the ordinary.
But where did the fears of a Caples ghost come from? Professor of Humanities and local ghost enthusiast Tim Shutt has a possible explanation. It might have all started in 1979 when a student fell down the Caples elevator shaft. Stories conflict as to what made him go up to the eighth floor that night, but somewhere along the line the elevator got stuck between the seventh and eighth floor of Caples.
The student pried open the doors, attempted to jump down to the floor below and ended up falling in the process. Campus Safety found him unconscious the next day, and he died in the hospital that night.
Since then, there have been numerous paranormal activities reported in the building.
“The most common and real haunt in my time,” said Shutt, “was all told by different people in the same way.”
Shutt said students have reported being woken up by the feeling of someone sitting on their bed and when they attempt to see who’s there, they find themselves immobile.
“This person would lie near or on them and they would moan and groan,” Shutt said. “Finally, their roommate would turn on the light and they wouldn’t seen anyone there.”
Ominous Old K
On Feb. 27, 1949 at around 4 a.m., Old Kenyon Residence Hall went up in flames. Nine men died that night: one from burns, one from jumping to the ground and the remaining seven from asphyxiation. There are different accounts of the fire’s genesis, according to Professor of Humanities Tim Shutt, but one theory is that someone flicked a lit cigarette and it caught the curtains. Another possible explanation is that sparks from one of the dormitory’s fireplaces caused a sort of explosion, exacerbated by the beams between floors that were made of virgin timber (wood from an old-growth forest). As the building blazed, those trapped inside were allegedly heard singing into the night, becoming softer and softer until no more were heard.
Regardless of the cause, Old Kenyon burned to the ground and nine students tragically lost their lives. Since its rebuilding, Shutt has heard from students that, on Old Kenyon’s top floor, ghostly figures can be glimpsed walking around. But what is even more unusual is that, on the floor below, you can see lower legs and feet dangling from the ceiling, because the ghosts of the men who died returned to the floors as they knew them before the reconstruction.
Amy McCloskey ’83 remembers stories like this — while a student at Kenyon, she’d heard of feet seen running across the ceiling and many doors mysteriously opening and closing. But McCloskey had a strange experience of her own.
McCloskey lived in Old Kenyon during her sophomore year. One night when her roommate was out of town, she was heading to the bathroom around 4 a.m. when she saw a girl named Margot who lived down the hall. Margot was standing in front of her room and staring into it; she looked pale and her were hands clasped together under her chin. McCloskey had never known Margot to be rattled by anything until that moment.
Margot ushered her over and told her to stand in the middle of the room. At first, nothing happened. But Margot insisted there was a strange noise coming from somewhere inside.
“And then all of a sudden in surround sound — no question — but this is not a normal kind of sound,” McCloskey said. “I hear something that sounds like Darth Vader attempting to breathe.”
What happened next was as inexplicable as the noise itself: McCloskey found herself suddenly outside the room with no memory of getting there. This is not because the memory has faded over time, she says, but rather she had no knowledge of how she moved from one spot to the other. McCloskey and Margot began looking for possible sources of the noise but were unable to find anything even close to resembling the noise of heavy, labored breathing. Then, a number of minutes later, it all happened a second time.
McCloskey felt that the sound was frightening, but did not think too much of it immediately after. At the time, she didn’t believe there was anything beyond what our senses could perceive — she counted that event as an aberration. But after similar experiences in her life since, she’s come to the realization that perhaps there are things we simply cannot understand.
“I no longer have the hubris of youth that says that we can understand everything,” she said.
While McCloskey felt this experience was not of this world, she’s still unsure it was really a ghost. She acknowledges it would be a convenient explanation to attribute it to one of the purported ghosts of the men who perished in the Old Kenyon fire, and she can’t say definitively whether this is the case.
“I was not at the time very likely to default to ‘Oh, it’s a Kenyon ghost,’” she said. “But there was no question in my mind that whatever it was that people were saying was spooking them had happened to me that night.”
Hannah Wendlandt ’19 moved into the lower level of Norton Hall early for Scientific Data Pre-Orientation her first year.
“I was cold and alone,” Wendlandt said. “It was a new place, it was weird and I couldn’t sleep.”
At around 2 a.m. one night, Wendlandt started to hear noises — specifically, someone running down the hall. At first, she thought nothing of it. Then, it happened again.
“I was like, okay this is weird; I’m awake, and the adrenaline is coursing,” Wendlandt said. “To be honest, I was too afraid to look, so I tried my best to ignore it and go back to bed.”
Wendlandt forgot about the experience until a few weeks later, when she was having a conversation with her CA.
“She said, ‘Oh, there’s supposed to be a Norton ghost,’” Wendlandt said. “It runs up and down the hall.’” The ghostly experiences aren’t limited solely to lower Norton. Noah Dversdall ’19 was in his room in upper Norton one night when he heard a mysterious knocking on the door.
Norton is one of those halls where you hear everything going on outside,” Dversdall said. “The hall was totally silent, and I didn’t hear anything besides the knocking.”
Dversdall shouted for whoever was at the door to come in, only to be met with more insistent knocking. He got up, but when he opened his door, the hall was as empty as it was silent.
Julia Adamo ’20, who moved into Dversdall’s room, had similarly spooky experiences. Earlier in the year, Adamo’s roommate was at her desk about to start curling her hair, when she noticed that her iron, though unplugged, was hot. “She asked me if I had plugged it in, and I responded that I hadn’t,” Adamo said, “It was weird, but we brushed it off.”
Dversdall and Adamo took their respective hauntings quite well.
“I wanted to see if he would come visit,” Adamo said.
“Yeah, I want to hold a séance come Halloween,” Dversdall said.