michigan state university

Across the Great Divide

September, 2011

The Ghostly Side of Michigan State University


To most folks Michigan State University represents many things: a top-rated education, a sports Mecca, even a party school. But there’s another side of the hallowed college campus that few ever see; and of those who have, most wish they hadn’t.

Michigan may be the 26th State to enter the Union, but it’s in the top 10 for the most haunted.

Stroll with me as I explore the ghostly side of Michigan State University.

The first stop on our tour takes us to Fairchild Auditorium, which is rumored to be haunted by a young boy wandering around the stage and seats. Some report the sound of a boy laughing and the bouncing of a ball; he is often accompanied by other unidentifiable noises coming from the stage area such as loud creaks when no one is on the stage.

The stories are popular and plentiful enough that “Haunted Auditorium” fundraisers have been held in the past with tours of the building and its purported paranormal history.

Next up, we have Holmes Hall, which just might have a permanent resident of unknown identity or origin on its sixth floor. Many students over the years have reported seeing a man entering the elevator, but he is never seen inside it, or anywhere else within the building.

A former student sent in an email account of Yakely-Gilchrist. In the summer of 1995, well after midnight, she awoke to the sound of ‘someone’ pounding on her door. Looking out under the door she could see no one standing in front of the door, yet the pounding continued. Two security staff were called and they could hear the racket. They ran down the hall to stand in front of her door watching it rattle in its frame, with the handle ratcheting back and forth. It stopped after about five minutes.

Residents of Mason hall tell tales of the Oak Room, where a figure is often seen sitting in a chair but then gone upon second glance.

The campus green area by Beaumont Tower is known for images of couples in old-fashioned dress holding hands and walking slowly by on foggy mornings; and glimpses of a man in tails and a stovepipe hat on particularly dark nights.

Perhaps the most talked about incidents center on Mayo Hall.

The story goes that the ghost of Mary Mayo, for whom the building is named, may wander its halls; and the building is equipped with a secret fourth floor “Red Room” reportedly once used for devil worship.

Located on the college’s section known as “West Circle,” alongside other historical buildings, it is the oldest residential hall on campus and was built in 1931 as a standalone women’s dormitory.

Mayo had progressive ideas about women’s education which led to the first female professor of Domestic Economy and Household Science at the college. She fought for expanding the education of women and rallied for a women’s dormitory on campus until her death in 1903. Rumors spread that it was murder or suicide, which have helped elevate the spooky tale to legendary status, but the truth is she died of an illness. It should be noted that she never once set foot in the building that bears her name. So what, if any, ethereal connection she has to the building remains a mystery. (photo of Mary Mayo from the Michigan State University Archives)

No one has ever officially died in the house, but there is some merit to the stories of satanic rituals that took place on the fourth floor, but these have no connection to Mayo herself and the floor has been locked for years.

Many personal anecdotes, nevertheless, pepper the internet of alumni experiences in Mayo Hall including one from a sophomore who was told stories of various apparitions walking the halls and of the lobby piano that reportedly played itself, making her sheepish about sitting at its bench.

These were supported, though, by the student who reported the incident at Yakely-Gilchrist. She recounted a similar story of how she and a small group heard the piano playing a Back minuet when no one was in the room.

A resident once woke up in the middle of the night and the overhead lamp in her dorm room was on. Her roommate was asleep and the girl just assumed the other had forgotten to turn it off and went back to sleep.
When they got up the next morning for class, her roommate asked if the other had gotten up during the night, to which she responded in the negative.
She said that she woke up in the middle of the night and the light was on and the door was unlocked. Her roommate affirmed that she’d turned it off because she couldn’t sleep with the lights on.

Whatever the truth of these reports may be, one thing is certain- Michigan State University has a rich and vibrant history. Countless individuals have walked its grounds creating more memories than there are stars in the sky. Whether in a crowded lecture hall or alone in a dark library corner, its history is shaped by each new student. Its alumni know with fondness that they are part of its history; and be it figuratively or literally, the next time a chill goes down your spine as you cram for that big exam, you just might not be as alone with your studies as you might think.

If anyone has other stories from their time at Michigan State, please feel free to share them in the comments. Until then, happy hunting.

© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions