Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bethany College

Bethany College is a small, liberal arts school located in Brooke County, WV.  Founded by Alexander Campbell and chartered on March 2, 1840, it is the oldest private institute of higher learning in West Virginia.  With over 170 years of history, the college has undoubtedly picked up a ghostly legend or two...

One such legend is that of "Sarah."  Sarah is the resident ghost of Phillips Hall, an all-women's dormitory in the middle of campus.  Phillips Hall was built in 1929 to replace the former Phillips Hall, which was built prior to 1891.  The original was a gift from Thomas W. Phillips, an early science professor at the college.  In its early days, it was used briefly as a men's dormitory, but then became a women's dorm around the fall of 1892, with the exception of a two year period between 1943 and 1945 when it was used as a dorm for members of the Navy's V-12 project.

"Sarah," as the ghost is called, is believed to have been a young student at the college who hanged herself in the attic of the "new" Phillips Hall.  Sarah is most known for moving and hiding objects and playing with radios, but in one case, she may have been seen; a former student reported seeing the image of a pale white female figure, wearing a pale white garment, in her dorm room.

Along with Sarah, there may be another ghost that resides in Phillips Hall.  It is said that the image of a sailor climbing up the drain pipe of the building has been spotted.  It is believed that the young man fell to his death while climbing up the drain in an effort to court a female student there.  As the dorm WAS used to house navy personnel in the 1940s, I personally think its more likely that he was staying at Phillips, and was either sneaking OUT or IN to his own dorm...or that he was accidentally locked out and trying to go in through a window.

In any event, Phillips Hall isn't the only building on campus with a resident ghost or two.  The Irvin Gymnasium was built between 1917 and 1919 on the spot of the old gym, which was burned down by an arsonist on April 27, 1915.  In 1919, the gym was the scene of riots, as it was chosen as the headquarters for a group of protesting students who were unhappy with the college's mandatory enrollment in the Student Army Training Corps.  The gym was remodeled in 1983-4 and was re-christened the Grace Phillips Johnson Memorial Visual Arts Center.  Students believe that Grace Phillips Johnson's ghost resides in the building and claim that the eyes on her portrait, which hangs therein, follow visitors around the room.

Another haunted location seems to be the once abandoned Cochran Hall, which as of 2010 was being remodeled into a new dormitory.  Cochran Hall, built in 1912, was built atop of the Isaac and Sophie Stewart Ranche and Springs.  The "Ranche" was torn down in 1909, and the following year, a typhoid fever outbreak hit, leading many to believe the spring had been contaminated by the demolition of the "Ranche."  Whether or not the resident ghost is connected to those events is unknown, but it is believed that the ghost is a friendly one who prefers to hang out in the building's first floor apartment.

There are many more legends that abound around the campus of Bethany College, and the institute seems to embrace them as part of their history and culture.  Each Halloween season, the whole campus gets together for haunted trails and houses, story-telling and lectures, including one such lecture and public ghost hunt hosted by Chris Fleming of "Dead Famous."  For more information on the history and the legends, I suggest an excellent book by Brent Carney called Bethany College:  The Campus History Series.

UPDATE February 2012:  I've had several people come forward with their own personal tales of Bethany College.  I've added them here, with permission, for everyone to enjoy! I wish to thank both of these sources, and everyone else who has helped keep Theresa's Haunted History the best source of Haunted WV information!

Story #1
Back in the 70’s I attended Wheeling Jesuit and used to escape up the road to Bethany College to study when the parties got too loud or too inviting to get any studying done. During one exam week I trucked up to the Bethany campus about 9 P.M. and entered one of the public buildings. Those were simpler times and they left most building unlocked. I don’t remember the name of the hall but could probably identify it from a decent campus map. I remember it had a decent size lecture hall at the left end of the building that looked like it might have been a chapel at one time.  To the right of the hall there was a corridor with some classrooms to either side.  I set up shop in one of these and dove into my Kant or maybe it was Money and Banking.
 
Sometime after midnight I heard a pipe organ playing and thought it odd at that hour for any body to be practicing. I also found the music itself to be a bit unusual.  Not that pipe organs aren't, by their nature, unusual. Perhaps because I was young and fearless I went to investigate. I found that the music was coming from the lecture hall / chapel area of the building.  I climbed up a short circular staircase leading to the loft where I had seen an organ earlier in the evening.  As I passed the pipes I could hear the air hissing through them.  Arriving at the top of the steps I looked toward the organ itself. It was only dimly lit but but I could plainly see that there was nobody sitting at the instrument. The music continued to play.  I was involved in theater sound systems and amateur recording at the time and I am positive that the music was not pre recorded.  I left abruptly. I was young but not dumb.

Story #2
My best friend went to BC in 91-92, so I spent a lot of time up there. The clock tower is said to be haunted by a girl who was homesick and jumped to her death. You are to see her standing on top of the tower by the clock ready to jump when the clock is the same time of her death... Also, a friend of ours had an apartment in the basement of an old home. The "apartment" had once been the slave quarters... Knocking & banging were a few strange things heard that weekend. But the strangest thing was just who was cooking upstairs when it was uninhabited & locked? You could smell it downstairs...but all our friend has was a microwave...

3 comments:

  1. I don't know if there was another female student that jumped, but in 1981 a Japanese student killed himself by jumping from the top of the tower at Bethany. It was the very end of the school year, most students had left campus. He had done very badly academically and was afraid to go back home to Japan in disgrace. Dr. Grimes tells a tale of his ghost being seen but there weren't reports of that in the 1980s right after it happened.

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    Replies
    1. I know people who experienced the "ghost" moving things while they lived in Phillips and two who claim to have seen a noose in the attic. I lived there for a year with no encounters, but the chapel in that building freaked me and many others out. It was cold and felt as if someone was watching you. There was also a story about a girl who burned to death in a lab and supposedly there were flame like lights seen in the window where it happened, also that you could smell smoke in her old dorm room.

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    2. I know people who experienced the "ghost" moving things while they lived in Phillips and two who claim to have seen a noose in the attic. I lived there for a year with no encounters, but the chapel in that building freaked me and many others out. It was cold and felt as if someone was watching you. There was also a story about a girl who burned to death in a lab and supposedly there were flame like lights seen in the window where it happened, also that you could smell smoke in her old dorm room.

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