Sunday, October 7, 2012

University of Charleston

The current University of Charleston sits along the south bank of the Kanawha River...but the well known institution of higher learning actually has its roots in Barboursville, WV.  Originally known as the Barboursville Seminary, the school was opened in 1888 by a group of Southern Methodists.  By 1901, the college had taken on the name of Morris Harvey College, in honor of a very wealthy donor to the school. 

In 1935, Morris Harvey College relocated its campus to downtown Charleston.  Between 1935 and 1947, it would undergo many more additional changes, include dropping its affiliation with the Southern Methodist Church in 1942, and merging with Kanawha Junior College.  The need for increased enrollment and increased affiliations resulted in the the building of a new campus, across the river from the downtown area.

Building of the new campus began in 1947.  The third building to become a part of the future University of Charleston campus was Riggleman Hall.  Construction began on Riggleman Hall in 1950, and ended in 1951.  It was actually supposed to be the east wing of a much larger building that was never built.  Instead, it became the heart of the new campus...and also, the heart of its ghost stories.

Riggleman Hall was named after Morris Harvey President Leonard Riggleman.  Riggleman took office in 1931, and oversaw the many changes the college went through concerning its move from Barboursville to Charleston, and from downtown Charleston to its new location.  Leonard Riggleman continued his presidency until 1964 and passed away on May 18, 1983.  He is buried in Huntington's Woodmere Cemetery.  And although his earthly remains are interred two counties away, many believe that Leonard Riggleman still roams the halls of the campus's main building...in spirit.

Faculty working late in the evenings have heard doors slam when no one else was in the building.  Students and staff alike have heard both unexplained noises and disembodied voices echoing throughout empty halls.  These phantom sounds are largely attributed to the building's namesake, but others claim that the ghostly goings-on are to be blamed on ANOTHER ghost...that of a young female student who committed suicide upon learning that she was pregnant.  To my knowledge, there is no hard evidence to back this theory up, so if you have first-hand, verifiable information on the subject, please let me know!

Anyway, there are other buildings on the campus that are also said to be haunted.  One such building is the Geary Student Union, which houses, among other things, the school's art gallery, auditorium, and newly renovated coffee shop.  The details of the paranormal activity going on in this location are scant...most websites that discuss this location simply state that there are feelings of not being alone, shadows, and strange sounds.

The former Dickinson Hall dormitory has a nearly word for word description of ITS hauntings floating around the web, but a former residence did write in to the WVGhosts website with a personal experience.  It seems that this student would often feel a male presence in the dorm.  This witness also discusses some other personal experiences involving that building's lounge and basement.  You can read those stories for yourself at the link provided.

Unfortunately, Dickinson Hall was torn down in the early 2000s, so any trace of a haunting is lost to history...or is it?  In 2010, a new dorm, the East Apartments, was built upon the former site of Dickinson Hall.  According to a Parthenon news article from 2011, current students were also beginning to experience eerie things in the new building, a fact which they attributed to the former Dickinson Hall.

*The name University of Charleston was implemented by the Board of Trustees on December 13, 1978*

Photo above property of the Council of Independent Colleges: Historic Campus Architecture Project

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