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Kenyon College Ghost Stories Archives - College Bound Advantage

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges: Kenyon’s Ghost Train

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Some college ghost stories emerge out of fictional accounts, but others are born out of real campus tragedies. This story is one of the latter.

Around 9:41 pm on October 28, 1905, a freshman, Stuart Lathrop Pierson, was struck by an unannounced train traveling next to the Kokosing River adjacent to the Kenyon College campus. He was killed instantly. Pierson, a Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge, was participating in a fraternity initiation at the time. Some contend that he had been bound to the tracks and blindfolded, however authorities later concluded that he had been directed to the railroad bridge by his fraternity brothers and asked to stay there until retrieved. Members claimed that the experience was intended as an opportunity for him to contemplate his impending membership. Unfortunately, the surprise of an unexpected oncoming train in the darkness caused Pearson to stumble into harm’s way. Pierson’s death launched a dark and challenging chapter in the history of Kenyon College. Administrators point out that over time the college recovered and was able to put this tragedy behind them, however many students believe Pierson is still hoping to complete his initiation.

If you visit Kenyon College today, you will find that the railroad bridge where Pierson was struck and killed has been transformed into a bike trail. The tracks were long ago covered over with asphalt. Each year the DKEs mark the anniversary of Pierson’s death with a ceremony. Reportedly, they carry a coffin filled with stones down Middle Path and gather at the fateful trestle bridge where fraternity officers read the coroner’s report by torchlight. In recent years they also read passages aloud from Fred Kluge’s Alma Mater. The ceremony ends with the burning of a wooden DKE sign, which they extinguish in the river, leaving its ashes behind on the bike trail covering the old train tracks.

Some say that on those evenings, as they hike back to campus, they still hear the whistle of a train in the distance. But that’s not all – residents of Old Kenyon residence hall claim Pierson can still be seen staring out the window on the fourth floor. Doors open and close and footsteps are heard coming from empty rooms.

So, if you ever visit Kenyon college around Halloween, be sure to enjoy the changing leaves and beautiful campus. As the sun sets listen carefully and you might hear the sound of a mournful train whistle passing over a nearby bridge. Then, as you walk by Old Kenyon, the oldest residence hall in Ohio, glance over your shoulder and check out the fourth-floor window. The spirit of a former Kenyon student may grace you with his presence.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com or check out what we can do for you here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6SSjHp8n98

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges: Kenyon’s Greenhouse Ghost

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“The Greenhouse”

Kenyon College, located in the quaint village of Gambier, Ohio, has long been known for its excellent swimming and diving programs. In 1935, Charles Shaffer donated funds to construct a state-of-the-art aquatic building on Kenyon’s campus. “Shaffer Pool” opened in January of 1936 and contributed to Kenyon winning a number of Ohio Conference swimming and diving championships in the years to follow. The building had a conservatory style roof, which earned it the nickname of “The Greenhouse.”

Legend has it that some students became a bit preoccupied with seeing how high they could launch themselves from the highest diving board in The Greenhouse. On one fateful evening, one student apparently launched himself high enough that he smashed through a glass pane in the roof and, after nearly decapitating himself, fell into the pool below.

While administrators at Kenyon can find no record of such a student or incident, other students, faculty, and staff argue differently as they believe this student really never left. Over the years, most of the reports of what later became know as the “Greenhouse Ghost,” were told by custodians and safety officers. Their encounters typically occurred well after normal working hours. For example, the sound of a body impacting the water followed by thrashing sounds was commonly reported. When officers investigated or turned to face the pool, they would see disturbed water, but no one in the pool. Then, upon turning around again, they would see a set of wet footprints along the walkway leading away from the pool. Others would report that they would hear the sound of a diving board bouncing not once, but three times. Upon turning toward the board, they could see the board vibrating, but no one near it.

In the 1980s the building was converted to a dance studio. During construction the pool was drained and covered over by a false floor and the conservatory roof was replaced with a wooden, beamed roof more appropriate to its new use. Unfortunately, the Greenhouse Ghost never got the memo as the activity continued.

Staff members continued to tell stories of late night encounters when they would become sensitized to the presence of the spirit. Some nights they would hear footsteps behind them as if they were being followed. On occasion they would, once again, hear the sounds of splashes and bouncing diving boards. Even more unnerving was the periodic appearance of wet footprints across the dance studio floor.

Paranormal experiences in “The Greenhouse” are still reported to this day. So, if you ever visit Kenton College, you might stop by Shaffer Dance Studio, stroll across the dance floor, close your eyes, and listen. Then, just before you leave, look back over your shoulder for any wet footprints on the floor. You never know!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

What is the Most Haunted College or University in Ohio?

By | Ghost Stories from Ohio's Colleges, Haunted Colleges in Ohio | No Comments

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So, in this season of long shadows and dark hallways, have you wondered what is the most haunted college or university in Ohio?

Before answering this compelling question, let me first say that ghosts and ghost stories do a lot for a college. First, it is impossible to tell a ghost story, without also discussing the history of the institution. Ghost story tellers are both storytellers and historians. So ghost tours and books about campus ghosts help pass on a college’s history. Second, the ghost stories often reflect the values of the institution or offer lessons based on the calamities of the past. Third, they build community. There is nothing like sharing ghost stories in the dark with friends while knowing that generations of students have shared the same stories.

So, what is the most haunted campus in Ohio? Here are a few contenders:

  • Ohio University – Often considered the most haunted campus in the United States, this historic University sports ghost tours and a variety of haunted buildings, not the least of which is the Ridges Mental Health Institution (see picture above).
  • Ohio Wesleyan University – OWU is home to the Paranormal Research Society, a student organization that believes that many of their buildings are haunted. The OWU bookstore even sells the book, The Ghosts of Stuyvesant Hall and Beyond” as documented by John Ciochetty.
  • Kenyon College – Kenyon ghost tours are famous and their tales are linked to real tragedies of the past including a tragic dormitory fire and the death of a student as part of a fraternity initiation process.

Runners up: Miami University where stories abound, OSU with its new “Ghost Hunters in Ohio by Student Technicians – GHOST” student organization, and John Carroll University which sports its own “Paranormal Research Group,” an active student organization that investigates paranormal phenomenon.

Next Halloween season, we will offer one ghost story from each of our three winners, so keep hiking with us. There’s lots of trail ahead.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA); a Columbus Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 15 “fit factors.” College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas.

In order to purchase a more extensive proprietary “Campus Field Report” on any Ohio college discussed, click here: https://collegeboundadvantage.com/campus-field-report-access/

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