Tuition Isn’t the Only Scary Thing on Campus

I apologize for the sporadic postings, I had a personal loss that has knocked my writing schedule off. Our little kitty disappeared on Easter morning. As best we can tell she went out the doggie door in the pursuit of birds and she got lost or something. She was my little writing partner and it has just been too lonely to write without her here. I’m still looking for her but I know its time to get on with it. I know that some writers will say, use your pain in your writing, I’m not so good at that.

Such is life, I suppose. Loss is inevitable, change is the norm. Spring is the epitome of that observation. Sure new things are being born, plants and trees are being reawakened but it’s also a time of transition. That is felt most acutely for many of us in the ending of the school year. Particularly if you are celebrating a high school graduation.

The end of a high school career is a loss and a rebirth all in one. Parents loose their little kids to a young adult (hopefully) and kids go from high-schooler to something else, in the literary world it’s called “new adult”. It’s an exciting and scary time for parents and students alike. The possibilities are endless but some kids already know exactly what they are doing and where they are going in a few short weeks. It’s the same thing one of my kids did, move away from home and into a dorm.

I wasn’t sure how this particular kid with a super vivid imagination was going to do living on her own. Well, I know there are a bunch of other kids in the dorm but this is the kid that would turn on every light in the house if she was home alone after dark. I mean, every single light would be blazing when we got home, think the Griswald’s in Christmas Vacation. In the weeks before she moved out she refused to watch any scary movies or hear scary stories, particularly about haunted dorms. Not an easy feat in my house.

The day we arrived at her university to move her in some upper classmen were there to help unload the arriving freshmen. They asked what room she had, we told them, and their response was a uuuummmmmm. I saw in her face that her first thought was: holy crap I got the haunted room! When asked what was wrong with that room the boys said, nothing, its just on the third floor and there is only one elevator. Phew for her but I must admit I was a bit disappointed. As far as I know she never had a spooky experience there. Scary roommates, scary food, scary class load but not spooky.

Not surprisingly, most major universities have some kind of ghost lore. The environment and emotional landscape create the perfect conditions for such stories to spurn. Large, usually older buildings dominate campus where years of human drama have played out leaving an indelible mark. Additionally, for many people it is the first time they are out from under the protection of their parents and the safety of their familiar surroundings. Maybe, ghost stories create a place for some of those unspoken terrors to be worked out and shared. Here’s just a few that I know about, feel free to share!

Are You Moving Here?

University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado
This one is in my state and I know many people who have attended in the past and currently. This picturesque campus has more than a few spirited tales. Edith, is the most well known specter on campus. She haunts Wiebking and Wilson halls. Residents report electrical anomalies, the sounds of moving furniture, and click-clacking of the marbles she used to roll to relieve stress. Clearly, she had lots of stress. It’s reported that she was meant to be a RA but the girls in the dorm were awful to her, so much so that she hung herself. The basement of another dorm, Harrison Hall, is haunted by the ghost of a janitor who was killed in a freak accident there.

Wiebking Hall, University of Northern Colorado

Wiebking Hall, University of Northern Colorado

Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Established in 1804 making this the 9th oldest public university in the US it maybe number one in hauntings. Here’s a strange coincidence (or is it?), in both Bush and Jefferson Hall people have reported hearing the sound of rolling marbles and have poltergeist type activity very similar to the UNC haunting reports. Why do dormitory ghosts like to play with marbles? Residents of Crawford Hall have experienced poltergeist activity and apparitions of a young girl, sadly this may be the ghost of Laura who fell out of her fourth story dorm room by accident as was killed in 1993.

Wilson Hall is probably the most interesting haunt on the campus. In the city of Athens there is reportedly a set of several cemeteries, if you connect the dots of these cemeteries on a map they form a pentagram, in the middle of this pentagram stands this dormitory. There are numerous reports of paranormal activity here including apparitions, disembodied voices, cold spots, and banging sounds. There is even one dorm room, 428, that is haunted by such a violent poltergeist that it remains sealed shut.

250px-Entrance_sign_CSUCICalifornia State University Channel Islands, Camarillo, California
Perhaps the youngest, but among the scariest, this campus opened in 2002. Built on the site of a former mental hospital there are several and varied reports of paranormal activity. Electrical anomalies, scratching and rustling sounds, and voices are reported in the dorm areas. Doors slam and lock themselves only to unlock themselves. Scratched into the wall of one lab area are the words – no one can help me. You may recognize some of the campus from the movie The Ring.

Fordham University, Bronx, New York
This Jesuit university was established in 1841, so there has been plenty of time for stories to percolate and be shared, the gothic flavor of the architecture has surely aided in this. An old hospital was torn down to make room for the university. Keating Hall supposedly now stands where the hospital morgue once stood. Residents report being touched by icy invisible hands and seeing apparitions, in particular a young blonde woman in the showers. Finlay Hall not only used to be the hospital crematorium but in the early days of the university it was the medical school and all that entails, including housing human cadavers. Many residents have reported being awoken by cold hands on their throats.

Parts of The Exorcist were filmed on this campus but Queen’s Court dorm was reportedly the sight of a real-life exorcism. As the story goes it was the summer of 2003 and some Residence Assistants and the Residence Director were left behind to check dorms for damage, repair them, and clean up all summer to prepare for the upcoming fall semester. In one room mattresses kept being mysteriously moved much to everyone’s amazement. One night, very late, a priest knocked on the door and told the RA who answered the door that he has taken care of the problem in that room. The next day the RA discovers that no one knows who this priest was or who sent him.

Fordham University

Fordham University

 

Regis University, Denver, Colorado

Main Hall; Regis University; Lowell Campus; Denver; Colorado

Main Hall; Regis University; Lowell Campus; Denver; Colorado

Back to my state and the place where I attended class. Another Jesuit university, this one was founded in 1887 by a group of exiled Italian priests. The main campus is small but beautifully landscaped and maintained with native trees and flower beds. No matter what class you are taking or what area of study you are enrolled, all students are encouraged to attempt to answer the question: How ought we to live? That one tenant has shaped many, if not all, of my life choices and I am thankful for being directed to such a thoughtful life. However, some of the older buildings are a little bit creepy in that old-religious-building kind of way. I did have one weird experience on campus but I’ll tell you that story in a minute.

As the campus at the North Denver location grew, the part of the campus that served as a Jesuit cemetery was overtaken and the graves were exhumed and moved. When the bodies were relocated new headstones were also installed; however, the old headstones are stored in the basement of the Main Hall. This same basement once served as an entrance to the underground tunnels that priests used to use to get around campus, these tunnels have since been sealed for safety. But you all know how strange abandoned tunnels are, right?

In the various residence halls there are reports of poltergeist type activity like doors slamming shut and open by themselves. Ghostly black cats are often seen in a coven near the Science building. The baseball diamond is said to be haunted by a ghost dog buried 30 years earlier there by a student.

Freaked out? No need to worry, I doubt highly there is anything malicious there as the campus is blessed from time to time by priests.

As for my story, I was taking a night class on Cultural Awareness in Education in the Main Hall upper level classrooms, at least I think it was in this building oh so long ago. On this particular night class ran a bit late and apparently the night maintenance crew did not realize we were up there. By the time we left all the lights were out on the main floor. Being in the dark was creepy enough but the lower floors were being remodeled and there was construction sheeting up all over the place giving it a “serial killer” vibe. I first walked all the way to the doors nearest to where I had parked my car only to find them locked. I had to walk all the way to the other end of the building through the creepy-creepiness. I burst out of there as quickly as possible and had to walk all the way around the building to my car, in the dark, by myself, late at night.

I got disoriented for a minute and couldn’t remember if my car was to the left or right, I hesitated and then took a step to the right. Very clearly and very much right in my ear I heard, NO. I froze. I scanned the area for any potential attackers, all I could see in the dark were the shapes of buildings and the trees swaying in the wind. I quickly turned left and bee-lined it directly to my car. Had I gone right I would have ended up way far away from my car. In the dark. By myself.

Who was it? What was it? I don’t know. All I know is that wasn’t the first time I had help whispered in my ear and not the last either. I just gratefully accepted the help. College, as is life, can be pretty challenging. We can use all the help we can get. How ought we to live? That night, grateful for unseen protection and help, who knows what or who might have been waiting in the dark.

Just google your prospective place of study, chances are there are ghost stories and legends associated with it. Just remember, Never Turn off the Lights and you should be just fine. Should be…

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The Stanley Film Fest – That’s a Wrap

After a few moments of trying to debunk the shadow moving across the headboard I finally shrugged it off as a large bird flying by. If I had known about the picture of the grand stairway I may have thought differently, but ignorance is bliss.

We headed out to catch our first screening (Rigor Mortis, pretty good martial-arts-ghost story) then we rode the shuttle into town to find some dinner, we were starving since we skipped lunch. We ended up at our go to place in Estes Park, The Wapiti, where they serve your beer in cowboy boot shaped mugs, awesome right?

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We checked out the horror trivia game at The Wheel Bar and then we checked out what was happening at the historic Park Theatre. This theater was built in 1913 and is the oldest working movie theater in the United States and several screenings were taking place there as well as the theater at the hotel and the modern Reel Mountain Theaters. The quaint little town of Estes Park depends economically on tourism, this area was hit pretty hard by flood waters last year and many businesses are still recovering. If you are nearby or passing by, head up for a day of shopping and sight seeing, they could use our support.

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Park Theatre, Estes Park, CO

We made our way back up to the hotel and had some time before the special-secret screening so I made my sweet husband creep around the hotel taking random photos. I didn’t see any anomalies in these photos but feel free to look again for me. The Hall of Owners looked particularly odd in the falling light of dusk.

The hallways are long and narrow. The lighting adds to a creepy vibe.

The hallways are long and narrow. The lighting adds to a creepy vibe.

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Hall of Owners

Mrs. Stanley

Mrs. Stanley

Looking up the stairs to the second and third floors.

Looking up the stairs to the second and third floors.

Looking down the stairs, slightly disorienting.

Looking down the stairs, slightly disorienting.

Stairs to bell tower on the third floor. If you climb these you will feel a nanny who is still there watching the children on this floor pull you down.

Stairs to bell tower on the third floor. If you climb these you will feel a nanny who is still there watching the children on this floor pull you down.

 

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The original elevator. In King's story the elevator was operated by phantom party-goers.

The original elevator. In King’s story the elevator was operated by phantom party-goers.

Room 217 where Stephen King stayed.

Room 217 where Stephen King stayed.

We made our way to the Whiskey Bar and had ourselves a very coconutty Redrum Punch in a tip of the hat to the The Shining. Unfortunately, unlike Jack Torrance, our money was good there, good enough for an other round! But now I can say we had drinks with Elijah Wood, well at least in the same room.

Drinks with Elijah, sort of.

Drinks with Elijah, sort of, that’s him back there in the dark sweater.

By now it was dark outside and we headed over to the theater on the grounds to see the super secret screening. It was Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno that is slated for release in September. If you like gory-tense-thrills and an ending you didn’t see coming, this movie is for you. I gave it thumbs up.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

There was a horror immersion game going on with these weird clues popping up  here and there.

Game Clue

Game Clue

I wish I could report that we had a terrible and terrifying night but I slept like a baby. Maybe even the best sleep I have had in months. In fact, nothing at the Stanley ever felt scary or sinister.

The next  morning we hung out in the lodge to drink coffee, we were a bit late for breakfast because we got stuck watching Room 237, a documentary about Kubrick’s version of The Shining. I have to watch it again, the documentary and the movie.

I don’t know who their decorator is at the Lodge, but I loved it. Okay maybe not the cow-hide chairs but everything else is perfect. I left there with visions of redecorating dancing in my head.

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The screenings we saw were all pretty good. I’m always looking for a movie to scare myself with and some of these were very well done. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted but what we did see was well worth it. The Australian flick, The Babadook, was like every fear I have had as a mother and all my kids’ childhood fears rolled into one. Loved it!

The last thing we did before we left was the Stanley Tour. It was especially fun because our guide was dressed like a zombie as were many festival goers. There had been a fun zombie parade earlier in the day. There was a wedding going on and I felt kind of sorry that there would likely be some zombies in the background of some of the photos, the bride did not seem particularly amused. It made me think about The Shining. Stephen King wrote about the time periods lapsing over each other at his fictional Overlook Hotel and that day with an impeccably dressed wedding party and zombies lulling around it felt that way.

A friendly zombie waiting for coffee.

A friendly zombie waiting for coffee.

Our tour guide told us about her own ghostly encounter in the tunnel, not scary really, just one of the “workmen” saying good night to her as she passed through on her way to the dormitories after work. She told us that she feels the ghosts at The Stanley are just coming back to a place they had very good memories of, nothing sinister. I could see that actually. I left there with some pretty good feelings myself.

My hubby in the underground tunnels.

My hubby in the underground tunnels.

We had a really relaxing and fun time and the weather could not have been more perfect. My only complaint, the chairs in the theater at the hotel were a bit too unforgiving for a long sit. On Saturday night I saw a woman come in with her pillows from the hotel, smart girl. I’m not sure if my husband is, but I’m looking forward to maybe going back next year. I want to take another photo of the main staircase.

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights.

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The Stanley Hotel Does Not Disappoint (chapter one)

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Me, at the fabulous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

It was a bit overcast but warm when we headed for the Stanley Hotel a week ago today. However, I had put my ear muffs and mittens in my purse on the way out the door. When we were about 30 minutes away from Estes Park, Long’s Peak snowy appearance told me I had made a wise decision, you just never know in the Rocky Mountains.

longspeak

Driving up through Longmont, CO the still visible scars of last year’s flood were shocking to see. We knew it had been bad but to actually see it drove the point home. It was a sobering moment on an otherwise light-hearted trip.

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View of the Stanley from the highway.

Some people might be shocked to find out that the movie The Shining was not shot at the Stanley Hotel, even though a stay here gave Stephen King the idea for the story. For the movie Stanley Kubrick used the Timberline Lodge in Oregon so this hotel looks nothing like that hotel. It’s clean white exterior and welcoming red roof are clearly visible from most of Estes Park. The mini-series of The Shining was filmed here and some upgrades were made to the interior for that shoot, including painting some of the interior plaster to look like wood.

The first thing your eye is drawn to when you enter the front doors is the split main staircase. Flora and F.O. Stanley’s ghosts have both been reported being seen on this staircase. I thought they had not shown up for our stay but when I started examining my photos closely to write this post I noticed something surprising just to the left of the staircase. Granted it’s in a window so it could be a reflection of some type, but hmmm. As you can see from the next photo looking down the staircase from the first landing there isn’t anything that could really be reflecting from behind me when I took the photo.

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Main staircase of the Stanley Hotel view from the lobby.

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Close up of area in question. ~ Looking down the staircase.

 

 

Blissfully unaware, we headed over to get our film festival passes and schedules first thing and to see if we could get on the Stanley Tour sometime during our stay. This area has a small display of Stephen King’s books and memorabilia from the movie. There was a lot to do and see and we knew we wouldn’t be able to hit everything.

IMG_0077This hotel was first opened in 1909 and the creaking floor boards hidden under impeccable carpet sang out to prove it as we headed for our room. The room we stayed in was clean and cozy with an oversized plush bed. Right below our window was a waterfall and outside patio. We opened the window because it was warm in the room, high mountain hotels rarely have air conditioning. I thought the sound of the falling waterfall would pose a problem when we were ready to sleep but it proved exactly the opposite. However, every time someone walked in the hallway or opened or closed a door our door would bang and rattle. The door didn’t quite sit square in the frame and voices from the hall carried very clearly into our room. I could see how someone could mistake that for ghostly activity.

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Our guest room at the Stanley Hotel

A shot of the waterfall through our window.

A shot of the waterfall through our window.

Hallway outside our room. No, that is not Zak Baggans.

Hallway outside our room. No, that is not Zak Baggans.

I was stretched out on our bed, lying on my side facing the headboard, as my husband and I chatted about what screenings we wanted to see, where we should eat some dinner, and the fact that I wanted to have cocktails in the hotel bar at some point (just like Stephen King did). He was facing the window and reading the schedule to me.

I saw a brief shadow cross the massive headboard from right to left and at first thought someone was walking past our window, then I remembered, we are on the second floor!

To be continued…

Stanley Film Festival or Bust!

The Stanley  Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

I have a house full of young kids, a sweet husband who is busy running his business, some needy pets including a big German Shepherd who is afraid of the dark (of all things). It’s rare that my husband and I get some time away together but this weekend we are going away, far away. Okay, not so far away, a couple three hours drive from our house but overnight! It’s pretty exciting. Not just because we will be away but because of where we are going. We are going to Estes Park, Colorado to attend the Stanley Film Festival. We didn’t get to go to the inaugural year last year because of all the things mentioned above and then some.

The well recognized Denver Film Society is behind this horror film fueled good time. It’s aimed at bringing together filmmakers, fans, indie film supporters, and any one else remotely interested in the horror genre. With the sophistication of the DFS involved it is definitely not some cheesy screening of cheesy movies. This year director Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling, Piranha) is going to be presented with the first Master of Horror Award. Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) will be there with his partners in SpectreVision to receive the Visionary Award and screen their sci-fi movie LFO.  The fest will screen shorts and feature length movies over the course of a long weekend as well as other activities and panels. I won’t be able to catch them all but am really looking forward to trying.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this whole film festival is the location. It’s being held at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. THE Stanley Hotel, the same Stanley Hotel the prompted Stephen King to write The Shining. I’ve been to Estes Park and the surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park many times but I have never been to the historic Stanley Hotel.

This elegant hotel was originally built in 1909 by the inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile, Freelan Oscar Stanley. It’s been called the most haunted place in America, some say it’s because of the quartz foundation acts like a magnet for energy, drawing spirits in. It’s said that every room has had some kind of strange activity reported and guests and staff have had experiences of all kinds all over the property.

  • The ghosts of Freelan and his wife Flora have been seen on the main staircase, the lobby, and the billiard room
  • Some have heard Flora playing the piano in the music room
  • Disembodied voices and footfalls can be heard in the corridors and rooms
  • Reports of phantom hands yanking on clothing
  • A ghost child on the second floor that calls out to his nanny
  • Lights turning off and on by themselves
  • Belongings being moved from place to place
  • Blankets being yanked off sleepers and thrown on the floor

Some of our family and friends think we’re nuts others wish they were going.  My brother is sending his digital recorder with me, in his words, just in case. In case of what, I’m not sure but its going to be awesome to find out. We aren’t going to stay for the whole four days of the festival because of the afore mentioned responsibilities, being a grown up can suck at times. I’ll be tweeting and Instagramming (is that word?) from the event beginning Friday April, 25, so you can follow along if you like. Of course I’ll post here after the event and hopefully I’ll have some pretty cool things to share.

It’s going to be my turn to Never Turn Off the Lights!

 

Florissant Pioneer Cemetery

I’m very fortunate to live where I do. The Rocky Mountains are like old friends who have watched over me and mine since before I was born. I love to be outside in the mountains, smelling the pines, listening to birds sing, and watching the wild life do what it does. I don’t even mind it when our elementary school has a mountain lion or coyote dismissal. For the uninitiated, that’s when one of these predators is lurking near school and kids are not allowed to leave for home without an adult. No worries, we are in their backyard after all.

I’m especially found of driving or hiking off the beaten path to see what treasures nature might hold for my efforts. Sometimes its a spectacular view, a hidden lake, a mysterious mound that looks like it might be a grave, or perhaps a long forgotten cemetery (you knew this had to take a dark turn!).

The most recent cemetery I explored was with my ever patient husband on our way to a kid-free night out, a rare occasion indeed.

We decided to take a long drive on a road we had never taken to finally end up in Cripple Creek for dinner and a little gambling. Our trek took us through Florissant, Colorado where I spotted a humble sign pointing the way to the Florissant Pioneer Cemetery. Dinner and later-regretted-money-loss would have to wait.

We always treat any sight like this, no matter how long abandoned, with the utmost respect. We are careful not to tread where we shouldn’t and are mindful that these are memorials of someone’s loved one. They only thing we take home is the mud on our shoes and photos.

It is a pastoral setting, nestled peacefully in the tall pines and quivering aspens. Reading these headstones is always poignant for me but when we discovered  modern burial sites mixed in with the pioneer memorials it was quite moving. Some of the markers are mysterious which always gets my writer’s imagination churning.

Entrance to Florissant Pioneer Cemetery

Entrance to Florissant Pioneer Cemetery

Entire families with death dates within a few weeks of each other; was it an illness, an accident that left some languishing, or broken hearts? Huge elaborate pillar shaped memorials that you don’t see today. Such beautiful workmanship for people loved and respected, and missed. Once carefully placed grave-markers washed almost blank from time and the elements, a rather sorrowful metaphor.

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This hand-made marker made me feel an overwhelming sense of loss for Catherine. I could almost feel the maker’s grief pouring from it. I’m not big romantic but how could you not feel the sting of a lost love looking at this?

IMG_0582 “Catherine; 1964-1995; Love is the pain in my heart that cannot be Stopped*” *last word is unclear

I found this hand-made marker attracted me like a moth to flame. The vibrant colors in a sea of somber stone tell me of a person who was probably vibrant in life. The little skeleton figures at the bottom make this as mysterious as it is beautiful.

Name and data obscured for owner's privacy

Name and data obscured for owner’s privacy

This person is lucky to have family looking out for them still. Gargoyles are used to keep evil at bay. I like that he has a brother wolf to help  him keep watch.

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Anyone who knows me will tell you that I rarely get the willies. This guy caught my eye the minute the we pulled up. Obviously he was placed here because this person liked or collected pigs in life and it’s a thoughtful tribute. However, there was something so strange about his eyes. I can’t really explain it but I didn’t want to get too close to him and I could not look into  his eyes without feeling repulsed. I’ve never had that experience before or since.

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pigeys

Thanks for joining me on my exploration of the Florissant Pioneer Museum. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. You can read more about this historic place in Colorado at Teller County Attractions.

Never turn off the lights, that way little piggy won’t be able to sneak in your closet, or under the bed, or IN the bed!