Raise the topic of ghosts with any longtime Charlotte resident and you’ll catch an earful. Everyone has had some type of “experience,” or claims to know someone who has. The Manor Theater, the Cajun Queen, McGlohon Theater, First Presbyterian Church … there are too many purportedly haunted locales to list.
One particular area of town where reports of paranormal activity crop up with startling regularity is the campus of Queens University of Charlotte. Or maybe “startling” is the wrong word. After all, every college is haunted. Mine was. Yours, too. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search of your college name and the word “haunted.” As you read through the results, pay attention to the stories told — they’re amazingly thematic. She loves him, but he doesn’t love her — she kills herself in a fit of anger, and her malefic spirit haunts such-and-such dorm to this day OR A young man wants to be an actor, but his parents want him to be a doctor; after bombing one last bio exam, he goes for a walk in such-and-such woods one night and is never seen again — people say you can still see his ghost walking among the trees every time it snows.
College hauntings are undeniably symbolic. They tell the tales of young people — vital and bursting with life and emotion and free of their parents’ rules for the first time — who simply snap. They’re the tragic stories of young lives ended too soon, often violently. It should come as no surprise that a disproportionate number of ghost stories hinge on suicide. Case in point? The haunting of Albright Hall at Queens. Here’s how the story goes:
A young woman heads off to college in the 1800s and discovers that she’s feeling … something she’s never experienced before. An attraction to other women. She soon finds herself involved in a romance with a fellow co-ed. When her parents learn of her illicit affair (remember, this was well over a hundred years ago, so this would have been scandalous), the girl slits her wrists out of shame. As she lies dying on her bed, she reaches up and with the last of her strength smears “JULIE,” the name of her lover, on the wall in her own blood. Ever since then, strange bumping and banging sounds have been reported in the dorm, some people even claiming the dead girl’s spirit still wanders the halls, blood dripping from her cut wrists. A few students have claimed to see “JULIE” smeared in blood over their beds.
In the main courtyard area of the University, or perhaps in another residence hall — the stories don’t always match up — there’s the frequently sighted ghost of a male student who hung himself and can still be seen hanging. According to legend, the apparition appears so vividly that students have on several occasions called the police with news of a suicide on campus … only to have the police show up and discover nothing unusual.
And then there’s the haunting in Belk Residence Hall. Sarah Brock, an ’05 graduate of Queens, tells the story: A freshman girl living on Belk’s main floor is up late one night studying. When she heads down the hall to use the bathroom, she hears the sounds of little children playing, muffled, as if from the basement. Thinking her mind is just overtired, she decides to go to sleep. But not long after she climbs into bed, her desk begins to shake. Frightened, the girl digs through her drawers, searching for anything that might be causing the disturbance. Finding nothing, she goes back to sleep. An hour later, the shaking starts again. Fearing for her sanity, the girl decides to summon her RA, but as she starts for the door, the lamp flies from her desk and shatters on the floor. The girl screams and bends to retrieve her slippers, not wanting to slice her feet on pieces of broken lamp. When she straightens, she hears a click and sees the door’s bolt swivel to the locked position. She returns to her bed, wanting to call on the phone for help, and when she turns back around, she finds the pallid face of a little girl peering at her from the cracked door of her closet … Her screams wake the RA, who comes running, but finds nothing amiss. Years later, the legend goes, this same basic experience is claimed by another female student.
Creepy? Certainly. But this story also has its own symbolic logic. A young woman burning the midnight oil hears the spectral giggling and shouting of children her studies are displacing. When she ignores them, the spirit of a child accosts the young woman in her domestic space. It’s easy to see a story like this as a cautionary tale about women shifting away from their maternal roles.
The haunting of Burwell Hall, another popular topic on campus, also seems to flow from this tradition. Adelaide Davis, who graduated from Queens in 1961 and who has worked at the school for over 30 years, tells me of an incident in 1913 or so where a female employee was working late in Burwell. She saw a woman walk past the door of her office, and when she went to investigate, the woman turned and said, “You should not work in this building after 10 p.m.” Only when she saw the portrait of Mrs. Burwell that hangs in the building did she realize who the woman she saw was. And yet, Mrs. Burwell had been dead for years …
Whether by actual ghosts or by the particular energies and anxieties of young people, colleges are haunted places. Queens is no exception. In addition to the stories relayed above, there’s been poltergeist activity reported in Wallace Hall, and many students have claimed to see the ghosts of Civil War soldiers wandering the campus. If you’re up for a little supernatural sleuthing, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot in Charlotte!
Good luck trying to sleep tonight, and have a safe and happy Halloween! Mwuahahahahaha!!!
Thanks to Piper Warlick of Piper Warlick Photography for the incredibly creepy photos.
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