Ghost stories are common at universities across the globe, but when you have a colonial history spanning three centuries and a campus tinged with stories of piracy and war, you’re bound to have more than a few creepy stories.
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Wandering through campus and Colonial Williamsburg to hear tales of the paranormal on chilly fall nights is a rite of passage at William & Mary, but many students have ghost stories of their own – whether it’s a late night spent in the supposedly haunted basement of Tucker Hall, or echoing strains of piano music in Phi Beta Kappa Hall. President Katherine A. Rowe has even reported mysterious knocks at the door of the President’s House late at night, but found no one on the other side of the door.
In a past W&M blog post, Isshin Teshima explores the supposed attic ghost of Barrett Hall. According to Teshima, every Halloween night, “someone (or thing) manages to get into the [locked] attic to turn on the attic lights, which are simply bulbs on a string that don’t actually illuminate the room, but rather simply flicker and swing around.”
While she cannot personally verify the accuracy of the creepy attic lights, Skyler Paltell can attest that during her freshman year the residents of Barrett Third East did indeed believe the attic was haunted. According to Skyler, the female residents of third east would hear thumping on the ceiling at night coming from the attic. The source was a mystery, as the attic in Barrett Hall is locked at all times.
The mystery of the Barrett Ghost came to a crescendo when, on Halloween, Skyler and her hallmates decided to play with a Ouija board on the third floor. A group gathered around the board and were preparing to play - everyone with a hand on the planchette, skeptical of the game and goofing around before going out for the night. But when they asked the board questions, their hands moved in unison as the planchette traveled across the board and back, spelling out answers to their inquiries letter by letter.
“Is Barrett Hall haunted?” they asked. Y-E-S came the reply, spelled quickly and fluidly by the little cardboard game piece.
Whether the Ouija board was a toy operated by a prankster hallmate or actually a window into the unknown, they never did discover. But every Halloween, Skyler says she still thinks about that night, and the Ouija experiment she couldn’t quite explain.
So whether it’s Halloween or just your average day in the ‘burg, if you spend an extended amount of time on our historic campus, you might just experience the paranormal – whether you go hunting for it or not.