Hauntings at ETSU
The campus of East Tennessee State University is located in Johnson City, TN. It is certainly the most haunted campus in Tennessee, and perhaps in the entire South. Practically every building here can boast at least one resident ghost.
East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911, and John Gilbreath was it's first president. Gilbreath was a very strict president, and had a very tough moral code, especially for the female students. Because of this, many legends still make their way around campus about him. It is said that is ghost still walks the hall of Gilbreath Hall, enforcing his rules. Many people there after dark have claimed to have seen it.
Yoakley Hall is said to be haunted by the spirit of a former female student that committed suicide. Yoakley was once a women's dorm, but now it's been converted into a building for offices. Campus legend tells that a student committed suicide by jumping out of a window on the top floor. Not long after this tragedy, many students and faculty began to see a mysterious figure leaning out of a window on the third floor, or jumping out. In addition, some students began to feel unhappy or develop depression, just as the young woman must have done before she took her own life. These unsettling reports became more and more frequent, and students began to refuse to be assigned rooms in the hall. It was then converted into offices, as it is today.
Next up on our supernatural tour of ETSU is a common haunted place of college campuses: the Library. Sherrod Library is a large library with plenty of reference material. One could easily spend all day looking up information here. Understandably, those who work in the library are very protective of the materials. But can someone remain protective from beyond the grave? Some people say yes.
The story goes that the materials in the library are still very much guarded by the spirit of a former Librarian, who was a tough lady from the old school of teaching. She guarded her books with an iron fist, and many claim she still does, even after her death. Many a student will feel uneasy in the library when no one else is around, or even report seeing shadowy figures marching around. Does the librarian still guard her beloved library? Your guess is as good as mine.
The "screaming ghost" of Cooper Hall rivals the ghost of John Gilbreath as the most well known spirit at ETSU. The legend goes that the ghost is that of the daughter of George Carter, a wealthy businessman. The lady was very unhappy because she was in love with a young man, but her parents refused to allow them to marry. She was so upset by this, that she killed herself by taking a lethal dose of rat poison. She is known as "Alice" by the students, though that was not her name in life. In fact, she did not have a name at all in life, because George Carter never had a daughter!
As Charles Edwin Price revealed in Haints, Witches, and Boogers, a Johnson County historian named Ray Stahl discovered that Carter had no daughter when doing some research. So who was the "screaming ghost" in life? No one knows. One theory is that the Carter family had wanted a daughter so badly, that their imaginations somehow "created" the ghost of the daughter they never had. Others said that the ghost is someone else's spirit. And of course, some claim the ghost doesn't exist at all. No one knows for sure.
The ghostly trip around the campus of ETSU continues at Burleson Hall. This building is said to be haunted by the ghost of Christine Burleson, who was a professor of English and a highly respected scholar who had received national attention. Ms. Burleson was highly respected, but she sometimes seemed distant because she always wanted to do things her way. She taught at ETSU for about forty years, until she began to suffer from a debilitation disease, which left her in a wheelchair. She decided she did not want to burden anyone, and killed herself in the 1970s.
Today, or the story goes, her ghost haunts Burleson Hall. Some have said they have seen her apparition drifting through the halls. Inside Burleson Hall is a portrait of her father, David Sinclair Burleson, who was a charter member of the ETSU faculty during the university's early years. Many students believe her ghost has possessed this picture. They say that the eyes of Mr. Burleson follow them around. Those eyes are said not to belong to him, but instead to his daughter Christine. In any case, it is most unsettling to have eyes follow you around.
We will conclude our spectral journey around the ETSU campus at Mathes Music Hall. The ghosts of this college are a bit more difficult to identify. In fact, to my knowledge, little to no sightings have been reported. However, paranormal activity has been reported there, in the form of "cold spots." Cold shots are areas of in a room which are considerably colder than the air around them. No one knows what causes them, but they are generally associated with paranormal activity.
In addition to these cold spots, there are also odd noises heard, such as footsteps and sometimes voices. Mathes Hall by itself is strange, because when one enters, they will feel a sensation of isolation, though this probably has more to do with the layout of the building than with paranormal activity.
No one knows what causes these odd events at Mathes, and few people want to know.
Amanda, a student at ETSU also reports that the Sigma Chi Fraternity House is also haunted by a mischevious ghost who likes to rearrange things and walk around snapping his fingers to some inaudible beat.
There are other haunted areas of campus, but the details to them are still sketchy. If anyone can add more to what I've said, or tell me of more hauntings, by all means, contact me.
©2002-2005 John Norris Brown. Part of John Norris Brown.com