Friday, August 1, 2008

Lafayette's Haunted Halls

Van Wickle Hall from The Council of Independent Colleges

Whew! Our road trip finally takes us back to haunt sweet haunt, Pennsylvania. And just in time too, with the price of gas - now there's something that's scary.

And hey, leave one college, head for another. Ghosts just love the books. Here's a paranormal peek at Lafayette College:

Opened in 1826 by the good citizens of Easton, the school was named for General Lafayette, then on a farewell tour. In 1832, Lafayette College acquired nine acres of land on Bushkill Creek in Northampton County and has been there ever since.

Formally named "Mt. Lafayette," the rise soon became known as "College Hill." Today the campus boasts about 100 acres of land and more than 60 buildings, as well as various outlying properties and structures on College Hill and elsewhere. The total enrollment is about 2,300 - and a few have been there for quite awhile.

Van Wickle Memorial Library: In 1963, Van Wickle Hall became home to the geology department. It was built in 1899-1900 as a library, and was named for Augustus S. Van Wickle, the Romanesque building's benefactor.

The old library sports a ghost in the basement. It's the shade of a prof that died in a classroom, and he makes himself known by creating a cacophony of eerie sounds.

There are quite a few students that won't study in Van Wickle alone because of the ruckus he raises. It's just too hard to concentrate with all that spooky racket.

McKelvy House: The McKelvy House, originally the John Eyerman residence (he was a grad and later a prof), was built by McKim, Meade and White in 1888 on High Street overlooking the Delaware River. It was given to Lafayette by the heirs of Trustee Francis G. McKelvy in 1960.

It's spook is "Lady White", Bessie Smith White, the architect's wife, whose portrait hangs in the house. And she isn't an equal opportunity ghost - she only goes for the men. Though the Whites didn't live there, it's where Bessie decided to flirt eternally.

Her husband was the architect Stanford White, who was famously shot by Harry Thaw after canoodling with his wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Two can play at that game.

Pardee Hall: The earliest intact building on campus was designed in 1872, completed the following year, and named after Ario Pardee, who donated $250,000 for its construction.

It originally housed the college's scientific departments, and is now home to most of Lafayette's humanities and social science offices. It was victim to two fires, one set by a disgruntled prof. He decided to hang around after shuffling off this mortal coil to let his displeasure with academia be known forever.

If you're looking for the mad professor's favorite haunt, it's said to be the 5th floor. Watch for some bright lights flickering along the top floor. That's supposed to be his favorite way of showing himself.

There are also alleged creepy going-ons in the extensive tunnel system that runs under the Lafayette complex.

Most of the school buildings are interconnected, and while the stories associated with the underground network are fairly generic and usually credited to noisy utility lines, a powerful aura of spookiness is attributed to them by the students.

Show up for the annual Halloween tour of the tunnels to hear some eerie variations on a spectral theme.

Oddly, though General Lafayette is said to haunt half of Philadelphia, his spook hasn't been spotted at his namesake school. Hey! Maybe he's in the tunnels.

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