Saturday, July 3, 2010

St. Vincent's Abbot Wimmer and Guests

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St. Vincent's Basilica from Wikipedia taken by ohnoitsjamie

St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Westmoreland County, was founded by Bavarian Benedictine Brother Wimmer in 1846. It's famous for hosting the Steelers in August and spooks all year 'round.

Aurelia Hall:
Girls using a ouija board contacted a spirit named Henry. They asked him to give them a sign he was real. It took him a while, but when the girls went to bed that night, their floor length mirror flew off the door and shattered against the opposite wall. Not only did they get the scare of their life, but seven years bad luck, too. They apologized to Henry for rousing him, but just to make sure, they slept in friends' rooms for the next few evenings. However, some stories persist that Henry still shows up, as a glowing red face. Another girl found an empty leather bag in her room, and gave it to her mom. Her coat then disappeared. She and her roomie pulled out a ouija board (what ever happened to St Anthony?) and contacted a spirit called T.E. The specter wanted her bag back, and took the coat to hold as collateral until she did. They made the trade. Later, in that same room, (we'd be in an off-campus apartment by now) a blinding light shot out of the closet, and when it faded, an old man with a white beard was seen standing there. When the girls got out of bed, he disappeared, the voyeur! There's also been reports of strange noises and the sound of a basketball bouncing on the seventh floor – which is closed off to the students. The 7th floor is also where a student of the occult was found dead, so lots of bad juju there.

The Basilica: The cornerstone of the basilica was laid in 1892, and the consecration took place on August 24, 1905. The basilica was completely restored in 1996, as part of the 150th anniversary of the college. And it's a good thing, too - it still holds a lot of the past between its walls. It's said that you can feel people rushing by you in the basilica, even when it's empty, and can sometimes see the images of brothers long gone in prayer. Every year, security guards hear strange sounds coming from the basilica after midnight mass on Christmas Eve – kneelers going down, the smell of incense, and sounds of music and singing. They're just keepin' the faith.

Gerard Hall: There are reports of cold spots and disembodied footsteps.

Graveyard, Grounds, & Wandering Monks:
Images of the faces of the monks and nuns have been seen in the cemetery, along with an occasional funeral procession. There's a tree stump that's been carved into a wooden throne by the little boy whose grave is beside it; some students claim they've seen his tiny ghost sitting in it. In one part of the cemetery is a statue of Mary, who is said to cry tears of blood when someone in deep sorrow prays to her, in acknowledgment of their pain. In the middle of the graveyard is a Pieta statue of Mary holding Jesus after he has been taken down from the cross. It's claimed that if you sit on the bench in front of it long enough, she will raise her head and look at you. Also, it's regularly reported that entities spotted in the graveyard by security guards vanish without a trace.

Keck's Monk: A monastic novice named Paul Keck reported in the 1850's that he was visited by the spirit of a Benedictine monk that sought prayers for souls in purgatory. Abbot Wimmer at first backed his claims, but as the sighting worked its' way up the chain of command, all the way to the Vatican, Wimmer changed his tune. The visions were eventually deemed a hoax, and they raised considerable scandal within the church at the time. “Keckism” became a form of heresy. It didn't help Keck's cause when he was discovered to have been an actor before donning the robes.

St. Benedict Hall: Benny is haunted by a small girl, nicknamed Jenny, who has appeared in various rooms and likes to play games and tricks on the residents, "borrowing" their things and running through pods in the middle of the night. There are also handprints on the outside of windows.

St. Xavier's Convent: There's a tale of a monk who roams between St. Vincent's and St. Xavier's, a nearby convent. His cowl covers his face, which is invisible even you're looking directly at him. There are visions of brothers working in the kitchen. Shadowy nuns have been seen walking to mass.

Sauerkraut Tower: This landmark structure was built in 1893, designed by Brother Wolfgang Traxler to move 80,000 gallons of water daily through the campus as a gravity powered water tower. Not one to waste space, chief cook Brother Innocent stored barrels of pickled cabbage among it's pipes in the early 20th century, earning the 90' tall building its' nickname. In the 1930's local mines started to drain some of the water supply from the tower, and a monk had to climb the 10 flights of steps 3 times a day to check the water level. Thankfully for the Benedictine's lungs, St. Vincent tapped into the municipal water system in 1942. But it was too late for one nameless brother, who punched his ticket to St. Peter's gate when he got caught in the windmill arms atop the tower and hung himself. To this day, you can still hear the dedicated monk tread up the steps, carrying out his obligation to the college through eternity. And he must be afraid of the dark. Security has to frequently shut off the lights of the empty building, and some people have claimed to see his face looking out of the top window.

Abbot Boniface Wimmer: Abbot Boniface, the founder of the college, rises on the anniversary of his December 8th death and goes to the basilica to say mass for the souls of the departed. He passes through every red door in the crypt area where he's buried beneath the church to check on everyone and to find out how the school has progressed over the year. He's the most famous spirit at St. Vincent, and his sighting is jokingly referred to “freshman orientation” on campus.

And hey, there's supposed to more; we've heard that there are tales from the Grist Mill and other buildings that we haven't been able to run down. So if you have the paranormal poop on any of the stories we missed, give us a yell.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've seen some of the things that happen in the cemetery. On a path adjacent to ours in the first large grave site area there was a monk keeping ahead of us walking. At first we thought it was a burnt out light post but I noticed the bottom area moving like it had legs and how we never seemed to catch up to it, we even tried moving faster. It stopp at the intersection in the middle with us and turned and watched us. We started walking again and it moved again with us staying at the same speed. We moved out of the path there and continued in and we turned around to see if it was still there and it stopped and the end of its path, turned walked away and disappeared. We also stopped and watched statue turn and watch us, as well as seeing upright shadows walking back and forth. On the way back we heard footsteps even when we were not moving that sounded like sandals, something that a security guard walking wouldn't make.

Anonymous said...

Just a note: It's Aurelius Hall, not Aurelia Hall.

Anonymous said...

I had several inexplicable occurrences during my time at St. Vincent. My roommates and I would constantly hear the sound of dragging footsteps all throughout our dorm room in Aurelius Hall along with several instances of slamming doors and knocking on the walls. Others occurrences that I did not personally experience included hair dryers turning on and off and radios coming in full blast in the middle of the night. I also had friends who experienced "the dream" that several people had of waking up with a faceless monk standing at the end of your bed or dancing lights on the ceiling that would wake you from a sound sleep.

Anonymous said...

Saint Vincent Gristmill and the Faceless Monk:

There's another famous ghost, who I'm surprised didn't appear in this narrative except in the comments. He is commonly known by the students as "the faceless monk", and by some of the more knowledgeable fathers of the abbey as Br. Miolus. The story goes that Br. Miolus worked in the Gristmill, a building down behind the monks' current living quarters. One day, the unfortunate monk got caught in the mill and was horribly mangled by the machinery. He died in agony days later.

Ever since then, he has haunted the entire campus. He's seen and heard often in the gristmill (which used to be a student-run coffee shop, but I think is now closed down), but he wanders deeper into the campus, too. I myself saw him, late one night in the hall by the cafeteria. I was at the end farthest away from him. I looked down the hall for only a moment (I was on my way to my dorm, in the opposite direction), and I saw him "looking" at me. I say "looking" because his hood was up, and there was only a blank, flesh-colored disk inside it. He was literally faceless. He stood there, with one hand on a door in the side wall, "staring" at me. He was strangely off; like a different light than the harsh florescents overhead shone on him. He also seemed to be farther away than the 15 or 20 feet that separated us.

I only looked for a second; my normal check right and left as soon as I enter a building. I saw him when I looked left, then I looked right again out of habit. Then I realized what I'd seen and looked left again. He was gone.

I've also heard stories of his face -- or lack thereof -- seen from the road passing the gristmill. A friend of mine also claimed to have seen him come out of a tree in the graveyard. That's all I know about him.

I think I've seen "Henry", too. I saw him in Gerard hall, though, not Aurelius, so maybe not the same spirit.

Also, a small correction. I don't think that Wimmer was buried under the basilica. Pretty sure indoor burials were banned in the state just before he died. I've heard about him passing through the red door, though. Never met anyone who actually saw that, though. Just a tale to frighten freshmen, probably.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Gerard for a year and I would have my door fly open randomly unlocking from the inside and opening with no one in the hall or anywhere around. I would shut the door and everything would be fine until I would go to be and my laptop would suddenly turn on and the light would flash a few times then go off. Also some days when I decided to vacuum and I would go to move a chair out of the way the vacuum would start rolling back and forth on the thick carpet. Lastly, one night my roommate and I were both laying in bed and we heard a loud kiss from the middle of our room no one was outside in the hall or in the other two rooms besides us. I have since transferred colleges and have had some things happen to me still. I believe he followed me and is a nice ghost. I make small talk when I know he is around and he just likes to let me know he is around watching me.

Anonymous said...

No stories about wimmer hall?? I was away for Spring Break, and a funeral had me late returning mid-week...my room was on the 6th floor...and I was shocked to find a bunch of my neighbors standing outside their rooms, furious at me. I stopped, not yet entering my room (I did not have a roommate),and a few girls yelled at me for leaving my ancient (80's) electric alarm set while I was away. It was so loud and irritating and no one could get in to shut it off, and it kept going off all hours. I was perplexed,completely confused....I had unplugged the alarm when i dropped it off my desk in my hurry to pack a couple weeks prior, and the back up battery I had removed to put in a bathroom scale. I explained this, but no one was convinced. My alarm started going off again, I recognized the old tone of the incessent alarm...and I unlocked the door,three of my neighbors followed me in. We found the alarm, lying on the floor, broken, unplugged, back off and battery-less....had a hard time sleeping there after that...had a friend stay with me for a few nights.

Anonymous said...

At the person talking about the faceless monk, I was near the cafeteria walking towards the bathroom, and I turned the corner and almost bumped into the monk. Usually you say sorry or excuse me, but I couldn't say anything, I just felt cold shiver run down my spin. As soon as he walked away, I was fine. I didn't see his face because he had on his hood, but there was just black inside his hood; almost headless. I forgot about it till later that night and I decided to research it, then I came across many stories of the faceless monk, confirming my fears