Rumor Has It…

19 10 2016

With cooling temperatures, shorter days, and the crunch of fallen leaves, the setting couldn’t be better for a ghost story.  MSU is over 160 years old and, as with any old institution, whispers of ghosts and satanic rituals have spread.  At the MSU Archives, we don’t have official proof of spirits roaming the halls and dorms.  You can believe the tales or not, but we can share with you the stories that have been told about the various spirts that haunt this university.

Mayo Hall

The most famous ghost story on campus is the ghost of Mayo Hall, who people believe is Mary Mayo herself.  Mary Anne Bryant was born in Calhoun County on May 25, 1845 and married Perry Mayo, a Civil War veteran, on April 14, 1865.  They had two children together, a son named Nelson and a daughter named Nellie.  In 1884, the Mayos were founding members of a chapter of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, also known as the Grange.  Within the Grange, Mary advocated for girls and women to better themselves and to receive the same education as the men.  Even though women were admitted to MAC in 1870, the classes weren’t tailored to women; women were expected to work the land just like the men.  Only a handful of women graduated from MAC during this time.  In response, Mary was the main driving force for domestic science classes to be taught at MAC because she thought plowing and crop maintenance weren’t suitable for young women.  Her persistence paid off in 1896 when 42 women enrolled in the new Home Economics Program, which was an instant success.  Mary continued her work until she became ill in 1902; she died a year later on April 21, 1903.  She is buried in the Austin Cemetery that is located in Convis Township, Calhoun County.

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Mayo Hall, 1940; A000343

It is said that the ghost of Mary Mayo haunts the dormitory named after her.  Students have claimed to see the apparition of a woman, lights which turn off and on randomly, and a piano that plays on its own accord.  Additionally they claim that the eyes of the Mary Mayo portrait that hangs on the first floor follow people across the room.  As to why Mary Mayo would haunt Mayo Hall, stories range from the theory that she killed herself, was murdered, or otherwise died in Mayo Hall.  The fourth floor, referred as the “red

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Portrait of Mary Mayo that people claim the eyes will follow you across the room, undated; A003629

room,” is rumored to be sealed off to students because of satanic rituals taking place and rumors of a woman hanging herself.  None of these claims are true about Mary since she died at home from her illness in 1903.  Also, she died 28 years before Mayo Hall was built in 1931.  It seems very highly unlikely that Mary Mayo would haunt the building named after her years after her death, but many students believe that Mayo Hall is haunted.

Beaumont Tower

One of the most famous sites on campus, Beaumont Tower, also has its own ghostly stories to tell.  One legend states you aren’t a true Spartan unless you have been kissed in the shadow of the tower.  No reference as to how that legend got started has been found in the Archives.

Another story involves the ghost of a student that was killed in World War II.  He is said to haunt the tower as he searches for his lost sweetheart.  It would make sense that the student was from World War II because Beaumont Tower wasn’t built until 1928, 10 years after World War I.  Many students throughout the history of MAC have died in various wars, as far back as the first graduating class when two students died in the Civil War.  If there is a ghost of a student haunting the grounds of Beaumont Tower, it would be difficult to know who the student was.  Also, if a ghost is haunting Beaumont Tower, it could be a student that used to reside in College Hall, the first building on campus, since Beaumont Tower was built on the same location.  Or it could just be people’s eyes playing tricks on them as they kiss in the dark beside Beaumont Tower.

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Beaumont Tower, 1969; A000236

The Halloween Massacre at Holden Hall

The most recent urban legend that affected MSU was back in 1998.  That October, a rumor spread around campus that a psychic on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” predicated that a mass murder might occur on a college campus.  This rumor was told a few different ways.  The story that MSU believed was that a serial killer dressed as Little Bo Peep would appear on a Big Ten campus in Michigan on Halloween. The killer would murder around 20 people in a dorm located near railroad tracks with a name beginning with an “H.”  Other versions claimed that the killer would be dressed in regular clothes, that the crimes would happen in a dorm shaped like an “H”, or that the building would be located near a cemetery.

Most people believed that the prediction related to MSU because we are located in Michigan, we are a Big Ten University, Holden Hall starts with an “H”, is shaped like an “H,” and is located next to some railroad tracks.  Of course, this rumor was just that – a rumor.  This rumor has been around since 1968 and has resurfaced other times in various locations since it first appeared, the most recent at Kent State University in 2007.  People believe that the rumor resurfaced again in 1998 because the movie Urban Legend was released on September 25 of that year.  Some students were worried about staying on campus that weekend with some parents even calling the university.  Needless to say, no murders happened that Halloween.

More Haunted Stories

There are many other ghostly and macabre stories about MSU.  It is up to the listener to decide if they are real or not.  If you do want to learn more about real grisly tales, the MSU Archives has some items in our collections to spark your interest.  We have Spirit Communication letters in two different collections where “the dead” would communicate via a person and write out what they wanted to say, information on the real “Burning Bed” incident that was popularized as a TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett, a Halloween play that was performed on campus at the turn of the century, and more.  You can read more about some of these grisly tales by reading some of our older blog posts or exhibit pages.

https://msuarchives.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/spooky-stories-from-the-msu-archives/

https://msuarchives.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/more-spooky-stories-from-the-msu-archives/

http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Exhibit/1-6-13/campus-legends-and-myths/

No matter how you celebrate, whether by watching a scary movie, telling a ghost story next to a bonfire, passing out candy, or Trick-or-Treating, have a safe and Happy Halloween!  And that rustling of leaves you just heard, it was just the cat…or so you think.

Written by Jennie Russell, Assistant Records Archivist

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Sparty the Beloved Spartan

25 07 2012

Professor Jungwirth and President Hannah discuss the logistics of the Sparty statue with a model.

President John A. Hannah is almost without question responsible for more widespread and influential changes to Michigan State University’s administration and student

affairs than any other president in the college’s history.   It follows then, that one of the most recognizable and loved landmarks to come out of the last half century was a product of his time in office: the Spartan Statue.   After Beaumont Tower, Sparty is the second most photographed object on campus, and, knowing the Wolverines, he’s probably the most vandalized.  The Spartan mascot has even been recognized throughout the country—voted the No. 1 mascot in the nation by two different associations, and also dubbed the “buffest mascot” by another group.

The statue itself was erected almost twenty years after the MSU community agreed to be nicknamed the Spartans.  Originally, the students of Michigan Agricultural College went by the name of the Aggies, but when the college changed names to the Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, both faculty and students felt it was also due time for a change in the college’s representative.  The local newspaper held a vote, and the nickname that was actually decided on was the “Michigan Staters.”  Obviously acting under the correct assumption that this nickname was not nearly epic enough for our college, journalist George Alderton from the Lansing State Journal hunted and discovered the runner-up idea for a name: the Spartans.  The name came from a former MSU athlete, Perry Fremont, and shortly thereafter Alderton published his piece referring to the MSU Baseball players as the Spartans.  The name stuck, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sparty resides on campus near Demonstration Hall, at the intersection of Kalamazoo Street, Red Cedar Road, and Chestnut Road.  The statue was created by a professor from the Department of Art and Art History, Leonard D. Jungwirth, and dedicated on June 9, 1945.  The basics of Jungwirth’s process are explained by one of the many books the Archives holds about MSU’s history, “The [terra cotta] clay figure was cast in three sections and fired in industrial kilns at the Grand Ledge Clay Products Company in Grand Ledge, MI.  The hollow cast sections were fused on site, and then concrete cement was poured into the ceramic sections.  Sparty is approximately ten feet tall, and he weighs several thousand pounds.”

President Hannah felt that Sparty was an, “exemplification of the youth and spirit of Michigan State College.”  To Hannah, the Spartan statue was a symbol of the strength, honor, and courageousness which represents the spirit of MSU’s students.

President John Hannah presents his speech “The Spartan” at Sparty’s unveiling ceremony.





Love is in the Air

15 02 2011

Valentine’s Day was yesterday and love was in the air at MSU.

I live in Williams Hall and have always noticed a picture hanging on the wall of couples kissing before curfew. It made me wonder what other traditions MSU held for its “in love” couples.

The 1950 Wolverine Year Book was such a perfect place for me to begin my research. Not only was the Williams Hall picture taken in that year, but they had an entire story on MSU’s campus dates and traditions.

The article begins by quoting a professor from Bowling Green who did a study on dating and its relationship to grades. He stated that individuals who went on dates five times a week averaged better grades than non-daters. MSU students apparently took his advice!  M.S.C (at the time) provided numerous chances for meeting members of the opposite sex; these included open houses, blind-date dances, and date bureaus. Dates could be anything from a Coke date in the Union Grill between classes to a long awaited dinner dance formal.

Another romantic tradition that has been long standing at MSU has revolved around Beaumont Tower. The Wolverine stated that “Of course, no girl is officially a coed until she has been kissed at midnight in the shadow of Beaumont Tower”. Beaumont was also home to a bench that was reserved for engaged couples only. Only couples with marriage on their minds were allowed to relax there.

Other traditions included a young lady receiving a pin from her special someone from a fraternity house. It’s a big moment when a fraternity man finds a girl special enough to wear his pin! After the pinning, that young lady awaits in her room to hear her special fraternity serenading her below her window.

 

I think all of the romantic traditions at MSU are so special. That is something that those individuals who were a part of them will always remember.

Source:

1950 Wolverine Yearbook