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.


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


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.


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.

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


The Women of West Circle

15 03 2011

In keeping with the theme of women at MSU, I thought it would be important to honor the women for whom the dorms of West Circle are named after.  The atmosphere of the West Circle community is beyond compare and the historical feel I get from walking from residence hall to residence hall makes me feel as though I have been transported back in time to the late 1940s when West Circle was the newest area on campus. Six buildings make up the complex, Williams, Yakeley, Gilchrist, Mayo, Campbell, and Landon Halls. Each hall is named after an important woman who contributed to MSU in some way.

Built in 1931, Mary Mayo Hall was the first West Circle residence hall. Mary Mayo was born and raised on a farm near Battle Creek, Michigan.  After graduating high school she became a district school teacher at age seventeen and married Civil War veteran Perry Mayo at age twenty. Mrs. Mayo would have two children, a daughter and a son.  She wished for her daughter to attend a collegiate institution; however she saw a lack of education for her daughter at MAC, because (at the time) a woman’s program did not exist. Mary Mayo became very active in the The Grange. In this organization, women were admitted as equals to men and therefore became a salvation and outlet of companionship for many farm women. Throughout her speeches and lectures with this group, she began to advocate for a creation of a women’s course and the building of a women’s dormitory at MAC. She believed that the current curriculum offered little to farm women and even less to city women. Mrs. Mayo’s persistence in pushing for a woman’s program was heard. In 1896 the women’s course was officially created and the new Women’s Building (Morrill Hall) was originally supposed to be named after her.

(Rumored Mary Mayo Ghost Story: It is a long standing folklore tale at MSU: Mary Mayo Hall is haunted by the ghost of Mary Mayo. As a third year resident of West Circle, I have heard numerous tall tales regarding these hauntings. Residents say that they can sometimes hear Mrs. Mayo walking throughout the first floor and sometimes even playing piano. One rumor states that Mary Mayo died in the building [even though she died 28 years before the building’s completion], another states that her daughter died in the building [also not true, for her daughter died before the building’s completion], and a third states that a young lady committed suicide on the haunted fourth floor [no record of this]. So is it haunted? Come visit and I’ll leave that to you to decide…)

Sarah Langdon Williams Hall was the second West Circle building to come along. Built in 1937, this dorm was dedicated to the wife of the college’s first president, Joseph Williams. Sarah and her husband were leaders in fighting against oppressed humanity, for the cause of woman suffrage, and for general civic and social reform. She lived in Michigan with her husband while he served as president as MAC, but after his death, she returned to her home city of Toledo, Ohio. While in Toledo, she founded and edited the Ballot Box, the official publication of the woman suffrage movement; she was also involved in the Toledo Woman’s Suffrage Association, the Toledo New Century Club (of which she was a founder), and the Toledo University of Arts and Trades. She was also a well known friend of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mrs. Williams also served on the Civil War battle fields as a nurse and was mother to three children.

Campbell Hall was the next dorm to be completed in West Circle. Built in 1937 as well, this building was named after Louise Hathaway Campbell. Mrs. Campbell was a state leader in the Home Economics Extension Service and was appointed to the Dean of Women position in 1923. She came to Michigan after working in Iowa and North Dakota where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in the State Agricultural College at Fargo. She was an enthusiastic person and an outstanding leader. While serving as the Dean of Women she expanded the Division of Home Economics by creating a faculty of four associate professors, three assistant professors, six instructors, and ten house mothers.  She re-organized the curriculum and divided the courses into different groups such as Foods and Nutrition, Institutional Management, Clothing, Textiles and Related Arts, and Vocational. Mrs. Campbell also broadened the division with the establishment of a graduate and research department.

In 1947, Yakeley Hall was built. Named after Elida Yakeley, this hall was, and still remains, a female only dormitory. Ms. Yakeley was MSU’s first registrar. She was very personable and easy to talk to. Throughout her thirty years working as a registrar, she personally knew every student that registered within the University – granted, at the time there were only 500 students enrolled. Ms. Yakeley stated that her job was very easy and a painless process (unlike today’s system). There were only three courses available: agriculture, engineering, and the women’s course. She would also figure out a way to streamline the enrollment process which would prove to help the department for many years to come.

Landon has the next building erected in West Circle. Linda Eoline Landon Hall was built in 1948 and named for possibly one of the most influential and well liked women in this history of MSU. Linda Landon served as the school librarian for 41 years from 1891 to 1932. She loved her job and the students immensely and the school loved her back. She was born in Niles, Michigan in 1886 and would marry Rufus Landon. She graduated valedictorian of her high school class and became an instructor at Kalamazoo public schools. She was originally an English teacher at MAC, making her the first woman instructor on the campus.  She eventually became the school librarian and did wonderful things during her tenure. As the librarian, the library doubled in size, quadrupled the amount of books, and the number of students who benefited by her instructions and kind suggestions grew exponentially. Every individual that graduated during the last 30 years of her term would always have a personal reminder of Mrs. Landon in their diploma for it was she who affixed the ribbons to them. The 1912 Wolverine was dedicated in her honor. It stated: “No person at MAC more deserves the honor of the dedication of the year’s Wolverine than does that amiable, pleasant little lady in black who more than anyone else has been tutoring thousands of students in the art of appreciating, loving, and valuing these true friends in life – books”.

The other hall built in 1948 was Gilchrist Hall named for Maude Gilchrist. *Maude Gilchrist became the Dean of Women in the summer of 1901. She brought with her a wide educational background and vast teaching experience. She received a Bachelor’s of Science from Iowa State Teachers College; spent three years at Wellesley College, where she tutored freshmen in mathematics; spent a year in Germany at the University of Goettingen; and received a M.A. from the University of Michigan. She also spent a summer at Iowa Agricultural College studying prairie plants under Dr. Charles Bessey; a summer at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory; and took two winter courses in economic botany at Harvard University under Dr. George Goodale. Prior to MAC, she spent three years as an instructor at Iowa State Teachers College, ten years teaching botany at Wellesley, and four years as Dean at the Illinois Women’s College. She taught ethics and the history of education, as well as the occasional section on botany, when needed. During her 12 years at MAC, enrollment in the Women’s Course increased more than 125 per cent and the curriculum was advanced to a higher level.

*Taken from the University Archives and Historical Collections online exhibit

I am very proud to be a resident of West Circle. The residence halls were named after great women who contributed a lot to MSU and the buildings will forever stand as a reminder of their great achievements!