Ghost legends continue to haunt Rutgers campuses
Rutgers is known for its long history of tradition and excellence, but with that history comes a dark past. Over the years, accounts of hauntings and sightings have been passed down from generation to generation. This Halloween, students and faculty should keep their eyes peeled and ears opened.
Grey Lady of Old Queens
As a landmark of the University since 1766, Old Queens has seen generation after generation cross over its six-acre hilltop, making it a prime location for spectral sightings.
For almost 200 years, legends claim the ghost of a woman, the Grey Lady of Old Queens, lurks in the shadows of the building’s bell tower, peering out toward the southwest before vanishing. Some allege to have seen the pale face of a woman peering out of its windows late at night.
The Gray Lady of Old Queens is rumored to be Catherine Livingston, who lived during the 18th century, said Richard Wells, president of the Rutgers University Historical Society Alumni.
“‘Gray Ladies’ are ghosts of those who died for love or died while waiting for love to return,” he said.
Supposedly, Livingston had a brief love affair with U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton while he was stationed nearby during the Revolutionary War, as suggested by a series of letters exchanged between the two.
Livingston’s ghost is rumored to stare longingly at the Raritan River, hoping to catch a glimpse of Hamilton ordering a battery of artillery to combat British enemies.
“While she doesn’t have a specific connection to Old Queens, as one of the only buildings standing on the Old Queens Campus, she would’ve gravitated there to wait for Hamilton’s return,” Wells said.
Little Theater on Douglass campus has hosted a variety of plays and performances, but the building’s alleged hauntings are no act.
Jane Inge worked as director of the theater from the early 1920s to the late 1950s and lived in a small apartment in the building’s top floor, said Carol Thompson, producing director of the Rutgers Theater Company. Some think she never left.
Since Thompson began working at Rutgers in 1977, many students have claimed to witness the ghost of Inge appear in the theater wearing a white dress.
“She [had] an extravagant and I think dominant personality,” she said. “She would take her meals in the dining hall, and she would shower in the Jameson pool.”
In order to grab the attention of rehearsing actors, Inge would flicker the theater’s lights on and off, according to “Phantoms of the Campus” by Edward Brown published in the spring of 1992 Rutgers Magazine.
During rehearsal, but never during a performance, the lights have been reported to unexpectedly flicker.
“Technicians thoroughly vetted the electrical and wiring systems, but found nothing amiss,” the article read.
According to Brown’s article, faculty and staff working in Miller Hall on the College Avenue campus have reported hearing eerie, unexplained noises including groans and footsteps.
“One University administrator reported hearing unearthly whistling sounds while she scored placement tests in her office,” according to the article. “It finally got so spooky she simply gathered up the exam papers and dashed for the door.”
Curious for answers, Marc Mappen, a former associate dean at Rutgers, examined city and University records only to discover that Miller Hall was previously a mortuary. Sure enough, Mappen inspected the gloomy building and discovered a barely legible inscription on stone that read “McDede Burial Company.”
Mappen suspects that McDede, the mortuary’s owner or a disgruntled customer, could be the creator of the creepy creaks.
Wells believes the morgue room still exists hidden somewhere in the building.
“It’s a creepy place in general,” he said.
Woodbury Bunting-Cobb Hall
The residence hall on Douglass campus has seen its fair share of supernatural phenomena.
In the 1980s, residents and staff noticed that any time roses were placed in the hall’s A-wing, they would mysteriously wither overnight. Although roses placed in the surrounding residence halls flourished, roses in Woodbury would wither no matter how hard residences tried to sustain them.
According to the article, staff members later discovered that Mary Putnam Woodbury Neilson lived in the Wood Lawn Mansion, which now houses the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
The space now occupied by A-wing of Woodbury Hall was once the estate’s extensive and flourishing rose gardens, and Nelson regarded the growing of roses as her forte, according to the article.
Perhaps her ghost wants to show the living that she does not approve of the removal of her garden, but her actions are tame compared to the wrath of Mary Lacey.
Lacey was allegedly condemned to death during the Salem witch trails of 1692, but dishonestly accused innocent people for practicing witchcraft to save her own life. More than 300 years later, her tormented spirit, unable to find peace, began to haunt the nightmares of an unfortunate resident of Woodbury Hall.
“A ghost wrapped in a burial shroud superimposing herself upon her, attempting to take away her identity,” the article read. “Soon the young women could find no escape from the imploring eyes of the spirit.”
Yet over time, the Douglass student became accustomed to the spirit’s presence, and realized Lacey’s soul was full of guilt. She assured the ghost her sins have been forgiven and over time, the ghost’s wrath dissipated.
The Hall-Mills Murders
One of New Jersey’s most sensational and novelesque unsolved murder cases began on the outskirts of New Brunswick. In 1922, the bodies of Episcopal Reverend Edward C. Hall and choir singer Eleanor Mills were found slain in an orchard, according to the article.
Both victims had gunshot wounds in their heads, and Mills’ throat was slashed. Neither eyewitnesses nor clues could pinpoint the murderer, but a suspicious letter found at the crime scene put a new twist on the case.
Mills was Hall’s mistress, and police arrested his wife, Frances Hall. Yet after a lengthy trail, she was acquitted.
The Halls’ house on Nichols Avenue later served as the official residence of the dean of Douglass College, and according to the article, some maintenance workers have heard suspicious sounds in the house’s basement.