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Penn State Is One Of The Most Haunted Schools In The Country

We’ve all been there at some point in our college career — it’s 3 a.m. and you’re walking back from the library, cursing yourself for waiting until the last minute to study for that exam. A chill in the air reminds you that it’s probably time to stop wearing flip flops around everywhere. You plug your headphones in, yet the walk still seems more lengthy than usual. Is it the eerie mask of fog in the air, the sound of footsteps you could’ve sworn you heard, the late-night biker who catches you off guard as they pass you from behind? You may not quite be able to put a finger on it, but it sure is unsettling.

Sources everywhere have referred to Penn State as one of the country’s most haunted college campuses. That’s right, folks — there may very well be a paranormal explanation for the chill that runs up your spine as you walk home late at night. But don’t worry, most of Happy Valley’s ghosts are probably pretty friendly. While a campus as historic and large as Penn State has its fair share of alleged haunts, we’ve compiled a few of the most notorious stories.

Old Botany Building

As students make their routine walks to and from the library or the Willard building, they often fail to notice the old red building they pass numerous times during the week. The Old Botany Building is actually full of rich history and, thus, houses many of Penn State’s ghostly friends. The most well-known is the ghost of Frances Atherton, the wife of former university president George Atherton. The legend goes that if you pass by the building and look into the uppermost window, you can see the figure of a woman peering out of the glass and across the street. Supposedly, this apparition is Atherton’s wife keeping watch over the former president’s grave. If you feel an eerie presence or a pair of eyes on you during a late-night walk down Pollock road, you may not be completely alone.


The Pattee Stacks

The stacks in the Pattee Library are home to arguably one of the most mysterious murders in history. On November 28, 1969, graduate student Betsy Aardsma was writing a paper in the stacks when she was stabbed from behind and killed. Authorities never discovered the identity of the killer, but shortly after the murder, two men left the library and warned the desk clerk that they should go help a girl. The murder baffled police because of the lack of very much blood, as well as the fact that there were no signs of any visible struggle. To this day, much of Aardsma’s death remains a mystery. Students often report feeling random drops in temperature, witnessing objects moved from their place, and spotting apparitions that clearly aren’t those of other studying students. One student even reported feeling hands grip her neck during a visit to the stacks. It’s no wonder some students purposefully refrain from using the stacks as a study spot, especially after the sun goes down.


Schwab Auditorium

Plenty of Penn Staters attend events at the Schwab Auditorium, whether it be a panel discussion for class or a dance performance to support a friend. But few of these students know that the auditorium is also one of Penn State’s most renowned paranormal hotspots. Ghostly presences such as that of a janitor, an unknown female, a young boy, and even Charles Schwab himself supposedly haunt the auditorium. Workers often hear footsteps and soft voices in the uppermost part of the auditorium when no one else is in there. In fact, according to a post by the blog Pennsylvania Haunts & History, theater seats even go down as if there is a person sitting in them. Workers are often afraid to be left alone in the building late at night, for they may not be the only presence there that evening. We’d suggest keeping your visits to the auditorium limited to daylight hours (unless you want to check out this haunt for yourself, of course.)

Stock Schwab Auditorium

The Ghost Walk

Though the trail itself no longer exists, one of Penn State’s famous ghostly legends lies in an old secluded path known as the Ghost Walk. The path once spanned from the Old Botany Building all the way up through the far northern parts of campus near Park Avenue. Students used to use this path to go on romantic walks with their significant others or to hide from the school’s authority figures when they wanted to cause mischief. But according to an old legend, the path took a darker turn when a student got lost during a blizzard in the 1860s and froze to death while trying to find his way out. Shortly after the alleged incident, reports of apparitions began to circulate around campus. Ghostly figures and strange noises when no one else is around seem to haunt the area that was once home to the Ghost Walk. Many suspect it is undoubtedly the ghost of the lost student, but witnesses’ own personal testimonies are the only current proof of the ghost’s identity.


Old Coaly

Perhaps Penn State’s oldest ghost story revolves around Old Coaly, a pack mule that came to campus in 1857 to assist in building the original Old Main building. Even after the job was complete, Penn State purchased Old Coaly and decided to let him reside on a campus farm and Old Main Lawn. The mule was even dubbed the university’s original mascot before the Nittany Lion. The mule passed away in 1893 after over 30 years of serving on campus. Students can now even lay their eyes on Old Coaly himself — his skeleton is currently on display on the first floor of the HUB. It’s arguably a bit creepy, so it’s no surprise Old Coaly’s legacy has sparked numerous tales of paranormal encounters. Multiple students have reported seeing and even hearing the the ghost of the mule at various hotspots around campus. 


Have a creepy Penn State ghost story of your own? Let us know in the comments! 

About the Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]


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