Spirit of the Season | BIG RED GIVES UP THE GHOSTS
EACH OCTOBER AS THE AUTUMN foliage drifts to the ground, the brothers of Delta Phi and Phi Delta Theta transform their homes into haunted houses, raising money for charity by staging paid tours intended to scare visitors out of their wits. All month, the McGraw Tower clock glows orange.
But such seasonal observances mean little to the spirits who frequent the campus year-round. Back when the Ag Quad's Stone Hall was being demolished in 1986, Sue Thompson, an administrative assistant in horticulture, spotted ten stern-looking men in black overcoats and stovepipe hats standing nearby, lost in somber conversation. "On Cornell's campus you see all kinds of things," she says. "What caught my attention was that passersby were walking through them." Thompson spotted the same phantom group during the demolition of Roberts and East Roberts halls a few years later. More recently, she says she's heard reports of unexplained footsteps late at night in Warren Hall.
A late-Sixties fire in Ecology House has been blamed for restless spirits farther north, and undergrad residents of Risley Hall have long credited flickering lights and cool drafts to the ghost of their building's namesake, Prudence Risley, known affectionately as Auntie Pru. Former Risleyite Celisa Mettler Manly '94, who says she never had any "goose-bumpy" experiences in the building, takes a more sanguine view: "We're probably talking about faulty wiring in an old building and a bunch of overtired, overcaffeinated undergraduates."
The most active apparition on campus seems to be the one haunting Statler Hall. Carlton McIntyre, manager of custodial services for the building, says he regularly hears from third-shift workers who've spotted a pale lady--thought to be Alice Statler, namesake of the school's library-- who wears a dark dress and has been seen passing through walls and emerging from clockfaces. About six years ago, says McIntyre, the ghost grabbed him from behind as he worked in an auditorium, freeing him when a colleague responded to his call for help. "It wasn't trying to hurt me," says McIntyre. "It was just being playful."
Most employees take the sightings in stride, but one hapless fellow couldn't take the stress. "He was white as a ghost," says McIntyre. "He walked straight out of the Statler and never came back."While the supervisor has never seen the spirit in the adjoining hotel, McIntyre wonders whether she'll visit the School's Beck Center when it opens this fall. "Believe me," he says, "Alice is here."