By: Peter Friesen
Sure, everyone has heard of the ghost in the tunnels who was lured under in the 1960’s by a psychopathic admirer and the sightings of a woman hanging from the cupola in Wilson Hall whose heart was broken, but those are just myths. According to local ghost tour guide and JMU alum Lisa Ha, there are far more real and sinister things afoot on the JMU campus and in the surrounding town.
“Ghost stories were always a part of my upbringing,” Ha explained to the crowd of cider sipping students at 7 pm in the Festival Ballroom. Her grandfather was an exorcist in Vietnam and she grew up hearing the stories. Now she is here to share her own collected tales.
In residential streets like Campbell Court, it is common knowledge that it is haunted. Residents don’t view it as a threat and even sometimes play with the ghosts, but most people that deal with hauntings are not so unfazed. Soon, JMU may not be reacting well to an occurrence similar to The Shining. On the spot the Hotel Madison is built, there used to be a house where student residents reported unaccounted for screaming, people trying to get in their room who were not there, and a student put into a trance from musical riffs of 6. It’s no wonder the house was destroyed to make room for a hotel.
If you ever have a desire to meet a former President of JMU, just spend a night in Duke hall. The hall’s namesake, President Dr. Duke, can be seen going inside the hall with a fedora and the faint smell of the cigar brand he used to smoke. Meanwhile, students living in Fredrickson and Hillside have their own hauntings to look out for. In Hillside, there is a small boy named James by a former student who might try to talk to you through the wall. But do not be alarmed, he only wants help. The Fredrickson ghosts are also harmless because they are imprinted memories in the common area that are no longer conscious. While JMU has its share of hauntings, students should be thankful they have not had an occurrence like Eastern Mennonite University, where a Ukrainian student summoned a demon in the form of a minotaur to charge dozens of dorms. Do not worry though, the student apologized.
Lisa Ha ended the night by asking students if they had any supernatural encounter. There were no shortage of hands, just as JMU has no shortage of ghosts.
Senior biology major Brie Lewis believes, “Listening to ghost stories of a town is the best way to learn about it,” and she may be right.
Everyone got what they came for, whether it was for some cider and a Halloween fright or the truth about hauntings at JMU. All of JMU’s history was covered in the span of an hour and even some of Harrisonburg’s history as far back as Colonel Ashby’s ghostly battalion that still roams the streets today.