Arielle Fischer, features editor
It’s no secret that Berry is home to quite a few spine-chilling ghost stories. Over the years, students and staff alike have experienced things they cannot quite explain in dorms, halls or even on Mountain Campus. These stories have been passed down for generations, from one class year to the next. Students may be familiar with the legends of the Green Lady, the Mary Hall ghost or even the spirit of Martha Berry herself roaming around campus. However, students may be unaware of how these ghosts came to be and why their stories still haunt Berry residents to this day. It is time to unveil the past of these eerie phantoms and bring their tales to light.
The Ghost of Mary Hall
One of Berry’s specters is the ghost of Mary Hall. While this ghost is thought to roam all over the Ford Complex, the female spirit mainly resides in Mary Hall, according to various accounts. Around 80 years ago, in the mid-1940s, East and West Mary were used as female dormitories, as they are today. However, the middle tower connecting the East and West halls was once in use for student housing. Now, the doors are sealed shut.
During World War II, a female student living in one of the Mary connecting towers received word of her boyfriend’s death overseas. According to the tale, the girl, overcome with grief, took her own life in her dorm’s closet and wasn’t found until days later. Since the incident, Berry staff has locked the room and banned it from student use. This was the only room left untouched during the Ford Complex’s renovation and restoration a few decades back. Residents of East and West Mary have reported hearing wails in the dead of night coming from the upstairs tower, or a cold rush passing through them as they walk to their rooms. While no sighting has been confirmed, this mourning spirit is only one of many rumors roaming Berry when the lights go out.
Another, potentially lesser-known ghost, is the “Sepia Boy” of Blackstone Hall, or what is now more commonly known as the Sisters Theatre. While this young boy’s story and reason for the nickname remain a mystery, Tom Ogden, in his novel “Haunted Colleges and Universities: Creepy Campuses, Scary Scholars, and Deadly Dorms,” refers to the ghost as the “playhouse’s prankster.” Ogden and other online accounts report that the boy ghost is much more interested in playing around than causing a fright.
It is not uncommon for ghosts to be found in theaters. Many other colleges and universities report odd occurrences happening in their theaters over several decades, such as lights flickering by themselves, or props being moved. According to Theatrecrafts.com, there are plenty of superstitions that surround theatres of all kinds, so rumors like the “Sepia Boy” are not necessarily uncommon. According to Theatrecrafts.com and Afterthefinalcurtain.net, no one really knows why some theaters are hotspots for paranormal activity, but a haunted stage seems to be a shared trait among plenty of locations.
Martha Berry’s Ghost
One of Berry’s spirits just so happens to be its founder, Martha Berry. Many students have reported seeing Miss Berry in some of the older buildings throughout campus, but most of the activity occurs in the Hoge Building. The building was formerly the music school, and before that, it was used as Martha Berry’s office space. Visitors have reported hearing objects being moved around in the rooms above them, or sometimes seeing outlines of what appears to be an older woman. Despite these anomalies, the most famous story comes from a professor and her daughter.
As reported in the Campus Carrier archives, this professor was working late in the building with her daughter, when she overheard her little girl speaking to someone in another room. When she went to see who her daughter was speaking to, she found there was no one else in the building. The professor was utterly perplexed, having no idea why her daughter was holding a conversion with no one. When she asked her child who she was talking to, the little girl replied she spoke to a nice, old lady who had cold hands. It wasn’t until a few days later when the two were walking through Krannert when the professor saw her daughter pause in front of a picture of Martha Berry. The girl whipped around and yelled “Mommy, mommy, that’s her! That’s the lady I saw!” according to the archived Carrier report. Whether this was the true spirit of Berry’s founder or just a coincidence is still up for debate. But this instance is not the first, or last, that has been reported behind Hoge’s doors.
The Green Lady
The most well-known ghost at Berry is arguably the infamous Green Lady of Lavender Mountain Road, also known as Stretch Road. Described as either an odd green fog-cloud or occasionally a young woman with no eyes and a slightly greenish hue, this mysterious specter is a common name around Berry. Over the past 100 years or so, several people have mysteriously died on the three-mile road connecting Mountain Campus to Main Campus, leading people to speculate where the Green Lady might have come from.
One version of the story, as documented in the Carrier archives, dates back to the early 20th century and claims the Green Lady was a woman who died in a 1923 housefire. In the mid-1980s, a group of WinShape students attempted to use a Ouija board to contact the Green Lady. The board spelled out the name “Becky Stanson,” and after checking with Floyd County Public Records, the students discovered a girl with a similar name, Becky Stanton, died in a house fire near Stretch Road in 1923. This version is believed and passed on by some students but is not the most accepted origin story.
The commonly accepted backstory by most students who hear the tale is that of a former Berry freshman who died in 1988. A female student got in a heated argument with her boyfriend while they were driving down Stretch Road one foggy night. According to Viking Fusion’s records of the event in their film series “The Green Lady,” at some point during the drive, the student asked to be let out of the car so she could walk back home. Her boyfriend sent her out and drove off. However, after a few minutes, her boyfriend turned around and came back to drive her home. While driving, it is believed the boyfriend may have looked away for a moment or driven through a thick cloud of fog, because, within seconds, he had accidentally run into his girlfriend, causing her to obtain a fatal head injury.
Another version involving the same female student, as told by Georgiahighcountry.org, claims that her death was the result of a bicycle collision instead.
Despite not knowing which backstory is true, students and staff alike have reportedly encountered the elusive Green Lady on the long road between the two campuses. Legend has it, she can take the form of a green cloud that drifts across the path at night, or as many have documented, the Green Lady will appear in rear-view mirrors or in front of passing cars. No matter how she may appear or where she might have come from, the haunting green spirit remains one of Berry’s most popular paranormal rumors.
Between the rumors and possible encounters, some people consider Berry a hotspot for things individuals can’t quite explain. Having such mysteries close to home may be an unusual sensation for new students, but some would argue these spirits are just another part of the Berry experience. These stories may frighten some, or entice others to solve their mysteries, but no matter the reaction, these stories are part of Berry’s history and may be passed down for decades to come.