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Freaky Friday

For the second in our burgeoning series of haunted universities, I chose Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  I had a nephew who attended Ohio U and he had stories about the weird things that happened there – and a few buildings he stayed away from. So, I thought it would be interesting to see what others have reported.

According to Forgotten Ohio, Ohio University is probably the most haunted college campus in the entire country, if not the world. This is how they introduce their page dedicated to the school, “As Ohio places go, it’s ancient: established in 1804, just one year after statehood, the nation’s first institution of higher learning west of the Appalachian Mountains. The sheer number of haunted places on campus is impressive enough, and that’s not even counting the numerous other legends floating around Athens County. FOX even taped an episode of its Scariest Places on Earth program at OU.”

So, what’s so scary about OU?  Let’s start with Room 428.

According to Real Paranormal Experiences “if you mention room 428 in Ohio University to any alumni or current resident of Wilson Hall dormitory; you’re guaranteed a ghost story.

Ohio University is considered one of the most haunted schools in the world.

Built only one year after Ohio established statehood, Ohio University’s walls have witnessed plenty of tragedy.

It all started in the 1970’s when a student lost their life. Accounts differ when it comes to the gender of the student, but sources agree on the unexpected or unusual nature of the death.

Sometime after that, however, a female student lived in the dorm. Those who knew the woman claimed that she studied the occult. She allegedly used the energy of the room to speak with the dead.

Forgotten over the course of decades, her name does not seem to be known. Yet, nearly every story about this woman ends in her grisly death.

It is said that she drew on the power of the room one night. She wanted to astral project or speak with the dead, but somehow this resulted in her violent and bloody death. Some stories say that she slit her wrists. However, this is not a widely circulated claim.

After the first death in the 1970’s, students experienced an array of supernatural phenomenon. Frequently, students occupying the room alone would hear footsteps.

Other times, objects would fly across the room and shatter against the walls. And still other accounts claim to have seen the ghost of the ill-fated occult follower.”

On the website Her Campus, Hannah Moskowitz shares her experiences at Ohio University.

“Coming into my first year at Ohio University, I knew that we were not only known for our parties and Halloweekend, but also for being one of the most haunted campuses in America. Opening a year after the state of Ohio was established in 1804, it’s a given that with the area’s rich history, there are bound to be some very old ghosts walking the streets of Athens. Before coming to campus, students hear about the supposed hauntings, especially in the old Athens Lunatic Asylum (now called The Ridges), the haunted dorms and cemeteries. Knowing the campus’s spooky history, I figured I would hear about paranormal activity, but I never expected to be personally touched by it. Here are just a few personal hauntings I’ve experienced, as well as some things experienced by others here.

As freshmen, we’re the last to pick for scheduling and housing, but I was able to choose sooner than others by living in a learning-community designated dorm. After picking my room on the second floor of Washington Hall, I did some research to learn more about where I would be living for the next year. I found out that Washington Hall opened in 1955, was named after President George Washington and that it was supposedly haunted by an entire women’s basketball team. They died in an accident but had had such a great time on campus that they decided to stay.

Going into move-in day, I expected some strange things to happen, but not anything too bizarre. Within the first week, though, I woke up to find scratches on my body, including actual broken skin on my shoulder. Oftentimes, I found myself waking up early in the morning with both my sheets and comforter having been completely pulled off onto the floor. I’m not a crazy, restless sleeper, so there’s no way I could have caused that myself! Food, tissue boxes and things on my desk were sometimes moved around, and I’d find them in strange spots the next day. Those who lived around me have also had similar strange occurrences. They’ve heard knocking on their windows late at night, had their hair pulled, their music turned off out of nowhere, and just generally experienced so many other creepy things that defy explanation.

Our campus also rests near the Athens Lunatic Asylum, which is supposedly haunted. Overcrowding, inhumane practices and patient deaths eventually shut the center down. While it’s used as a museum and space for art students now, students are convinced the building is cursed. One of the best-known legends is of Margaret Schilling, a female patient who disappeared in 1978 and was found dead weeks later on the abandoned top floor with her clothes neatly folded next to her. Some say that she now roams the building along with other patients.

By the time a student graduates, it’s almost certain that they will have had a paranormal experience or two while living on campus. Especially after my personal experience after living in a room that’s so haunted that it’s unlivable, I’m convinced that Ohio University is one of the most haunted campuses in America.”

Since Hannah brought it up, I thought we should learn a little more about the Athens Lunatic Asylum. The website Week In Weird offers this information.

“Once one of Ohio’s largest hospitals for the mentally ill and the criminally insane, The Athens Lunatic Asylum was the pinnacle of care when it opened in January of 1874. One of the first hospitals to be built using the “Kirkbride Plan”, a standardized method of building mental institutions for self-reliance, compassionate treatment, and wide-open spaces, the asylum quickly gained a reputation for its high standards and began to treat an influx of Civil War veterans suffering from a condition that we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unfortunately, as word of the hospital’s stellar care spread, the number of its patients began to rise to uncontrollable levels. The asylum quickly began to fill with the homeless, the elderly, and those who had become a financial burden on their families. It wasn’t uncommon for people to be admitted for things like rebelliousness, or even being a bad housewife. Regardless of the reason for admittance, by the 1950s, the hospital had swelled to nearly two-thousand patients – over three times its capacity.

The staff, realizing they could use the hospital’s growth to their advantage, began to put the patients to work. Soon, the facilities’ farm was turning a nice profit built on the backs of the mentally ill.

While profits, patient numbers, and staff greed continued to rise, quality of care steeply declined. Patients were beaten, tightly restrained in their beds for several days at a time, and regularly subjected to mass lobotomies, shock therapy, and other experimental procedures like sustained ice-water submerging. During the mid-1900s, the Athens Lunatic Asylum was a waking nightmare for anyone unlucky enough to be housed there.

The hospital finally closed its doors in 1993, having donated much of its property to Ohio University, who had already begun to renovate some of the buildings. Almost as soon as the old portions of the asylum reopened, which became known as “The Ridges”, students began to experience paranormal activity. Disembodied screams would ring through the empty halls in the middle of the night, mysterious figures would walk the former grounds of the demolished Tuberculosis Ward only to disappear into thin air, and electronics would seem to go on the fritz, causing lights to flicker and phones to fail.

While tales of the grounds’ paranormal activity quickly became the topic of discussion among Ohio University students, there was one remnant of the old hospital that was whispered about more than the others: the corpse stain.

Margaret Schilling was not a particularly troubled patient at the asylum, so she was allowed a good amount of freedom, and spent her days wandering the grounds, even going to town on her own from time to time. On the night of December 1, 1979, Margaret Schilling went missing.

When Margaret didn’t return, a search party was organized at the hospital, but days of searching turned up no trace of the missing patient. Forty-two days later, a maintenance worker was surveying an unused ward formerly dedicated to patients with infectious illnesses when he made a gruesome discovery. Behind a locked door, her clothes folded neatly on the floor, lie Margaret Shilling’s naked body. She’d somehow managed to get locked inside the abandoned room, and to the horror of onlookers, her corpse was found in such a bad state of decomposition that her body fluids had soaked into the concrete, creating a permanent stain.

Nearly four decades later, the corpse stain remains hidden inside the building, unable to be scrubbed away. For the students who share the building (a portion of which is now used as an art museum), the spirit of Margaret Shilling will occasionally make herself known through the rattle of a phantom door-handle echoing through the halls, a reminder of her eternal attempt to escape from the locked room on the top floor.”

Rule #1 – Don’t let your child get housing at the Ridges, Wilson Hall or Washington Hall. Better yet, Ohio State might be a much better place for housing!

Happy Friday!

Like what you read?  Find more stories by Terri Reid here.

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