The haunted history of UNA’s campus

CAMPUS FEATURE

Mary-Stella Mangina , Volunteer Writer

With Halloween approaching rapidly, an increasingly large number of students at the University of North Alabama has been describing incidents of spectral encounters. Whether or not to take their recounts seriously is up to he or she who hears their stories. Popular newspaper USA Today reports that out of 100,000 surveyed people, 45% believe in ghosts. This figure represents a significant amount of the United States’ population. The supernatural is a staple of modern media. Especially in October, American citizens enjoy a wide range of scary movies, from classics, like The Exorcist and Halloween, to contemporary prestige horror films, such as Midsommar and Hereditary. Yet despite their pervasiveness in literature and cinema, ghosts and ghouls are taboo subjects. The majority of Americans look at paranormal activity with skepticism, so it is unsurprising that UNA has not officially addressed its supposed hauntings. 

Built in the 19th century, various architectural aspects of UNA served as rest points to soldiers at the time of the Civil War. For instance, Wesleyan Hall, which was erected in 1856, served as a rehabilitation center to both Union and Confederate soldiers. According to HauntedPlaces.org, it is rumored that the restless spirit of a Union officer’s son roams its hallways, slamming doors and sending chills down the spines of unassuming professors. Additionally, the O’Neal House, where Alabama governor Edward O’Neal lived during the mid-1800s, is believed by many to be haunted. Located on North Court Street, the house is still owned by the O’Neal family today. It is now said to be occupied by the spectral presence of Governor O’Neal’s late wife. “Mrs. O’Neal actually loved that house when she saw it and told her husband . . . that [was] where she wanted to live,” says historian and metaphysical expert Debra Glass. “He bought the house for her.” After being asked why Mrs. O’Neal would have wanted to stay in the mortal realm following her physical demise, Glass conjectures, “She loved the house so much; I think she just didn’t want to leave. She’s very quiet and sweet. If you are ever in the house, it has a really good energy.” From the sound of it, she is a prime example of a harmless ghost with no ill will. Many claim to have seen her lilting about the rooms of the house, dressed as if she was aiming to entertain guests.

Olive Hall tenant Sydney Green and her roommate are two of several UNA students who have expressed spiritual discomfort with staying in its residence halls on account of having the feeling of being watched by a mysterious entity. Green asserts to have been lying in bed in the wee hours of the morning, when she realized she “could hear what [seemed] to be someone walking in [her] room and then quietly closing [her] door.” When given further questions regarding the event, she says, “It couldn’t have been my roommate, as she was at home, and my door was locked.” 

One of the university’s oldest residential buildings, LaGrange Hall, is commonly thought to be plagued by spectres. Constructed around 60 years ago LaGrange Hall has had its share of purported ghostly happenings. The building is currently enduring renovations. As to the state of ghosts living in buildings undergoing construction, Debra Glass states, “A lot of people say that when things are under construction, it’s actually stirring up the ghostly activity in the place.” As far as she knows, the dormant fixture is still actively infested with phantoms. UNA has been around for close to two centuries; naturally, multiple deaths have occured on its grounds. From a historical viewpoint, it only makes sense that its campus should be haunted.