Randolph-Macon College, a tiny, ancient university half an hour north of Richmond, has played host to more than its share of paranormal incidents over the years.
“I think there’s something in the building…”
Spirits, apparitions, ghosts, and the unknown. Some people believe that there is something in this world that cannot be fully explained. College campuses around the Richmond area have a deeply rooted history, which contributes to reports of paranormal occurrences around those campuses. Ashland’s Randolph-Macon College is no exception. It seems like everyone at the small private college knows at least one story of people experiencing something unexplainable.
James Scanlon, a former professor at Randolph-Macon, has said that he experienced a presence in one of the buildings on the campus. In fact, he says he’s seen it multiple times. Something would appear in his view and move from right to left down the upstairs hallway of the Washington-Franklin building, which holds a few offices for teachers, two classrooms, and a large open room for social events, but is usually quiet and empty. This happened to Professor Scanlon a few times, but he usually brushed it off as if it was just his imagination.
Then, one normal Sunday afternoon, around two or three pm, Scanlon got tired of reading and started out of his office door, into the hallway. As he looked through the slit in the doorway and into the hallway of Washington-Franklin Hall, he felt there “was something.” He saw it pass from right to left, as if someone was walking by.
“It looked grainy… a mist,” he says. “It looked like a San Francisco fog, but it had a defined edge.” He was shocked, and began looking around the building for someone or something that could have caused what he had seen. But he found nothing.
“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This Sherlock Holmes quote is a line that Professor Scanlon used when referring to his experience. It could not have been his mind playing tricks on him; it was the middle of the day and he was stone cold sober. It could not have been a cloud of dust, because he saw a clear edge around the figure. It could not have been a person, because no one was there. “Whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Later, when he mentioned this story to his co-workers, Scanlon expected his friends to poke fun at him. Instead, he found that other professors who worked in the Washington-Franklin building had experienced the same things he had. Some of the professors’ experiences were enough to give them goosebumps all over their bodies.
On another occasion, Scanlon mentioned that a young football player had snuck into Washington-Franklin Hall to play the rosewood Steinway piano located in the Franklin room. The building was locked; people suspected that he had snuck in through a secret passageway under the building. As he sat down to play a song at the piano, he felt a tingling on his arm. Scanlon said that the football player “looked up and sitting there… was a man staring at him. In a building that was hard to get into. And Buzzy looked away and looked back and the man was gone.” He ran out of the building, to his fraternity house. “His fraternity brothers said he was white as a sheet,”
Imagine a normal night on a college campus. You hop into bed and get ready to fall asleep. However, as you fall asleep, something or someone grabs you by your ankles, almost pulling you out of bed. When you look up to see who is there, you see a man standing over you. You scream for help, but when you look again the man is gone.
This story straight out of a horror movie occurred on the Randolph-Macon campus. It was retold by another Randolph-Macon professor, Jack Trammell, who heard it from a student. Apparently, the story goes, after her experience with this haunting night, the student asked her mother to come stay in the house for a night. When the mother was there that night she had a similar experience to her daughter — she was awoken in the night, and standing over her bed was a man with the same appearance her daughter had described. They may have been dreams, or minds playing tricks on them, but since these incidents occurred, people have not lived in this house on the outskirts of Randolph-Macon’s campus.
New stories about ghosts on Randolph-Macon’s campus pop up every month or so. Some seem fake, like they were made up. However, there are many stories that involve the same figures appearing in the same places on campus. These occurrences tend to get more attention, and these recurring “spirits” often get names of their own. One of the most frequently seen is referred to as the Woman in White.
Directly adjacent to the fountain in the center of Randolph-Macon’s campus is a large U-shaped dormitory building, Mary Branch Hall. At one point, the basement of this building had been condemned; there was always an odd feeling that came when you were alone in the building, experiencing its dim lights, bone-white walls, and a building full of history.
It is said that one night a girl who was getting ready for bed headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth. When she entered the bathroom, she spotted a woman wearing something white next to her in the bathroom mirror’s reflection. When she finished brushing her teeth and turned to leave, the woman was gone, even though she had seen the woman in the reflection of the mirror just before she turned to leave.
Thankfully, most of the experiences people have reported with the Woman in White are friendly in nature, even if they are a little creepy. There are many theories about who this woman is. One of the most popular is that she’s the ghost of a student that hung herself somewhere in the building and now roams the halls looking for a friend.
Even though some are more obscure and unknown than others, most college campuses have ghost stories. Exploring college campuses and finding the deep history that exists there can land you right in the middle of a ghost story of your own. Remember, if these types of things happen to you, even if they seem unlikely, “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Top Photo: Mary Branch Hall at Randolph-Macon College.