Every new student hears about the hauntings on campus when they arrive at Castleton University, like the infamous unexplained noises in Ellis Hall and the stories surrounding Old Chapel and the Art House.
But have you heard of the haunting in the Fine Arts Center?
At first, it was all second-hand stories of feelings and encounters that piqued my interest, but it wasn’t until my first encounter that I knew for certain there was something there.
It was one of those nights in the spring where there was a cool breeze that swept across campus. I was in the Green Room with a few friends at around 11-12 p.m. discussing the stories I had heard about the FAC. I was with Katy Albert, who has since graduated, when I asked her about her experiences in the building. I had heard from a mutual friend of ours that she had some strange things happen to her and I had to ask.
During her first weekend at Castleton, she was helping a friend in the Black Box Theater. At that point, she hadn’t heard any of the stories surrounding the building, so when she saw someone walk down the stairs into the little theater, she assumed it was her friend.
She kept looking at the man she saw and suddenly realized it wasn’t her friend at all; it was a man in a suit and top hat.
She watched him walk across the stage and into a corner where he then looked at her. She blinked to adjust her eyes and get a better look, but suddenly, he was gone.
This, however, was not her only encounter with the ghost.
On a different occasion, she was in the green room at around 2 a.m. working on a project with a friend. Throughout the night they kept hearing noises and seeing shadows moving around the room. All of the activity was centered around the furniture closet in the back corner when all of a sudden, she saw a shadow move from the closet into the women’s dressing room and then vanish.
During the conversation, I suddenly got overwhelmed with chills.
I couldn’t help but keep looking over her shoulder to the back corner where the furniture closet was located. I had this overwhelming feeling that someone was there watching us, but every time I looked over, there was no one there.
Feeling this disembodied energy in the exact area she had previously seen it only solidified what had happened to her.
It was the first time I felt him, but definitely not the last.
During the performance of one of the student-directed Black Box shows, I was sitting stage left by the door waiting for my entrance, when I felt there was something in the back of the house. There wasn’t a light on, and there was just a sliver of light coming from the cracks in the doors. Suddenly, I saw a shadow in the back of the house and I immediately was overwhelmed with a sense of fear.
Recently, I had that same feeling. I was in the house of the theatre after a rehearsal for “Catch Me If You Can” and I was talking to some of my cast mates about the ghost.
They admitted that they had never heard of him.
As soon as I started talking about him, I got chills that ran through my entire body. In that moment, I knew he was there, however, this time I couldn’t pinpoint an exact location.
It felt as though I was enveloped in his energy. No matter where I turned or walked it felt like he was coming at me from every direction. I started to tell my friends we have to get out.
Tears were welling in my eyes and I was rushing for the door. They all looked at me like I was crazy, but they followed me to the lobby. As soon as I stepped out of those doors, it felt as though 30 pounds had been lifted off of my chest.
I told my good friend Jess Nguyen about what happened, and she told me that recently she had been working on homework in the FAC when she walked to the bathroom. When she walked by the theater, the doors were open and she felt as though she was being watched. She had a feeling as though someone was standing in the middle of the stage looking out through the doors and watching her. On her way back by, she felt the same thing and wanted to look but was afraid to for fear she would see someone standing there.
Other students report having seen something out of the corner of their eye, but when they turn to look there is nothing there.
Harry McEnerny, chair of the Theatre department, said he hasn’t see the ghost, but put me into contact with alumnus Staci Jedlick. The experiences she shared with me took a darker turn. One night she and a small group of students were in the FAC at night. She decided to bring out a Ouija board just to see what would happen. She said they started out with “the dumb questions to see what would happen.” After a while, some of the students she was with decided to start asking about one of their friends from home who had passed away.
She admits that after that point things started to get really weird. Three of the students including Jedlick had no idea who this person was, whereas the other two were becoming more and more freaked out by the answers they were getting. The two eventually became so frightened they started crying and said we need to leave.
After they calmed down, they explained to the others that the reason they were so freaked out was because all of the answers were so spot on. While the two were explaining what had happened, one of the other students noticed that she had scratches on her arms that were not there before.
Although there is no clear connection to the man in the top hat in this scenario, she described other occurrences that fall in line with the encounters described by other students.
She said that there were many nights where she and other students were in the building late at night working on various projects when they would hear someone walking across the stage from the green room. When they would walk up the stairs to check it out they would find that there was no one around. It was especially eerie because the building was locked at the time so no one could get in.
For some, this may seem unsurprising because historically speaking, theater buildings are some of the most haunted places around. And while McEnerny hasn’t seen the FAC ghost, he has had experiences in other theaters.
The experiences occurred, he said, when he was feeling a strong emotion or feeling. One time he was very angry and a shadow appeared before him, whereas another time he was laughing and having a good time when a man in a brown suit appeared and then vanished.
Hauntings in theaters are so prevalent that most use ghost lights to appease the spirits and to prevent them from interfering with the set and other potentially hazardous fixtures.
Here at Castleton, we too have a ghost light.
After the encounters that I, and those around me have had, it is wise that we actively use one because we may never know who this man is, but he will make sure we know he’s here.