The hauntings of Ellis Hall

Photo illustration by Matt Zitwer

Click… Click… Click…

“Hello?” said Tyler Higley, a senior at Castleton University from the inside of the men’s second-floor bathroom stall in Ellis.

Click… Click… Click …

“Hello?!”  he said again, hoping for an answer in return. After a long dramatic pause, he heard it again.

Click… Click… Click …


With no reply, Higley pulled up his pants in a frantic panic, swung open the bathroom stall door and examined the room. To his surprise, he was alone.

“I was in the bathroom carrying on with my business and I knew I was the only one in there. The next thing I know, I heard footsteps. Everyone knows that distinct clicking sound of high heels, my mother wore them every day to work so I know what they sound like and that’s what I heard. When I got out of the stall and saw nobody else in there, I panicked and got the hell out of there,” he said.

The common belief that the Ellis dormitory on Castleton University’s campus is haunted has become a popular horror story told to each year’s incoming freshman class.

But like many ghost stories, proof is difficult to come by.

One undocumented tale dates back to the 1970’s when it is believed that Penelope, a female student who attended the college back when the school was still a state college, had hung herself in the third floor women’s bathroom. It’s believed that Penelope haunts Ellis to this very day, giving student’s who live there, tales to tell their family and friends.

Prior to Higley’s encounter, he never believed in supernatural presences, but his one encounter changed his opinion forever.

“It’s hard for me to believe that Penelope is the sole reason behind all the creepy shit that goes on in Ellis, mainly because there’s no actual proof of her committing suicide, but I honestly believe that something isn’t right with Ellis. Between my experience and other stories I’ve heard, I think it’s haunted for sure,” he said.

Stories told about what takes place inside the walls of Ellis are hard to believe for most people, because most consist of what people hear, rather than what people see with their own two eyes. That’s why senior Vidavanh Xapilak believes her story is most convincing.

It was 4 a.m. as Xapilak was half-asleep in her bed. Her roommate Kayla and her boyfriend Ryan were getting ready to leave on a hunting trip. Once Kayla and Ryan were gone, there was something that kept Xapilak awake.

“After they had left, I heard the door open – but didn't see a light. I open my eyes up and I saw this girl standing in front of the dressers, just standing there! I’m trying to talk but nothing would come out. I thought for a second I was dreaming, so I turned to my side and all of sudden I felt an arm go over my body, I could feel someone laying right next to me. Again, I tried calling out to Kayla, but I couldn’t say a word. After a couple of seconds it all stopped.”


Do you believe?

According to the article “Why We Love Ghost Stories” by Ilie Ruby, there’s one psychological reason behind why people, even the most frightened of the population, feed off ghost stories.

“They offer us a sense of control over terror, something unattainable in real life. Perhaps this is why we hang on to them, why we tell them to our children and our grandchildren,” Ruby writes.

But not everybody feels that sense of control that Ruby talks about. For Xapilak it was actually the complete opposite.

“Nothing was scarier than feeling like I had no control over what was happening,” replied Xapilak when asked about the scariest part of her experience.

Author and psychiatrist David Robinson has another theory why some believe and some don’t.

“A belief in the paranormal can be a kind of shield from the even harsher truths of the world. The idea is that when something unexpected happens, a death, natural disaster, or job loss, the brain scrambles around for answers, looking for meaning in the chaos,” Robinson wrote in “Psychology: The Truth About The Paranormal.”

For Ashley Pelkey, a senior hockey player at the university, she believes although what takes place inside Ellis might be creepy and hard to grasp, we should not try to overthink it.

During January break of Pelkey’s freshman year, she was required to come back earlier than the rest of the students because of hockey practice. Unfortunately for her, she was the only resident living on the first floor of Ellis at this time. One night at around 9 p.m., Pelkey arrived back to campus after practice. She walked into Ellis and made her way toward the bathroom. As she opened the door to the bathroom, she heard the toilet flush. As she looked around, she noticed that she was the only one in there.

“I knew Ellis had been known to be haunted, but I tried not to think about it, but it happened again a few more times that week until people came back to campus,” she said.


What would the Ouija Board say?

For Pelkey, the spontaneous flushing toilets weren’t all that got her attention. And other residents who lived in Ellis began using an old method trying to find a little bit of proof or explanation of what they were experiencing.

Ouija Board Wednesday became a trend, but died out quicker than mullets and leopard spandex. At the time, Pelkey was one of four students nervously hovered around the Ouija board.

“We asked questions that pertained to rumors we had heard, like if Penelope, the girl who supposedly died in the third floor women's bathroom, was real, and the Ouija Board told us no.”

“Instead they informed us about a couple men who had attended the university back in the late 1800’s. I do recall someone from Ellis saying they went and checked if the names were in the list of matriculated students and they were.”

With all the different stories Pelkey has heard and the different scenarios she has encountered, she still does not feel the need to overthink the haunted conspiracy. “I believe in ghosts, spirits, stuff like that, but the toilets flushing could have been an electrical flaw, I can’t say I’m fully convinced,” she said.

But junior Trinity Ford was just another non-believer turned believer when she moved into Ellis in the second semester of her freshman year. She encountered a lot of the similar events that others have been experiencing for years, like running water, flushing toilets and everything else, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year where she was completely sold on the idea that Ellis could potentially be haunted.

Ford had a passing in her family, when her aunt lost her life to cancer. Ford left her aunt’s mass card from her memorial service placed into the crease of her mirror. It wasn’t long before Ford felt the need to remove the card from her mirror and place it in a safe place.

“It felt wrong having her mass card up there whenever my boyfriend would come over, you know what I mean?” said Ford with a shy laugh.

Never getting the chance to put the mass card back, she returned back to her room one day to find the card in the last spot she expected it to be, sitting firmly in her mirror.

“I was absolutely terrified. I asked my boyfriend if he put it back but he swore he didn’t.”

With goose bumps covering their arms and chills running down their spines, Ford packed up her belongings and moved into her boyfriend’s room in Hoff Hall.

“I never believed any stories, until it happened to me. I guess that’s what it takes, but I got the message, that’s for sure.” 

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