URI ghosts around at Halloween and beyond

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Mikko Hurley and David Neal
URI students Mikko Hurley of Jericho, Vermont and David Neal of Portsmouth, Rhode Island live in haunted fraternity house at URI. URI photos by Michael Salerno.

KINGSTON, R.I. –October 25, 2006—Reports of ghosts in certain University of Rhode Island buildings are as plentiful as candy corn on Halloween. But these ghosts aren’t seasonal.

One ghost named Abigail has reportedly haunted the house that Lambda Chi Alpha calls home. Her presence is felt today.

“Oh, she’s here all right,” says Lambda Chi resident Jeff Trainor, a political science major. “Just the other night, I turned my iPod off and put it in the desk drawer. During the night, the iPod began playing… inside the drawer.”

According to legend—urban or in this case suburban—Abigail was the daughter of a Rhode Island governor in the 1800s. Her family rented the house at 29 Old North Road during the summer to be close to the South County beaches. In one version of the story, Abigail, apparently not enamored with the salt air breeze hanged herself in the narrow stairwell, but other tales suggest that she fell, or worse yet, was pushed down same stairs.

Scattered handprints stain the stairwell wall and the word “HELP “can be seen there too. The wall has been painted repeatedly, but HELP always bleeds through.

“When I was a sophomore, my room was right below the pool table in the attic,” says David Neal, a senior majoring in marketing. “I would be trying to sleep and I’d hear people playing pool. I’d get out of bed and walk up to the attic to tell them to stop making so much noise, but nobody would be there. The balls wouldn’t even be out.”

Mikko Hurley, a junior studying chemical engineering recalls being in the attic with a few brothers and hearing ping pongs balls bounce and sounds of footsteps running. When he looked, no one was there.

Hurley also recalls leading a Halloween ghost tour of the house. One woman on the tour noted that her cell phone’s battery had died. Suddenly a text message came across the display and the battery was fully charged.

Neal remembers a similar incident. Just as he checked his cell phone in the basement and saw no bars of service, the phone rang with an “unknown caller” reading on the screen. He answered and it was the voice of an elderly woman. “It gave me goose bumps,” he says.

URI 2003 alumnus Rob Schultz, Lambda Chi ‘s house parent for the past three years, is familiar with Abigail, but personally hasn’t made her acquaintance. He admits there are noises and electrical outages. “But it’s an old house and old houses make noises and need repairs,” he says.

URI Anthropology Professor Emeritus William Turnbaugh compiled a history of the property in 1982 with its multiple dwellings and various owners. A copy of his report can be found in the URI Library Special Collections section. No governor owned the property in the 1800s, but a colorful counterfeiter who was nearly hanged did.

Elizabeth LeMoine Miller purchased the property in 1910 and tore down the house to build a summer home. Her son sold the house with its one-and-a- half acres in 1936 to Lambda Chi. The fraternity conveyed the property to the Board of Trustees of State Colleges in 1964, stipulating that the fraternity would occupy and maintain the house.

Other Greek houses appear to be haunted as well. Chi Omega apparently has a ghost named Sandra who died in car accident during the ’70s. Apparently, she haunts the new member room because no matter how hot the rest of the house becomes that room is always cold.

The Sigma Pi fraternity house is also thought to be haunted. Several brothers have reported TVs unexpectedly turning on and off and lights blowing out at random times. There have also been occasional sightings of a figure sitting in the chapter room when the doors have been locked all night. However, there have been no recent sightings or reports of strange occurrences, and it’s possible that the ghost may have left the house.

Alpha Phi is reported to have a ghost named Patrick who haunts the third floor. “I personally haven’t seen anything,” says Mark Turner, the sorority’s house dad for the past six years. “The girls report that things come off shelves and their alarm clocks turn on. I’ve been here four years, sometimes by myself in the summer or holidays, and it’s quiet and peaceful.”

Theta Delta Chi had a ghost named Barbara whose child bounced a ball on the third floor. The frat house was torn down last month so their whereabouts are unknown.

The Will Theatre in the Fine Arts Center has been often cited as a house of horrors for the unsuspecting. Yet Julius Galgoczy, a technical director in the Theatre Department for the past 33 years, has not seen anything that can’t be explained. “It’s fun to have a story,” he says of hauntings.

Galgoczy does recall a time about 20 years ago, however, when the number of people on the stage didn’t match the number of shadows on the wall. “It might have been an optical illusion,” he says, “or perhaps it was an optical delusion.”