What’s that scratching in the walls?


Is Columbia College haunted? From the numerous tales told over the years, there seems little doubt that it is. And probably the college's most famous ghost is the Gray Lady.

The Gray Lady

Columbia College has been through tough times, but none as bad as the Civil War. Columbia was largely pro-Union; Boone County pro-secessionist. As the story goes, a young female student at Christian Female College, politics unknown, was secretly visited by her swain, an ardent secessionist. Now, the couple had to be mighty sneaky, or her paramour would end up in the hoosegow or worse. He swore undying love; she swore to wear only gray until the day came when her drab dress would be replaced with a shining wedding gown.

Alas, the day never came: Union pickets caught him skulking around the college and shot him dead. The young woman jumped to her death from the top floor of the main campus building, called Old Main, now Williams Hall.

She never left. The Gray Lady allegedly roams the top floor of Williams and much of the campus today, not to scare but to do favors for students such as opening windows on hot days and even ironing their clothes. (Yes, we find this part hard to believe, too … students ironing?)

The phantom phone

Then there's the phone that rings in the Campus Safety office some nights at 2:10 a.m. Caller ID says the call is coming from the emergency phone in the elevator of the Robnett-Spence Building. But no one is ever in the elevator. The building houses the James Walton Science labs; one story goes that a distraught science student in the turbulent early 1970s flunked out and committed suicide off campus, and has been taking the elevator to class ever since.

The casket in the attic

Let's not forget the wicker casket in the east end of the St. Clair Hall attic. Several students have sworn they have seen it, and that it's the ceremonial viewing casket of president Luella St. Clair-Moss's poor little daughter, Annilee, not quite 12, who died of inflammatory rheumatism in January 1900. St. Clair Hall was then the main hall of the college, where students slept, ate, studied, lived — and died. St. Clair-Moss served three separate terms as president and pushed through so many initiatives that she was dubbed a "steam engine in petticoats." Of her unusual dedication, she said, "It gradually came to me that my one surcease was to try to do for other girls what I could no longer do for the little girl who had gone away. This I tried to do for more than a quarter of a century."

But this is all more than a century ago. It's all superstition, of course; dead little girls and lovesick students stay dead.

That creaking sound you just heard? Just an old building shifting, of course.