Haunted Hotspots

Olivia Shelton

It’s 3 a.m. You’re a new resident assistant in St. Mary’s Hall, and you have arrived early for training. It’s just you, your half unpacked suitcase and the empty building on this August evening. You wake up in the middle of the night and open your door. You find the trashcans that had once been in their proper place are now blocking your doorway. Who – or what – put them there?

Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween, and students need look no further than their own campus. Rumors regarding haunted locations have circulated for years, and there’s plenty of frights rumored to be had around the University.

St. Mary’s Hall is easily the scariest spot on the Villanova campus. More frequently than they would like, residents find themselves in the midst of freaky occurrences, whether it involves trash cans blocking their doorway or mysterious noises echoing through the halls.

Senior Resident Assistant Marissa Crespo recalls a night when students were gathered around the chapel, claiming they saw a light shining on the organ. Although no one was at the organ, it was being played, similar to a player piano. As soon as Crespo called out to “it,” the playing ceased. These incidents aren’t limited to the common areas of the building, but have also been known to occur within the individual rooms.

“My friends and I were watching TV in my room last week, and a commercial came on for the new movie ‘Paranormal Activity,’ ” says sophomore resident Sasha Hayes. “As soon as the commercial came on, my light flickered out, even though I had just put in new light bulbs. I haven’t been able to get it to work ever since.”

According to many students, the cause of these sightings revolve around a supposed wandering ghost. Though the stories vary, most students have heard some version of one particular tale: After having an affair with a priest, an ashamed nun, pregnant with his child, took her own life in the St. Mary’s Chapel. Though there is some discrepancy between those who tell the myth regarding the location of the suicide and the way in which it was committed, the end of the story remains the same: St. Mary’s is haunted by her spirit.Despite these rumors continuing to circulate among students, the administration has denied that a suicide ever took place in St. Mary’s.

Built in 1963, St. Mary’s gothic architecture, stained glass windows, marble statues and mosaic artwork all contribute to its beauty. During the day, this residence hall is exceptionally breathtaking. Yet, come night, the building can seem eerie.

A large part of the haunting of St. Mary’s are the spooky and unexplainable sounds students have claimed to experience. When reports of splashes coming from the pool, music playing from the organ or piano and banging resounding from the chapel are investigated, there is never anything – or anyone – to be found.

The creepiness, however, is not limited to the narrow corridors of St. Mary’s. Students have long believed there to be an underground system of tunnels connecting Mendel Science Center to St. Mary’s. As with many campus myths, the origin of these tunnels is frequently debated. Some claim they were constructed during the Cold War to be used as fallout shelters. Others believe they are simply a branch of underground walkways that spread throughout the entire campus.

However, the truth behind these tunnels is not as sensational as the rumors suggest. The tunnels are actually functional and serve an active purpose on today’s campus. According to Robert Morro, associate vice president for Facilities Management, the tunnels are used for utilities and maintenance.

“Tunnels allow for easier fixing and repair of the pipes if there are leaks,” Morro says.

“There’s no digging up pipes required like in buried access pipes. So these tunnels reduce cost and time of repair.”

These walkable tunnels are in a loop-system on West Campus, meaning that they surround the perimeter of the apartment complexes, continue under St. Mary’s, Route 320 and the Law School, with origins at the steam plant. No such tunnels exist on South Campus.

The tunnel passageways are just wide enough to walk through single file, and low enough that sometimes stooping is necessary. Numerous thin pipes are bolted to the, at times, precariously low ceiling. On the left-hand side of the passageway are stacked fat pipes decked out with all the precautionary elements needed to keep pipes from bursting in the cold of the winter.

The musty air, sporadic puddles of muddy water and the necessity of climbing up a couple of ladders add a bit of verve to the otherwise ordinary appearance of pipes in a well-lit cinderblock tunnel.

So, these tunnels are no secret at all, in fact. And no, there are no exciting ghost stories to tell of these tunnels; those are reserved for St. Mary’s.