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Celebrities, ghosts and time capsule letters found in IMU


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By Nick Castellini



The halls of the Indiana Memorial Union hold many myths, legends and rumors. Here is a brief list of odd but true things that have happened in the IMU.

IU is the place to get married. The different teams working with the IMU put on around 250 weddings a year, according to Associate Director Mike Campbell.

The IMU had a gun range. Sororities used to participate in shooting matches on occasion. It was meant for .22 caliber rifles and was closed down after it was deemed unhealthy due to the build-up of lead in the bullet trap. It was located in the far west wing of the building.

The IMU was the nicest dance venue on campus. It was also the only real place to hold a dance on campus for some time after its construction. It’s the largest venue in Bloomington aside from the stadiums.

Famous people come through the IMU all the time. People like Liberace, Steven Seagal, and Eleanor Roosevelt have been through the IMU.

The list also includes the Kennedy family, Nick Offerman, the Dalai Lama, Elvis Presley, Maynard Ferguson, James Earl Jones, Macklemore, Adam Devine, Kevin Hart, Jay Leno, Maya Angelou, and many others.

The escalators only go up. It’s a fact frequently forgotten by even the most seasoned veterans of the IMU. The up-only escalators are one of the many odd physical quirks of the building.

There are plenty of ghost stories. Many are focused on the wing of the building containing the Federal Room. There have been teams of ghost hunters who have ventured into the building late at night in search of paranormal activity.

Alumni Hall has seen many forms. Alumni Hall used to be outfitted with medieval scenery for three weeks out of the year to host the IMU’s Madrigal Nights. These were elaborate feasts students could attend to be entertained by everything from jesters to the king’s court.

Alumni Hall also hosted the appearance of the set of 
“The Wizard of Oz” for a while when the convention came to town.

Today, Alumni Hall recently received an ornate organ that can occasionally be heard being practiced on.

“The Union” is not the same as “the IMU”. A common mistake in nomenclature is to assume that the Union is the same thing as the IMU.

The Union is a student organization founded in 1909 by John Whittenberger with the purpose of furthering student control of what happened around campus.

The IMU is the building meant to house the Union and give all students a place to relax and stay. The IMU was built in 1932 as part of the Memorial Fund Drive.

The IMU has given us messages from the past. When the old hotel lobby front desk was removed to construct what is now a Starbucks, a letter fell out from between the front desk and the wall. It had been encapsulated there since 1939.

The letter tells a brief story of its writer who was a law student and employee at the front desk. The letter mentions at one point that “Chancellor Hitler intends on annexing Poland soon,” and he shares his fears of the turmoil in Europe.

The full story can be found in the IU Archives.

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