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The Woman in Black and other ghosts haunt IU's campus



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Read Residence Hall is home to more than one ghost story. One involves a student stabbing his girlfriend to death and burying her body in the basement of the building, and the other is about a resident assistant suicide.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

The Ghosts of Read Residence Hall

In his book, “Haunted Indiana: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Hoosier State,” James A. Willis claims IU is “said to be practically crawling with ghosts,” but Read may take the cake for the most supposed ghostly happenings.

The first ghost is said to be a young girl with long black hair who was stabbed to death by her boyfriend, a pre-medical student who lived on the third floor of Read.

The couple was arguing in the boyfriend’s room before he grabbed a scalpel from his medical bag and stabbed his girlfriend to death, according to the book.

The boyfriend then tried to hide the body, blood-stained yellow dress and all, in Read’s basement, but was arrested soon after.

Even though the girl’s body was buried, students have claimed to see a girl in a blood-stained yellow dress wandering the hallways of Read.

Willis also tells the story of a ghost named Paula, who was a resident assistant on the sixth floor of Read. 

The December before she was expected to graduate, Paula heard her grades had dropped.

According to legend, she then threw herself down the stairwell from the sixth floor, breaking her neck.

Legend has it that around midnight every Dec. 12, students can hear a young girl’s scream by the stairwell.

The Woman in Black

The Indiana Daily Student published a series of stories recounting sightings of “The Woman in Black” in October 1911.


The corner of East Fourth street and Indiana Avenue is the original location of the sighting of the "Woman in Black." In the past, students said they have seen a woman with a cane who appeared angry while muttering words under her breath. When students approached her, she disappeared. Ty Vinson Buy Photos


A story published by the IDS on Oct. 12, 1911, reported on a student who saw a woman dressed in all black at the corner of East Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue.

She was said to have had a cane and appeared angry while muttering words under her breath. When students approached her, she disappeared.

The same night, a man reported a black figure on the steps of Alpha Hall. He told the IDS he believed the person was a burglar.

IU bought Alpha Hall after it was condemned in 1935 and used for classrooms and offices. The building was demolished in 1961, according to IU Chronology.

The IDS printed a story four days later with the headline, “Woman in black up to her old tricks.”

The story included students who told the IDS they believed the Woman in Black had been throwing rocks at them near the intersection at the intersection of East Third Street and Indiana Avenue.

The students told the IDS the woman would disappear whenever they got close to her.

One student reported stones falling at his feet while he walked on Henderson Street, but he said he could not figure out where they were coming from. 

Several sorority members also told the IDS in a story published Oct. 28, 1911, that they had seen the Woman in Black at a “Hallowe’en” party. They said the woman arrived then disappeared without a trace.

The IDS wrote that the woman, who they referred to as a restless spirit, “inspired fear in the hearts of strong men as she glided behind trees and buildings” at the party.

The McNutt Hatchet Man

After students were alerted of several sexual assault reports, one girl wanted to go outside, according to “Indiana Folklore: A Reader,” edited by Linda Degh.

Before leaving her roommate and dorm room, the girl told her roommate to stay inside, lock the door and wait for her, but the roommate fell asleep.

When the roommate woke up, a policeman was knocking on her door. The girl who left the dorm room was found dead outside the door.

The girl supposedly saw something that scared her so much that she ran to her room and began scratching the door of her dorm room until her fingers were bloody and worn down to the bone.

Another version of the story involves a “hatchet man” who left the girl in a pool of her own blood after she was “brutally butchered, decapitated or stabbed,” according to the book.

The Ghost of the Doctor

The legend of the Ghost of the Doctor supposedly began when a doctor began hiding the fetuses from the illegal abortions he performed in the floorboards, walls and coal bin of the building that once housed Phi Kappa Tau fraternity on North Jordan Avenue, according to “Indiana Folklore: A Reader” edited by Linda Degh.

After he started to hear crying through the walls, he was said to have taken his own life.

The doctor was said to haunt the building’s coal bin, where fraternity members would perform séances.

Fraternity members have also reported hearing babies crying at night, according to the book.

One fraternity member said he woke up to five records playing and his stereo’s power turned on, even though his door was locked. He said the same thing happened to his friend in the room next door, Degh wrote.

Another resident reported hearing footsteps behind him, even though there was no one there when he looked back.

He kept walking, and the footsteps continued. When he looked back for the second time and found no one, he said he fainted.

The student reported his friend also fainting mid-conversation while he was recounting the incident.

One séance in the coal bin involved residents sitting in a circle around a candle while holding hands, according to the book. Then, the flame suddenly grew to a foot high before going out all at once.

Strange Happenings of the IU School of Medicine

During the Prohibition era, IU students sold bootleg alcohol to Terre Haute residents, according to the book “Hoosier Folk Legends” by Ronald L. Baker.

The book claims the students told buyers they made the alcohol in IU labs during their spare time, but when questioned by police officers, they confessed the alcohol was made from the preserving solution that covered cadavers at the IU School of Medicine.

Baker also tells the story of IU medical students who cut the hand off of a cadaver and tied it to the light cord of another student’s room. When she came into her room later that night, she pulled the bloody hand off the light cord and screamed.

Some girls later found her sitting on the shelf of her closet while eating her hand, Baker wrote. The girl’s hair had turned completely white.

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