An eerie trumpet fanfare echoed through the air, silencing the crowd surrounding the Herman B Wells statue. In the darkness of Wednesday night, people clutched their lanterns. It was then that senior Joel Chapman, a folklore and telecommunications student, put down his instrument and issued a welcome to the 2016 Ghost Walk.
Every year, the Folklore and Ethnomusicology Student Association gives a short tour of the campus to share some of IU’s ghost stories. The walk is FESA’s big event each year, and it draws many different people from around Bloomington hoping to get spooked.
“A lot of the stories come from the student archives over in the Wells Library,” lecturer and storyteller Robert Dobler said.
These archives are full of reports from students, oftentimes submitted by folklore professors. Dobler himself sends students in his supernatural class out to document a paranormal account from someone they know. “Part of this is to figure out these things happen a lot more often than we generally think,” Dobler said.
Ethnomusicology graduate student Jennie Williams began the night with four stories originating near the Herman B Wells statue. These folklores ranged from the romantic tradition behind the Well House gazebo to the story of a doctor performing illegal abortions and his suicide.
After a short trek to the IMU, Dobler continued the ghostly tales, explaining the Union is perhaps the most haunted spot on campus.
“This is a common legend in a lot of universities that the tallest building is the one associated with the most supernatural activity,” Dobler said. He explained the IMU was at one time the tallest building at IU, and tall buildings are generally associated with suicides.
There are a lot of stories revolving around the elevator and fourth floor, perhaps because a woman leaped to her death from this floor at one point, Dobler said. The tour moved to the Tudor room, where Dobler introduced the painting “Halloween” with a young boy named Jacob holding a jack-o-lantern and his hauntings. From there, the crowd transitioned to another room holding ghoulish secrets, such as a woman’s anger behind a stolen urn full of ashes.
The graveyard was next, where graduate student Kristina Downs explained the history behind the Dunn Cemetery and its paranormal activity.
“When things are disturbed, it tends to make people angry,” Downs said.
After a few more minutes of walking, the group arrived in front of the IU Auditorium. A few more stories were shared by Downs and alumni Kenneth Glynn. Their tales ranged from a large scorched circle in the middle of the Arboretum to hauntings in the Auditorium and Lilly Library.
For the last story, Glynn talked about a woman named Emily working at the library. Emily thought she saw a lady as she was shelving books, but when she looked again, the lady was gone. After reassuring herself it was merely her mind playing tricks, she continued working, Glynn said.
When she saw the lady again, she didn’t react — until she was looking straight at a painting of the lady. This lady in particular has her and her family’s ashes encased in urns in the northern wall, along with a portrait of each family member. Yet again, a ghost stuck close to its urn, Glynn said.
“Needless to say, if your urn’s around, people don’t like being near it,” Glynn said. With a flourish, he ended the night’s storytelling.
A previous version of this article referred to Robert Dobler as Robert Doler. The IDS regrets this error.