Tahlequah Daily Press

October 30, 2012

Bumps in the night

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — When Seminary Hall was a new building on the vast prairie of Indian Territory, it was a boarding school for girls ages 5 to 20.

From 1975 to 1901, Florence Wilson, for whom Wilson Hall is named, served as principal, guiding the educational, cultural and spiritual growth of the students.

Happy memories may live on in the old building of children just being children, and growing up. But in the quiet darkness, some say they’ve heard the laughter of children and the sounds of their footsteps running down the hallway.

Are they ghosts at play?

This past weekend, visitors to Seminary Hall had an opportunity to consider the mystery, as Northeastern State University Graduate Student Association members conducted lantern-lit tours.

Jennie Love, a GSA member who teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) at the NSU library, enjoys the fundraiser.

“I like scaring people,” Love said. “I tell stories people tell me have happened to them in Seminary Hall. Mine are more ghost stories.”

Last year, she was the one who was scared. It still gives her chills to recall being stranded in the dark building last year. When a miscommunication got her locked out of her office with her keys, purse and phone still inside, Love thought she’d sleep in the building until daybreak.

“I’d gone back in to let someone take pictures, and when I went to meet my friends, they thought I’d left already,” Love recalls. “I was wearing short sleeves and it was too cold to walk, and I couldn’t get into my locked house, anyway.”

Picking a spot on the third floor where the offices are, she tried to get comfortable and sleep. When she heard giggling, like two little girls playing, she thought it was her imagination from giving the tours.

Then she heard footsteps running down the hall, coming closer to where she had camped out. She froze.

“I thought, ‘I’m making this up,’ then, ‘Oh, no, it’s really happening,’” she said. “[The  noise] got louder and the two girls turned into what sounded like 10 girls, playing and giggling – like a herd of little girls I couldn’t see. I made it two hours, then I thought, ‘I’m alone.’”

She left Seminary Hall and walked to a convenience store to wait for morning.

“I know people won’t believe me, but it felt innocent, not like anything was harmful,” Love said. “Now I know all these ghost shows are real.”

As she began a tour Saturday night near two trees on the lawn, Love told about a figure of a woman – wearing a black dress and holding a lantern – whom many have reportedly seen standing between the trees.

“They say it’s Florence Wilson, coming to welcome the new students who arrived in wagons,” Love said.

When the group was directed to move to Seminary Hall, everyone went around the trees rather than between them.

In front of Seminary Hall, inside the foyer and throughout the building, Love showed photographs, rooms and areas of the upstairs where strange sounds are heard, objects are reportedly moved, doors lock and unlock themselves, and the electricity turns itself on and off.

“Two grad students were typing in what was the chapel,” Love said. “It was 2 in the morning when they heard [someone say], ‘Get out.’ The students looked at each other, one saying, ‘That’s not funny,’ to which his friend replied, ‘I didn’t say that.’”

According to Love, while the students were wondering about it, they began to type again, and a voice said in an even louder voice, “Get out!”

They ran out of the room and left the building.

“When they went back in the morning, the door was locked and they had the key,” Love said.

Those on Saturday’s tour stopped and listened or looked when Love talked about each experience.

“On the second floor is a mural painted by the famous Kiowa Five. They were going to paint at night when it was quiet,” Love said. “But they heard the little girls laughing and running.”

They didn’t come back and paint at night anymore, she said.

One day in a classroom, students were discussing whether Florence Wilson was happy here, Love said.

“As the teacher was writing on the chalkboard, it turned into this beautiful script writing with the message, ‘Yes, I am happy here.’”

About 300 visitors have taken the guided tour this year, Love said. It’s the eighth year for the fundraiser.

NSUGSA Treasurer Erin Bailey, who studies language and literature, was collecting the $2 admission fee.

“I like the legends, the scary stories,” Bailey said. “The tours take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much everyone gets into it.”

Elaina Ross, president of the GSA, said it’s always fun to see visitors’ reactions.

“Everyone experiences it differently,” Ross said. “And it’s creepy being in the building after dark. Some of the stories take place outside our graduate office. It gives a whole new perspective to working late.”

About 25 people went on the first tour Saturday. Margarita Hernandez enjoyed the history, but wasn’t scared.

“It’s interesting, especially the footprints on the ceiling,” Hernandez said.

Love shared a story about the school’s infirmary for the girls who were ill, where a few of them died. The story about the infirmary was Thomas Reynolds’ favorite.

“I was getting scared,” he said. “I don’t like being in dark places.”

For Rance Combs, 10, the scary part was when the students heard, “Get out!”

“Maybe they don’t want nobody on the computers,” he suggested.


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