Next time you take a stroll through the campus of Northeastern State University after dark, take a look up to the south-facing, second-floor windows of Seminary Hall.
You just might see a woman looking dressed in all white, smiling down and watching as you pass by.
Seminary Hall is well-known for its unexplained happenings, and students and staff often report the unexplained occurrences they’ve faced when alone at night in the building. Many stories seem to center around Florence “Flo” Wilson, who was principal of the Cherokee Female Seminary in the 19th century.
While giving a tour Friday night, graduate teaching assistant Alana Hatley grabbed her lantern and stopped beneath pillars, remaining remnants of the original seminaries. Participants in the tour – some interested in extra credit for classes, and others simply interested in the thought of a good story or spook – discussed what they could experience on their journey.
Some questioned their ability to beat others in a run, should it be needed, to exit the building.
“In 1887, the original seminary burned to the ground,” Hatley explained.
Flames spread quickly, and those who were housed in the school were told to grab one important thing and leave quickly. Hatley said Wilson took a book containing school records, but faculty members went to Wilson’s room and carried out a trunk.
“The students were wondering, what’s important enough that the faculty would go get that for her?” said Hatley.
Wilson was known for wearing all black, and could be seen standing between the pillars as guests of the seminary would arrive. Some say she still frequently stands among the remaining pillars just south of Seminary Hall.
“When people drive by at night, they often say they see her,” said Hatley. “There’s a legend that if you walk by here and you are not a graduate, she will follow you home and play tricks on you.”
The tour moved on, and only a couple were brave enough to test the theory, while most others worked their way around the pillars.
Once inside the darkened Seminary Hall, Hatley and the group strolled through the halls, stopping at pictures and offices to discuss some of the mysterious happenings recorded over the years.
Hatley said that a few years ago, two male graduate students were using the writing center, which was once the chapel, and packed up and left the university after a voice asked them, “Why are you here?”
She explained that Wilson was extremely strict against boys or men being at the school, and would only allow them in a couple of places – including the kitchen, but only if they worked there.
The tour continued to the second-floor area, and then to the third floor, which was once home to the infirmary, as sickness would quickly spread among the student population in the 1800s. More than 20 deaths occurred on the third floor when it housed the infirmary.
Students on the third floor were usually the poor, younger students, who had nothing but their books and their pranks to pass the time, said Hatley. She shared several stories of how the girls continue their tricks at night, when faculty are working in their offices.
And then, tourists were intrigued as Hatley pointed out a a spot where a ceiling tile had been removed. Above the tile, along some of the original roof, were various footprints, which she said were recently discovered. She explained the prints actually run the entire length of the third-floor hallway.
What was inside the trunk? Hatley explained the findings as she wrapped up her tour.
(No spoilers here, for the sake of the tour and those who have yet to experience it.)
Tours continue each Friday and Saturday in October, beginning around 8 p.m. in front of Seminary Hall and continuing through about 11 p.m.
Even those who have been on the tour can learn new things with each trip – especially this year, after new information has been found in the university archives.
Some of the newly acquired information focuses on the true life and death story of Wilson’s fiancé, Pleasant Buchanan. Turns out, there were two men named Pleasant Buchanan, and both died in the war.
But the Buchanan who for so long was believed to have been Wilson’s fiancé actually wasn’t. Tour guides will explain.
“We dug up a whole lot more stuff we didn’t know before,” said Hatley.
There are no scare tactics in this tour – no goblins jumping out, no frightening screams produced by someone hiding in the background. But unexplained things have happened while tour groups were making their way through, said Hatley.
Adults and children are both welcome in this activity.
“It’s actually really, really good for kids, I think,” said Hatley. “It’s really cool to do. We tell ghost stories.”
Tours generally take 30-45 minutes, and several leaders rotate throughout the night to keep groups moving as fast as possible without interfering with other groups.
Adult admission is $5 and children under 12 can experience the tour for $2.50. Tours start at dark and continue until 11 p.m. T-shirts and hot cocoa will be available for purchase. Proceeds help the Graduate Student Association. For more information, call the GSA at 444-3686.
The Graduate Student Association is also sponsoring a ghost story contest. Participants can turn in submissions by Friday, Oct. 15, at the GSA office, Room No. 359 in Seminary Hall, or by e-mailing to email@example.com. The top 10 will be selected, and the writers will then participate in a read-off, where the winner will be selected by applause, and will receive a prize.