Legend of Haunted Buildings Stir Campus Curiosity
By Abigail Moore
Quincy University has been battling superstitions and legends of spiritual occurrences in campus buildings for years. Tales of personal experience, ghost sightings, and strange noises fill the campus with the buzz of curiosity and questions of, ‘Do ghosts exist?’, or ‘Is Quincy University actually haunted?’
Various websites reveal that Quincy University ranks as one of the top most haunted sites in Quincy. The history behind the University raises more questions and mystery behind the unexplained occurrences.
Quincy University students have listened to these rumors for years, though all students wonder whether they are verifiable or fallacious.
Stories behind many supernatural occurrences comes from Dr. John Schleppenbach and Brother Edward-Marc Arambasich. Almost every rumor started can be traced back to those two.
“It’s Brother Ed, he’s the one who created them all,” Father John Doctor said.
Brother Edward-Marc Arambasich, a Friar since 2004, has been the University’s most well-known supernatural storyteller. Brother Ed’s lead college students on Woodland Cemetery tours and told stories about supernatural happenings around campus.
“I’ve had some fun with the students. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. I’ve always enjoyed stories of the paranormal,” Brother Ed said.
Professor Barbara Schleppenbach’s late husband, Dr. John Schleppenbach, studied folklore linguistics and worked with Dr. Hyatt, a folklore investigator. Dr. John Schleppenbach also aided Brother Ed in studying and perpetuating the ‘hauntings’ of Quincy University. He and Dr. Hyatt fully supported Brother Ed in all of his curiosities and stories. Although Brother Ed and Dr. Schleppenbach’s rumors are legend on Quincy’s campus, there are some occurrences that simply don’t have an explanation.
The many buildings on campus which are filled with rumors of unexplained accounts of ghost sightings, building creaks, footsteps, and unusual noises are St. Francis Solanus Hall, Willer Hall, Helien Hall, Padua Hall, The MacHugh Theater, the fourth and fifth floor of Francis Hall, and Friars Hall.
The MacHugh Theater, located in the basement of St. Francis Hall, has been the most recognized for its supernatural occurrences. MacHugh Theater was constructed and opened in 1966, after being converted from a gymnasium. Ironically enough, the first play produced by Quincy College was in June 1872, called ‘The Ghost”. The theater was named after Charles Persico MacHugh. Many of the productions were later directed by Hugh Fitzgerald, chairman of the college’s theater department, in the 1950’s through 1980’s.
Professor Charles Persico MacHugh came to Quincy College in 1904, became the college’s Professor of English, and was still teaching a course in Shakespeare until his death in 1935. The theater was named after MacHugh to honor and revive the memory of the man who spent over thirty years of his professional life serving Quincy University. The rumors say that Persico MacHugh and Hugh Fitzgerald haunt the MacHugh Theater to this day.
“Theatres are always haunted places, especially ours since ours has a chapel above it,” Dr. Barbara Scleppenbach said.
Hugh Fitzgerald established the Quincy University theater department shortly after joining the faculty in 1956 and chaired the department until it was discontinued in 1981. Because of the lack of finances, the theater had to close its doors until the university gained more theater majors. The last performance was “Tartuffe”. In 1999, Connie Phillips took over the department and revived the theater for ten years.
Nearby, St. Francis parochial school lost 12 small girls in a performance rehearsal fire in 1899, where many believe the spirits of the young girls haunt the University’s theater. The MacHugh Theater can be linked back to the St. Aloysius Orphanage, where it was believed to be in the same location. Others believe the spirits of the orphans haunt the MacHugh Theater.
“The theater used to be a part of the orphanage. There was also an indoor recreational area. Then there was a fire,” Sam Lathrop, head of Quincy University security, said, “The stories about odd occurrences in the theater area were prevalent.”
Terry Hagerbaumer has been security officer for Quincy University for over seven years. Many overnight shifts have left him uneasy about the campus, especially the MacHugh Theater.
“You’ll feel someone pull your hair and breath on your neck,” Hagerbaumer said.
Sandy Schutte has worked late nights cleaning the university for 35 years. She reported doors opening and closing late at night when nobody else was around.
“They say that the basement is haunted. This is an old place, I don’t disbelieve it. They say it’s haunted by Fitzgerald.” Schutte said.
Kyle Lyon, a recent graduate of Quincy University, experienced the MacHugh Theater in a personal way.
“Evan and I were in the front of the MacHugh Theater. There was nobody on campus at that time. We could hear footsteps around us and somebody whispering something into both of our ears,” Lyon said, “After that, we both ran.”
Casey Pigg, a sophomore at Quincy University, was involved in the theater production program. Pigg witnessed many of the spiritual hauntings in the MacHugh Theater. She reported walking right through a tall man wearing a suit and watching a little girl walk up the stairwell, who disappeared into the wall.
“I’m not the only one that’s seen the little girl. She smells like smoke,” Pigg said.
Brother Ed confirmed that there are spiritual energies on campus, especially in the MacHugh Theater. Though, he does not believe that these energies are evil, instead benevolent. A majority of the spirits seen by faculty and students have been late friars of the university.
“They’re all good people. There’s nothing evil, there’s nothing bad,” Brother Ed said.
Dr. Barbara Schleppenbach knew her husband received the same feeling. Although Dr. John Schleppenbach was very involved in the city’s hauntings, he knew for sure the hauntings at QU were harmless.
“Dr. John Schleppenbach knew all of the traditions. He always said, whatever the energies are, they are good ones,” Professor B. Schleppenbach, Dean of Arts and Humanities, said.
Quincy’s security officers even noticed that the spiritual energies at Quincy University were nothing to be afraid of.
“I’ve never sensed that I was in danger, but sometimes people let their imagination run wild on them,” Hagerbaumer said.
North Campus of Quincy University is also one of the city’s most haunted locations because the building was previously used as a seminary. The building contained dorm rooms that housed Friars and priests.
“The third floor at North Campus, room 319, was occupied by Brother Herbert Althoff. Those who have experienced retreats out there, people have seen Brother Herb walking down the hall,” Brother Ed said.
There are also reports of doors rattling and opening on their own, footsteps, and strange noises at North Campus.
Looking at St.Francis Hall from the front, the right side of the building has been around the longest and has the most history behind it. Paul Brown is a notable Quincy University Alumni and has volunteered for over 50 years at the advancement office at Quincy University. He confidently reported a creaking floor from where he works in his office, though has never seen a spiritual energy.
“Every old building has ghosts though,” Brown said.
Brown’s office resides in Francis, where there have been many sightings and reportings of ghosts.
“On the fourth floor, in that building itself, we have a saint-to-be claim that he haunts in a benevolent, good, kind way: Father Augustus Tolton,” Brother Ed said, “They also claim that two friars are seen regularly walking down the fourth-floor hallway, going upstairs to 5th floor and disappearing,”
A few months ago, a member of campus security and I traveled up to the 5th floor of St.Francis Hall with the University Fifth-floor rumors implanted in our minds. The Fifth floor was an eerie feeling; cold and dark. Hagerbaumer reported having goosebump and cold chills. My phone battery dropped 15 percent and my phone had a difficult time taking pictures of the “exorcism chair”.
“Legend has it that on the 5th floor of Francis, if you sit in that chair you’ll feel like you’re being possessed,” Hagerbaumer said.
Brother Ed enjoyed creating stories as much as he did frightening students on a regular basis. The “exorcism chair” started as a joke and has now turned into a confident University claim.
“There is no exorcism chair. Its purpose was to put it outside the window on the 5th floor in case of a fire. The chair has chains to strap people in and let them down,” Brother Ed said.
The only way Hollywood would ever profit from horror films is if they added something as unrealistic as possessions, which is why so many people believe that exorcisms are so common. Brother Ed also confirmed that even if the exorcism chair were real, exorcisms are very much uncommon.
“How God would allow anybody to be possessed is beyond me. It’s a very rare thing.” Brother Ed said.
Many reports of strange happenings have derived from students living in Padua Hall as well.
Lyon has lived in most of the University’s resident halls through-out his years at Quincy and recalls his strange experiences in Padua.
“They say that one of the old Friar’s hung themselves in the Padua shower. And one of the students jumped out of the 4th-floor window,” Lyon said, “and now that person haunts Padua.”
Brother Ed revealed the real occurrence at Padua Hall.
“All those stories are just stories, Padua is not haunted at all,” Brother Ed said, “One story is that many years ago, a student dismissed themselves from school and four months later he took his life in a jail cell. There was a fire in Padua Hall, though nobody died. That’s the real story.”
Seeing and believing in spiritual occurrences is totally impractical for some people.
“When people say they see ghosts, it tells you a lot about the way people’s minds work for sure,” Dr. B. Schleppenbach said.
While some security guards claim they’ve seen it all, other have reported that they’ve never experienced anything abnormal in their years of working.
“I’ve been in every nook and cranny of QU and I’ve never seen anything in all hours of the night,” QU Security Guard Pamela Wallace said.
Many students can relate, as some seniors have attended Quincy University for four years and never experienced anything unnatural occur in dorms or in the Main Hall. Many have taken the initiative to find the truth.
“If you want to search for something, it will probably find you,” Reed Bentzinger, Quincy University senior, said.
While many of the rumors served as pure entertainment to Brother Ed and proved to be extremely false, some of the strange occurrences in the University buildings continue to be an unexplained mystery to the generations of faculty and students. To find out more on Quincy University here is where you can find history and hauntings.
There was a suicide in Padua Hall. I was living in that dorm when it happened. I believe it was 1995. If you want stories about Padua, let me know and I’ll be happy to share the 2 experiences I had (one still gives me nightmares and panic attacks 25 years later). (Editor’s note: This comment was edited to remove the name of the deceased. QUMedia does not report the names of victims of suicide.)