EL REWIND: Ghosts of MSU

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Sunday, April 12, 2015, 8:19 am
Ashley Griffin

Mary Mayo Hall

It’s no surprise that with a campus as old as Michigan State University’s, some students are going to…linger. Ghost stories have been circulating the campus for decades, but one still stands out among the rest: the ghost of Mary Mayo.

Mayo Hall was built in 1931, one of the university’s oldest dorm buildings and the first of West Circle. It was called “Sylvan Lodge” when originally built due to being in a small park of trees, but was eventually named after Mary Mayo, a mother of two and a Michigan native, because she stood up for women’s rights on the campus in a time where women were only just being allowed to have an education at the collegiate level.

It has been a long standing story on campus that Mary Mayo has never quite left her building, often reported by residents to be seen wandering the halls and formal rooms in the lobby. A portrait of her hangs above a fireplace on the main floor and is said to have eyes that will follow you around the room. There is also a piano on the main floor whose musical notes float around the building without a physical player to touch the keys.

Portrait of Mary Mayo

Residents often report instances of footsteps in the halls and banging noises throughout the building to the resident staff, especially those living under the fourth floor. The top floor is sealed off from residents, being just an attic area with rafters and random objects in storage as well as graffiti on the old brick walls. A famous story is that it was sealed off due to “the red room” which is on this floor; some say that from outside they have seen red light glowing from it and black figures walking around. There is a darker rumor that the area was a location for satanic rituals as well as a suicide.

The other hot spot in the large building is a basement tunnel that students take to do their laundry. Some report that while they are walking down the tunnel the lights will often all turn off, leaving one in complete darkness. Others report icy cold air as they scramble to get through the tunnel.

Paranormal investigators like the MSU Paranormal Society and Capitol Area Research Society have done investigations on other areas on campus that are said to be haunted. The Auditorium is the site of the other most well-known alleged haunting on campus. The theatre students make this building into a large haunted house, called ”The Haunted Aud” every year during Halloween, which may not be the best thing to calm down any potential spirits hiding backstage.

You can read about other reported hauntings on MSU’s campus and in the greater Lansing area in a 2009 book titled Paranormal Lansing by Reverend Robert Du Shane and his wife Nicole Bray. Both are credited paranormal investigators and have researched haunted areas on campus, including Mary Mayo.

Some stories don’t match the rumors once you do more research. Du Shane’s biggest surprise while researching the hauntings on campus was the story of James Dallas Egbert, which many still remember to this day.

Egbert was a student at MSU when he went missing during a game of “Dungeons and Dragons” in the tunnels beneath the campus. Du Shane found this to be the case in which the rumors were farthest from the truth that they were investigating,

“I think what I found to be the most interesting fact was that the ‘best known’ haunting on campus was completely wrong. When we first mentioned that we were writing about MSU everyone wanted to know if we would be writing about the ‘Dungeon Master suicide’ in the tunnels. As it turned out he (Dallas) actually didn't commit suicide on MSU campus at all, he actually shot himself on the campus of another college.” After his time in the tunnel Dallas was found alive at a friend’s house a few miles away after gaining national news attention in the fall of 1979.  

You can judge for yourself about whether MSU hauntings are fact or fantasy, but in the case of Mayo Hall, for instance, it’s a fact that Mary Mayo died approximately 28 years before the building was constructed. That should squelch the rumors that she died there. But is it possible that she came back to make sure that women were treated as equals at what was then Michigan Agricultural College? Some students believe she did.

For those who are skeptics Du Shane tends to use a quote by Stuart Chase, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible.”



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