UNL has its own ghost stories
Scott Eastman/DN

T'was a Halloween night, not so long ago.A man, Hardy Jones, sat stone-still in his office in Oldfather Hall.Depression had seized the philosophy professor as thoughts of his recent divorce cluttered his brain. Gripped by grief and anger and the fear of losing his son, Jones finally broke shortly after midnight.Off an open window's ledge, he stepped into the autumn air, taking a fall that ended 10 stories later on the grassy earth.In the late hours of All Hallows Eve, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor had committed suicide.Unlike most Halloween ghost stories, which offer a safe scare of fictional horror, the tale of Hardy Jones truly happened at UNL in 1983.However, it is not the only legend haunting UNL.Campus folklore abounds this Halloween as ghost stories creep into conversations.Whether one believes or not, campus folklore fits the season to be scary.Let's begin with probably the most "spirited" building on campus: the Temple.Finished in 1905, the Temple plays host not only to an array of theatrical performances but to ghostly activities.Julie Hagemeier, theater department general manager, said students and faculty members knew of the Temple ghosts."Nobody freaks out because it's not threatening," she said. "It's just weird."For example, Hagemeier said, the spirit of Dallas Williams, theater department chairman and professor from 1944 to 1971, haunts the Temple.Known for grabbing attention by throwing chairs across a room when he was alive, Williams' spirit keeps up his antics. Hagemeier said many Temple visitors have reported the sound of crashing chairs in apparently vacant rooms."He was an interesting personality," she said. "Students will tell me they heard a chair being thrown in a room where there wasn't even a chair. Usually, we just attribute that to Dallas. It's his claim to fame."On many occasions, Hagemeier said, the echoes of someone tap dancing on the Howell stage filled Temple hallways. An investigation by curious listeners revealed no one was there.Also, the ghost of a little girl haunts the prop attic, Hagemeier said.Once, the crew needed a doll for "Women in Black," a play in which a ghostly woman carries a doll that represents her dead child. Taking apart various dolls, the crew left the attic in disarray after creating the "perfect doll." When the crew returned to the locked attic, Hagemeier said, someone had aligned the dolls' parts and placed the matching heads with the bodies.Other paranormal occurrences include various sightings of a "shadowy figure" in the locked sound booth, uncontrollable and flickering lights and mysterious applause heard from the right-house balcony.Hagemeier said she wasn't surprised to hear the stories; she said she has seen the ghosts' pranks herself.Hagemeier said a large costume donation, which had been locked in a storage closet, was found strewn about the building after a summertime performance."Only one person had the key, and that key was hidden," Hagemeier said. "The costumes were either missing, twisted or mutilated. We had to hunt for them in all the Temple's nooks and crannies."In 1996, KTGL-FM (92.9) "The Eagle," Lincoln's classic-rock radio station sent its morning radio crew, Joe and Timmo, with a psychic, local ghost historian Dale Bacon and some listeners to hunt ghosts in the Temple building."Nothing dramatic happened, and we were looking pretty hard," said Timmo, who said he doesn't ever use his last name. "We wanted the ghosts to come out of hiding."Last year, intrigued by the legends, sophomore theater major Layne Manzer and three other students created a video for a class project called, "The Temple Ghost Project."After sleeping in the Temple overnight, the quartet found nothing except pranks by fellow classmates. But Manzer said he still believed in some of Temple's legends."Last weekend, I was showing a friend the set for 'All's Well that Ends Well,'" he said. "As we were on the stage, we heard someone walking on the empty balcony. Then we heard the seat move down, like someone was taking a seat."It's not to scare us. They just observe and watch us."Ghosts also watch in Neihardt Residence Center, 540 N. 16th St.Lola Young, residence life services supervisor, said a ghost in the office, dubbed a "she," stacks the loose change in two safes located in the Raymond section of Neihardt.Young said the she-ghost prefers to stack the nickels of the safe in her office, while dimes are piled high in the Dining Services safe."At first I didn't believe it, but so few people know the combinations," she said. "She just wants us to know she's around."Used as an infirmary in the 1930s and 1940s, many Neihardt rooms housed the sick and dying.Josh Deacon, Neihardt residence director, said one room in the Love section of Neihardt third floor still bears the presence of a certain young patient."Supposedly there was a polio outbreak," he said. "One young lady always opened the curtains because she couldn't go outside. When people would leave her room, they would close the curtains, and she would open them again. Now, if people close the curtains, they somehow are open when you return."Deacon also said Neihardt legends include moving chairs in the lounge, mysterious guitar playing in the basement and a wandering girl apparition in the courtyard.Deacon said he learned of Neihardt's ghosts through a gift."I first got here in July, the previous RD left a term paper written by a student for me to read," he said. "I don't have any personal experience with ghosts, but I do believe when I hear people tell me their stories."Deacon also said the informative term paper was mysteriously missing."I put it in my file cabinet, and I'm the only one with the key, so it's weird that it's missing now," he said.Overall, these ghoulish beings serve as campus pranksters more so than hell raisers.Whether or not this UNL folklore is true isn't the important thing, said Brad Trenkle, Neihardt residence assistant."The stories add character ... making it even more special," he said.Hagemeier said a psychic gave her the best explanation why ghosts still haunt certain places on campus."There's so much energy expended in a building, like the Temple, that part of that person's energy stays here," she said. "It makes some sense, so I tend to believe it."So, do you believe?