Picture this; a young man around 20 years old is leaving the library. It is a cold, dark night in October. The moon is full and bright and the air is brisk. He is looking forward to returning to Buxton and watching a little TV before turning in for the night.
As he walks, the air whips past him and all of the sudden, he senses someone following him. As he continues to walk, he cannot shake the feeling that he is still being followed.
He looks behind him again and still, no one is there. Then, the wind picks up and a tree branch snaps. The sound is so loud, it startles the young man and he becomes very afraid of what is lurking beyond the trees. And then, the feeling comes back and the young man is so scared that he takes off running toward his dormitory.
As he opens the door, thinking that he is safe from harm, a shadow is walking alongside the parking lot. He cannot make out who it is, but he knows that very instant that was what was following him as the image disappears into the night.
I bet that spooked you a bit, huh? Well, even though that was a little bit of an exaggeration from something that happened to my dad during his days at Simpson, some would say that Simpson is a haunted campus.
Over the years, urban legends of death have been passed on from generation to generation. Everyone has heard the story of Mildred and College Hall (which was named Old Chapel before it was remodeled). But there has always been something eerie about this campus. The creepy red light that is on in Mary Berry at night, for instance. Or the seals in front of College Hall and BSC that everyone tries to avoid so they won’t fail their next test.
These are stories that scare every freshman and make many professors and staff members roll their eyes and shake their heads in disbelief.
In my quest to find out if these myths of ghosts and haunted sites on campus, I came across the story of Mildred Hedges, the 22-year-old freshman that fell to her death in College Hall in 1935.
According to Dr. Joseph Walt, professor emeritus of history, and his novel on Simpson’s history, “Beneath the Whispering Maples,” Mildred had just gotten out of a class that was on the third floor of Old Chapel. As she went down the steps, she stumbled and was literally “pitched” over the railing, falling down three stories and hitting her head on the banister on the way down. After she was taken to a hospital in Des Moines, she was pronounced dead.
Now, Mildred’s spirit is said to still haunt College Hall and there have been random stories about students and night workers seeing lights and silhouettes of her in the windows. According to Walt, this is just a tragic event that is a part of Simpson’s history.
“I had heard about Mildred when I first came to Simpson,” Dr. Walt said. “But I don’t believe she haunts College Hall.”
Dr. Walt also mentioned in his book that there was another case in the 1880s where a love-struck foreign exchange student fell off of a girder in the attic of Wallace Hall when it was being constructed. The young man was taken to a professor’s home where he later died.
Finally, there is another story that puts into questions whether a girl committed suicide or accidentally trapped herself in a crawl space in Kresge Hall. Most do not believe this story is true. Stephanie Krauth, associate dean of students, said that while she was here at Simpson in 1985, she had heard this story and was a little unsure if it were true or urban legend.
“I don’t think we took it seriously back then because we knew about Mildred and we knew that Mildred was a real person,” said Krauth. “Kresge was not even in the same category because no one knew any name or anything. We didn’t know what to believe back then, we were just curious.”
These are just two stories of people who have fallen to their deaths at Simpson. There have been many strange happenings since the college opened and I am sure that they will pass down from generation to generation as they already have.
Personally, I think the strange things that happen on this campus could be traced back to paranormal events, but for the most part, Mildred, the young man in Wallace and the girl in Kresge are all example of accidents that ended tragically. We should still be suspicious about things we see, hear and think about because someone from beyond could be trying to tell us something, it just all depends of whether or not we will listen.