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Haunted, ‘gory’ tales buried in Ohio State lore

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

The pleasant facade of Ohio State’s campus hides years of history – 142 years of history to be exact. And some of those years could be considered dark, giving rise to ghost tales, some which are grounded in more fact than others.
“They’re all gory, gory stories, stuff that people like to hear,” said Melanie McGurr, assistant professor with university libraries.
The department is scheduled to hold its “Voices from the Vault: Unique and Amazing Finds from Special Collections,” display and discussion of strange finds in the archives at 4 p.m. Monday in 150 William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library.
Referring to the ghost stories to be presented, McGurr said, “A lot of these, they might not be real. Stories in the ’70s or ’80s, they’re too real, it’s too sad. I like the nebulous ones a little bit better.”
Oxley Hall, McGurr said, is supposedly haunted by a young woman who resided there when it was a dormitory.
“She was left there over break,” McGurr said. “And when they came back from break she was dead. She either hung herself or someone killed her.”
McGurr also said three ghosts haunt Mirror Lake. Those include a skater who floats above the lake, the pink lady who looks out over the Lake from a window in Pomerene Hall, and the wife of Dr. Clark, who was a professor in the early 1920s.
“(Clark) invested heavily in some sort of Alaskan scheme, and he lost all his money. He asked his fellow professors to invest with him, and they wouldn’t. Somehow he went to the administration for money and they turned him down because he had lost all his money. And he shot himself,” McGurr said. “His wife claimed she was going to haunt this place because of what they had done to her husband.”
A story with less gore is that of Herbert Atkinson, a former Board of Trustees member whose cremated remains are set behind a plaque on the second floor of Bricker Hall.
“Supposedly he still comes to faculty meetings. And sometimes in the lobby, people still see a guy with a pipe, a cup of punch and then the lights flash and scary things happen,” McGurr said.
The haunting of Hayes Hall is also less violent than others on campus.
Former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes died before the completion of the namesake building, which stands on the Oval.
“I’ve heard stories that you could knock at night and (Hayes) would let you in,” McGurr said.
Other stories are less supernatural.
“In 1925 two students died after they took pills from the campus dispensary that had been filled with Strychnine (used as a pesticide) instead of medicine … They never solved that,” said Lindy Smith, assistant curator with OSU libraries.
James Snook, a veterinary medicine professor, is another notorious figure in OSU’s haunted history.
“It wasn’t his sad, tragic tale, but the sad, tragic tale of Theora Hix, his graduate assistant, mistress and victim,” Smith said. “He murdered her.”
Smith said despite Snook being a 1920 Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. pistol team, he didn’t kill Hix with a gun.
“He beat her with a hammer and cut her throat,” Smith said.
Kevlin Haire, an archive librarian, added, “He was convicted and six months later, executed down at the old Ohio penitentiary.”
Haire said although she’s not a believer in the supernatural or hauntings, it’s a fun part of her job.
“I’m not a subscriber to that kind of interest, but I think it brings sort of a fun aspect to campus for people and makes them look back,” Haire said. “For us, you can look back in history to see who the person might have been.”
Smith agreed and said, “If it encourages interest in the past of the university, we’re all for it.”
Some students don’t think the stories are real, though.
“I haven’t experienced anything to make me believe it,” said DeWhittney Barnes, a first-year in human development and family science. “I think it’s a little myth.”
Other students said they also didn’t believe the stories.
“I’ve looked into ghost stories. The explanations are mostly wind drafts, headlights. If you ask two people, who saw the same thing, they’ll say they experienced different things,” said Derek Keckley, a second-year in geology sciences. “Some people are more superstitious than others, I guess.”


An earlier version of this article stated Theora Hix’s name was spelled Theodora Hix.

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