Columbia College legends linger

By REN BISHOP

neighborhoods@columbiamissourian.com

The Gray Lady of Columbia College has been roaming the hallways of St. Clair Hall for decades, and she’s not alone. Ghost legends, hauntings and the supernatural are present on campus year round.

The Gray Lady is the most well-known legend on the campus. She was engaged to a confederate soldier during the Civil War, said Penny Pitman, a member of the class of 1964.

“She heard that he had been killed one day and she threw herself off the top of the Conservatory building and her body had never been found, so she just walked the halls at night,” Pitman said.

The Gray Lady is a benevolent ghost, Pitman said.

“You would hear feet going down the stairs, or a window would open and no one was in the room,” she said. “Or you would come back from class and the ironing would be done.”

When Pitman arrived at the college in 1964, she said that the Gray Lady legend had been around forever.

“She was the classic campus ghost,” Pitman said.

The residence of the Gray Lady, St. Clair Hall, was not built until 1900, more than 30 years after the Gray Lady’s supposed death. However, this fact has not stopped the legend from becoming an element of modern folklore of the campus.

Courtney Lauer-Myers, 20, heard about the Gray Lady when she was living on campus as a freshman.

“Originally it was something I heard around campus, a word of mouth sort-of scenario,” Lauer-Myers said.

After she took a ghost tour with security guard Will Nichols, she became more aware of other legends on campus.

“There’s a story about one roommate who was very jealous of her roommate and the jealousy billowed up to the point where she pushed her down the main flight of stairs where she died, supposedly in Missouri Hall,” she said.

Another ghost, Lauer-Myers said, that roams Columbia College is the spirit of a boy who haunts the balcony of Launer Auditorium. The boy visited the auditorium to watch a play on a field trip and died after falling down the steps, she said.

Lauer-Myers has seen first-time guests in the auditorium look over their left shoulder at the balcony behind them when there’s nothing there.

“There’s something in Launer when if you’re just sitting in there, if it’s your first time sitting in there and you’re facing the stage, they feel like someone is in the balcony looking at them,” Lauer-Myers said.

Ghosts also make their presence known via technology at Columbia College.

The college claimed in a spotlight story last year that a phone rings at 2:10 a.m. in the campus security office on random nights. The call comes from the elevator of the Robnett-Spence building, but no one is ever in the elevator at the time.

The legend behind the phantom call is that a science student committed suicide in the early 1970’s because he failed a class and has been trying to get back to it ever since, according to the article.

Lauer-Myers remains skeptical of the legends on campus.

“It’s one of those things where I feel like I shouldn’t believe it, but there’s just a creepy feeling to campus once you know some of the stories and once you’ve experienced something,” she said.

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