Staff editorial: Duquesne’s haunts are more real than you think

Duke Staff

If you’re like us, midterms and student loans are a lot scarier than any ghost stories.

A transitory time in your life, college is a temporal place where one experiences growth, learning and constant change. In this time of transition, The Duke wishes you a spooky and safe Halloween; however you chose to celebrate. But before you run off into the night, know that you’re not alone.

In folklore terms, one could consider college a liminal zone, Thomas White, University archivist and adjunct professor tells. This “threshold between the career field and the education world,” is the ideal place for spirits to occupy. Duquesne is no different. But with hard work, determination and coffee at least you’ll be able to one day leave, unlike our undead counterparts. In honor of All Hallows’ Eve, we’ve dedicated this column to the spirits stuck in the same transitory world.

One of the oldest ghost tales associated with Duquesne, according to White, takes place in Old Main, a primary source of phantasmagorical presence. Originally a two story hospital in the 1850s, the building was built and owned by an abolitionist doctor using the hospital as a stop on the Underground Railroad. One night an escaped slave who had been severely beaten, still wearing his owner’s shackles, made it to the hospital’s doors only to have died a few hours later. On stormy nights in the fall, chains can still be heard rattling in the basement of the building.

Stroll down Academic Walk to the Victorian-style Laval House and ghosts will greet you all the same. The building was bought by the University in the early 1900s and was used for purposes including a dormitory, convent, offices and the president’s residence. In the late 40s and early 50s it was the home to Duquesne’s football players who claim to have seen a woman dressed in Victorian-era dress gliding across creaky floorboards.

On the other side of campus resides another ghost but not in his initial home. Originally built in 1909, Des Places was the Old News Boys Home, an orphanage later bought by the University. Now rebuilt as a dormitory, legend has it that the ghost of a young boy still haunts the halls, playing pranks on those now inhibiting the space, White said.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, fear and anxiety are emotions we have all come across at some point in our lives. But next time a test score has you shrieking, be thankful that you’ll one day be free of this campus, something the spirits of Duquesne won’t ever get the chance to do.

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