This story originally appeared in The Vantage student newspaper, Oct. 23, 1980.
Note from the author, Jeff Baker ’83:
Among the memorable moments from my college newspaper career was tracking down this story from rumors and furtive whispers on campus. The September afternoon when I channeled my inner Carl Kolchak and typed it up in my dorm room (barely under deadline!) remains a fond memory, a memory that is now 43 years past. The original story appeared in The Vantage issue of Oct. 23, 1980. It has been slightly edited.
Mysterious footsteps in the dead of night. Objects removed from locked suitcases and attempts to find a reasonable, rational explanation for seemingly inexplicable happenings. This was the scene on campus 35 years ago as the then all-girls academy was the setting of what apparently was a haunting.
The disturbance was confined to the connected rooms in Sacred Heart Hall, A-306 and A-302, which were then used as dormitories. The footsteps were first heard in September 1945 by Sister M. Eugenia Kitzner, who at the time was staying with the girls who had arrived early, before school started. As she recalls, there was one girl who arrived before the rest of them who slept at one end of the room, and she (Kitzner) slept at the other.
Late one night, Kitzner was awakened by what sounded like footsteps in the room. She thought nothing of it, assuming that the girl had gotten up to go to the restroom, which was right next door. The next morning at breakfast, she casually asked the girl if she had slept well, or had to get up for anything in the night. The girl had slept all night, she hadn’t gotten up and she hadn’t heard anything. It was the first piece of what was to become a very eerie puzzle.
When the rest of the girls arrived, the room was put under the charge of Sister Florence May. She also heard the noise, a steady tread from one end of the room to the other, “as if someone were walking.”
May “was never frightened because I tried to explain it scientifically.” The explanation was that it was changes in temperature affecting parts of the floor, causing the old boards to creak. But that didn’t explain why the sounds would move one after the other from one end of the room to the other or why when May would turn on the lights, to see who was making that sound, the noise would abruptly stop, and no one could be seen.
The walking sound came from the side of the room opposite the windows where the lockers are at the time. No actual footsteps could be heard, just the sound of boards creaking as if under someone’s steady tread.
Professor Jeanne Cardenas, now head of the English department who was then in high school here and was assigned to the room, recalls: “When I was a freshman there was a ghost up in room 306.”
She too described the footsteps as moving from one end of the room to the other at night “when a bunch of us were sleeping. … It very definitely moved from one end of the room to the other but we never saw anything.”
As December arrived, the footsteps were joined by some other, more unusual phenomena. One morning, the bed of a girl who had gone home for the weekend showed impressions on it as if it had been slept in the night before. The bed had been made by the girl before she left. Another morning, a girl found a paring knife on her dresser. The knife had been locked in her suitcase and everyone swore that none of them had moved it.
By this time, May had transferred to Beata Hall and Kitzner was in charge again. She accepted the cause of the noise as “a human soul, a spirit that didn’t have a body.” She was, by her own description, “a very young sister then, and ready for a challenge.”
This was a challenge.
She didn’t hear the noises every night, but on the nights that she did, she was ready. She would carry her rosary beads and holy water with her and she would go investigating. She would tiptoe around, all the while praying for God to help the spirit find rest, and as she walked from one end of the room to the other in the darkness, the footsteps would sound like they were following her.
During the Christmas vacation, when the girls had left, she didn’t sleep in the room (no one would!) but instead slept across the hall and would come to the room to pray for the spirit and to try and communicate with it. She never received an answer but claims she would have been ecstatic if she had.
When all this failed to quiet the restless footsteps, it was time for drastic action. She had discovered that some of the girls had been frightened by the noise “and I was afraid of enrollment dropping off.” So she spoke to the Reverend Mother and then called the campus chaplain, Monsignor Francis Morrell, and an exorcism was performed in the room.
“I went with him,” explained Kitzner “and carried a lighted candle.” The Monsignor walked from one end of the room to the other, sprinkling holy water and praying the exorcism in Latin. After that, the noises stopped.
“And was I ever tickled!” exclaimed Kitzner.
The two rooms, A-306 and A-302 still stand today. The door that joined them is rarely used now, and there are few other signs that this was at one time, home for nine months out of the year, to a group of high school girls instead of college classrooms. And even when the shadows grow long there are no hints that the rooms once played host to a highly exceptional visitor who walked the night.
I wish to dedicate this reprinting to the memory of those who lived through the events, now nearly 80 years past, and told me their story: Sister Eugenia Kitzner, Sister Florence May and Jeanne Cardenas.
And to the very much alive Don Klausmeyer, who was editor of The Vantage at the time. The captions for the pictures in the original story were doubtlessly written by him, they have his style.
-Jeff Baker, KNC ‘83
Newman University archives: Student newspapers
View stories from any of the following student newspapers at Newman: <br>The Vantage – 1960s – present<br>Pacemaker – 1960s<br>The College News – 1950s – 1960s<br>Sacred Heart Echoes 1946 – 1953<br>The College Crier – 1941<br>Rorschach Blot – 1968<br>The Afterburner – 1967-1969