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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Oct. 19, 2007

A Sesquicentennial look back

Historical ghost stories

by Erin Rosacker

With 150 years of history, Iowa State is bound to have ghost tales. Through the years, the student newspaper has recounted stories of ghostly faces peering from windows or mirrors, unexplained noises and relocated objects.

Popular haunted spots can be found across campus. There have been reports of apparitions in both Barton and Freeman Halls. Linden Hall has a "football" ghost that suits up for game days and Friley Hall has "Mr. Big" roving through locked gates and turning on lights.

Staff at the Memorial Union have blamed strange noises on Hortense Wind, the only female name among ISU's list of fallen war heroes in Gold Star Hall, and alum C.Y. Stephens is said to be sending icy drafts and echoing footsteps through the subterranean tunnels of the Iowa State Center when he's not watching productions from the top balcony in the building that bears his name.

Neva Petersen, who pioneered the restoration of the Farm House, admitted to starting rumors of a ghost that routinely opened the curtains of a second-floor bedroom in the historic building. However, reports of rattling dressers and lights being turned on and off have not been attributed to a living person.

Frederica Shattuck

Frederica Shattuck, pictured here circa 1900, spent more than 50 years at ISU. Her ghost is said to have moved to Fisher Theater after the building that bore her name was razed in 1979. Photo courtesy of University Archives, ISU Library.

One ghost took the trouble to relocate. Frederica Shattuck, who founded the Iowa State Players and spent more than 50 years at ISU before passing away in 1969, continued her tenure in the afterlife by haunting her namesake -- Shattuck Theatre, a converted round stock pavilion that was torn down in 1979.

When the theater program moved to Fisher Theater in 1973, so did Shattuck's ghost and a number of items (including a wheelchair) she donated to the program.

A 1978 issue of the Iowa State Daily recounts a story told by former theater professor Sherry Hoopes. After hearing strange noises one night during rehearsals, cast members investigated to find that Shattuck's wheelchair had rolled across the stage, where it stopped to face the empty auditorium seats as if to deliver a monologue.

"She's just letting us know that she's still around," said Molly Herrington, a theater student quoted in the article. "She comes out to tell us she's glad we're still doing theater at ISU, since she's the one who started it all."

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Sesqui series

Inside is celebrating the sesquicentennial with a yearlong series of photos and articles that look back at Iowa State traditions, people and places.