Shattuck Arboretum, which overlooks the UI campus was the site of a hanging in 1991, according to a news report in the Seattle Times.
Anthony Saia | Blot
Shattuck Arboretum: One hanged. Ridenbaugh Hall: One hanged. Brink Hall: One hanged. Hartung Theater: Strange flashes of light. Borah Theater: Unexplainable technical malfunctions. University of Idaho campus: Five locations rumored of haunting.
The Seattle Times reported in March 2007, 12 UI students were arrested while ghost hunting in Colfax, Wash., at a former hospital that was rumored to be a haunted insane asylum. While UI students have shown interest in verifying the rumored haunting off campus, several locations on campus have also been said to have spirits lingering.
The stories sparked an interest in debunking the rumors about haunted buildings around campus. Because of safety issues, Brink Hall and Hartung Theater were off limits for exploration.
Shattuck Arboretum, often referred to as the Old Arboretum, is located near the UI golf course. The trees are thick and the trunks twist into a myriad of directions that reach toward the sky. Richard Spence, chair of the Department of History, said there was a young man of college age who hanged himself from a tree in this area. The Seattle Times reported the incident July 31, 1991. The victim was confirmed as a 21-year-old, male UI student.
One evening, in the pouring rain, I donned a dark-colored poncho to search for the young man’s ghost — if he in fact haunted the area.
Outside light was not apparent because of the intense, overbearing canopy created from the trees. The only sound that could be heard was the rain pooling on leaves, hitting the poncho hood and the foliage strewn about the grounds.
It was 11 p.m. and still early. Staying through the “witching hours” started to seem like a horrible idea – especially with the heavy rain. Walking along the wooded floor after a few hours passed, the feeling of being alone started to fade.
The feeling of someone in my proximity was rather apparent.
I crouched, turned off the flashlight and looked to the right. There was nothing to be seen in the expanse of twisting tree trunks aside from the reflections off water from the natural light in the area. Slowly turning to the left, the noise of a branch almost inaudibly snapping caught my attention. As cheesy as it may have sounded, all I could muster was, “Hello?” The wind began to shift, and though there was no answer to the question, the air grew noticeably colder around me.
Chills rose throughout my body, and the decision to keep moving was hasty. As the wind howled, a reply to the questioned, ‘Hello’ seemed to be in the breeze, and staying there at 2:30 a.m. was no longer on the agenda.
Ridenbaugh Hall stands not far from the Old Arboretum. The current music hall with Italian Renaissance revival architecture was formerly a female dormitory. The construction of the building was completed in 1902, making it one of the oldest buildings on campus, and it was recognized and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Despite the creaking floors and discolored walls, members of the music fraternities, Sigma Alpha Iota and Phi Mu Alpha, have hosted a haunted house in Ridenbaugh for years.
Brandy Cargo, a geology student, said a young girl hanged herself in Room 225, which is now a practice room for the music students. She said she and a group of friends went in search of the music building’s ghost, but all they ended up doing was scaring themselves.
Walking through the building after the sun started to settle was an intriguing experience. The low ceilings and noises from the building — now more than 100 years old — added to the experience. The hallways are narrow, and even after all these years and vast improvement from technological upgrades, UI’s Library of Special Collections notes the façade of the building remains similar to after it was completed June 11, 1902.
A balcony on the fourth floor that overlooks New Greek seemed like a good place to sit for a while. Behind me was a metal door that had been padlocked shut seemed as if someone attempted to open the door or damage it, because there were large dents apparent beneath the door’s handle.
Seth Reardon, a fourth-year music student, said at one point earlier in his time at UI, the attic area was open. He said from time to time students would walk around up there. Reardon said he had heard a rumor about Ridenbaugh’s haunting, but he never heard specifics regarding the cause of the haunting.
Staying on the landing for a bit, dim light shone down on me while students occupied the practice rooms, and the flow of different musical parts crept up the stairway. At that particular moment, a student played a selection from classical pianist Franz Schubert. The intricacy of the piece settled in my ears as the surroundings began to look different. Black marks stained the white walls, and there were curious red marks that looked to be pools of some liquid substance, which had faded from time and foot traffic stained on the linoleum.
The building groaned slightly, and an intense chill came across my body. It was apparent none of the windows were ajar, and looking at the fluorescent light again, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. There was a presence over my right shoulder, and as I looked without turning, a loud knock and hiss occurred. It was time to move. So I stood and went down the stairwell to the third floor. The student hammering out Schubert was still locked in their practice room as I sauntered by, turned the corner and entered a vacant practice room.
There was one window on the far side of the room that was shut, and a piano sat against the wall. Behind the piano, a mirror caught the reflection of my shoes and shadow on the wall. I felt another chill rush across me. Determined not to be unsettled by cold spots in the building, sitting in front of the piano seemed like a smart move … at the time. The ceiling was dark, and corners of the room seemed even darker.
Schubert was no longer flowing throughout the halls. Even the knocking from the old furnace system stopped. Breathing deeply, hands on the keyboard, a tune escaped my throat in an attempt to soothe myself. Suddenly, the temperature in the room dropped. Shivers started to form throughout my body and the palms of my hands became clammy. Looking around the room, a hiss sounded in my ears as the cold enveloped me. My arms instinctively wrapped around my chest while my teeth started to chatter.
Sitting at the piano, breathing deep, the cold oxygen filled my lungs. I sat in silence for a few minutes straining my ears for anything more. The silence seemed to be a cue. I moved down the creaky stairs — music flowing again from the rooms above, — and exited the building.
Spence said he feels when it comes to paranormal activity, a person needs to have receptiveness toward it. He said if a person is not looking for paranormal activity, they wont find any. The twisting hallways and low ceilings of Brink Hall make Cargo uncomfortable.
“That place is just creepy,” Cargo said. “Then again multiple suicides can never leave good energy.”
A column published Oct. 30, 2008, in The Argonaut said rumor of a former professor who hanged himself in his office haunts the third floor of Brink Hall.
Hartung Theater might be one of the scariest areas on campus – and not because it is dark and dreary. Spence said he recalled hearing stories and thought it was curious creepy tales started to circulate so quickly, since the theater opened in 1974. It was originally named The Performing Arts Center.
In an article published in The Argonaut Oct. 30, 1979, Steve Remington, the technical director and stage manager, said there were strange flashes of light in the catwalks as people worked on the stage below.
The Borah Theater is another stage that has been rumored to be haunted. Much like the Hartung, Borah has had inexplicable happenings that only happen to projectionists.
Borah Theater is a bone yard for the university’s student-operated radio station, KUOI-FM 83.9, and for defunct equipment. It is also where Vandal Entertainment hosts films throughout the semester. Benjamin Aiman, electronic and events specialist for the Idaho Commons and Student Union Building, said eerie occurrences happen in the theater. It’s a small space, and even during the day the room is dark with low light and has several doors that lead to different areas of the theater.
Corbin Hohstadt, a student employee of Sound, Production and Lighting, said odd things happen behind the screen, like the power randomly shutting off. Equipment malfunctions are commonplace when it comes to technology, but in the Borah, it seems to happen more often.
After hours at the SUB is interesting in its own right. There are janitors on all four floors for a period of time, and when they finish an area, the lights are turned off – particularly on the third floor. The Borah Theater proved to be no different. With nothing but a flashlight, I entered the space silently with careful steps. Hohstadt said to walk carefully because the walls and stairs could be difficult to navigate in the dark.
Aside from the ventilation system turning on and off throughout the night, not much out of the ordinary happened. At 2:30 a.m., I leaned back in the chair and woke up around 4 a.m. to the sound of a chair squeaking from behind me. As expected, the room behind me was vacant — just a sea of empty chairs. Investigating the noise led to searching for 10 minutes, only to find the flashlight that rolled down to the open area in front of the stage. I sighed and headed home, disappointed it was such a bust.
Upon leaving Ridenbaugh, the last visited location, I came to one conclusion after all of the investigations were complete: It is obvious any campus that has been around for any substantial amount of time is bound to have some sort of rumors about ghosts.