There is no doubt in my mind that Ursinus College is haunted by ghouls, ghosts, and nightmarish fiends from a place beyond this living world. Stepping foot into Ritter at night and shivering due to the cold, still air in the lobby is enough to convince any skeptic that phantoms haunt the building. Pfahler basement after hours? I wouldn’t want to be caught there alone. Bomberger Auditorium and the organ machine shriek the sounds of the hellhounds at night, and the bells clang until morning.
But the spaces on campus that win the award for most likely haunted are the Main Street houses. Centuries of history, of civil war generals and Ursinus students who have committed terrible deeds, creak beneath the floorboards of Shreiner and Hobson.
Shreiner Hall has a long and seemingly haunted history. According to HistoricTrappe.com, Shreiner was “built in 1876 for Dr. John H. A. Bomberger, founder and first president of Ursinus College.” It was “originally known as Zwinglihof, after the Swiss theologian and Reformation leader Ulrich Zwingli. Dr. Bomberger lived here until his death in 1890, after which it became Ursinus property.”
According to an article by C. Joy Keen in the Oct. 24, 1974 edition of The Ursinus Weekly, the house changed ownership several times before Ursinus bought it and converted it into a dormitory. The article tells the legend of the ghost of a young woman who supposedly haunts Room 15 of Shreiner Hall. The tale is that her forbidden lover who lived next door in Hobson was killed at sea after joining the Navy, and she committed suicide when she learned he died. The two students who lived in Room 15 during the fall of 1974 claimed to have heard footsteps in the early morning hours, and that their mirrors would fall at the foot of their beds.
The home of the young girl’s lover is also rumored to be haunted. A post on the DramaticUnderground, an online blog, claimed that, “Ursinus College supposedly has ghosts in Hobson Hall. One is a ghost named Terri, who died during her senior year in the building. The other one is a boy who died in a car accident in the street in front of Hobson. Both are harmless ghosts.”
There have also been reported hauntings off Ursinus grounds in Montgomery County. The local Trappe Tavern, a bar located just up the road, has had its fair share of hauntings, hidden deep in the bar’s long history. Originally known as the Fountain Inn, Trappe Tavern has “served as a tavern since it was built in the late 1700s,” according to the Historic Trappe website. Travelers rested at the Trappe Tavern on their way to Philadelphia.
Dave Duryea, an employee at the Trappe Tavern, explained some of the supernatural events that have happened in previous years. “At the end of the closing shift, we were outside the bar and the kitchen stovetop shot a flame up in the air. Sometimes, the radio would just come on without any reason.”
There was supposedly a funeral in the 1960s at the Tavern, and on the wall of the Tavern there is a “picture of a lady who’s supposedly haunting us,” said Duryea. While it’s unknown if she died in the building, the funeral was held at the Trappe Tavern in her honor.
Perhaps Ursinus students who frequent Trappe Tavern on Sunday nights should keep an eye out for mysterious flames and the ghost of the lady in the picture on their next visit.
In the college’s past 148 years, history has built up stories that suggest hauntings on the old grounds. Despite the dark past of many of the houses, few students today can report any supernatural activity. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that something is haunting Ursinus College, and with Halloween fast approaching, students should be extra vigilant while wandering about at night.