Every year around this time, tales of ghosts and strange occurrences on UNC’s campus begin to resurface. Maybe you told a few yourself back in your student days during a late-night hangout session or gathered around an autumn bonfire. These scary stories are more than just an entertaining way pass the time and freak out anxious underclassmen. They’re part of our shared history. They remind us of all the ways our campus has been built up and torn down, shifts in student culture, traditions that are no longer practiced. They drag the past back into the present day, howling and rattling its chains.
In celebration of the Halloween season, we’ve been digging through UNC’s digital archives to uncover every documented discussion of ghosts and supernatural happenings that we could get our hands on. Some of these stories started as jokes and took on a life of their own, others are authentically scary and inexplicable. Click on a year to read the original article referenced in each summary. If you’ve experienced any of these hauntings yourself or if you have others that you’d like to add to our list, please tell us about them in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.
1938 - James A. Michener Falls Victim to Ghastly Hi-jinks?
This amusing little news item dates back to the era when October 31st was still spelled “Hallowe’en”. At that time, UNC would ring in All Hallow’s Eve by hosting a big dance for all its students. As it turns out, one of the chaperons on that fateful evening in 1938 was none other than future literary legend and library namesake James A. Michener!
Apparently Mr. Michener went into an activity room mid-way through the evening and found himself sealed in by an unknown force. Of course, the likely perpetrator was a student desiring a little less supervision at the dance, but The Mirror was quick to speculate that Michener had been the victim of a mischievous Hallowe’en spirit. This remains an unsolved and (probably) isolated incident.
1968 - Charie Lu Dances in the Depths of Tobey-Kendel
The story of Charie Lu, “Mystery Woman of Tobey-Kendel,” is part-fable, part-tale of fright. Charie, who is described as arriving on campus with a CSC beanie and butterfly net in hand, represents the typical “naive freshman” type, but with a tragic twist. According to the legend, she botched her first semester course registration and never fully recovered. Unable to graduate, Charie went insane and locked herself in T-K’s green-doored room, never to emerge again.
Is this story a veiled attempt to scare students into taking responsibility for their academic future? Maybe. Try telling that to the person who’s hearing creepy noises in T-K at night.
1980 & '86 - UNC’s Phantom(s) of the Opera(s)
Ghost stories at UNC took a dramatic turn in the 80s. Rumors swirled amongst the Performing Arts crowd that both Frasier Theatre and Gray Hall’s Norton Theatre were occupied by restless spirits. These ghosts made their presence felt through a variety of strange mishaps: actors injured with no apparent cause, a box of prop matches bursting into flames, a mysterious presence felt but not seen.
Surprisingly, UNC’s theatre faculty turned out to be stalwart skeptics amidst all this ghostly hullabaloo. Most chalked the stories up to overactive imaginations, an abundance of ill-lit spaces, and actors who liked to use the supernatural as a scapegoat to protect their pride.
Asked for comment, one actress cited the notion that ghosts like these represent the collective energy of every emotion ever portrayed in a performance space. If these ghosts are indeed the passion of multiple generations of Bears made manifest, that would make them real school spirits! Get it?
2008 - A Smorgasbord of Spooks
This is the year that The Mirror attempted its comprehensive list of campus hauntings. Interestingly enough, none of the above-mentioned stories were included in their account. Perhaps those old-school spooks had already faded from students’ collective imagination.
In any event, the ghosts in this feature are UNC’s true all-stars. Tested by time, their legends have been passed down year after year because… well… they’re really scary! Gone are the moral lessons of Charie Lu and the good-natured pranks of Michener’s ghost. These spirits throw objects, write foreboding messages, and even display images of deceased people on students’ televisions. Dive in if you’re in the mood for a good fright!
Is your appetite for the supernatural still not satisfied? There are even more UNC ghost stories collected in this excerpt from Northern Vision magazine. If you have a haunting experience to share, don’t forget to tell us about it in our comments section or on our Facebook page. Happy Halloween to all you Bears out there!