A College Ghost Story

It began in my Communications class my first semester at Illinois State University. The group project was a panel discussion, where we had to argue both sides of an issue. Our group chose the existence of ghosts: did they exist or not? Our prof mentioned one of the librarians had seen the ghost of Ange Milner (pronounced Angie, short for Angeline) on campus and that might be a good source.

Ange Milner was a popular librarian in the early 1900’s at ISU, so celebrated that the current library – Milner Library – was named after her. They shut down classes when she died in 1928 so the student body could attend her funeral.

We shuffled over to the main desk at the library to get the scoop on the librarian’s experience. “Well, actually,” The Librarian said slowly. “I am going to go into the old stacks at Williams Hall, where she’s been seen, with a group on Halloween night. Would you like to come along?” We all agreed to be there.

At 9pm on Halloween night, I showed up outside Williams Hall. An older couple in their 50’s and The Librarian appeared, with no sign of my classmates, but I sort of expected that. My dorm floor was basically evacuated because everyone was dressed up and drinking at house parties. While we were waiting, The Librarian went upstairs to unlock the doors and check on things. The older couple was part of this tour: he was a Pastor/Medium (someone who could talk to spirits) and she was his wife. The Southern Baptist angel on my shoulder rolled her eyes and audibly sighed.

“Well, this looks like the group. Let’s go!” The Librarian lead the three of us up the stairs and through a large door.

The Librarian had a big flashlight, but it really wasn’t needed. The room spanned the length of the building and had large windows that overlooked Stevenson Hall and In Exchange. The street lights flooded the room with enough light to see, which was wall-to-wall with bookshelves. It was a very symmetrical room with a dividing aisle between them.

We sort of milled around at first, getting a feel for the surroundings and letting our eyes adjust to the dim room. And then The Librarian said, “Oh that wasn’t like that when I came up.” We all spun around and saw the filing cabinets were pulled nearly all the way out, some only half way. It was super creepy. My heart rate went up, but the Southern Baptist angel on my shoulder whispered, “She opened those for effect when she came up to check on things.” I agreed this was too circumstantial to use as evidence.

“Do you mind if I try to contact her?” Pastor/Medium asked.

“Sure, go ahead.” said The Librarian.

This ought to be good, I thought.

Pastor/Medium leaned against the wall by the windows and closed his eyes.

After a few moments of silence, his eyes flew open. “She’s here.”

“Where are you?” he called out. He started walking down the center aisle and we followed slowly behind. I felt like I was in a movie.

“Why are you here and not in the great beyond?” he asked. After a moment, he said, “She says she has work to do.”

The Pastor/Medium paused at one of the aisles, a few in from the windows. “Hello, Ange. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

We peered down the row, and sure enough, there was a white mist, ever so slightly opaque. The midst hung in their air, as if investigating the books on the shelf.

“Those are new books, Ange,” said The Librarian, as if she were talking to a student.

I would have rolled my eyes at the mist – it was a figment of my imagination – I came up here to see a ghost and now I’m seeing one – it was all about the power of suggestion and the lighting. The Southern Baptist angel on my shoulders nodded in agreement.

Except for two things.

One, I’ve never had a paranormal experience, I’ve never spoken in tongues, I’ve never had a vision, and I’ve never hallucinated. I’m a realist through and through, logic ruled all.

Two, the mist had a defined bottom. I could clearly see the hem of an A-line skirt with a small dainty floral pattern on it.

The others saw it too.

Most manifestations of an apparition appear and disappear quickly – this one did not. It floated in the air for quite some time. We just watched, in complete rapture.

Ever the scientist, I turned around and looked down the the other bookshelf aisle behind us. If I stared long enough, I should have been able to see the same “ghost” – as the lighting was the same in the symmetrical room. Nothing appeared. I turned back around, completely awestruck at what I was witnessing: there was a ghost there – or something was obviously there. I was seeing a real live ghost.

The Southern Baptist angel on my shoulder had left, too perturbed about what was happening to stick around for anything else.

Pastor/Medium spoke. “She would like us to leave now.”

“Well, if she wants us to leave, then we should go,” I said, probably too fast and an octave higher than my normal voice.

I was a little more than freaked out once we made it back outside.

I took off in run to my dorm. I needed to process what I just saw that went against everything I believed about the world.

The dorm was still a ghost town itself and I couldn’t handle being alone with all this stuff in my head. What if this spirit followed me!? So I took off in a full sprint to my friend’s dorm in Hamilton-Whitten (now demolished). He wasn’t in, his roommate said. He went to a friend’s house and wasn’t sure when he’d be back. I waited about a half hour before I left a note on his keyboard: CALL ME ASAP! I somehow managed to stay in my dorm room, my back up against the wall, too freaked out to sleep until well past midnight.

I’m a scientist and a Christian, so I should have been able to explain away my experience. It’s been twenty years and I’m still convinced of what I saw: a ghost. I’ve had other paranormal experiences since then – only audio, nothing as concrete as what I experienced in the old stacks of Williams Hall.

In the words of DC Talk, “Somethings just can’t be explained.”

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