Vermont college said to be home to a ghost

10/31/08 6:30PM By Jane Lindholm

(Host) College Hall at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier has seen a lot of history. It was a seminary, a residence for nursing students, a civil war hospital and a college dormitory. Now it's mostly an office and classroom building. But it may also be home to at least one ghost. VPR's Jane Lindholm explains.

(Lindholm) Apparently, it all began with a love triangle in Montpelier in 1897 when young Anna Wheeler was shot in the head by another woman desperately in unrequited love with Anna's husband. The story goes that the last thing she saw before she died was the tower in College Hall and that's where her ghost has lived ever since.

Joyce Mandeville runs the T.W. Wood Gallery, in the building's first floor. She says many people who work in the building firmly believe in the ghost's existence.

(Joyce Mandeville) "Someone has said that there are 2 camps. 50% call her by name. 50% think the other 50% are out of their minds. But for those of us who know that there are several things going on here, it's just part of the fabric of the place."

Louise Crowley directs the MFA in writing program at the College. She's had experiences with Anna's ghost herself.

(Louise Crowley) "There's a room up on the 4th floor, a small office, and there's a door in that room that goes up to the tower. So when we first moved into the building we had this very small sketch that we hung on the wall. And every morning for weeks we would come in and that sketch would be somewhere else-on the floor, on the table instead of on the wall, we'd put it back up again on the wall and it would be somewhere else. But none of us who encountered those sort of things ever felt anything scary about it."

Joyce Mandeville says there's been other evidence of Anna's presence as well. Once, in the gallery, someone taking pictures of an exhibition photographed a strange image in front of a window.

(Joyce Mandeville) "There was this ethereal looking figure in front of it. It was filmy and it was only what I could call a high Victorian outfit, a woman with that sort of heavy-layered dress and a bit hat, but you could see through her. But like all good paranormal stories it's missing now. But I certainly saw the photo and many other people saw the photo."

Bob Jarvis saw the photo. He was a security guard on campus for more than 17 years. In that time he forged a deep bond with Anna's ghost.

(Bob Jarvis) "I think through the years I kind of fell in love with her. Well I don't know. It's just we've had so many stories together I guess. Kind of strange but we became very good friends and all."

Though he's never seen her, Jarvis has often felt her presence. He believes Anna has gone so far as to enter his body.

He once accompanied a group of people up into the tower who were trying to connect with her ghost. They had with them two unfinished quilts that Anna was making when she died. Anna's great great niece placed the quilts on Jarvis as the group read Anna's obituary aloud.

"And the instant that that hit my shoulders, I can't explain the feeling but it sent me into total tremors. you know, get these off me get them off me get them off me. And it took me maybe 10 to 15 minutes to calm down. At that point I really didn't know what had happened. And what it was was, Anna was actually there in me, and they were reading her obituary in front of her. That was her that was actually doing the shaking and crying because she never knew she died."

Bob Jarvis says he knows how crazy this might sound. Before he began working at College Hall *he thought people who believed in paranormal experiences were nuts. But now he's changed his mind. Others who work in the building echo Bob's belief. They say they *have no choice but to believe in ghosts after spending time in the building. And Anna's not the only presence. There are reports of a long-ago murder in the tower and several people I spoke with feel something very dark and malevolent in the basement. Louise Crowley in the MFA program says it just makes sense to think that spirits are hanging around in such an old building.

(Louise Crowley) "People in this town at least who know that this is a long history on this campus, going back to Civil War times, you know, unless you're a real skeptic I think they accept for the most part that there very well might be a presence here from all of these people who lived here and had extraordinary experiences here at one time in their lives."

As for Anna, no one seems to mind having her around. And though it might seem sad that a ghost would be stuck for so many years, Katie Gustafson, who directs the MFA in writing for children and young adults, disagrees.

(Katie Gustafson) "If I was going to hang out someplace for over a hundred years the 4th floor of College hall is a very sweet place to be. I don't know. Maybe that doesn't feel like any time at all to her."

For VPR news, I'm Jane Lindholm


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