By Steph Haeg
Is Stella Maris haunted? Does a drowned woman leave wet footprints on the floor of the Great Hall? Was a Sister so holy that snow refused to fall on her grave? CSB and SJU are haunted by ghosts—or at least the stories of them. The SJU Archives has a great collection of these stories and sometimes their origins. And what better time of year to explore the other side than Halloween?
Every year brings some student who claims that their dorm room is haunted, but few of those stories stick around. Other tales last for generations, and there is supposedly a ghostly monk in the woods, who helps lost students find their way back to campus. Generally agreed to be friendly, some warn that he does try to encourage Johnnies to join the monastery.
Sister Annella Zervas was supposed to be incredibly holy during her lifetime
having possessed the ability to heal the sick. Her ghost is said to haunt the Monastic Cemetery in St. Joseph, providing friendly council to distressed Bennies. She manifests as a little white cloud over her grave at night, so it might be worth a look.
Have classes in the Main Building this semester? Keep an eye out for the ghost of an old Bennie from the first years of the college. Back when the Main had been a dorm, the Bennie had fallen sick, and no one came to check on her. Supposedly, the room was bricked up (twice! They apparently opened it in 1960, believing the ghostly threat to be over, only to brick it up again soon after) to stop the spirit from getting out.
Another Sister who died young was supposedly so holy that snow refused to fall on her grave site for years. This continued for several years, confusing everyone, as the plot was in the center of the cemetery, and all surrounding graves were covered in snow.
If you hear strange bells on a foggy night at St. John’s, it might be the bells of the
Stella Maris Chapel. Some enterprising students might know that there aren’t bells in Stella Maris, but that never stops ghosts. The story goes that a monk was taking the bells across the lake in a boat when his boat tipped over. He drowned, and the bells were lost with him. But he must have finished the job in the afterlife, as plenty of people have reported hearing him ringing the bells of
Stella Maris at midnight.
Not all of the ghosts are human either. Towards the beginning of St. John’s, there was apparently a campus bear. Teased by a student, the bear turned feral and mauled the student to death. The monks killed the bear, but years later, plenty of people would swear they saw the bear, known as Murro, chasing the student through the woods.
One of the most popular stories on campus, however, is the story of the vengeful mother. After her son, a monk, died in the construction of the Great Hall, the woman flew into a rage, blaming the Abbot. She drowned shortly after, and she’s said to haunt the campus, leaving wet footprints in her wake.
Many of these stories are made up. Fr. Hillary Thimmesh is one confessed creator of ghost tales, and he’s only one of several. Nevertheless, knowing that the stories aren’t real has never seemed to stop people from telling them. It certainly doesn’t stop me.