It happened in November. One particularly cold, dark night, Nathalie Staiger sat alone in the library. Closing time was drawing near, and the final stragglers were beginning to head home for the evening. The reference section soon stood dead, but unfortunately, there was still work to be done.
Books piled around her, Nathalie struggled to concentrate on her research. But suddenly, the floor creaked. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a man standing in front of her desk. As she raised her eyes, the figure seemed to take a step to the right, but when Nathalie looked up, he was gone. This phantom would reappear and vanish twice more that evening.
Founded in 1872, Saint Peter’s University has an undeniably long history. Nathalie’s story is only one of many accounts of supposed paranormal activity reported by students across campus. Ghosts from the school’s past seem to have taken up permanent residence in practically every corner of the institution.
One such corner is the Roy Irving Theatre.
“If you go there late at night, there’s a telephone not connected to anything that just rings randomly,” senior James Palma said.
Senior Scott Miller has experienced this phenomenon firsthand.
“The ghost phone in the theatre is an old phone that is on the stage that isn’t connected to a line,” Miller explained. “Once, while waiting around on the last day of a performance, another actor and I heard a ringing. Thinking it was the other’s phone, neither of us in initially questioned it.”
But the eerie truth of the situation soon became clear.
“It kept ringing. We finally found out what it was, but we dared not answer the phone. We’re not horror movie stupid.”
Other unexplained events in the theatre include doors opening and closing by themselves and lights flickering on and off, said Miller.
“I was in the theater one night, and the back doors were locked, but you kept hearing someone pushing them,” one anonymous student said. “And the music we were listening to turned off by itself. And the lights kept flickering. They flickered off like twice.”
But the campus’s real paranormal hotspots seem to be its residence halls, and almost every building has particular stories and legends associated with it. However, the building that students tend to mention first is Saint Peter Hall.
This past summer, resident assistant Jon Mas moved into a room in the building supposedly inhabited by a female apparition. But, according to Mas, the mirror which she purportedly haunted had already been removed by the time he arrived.
“The only thing that kind of stands out were these weird bruises that I got on my leg, close by my left knee, that seemed to be three scratches,” he said. “It eventually turned into one big blotchy bruise, but it definitely appeared to be three scratches in the beginning.”
Similar marks appeared on his elbow.
“I honestly don’t know how I got those bruises,” he explained. “But as a joke I claim it as the work of the ghost, but who knows?”
Other tales from Saint Peter Hall include otherworldly voices heard on the building’s upper floors.
“When it’s really dark, some nights you can hear laughing. Some nights, you can hear crying,” senior Eric Stout said. “Boys hear laughing, girls hear crying. I have no idea if that’s true, but I’ve heard about it.”
Unexplained sounds also occur in Durant Hall, according to Stout.
“If you wake up really early and go down to the basement, you can always hear someone saying your name in Durant,” he explained. “It’ll be quiet as hell, and you’ll just hear someone faintly say your name.”
“I was folding my clothes in my room, and I heard like a knocking coming from the kitchen,” resident Meedelie Simeon said. “I knew I was by myself in the apartment, and I went to look just in case someone had come in without me noticing. No one was there.”
The cellars of 140 Glenwood Ave. also have their share of ghostly noises.
“If you’re down really early by yourself, you’ll hear screaming. Like someone really close in the room with you,” senior Daryl Greene said. “I’m a commuter, and I hear all the legends.”
And along with her experience in the library last year, sophomore Nathalie Staiger reports odd occurrences in Veteran’s Memorial Court.
“In the small room right in front of the computer room, there was a chair facing the wall of a small nook where the ceiling slanted down to the floor,” she explained. “The chair was rocking back and forth slowly, and nothing was in the chair. I got out of that room quick!”
Even the more modern residence halls abound with accounts of the supernatural.
According to James Palma, an inexplicable handprint appeared on a wall in Murray Hall this past summer.
“It was on the upper portion of the wall. It was the size of a guy’s hand in a female’s room.”
Sophomore Amanda DiMauro lived in Whelan Hall last year, and her primary complaint remains inexplicable footsteps above her dorm room.
“On the fourth floor of Whelan, me and my roommate used to hear footsteps above us,” she explained. “The only problem was we were on the fourth and final top floor. We heard footsteps usually in the middle of the night that would wake us up.”
And she is not the only one to make this claim.
“We heard people upstairs jumping around. We were on the fourth floor,” former Whelan Hall resident Ayonnah Garcia said.
“My mom even came to stay the night one night, not having any knowledge that we heard these strange footsteps, and she woke up the next morning asking if I was sure there wasn’t a floor above me because she heard a lot of banging and movement,” DiMauro remarked.
DiMauro also recounted an odd event experienced by her roommate.
“She was in front of the mirror doing her makeup when all of a sudden she heard really heavy breathing in her ear,” DiMauro said. “So she turned around quickly to see if it was me or someone there, but I was still sleeping and there was no one else in the room with us.”
Naturally, the land on which the University now stands has its own long history. Wealthy banker and manufacturer Edward F. C. Young helped fund a children’s home at Glenwood Ave., according to NJCU’s Jersey City: Past and Present website.
And according to the website, Young’s own estate, where he died in 1908, began on Kennedy Blvd. and extended down Glenwood Ave. toward Westside Ave. It would have been where the school now stands.
But attaching names to haunts remains a difficult task, and for now, students continue to approach the subject with joking caution.
“It is too elaborate of a hoax to be tricks all the time, and some things may be explained by the age of the theater,” Scott Miller said of his own experiences. “But everything? Well, I haven’t taken any chances.”