Is UND Haunted?

A look inside the paranormal activity on campus

Olga Kopp, Arts & Community Writer

“When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers ‘tis near Halloween.”


Halloween is coming in less than a week, and this means that it is time for spooky stories. Luckily for all of you, we have some stories that will blow you away.


Last Friday, people had a chance to visit the UND Ghost Tour which was organized by UND History Club which shared  incredible haunted stories ever happened on the UND campus.


According to the UND website, the UND History Club is a society whose mission is to promote interest in history through the encouragement of the exchange of ideas, community and research. It is a relatively young club which holds a mission to bring all students and community together to remember and appreciate our history. They are working a lot towards saving the original history of places, buildings, and monuments at UND and in Grand Forks, ND.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

The Ghost Tour was one of the historical mission projects to keep history of UND alive. 


Overall, there are 30 members of UND history club, with 15 members who participate regularly. There are four main officers: Aaron Bosh is President, Alexandria Weber is Vice President, Brittney Chonto is Secretary and Jacob Rumpza is Treasurer. 


“This is our second year as a club because we reinstated it in the previous fall. We picked up a lot more membership, especially this year,” said Chonto.


Many of you probably heard some information about haunted dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses at UND. UND history club decided to go further and make a thorough research about haunted house stories.


On Friday, the Ghost Tour started at Wilkerson Dining Center. We were walking on UND campus from building to building while listening frightful stories from UND history club members about haunted buildings at UND.


Alexandria Weber is a vice president of UND history club. She did her best while she was researching the information about haunted stories at UND. 


“We began the idea of this project last spring and we’ve been doing research ever since. We started the intense research at the beginning of this semester since an August,” Weber said. “We went up to the archives in Chester Fritz library special collections. We did a lot of research about the history of actual buildings in the archives, and we also found the articles that were written previously about ghost stories on campus.”


On this Ghost Tour, UND history club presented haunted stories about 9 buildings on UND campus: West Hall, Gamma Phi Beta, Walsh Hall, J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center, Burtness Theater, Davis Hall, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Gustafson Hall. Now, when you know the names of these buildings, be aware of these haunted houses when making your decision where to live on campus. 


It is everyone’s choice to believe in these stories or not but the fact remains. There were continuous stories passing by students and workers throughout many years about these houses. Thus, maybe there is a chance of the existence of something paranormal at UND campus. 


One of these stories took us back to 1918, during the midst of World War I. There was an influenza pandemic, which infected 500 million people, and then made its way to Grand Forks. The flu struck campus in October, and lasted seven weeks. On October 9, UND was placed under quarantine. Gustafson Hall was turned from the National Student Army Training Corps into a temporary infirmary to house the rapidly increasing sick patients. However, the University was unprepared. Gustafson lacked bed sheets, toiletries, and doctors. In all, 320 of the 470 student trainees on campus fell ill. 3,000 Grand Forks residents fell sick. The city was on stand still until the influenza passed, as schools, theaters and other businesses were closed. 29 people died at UND, 10 to 12 of them within the tiny infirmary of Gustafson Hall. 


Since then, there were many weird incidents at Gustafson Hall. On April 29, 1963, the body of 19-year-old Private Dale A. Howes was found in a coat room on the first floor. At the time, the Hall was being used as Phi Delta Theta’s house. Howes had been partying with friends the night before. He complained he was feeling unwell, so he went to lie down in his car. He passed out, and at 4:30 a.m., his friends went back to the frat house, then got a bite to eat and left Howes in the car. At 5 a.m., they placed a still alive Howes in the tiny coatroom, and went to bed. At 10 a.m., Donald Mikkelson went to retrieve his coat from the closet when he found the body. Howes likely died of acute alcohol poisoning.

Staff who work in Gustafson hall have seen their fair share of ghostly apparitions. They even have named the ghost, “Gus.” Several employees over the years have commented on the benevolent spirit “hanging around” the workplace. Lynette Krenelka, a UND faculty member who has been working in the building since the early 2000’s, told UND history club her experience. 

“She was working on her dissertation late into a Sunday evening back in 2003. She was alone. Suddenly, she felt something touch the back of her neck. She had heard noises, like weird creaks, doors opening, and felt strange presences before. But it never unnerved her like this did,” Chonto said. “She suddenly heard furniture being violently pushed around on the floor above her. Lynette ran from the building, and never stayed there late at night again.”

According to Lynette, about 20 years ago, a custodial worker was cleaning the building late at night. He put on his radio as he worked, and left it on the first floor. As he was emptying some garbage on the second floor, his radio lost its signal, and went to static. Confused, he went downstairs, and saw a young man standing with his back turned to him, next to the radio. The custodian said ‘hello’ to the man, and asked if he was looking for something. He watched in horror as the boy faded away and disappeared. The custodian left immediately, switched buildings, and refused to return to Gustafson Hall.

“I think that one of the best and the most believable story is Gustafson’s story. It just have the most history. I swear, every single person I talked to who has worked there has a story. There is something going on in there,” Weber said.


Another hair-raising story was in Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The fraternity worked to officially have a chapter at UND throughout the 1910’s, and was founded in 1923. This fraternity is located on Hamline Street behind Sigma Chi. On October 16, 1971, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon caught fire. Two students, Pamela Sturn and Tony Stein died in the fire. It is believed that Pam’s ghost lingers in the house. She is believed to watch over women who stay in the house, and can be seen in hallway mirrors. Tony is believed to haunt the basement where he perished while trying to escape the fire. Members of the fraternity still get eerie feelings when going to the basement at night. One member ran down to get a sandwich when a thirty-pound cupboard unhinged itself and slammed against the wall. Other noises are heard from the basement at night as well.


It would be a mistake to not include the Burtness Theatre haunted story. Many people are visiting this place without knowing that theatre is haunted. 


“There have been sightings of three separate ghosts at the Burtness Theater. Two are considered “unhappy spirits”, and the third is a friendlier ghost named Stu. Stu is believed to be the ghost of a UND student who died in the 70s,” Weber said. “The boy was known by his friends to be quite a handyman, especially with electrical issues. Stu loved the theatre, and would always be called to repair broken things in the Burtness. Since he died broken things will be miraculously fixed, even without a visit from maintenance.” 

Another spirit, that of a woman, is often seen wandering backstage in long Victorian dresses. Her story is mostly hearsay. She is said to have lived in the dorms during the early years of the college, and passed away in the area where the Burtness was built. She now unhappily haunts the theatre. The third spirit is that of a hobo who died inside the theatre. He resides in the pit of the stage, and is often blamed for ominous piano playing in the middle of the night.

Often, students will see unauthorized people backstage who vanish into thin air. Lights turn on and off with no one touching the switch. The later it gets, the creepier the Burtness becomes. The pipes whisper sounds at night.

It turns out that J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center is a haunted house too. Stories have circulated for half a century of a little Dutch girl who haunts the building. She is said to haunt the third floor ballroom. Strange noises are heard at night, like footsteps. 

“One staff member accidentally locked themselves in in 1996. Stuck inside, they heard metal clothes hangers clanging together in the closets. They managed to break out of the back door, and would never make that mistake again,” Rumpza said.

One of the most infamous buildings on campus, West hall is said to be haunted by a few ghosts. Once an all-male dorm, West Hall is curiously haunted by a girl. Since the 1960’s, a floating girl with short black hair has been seen in the tunnels connecting West Hall to the Wilkerson Dining Center. Sometimes, she has been reported to be missing her legs.

“In December of 1962, a young woman froze to death in a blizzard. She was 60 feet from West Hall when she perished by slipping on some ice. This was before the tunnels had been constructed. Walking in those tunnels at night, people report strange noises, and unsettling presence,” Weber said.

West hall also has a peculiar entity haunting its elevator. A goat haunts the fourth floor. It has been seen kicking trash cans, and jumping into the elevator. On the bright side, after seeing the goat, the elevator begins to run smoothly, good as new.

Gamma Phi Beta has also seen some paranormal activity. Gamma Phi Beta has been home to hundreds of girls over the years, including a girl named Clara. 

“Clara’s true identity is unknown, but she is somehow associated with the early founding of the sorority. Mysterious occurrences have been blamed on Clara, and a few sightings occurred. A dancing girl has been seen over spring break, accompanied by a green glow. Electrical anomalies occur often. Once, all the alarm clocks in the building went off at once, even though they were set to different times. Numbers on the digital clocks would change, as if someone was resetting the time. The TV would turn on and off, especially during meetings. Same with computers and printers. Decorations and pictures are also often gently taken off the wall and placed on the floor,” Weber said. 

Although most girls don’t see Clara as dangerous or scary, they would prefer not to be alone with her. Clara is known to be aggressive towards boys who stay in the house. Once, a boyfriend was staying over. The couple was watching a movie when they heard footsteps. They were quiet at first, then got louder, until they were stomping. The boyfriend went upstairs to investigate, and saw no one. Then, all five doors on the third floor slammed shut at the same time. Clara has not been sighted as often since the flood of 1997.

Many of these stories were mentioned throughout many years. It is your choice to decide whether these are true stories or just fiction. Do not be surprised, however, if you meet one of mentioned ghosts. 

UND history club members are working hard to learn valid information and educate others about UND history.

“Our goal is to preserve UND’s history because a lot of times, some historical buildings going down, and we kind of losing the history everytime places getting remodeled. It is important for us to keep the history of buildings and places alive, so students and employees can learn and enjoy the history. We want people to get interested in history,” Weber said. “There is something for everyone with our club, you can just come to our meetings, let us know what you are interested in, and we will make it happen.”

If you have any interest in UND history and history in general, come and join UND history club. You can follow them on twitter @undhistoryclub, or contact Aaron Bosh via email: [email protected].