Fearsome Phantoms Lurking in the Ivy ...

Haunted Harvard

They don't put it in the admissions brochure.

Like any self-respecting 350-year-old institution, Harvard has a long and illustrious history of spooks, specters and scary spirits. But just try getting any information about them from University bureaucrats.

It was a ghost of a time.

Harvard's ghosts are something of a secret among the powers that be, apparently, which should come as no surprise. Administrators don't want to go on record talking about things science can't explain. Like the tenure process, and the housing crunch, and the food. Of course, they stand to lose a great deal if they appear ridiculous in print.

A lot of them say that aside from a few skeletons in the closet, they've never heard anything about ghosts at Harvard. But The Crimson has learned differently. Much differently.

From the tower of Memorial Hall to the basement of a nearby church, and from the oldest dormitory to the oldest house in Cambridge, Harvard is the hub of legend and supernatural activity for miles around.

Eighteenth century alumni revisiting their dorm rooms. Old professors wandering the stacks. Revolutionary War veterans retracing their steps. Harvard's got' em all, reliable sources say.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Thank heaven for Thomas E. Crooks '49, special assistant to the dean of the faculty, who puts propriety aside and speaks freely about Harvard's resident ghouls. Crooks says he has seen lots of ghosts since he returned to his alma mater as an administrator at the end of the Korean War.

"Every time I see one, I forget it right away," Crooks says. "It's such a traumatic experience that I erase it from my mind at once."

But he remembers enough to talk about one ghost who used to lurk at the northeast corner of University Hall. Since the old pine tree there was cut down two years ago, the ghost has not been seen.

Holden Chapel, which he says was the first cadaver room of the Harvard Medical School, also abounds with ghosts. "And in Massachusetts Hall," he says, "there are a couple of ghosts who are passing as people."

"One time I found a pizza on John Harvard's lap," says Crooks. "Who on earth would want to feed him?" The veteran administrator also reports seeing jack o'lanterns hanging from the gargoyles atop the tower of Memorial Hall. "How in God's name did those pumpkins get up there? I've heard tales that one of our mountaineering boys who passed on might have done it, but of course I don't have proof."

He also spoke of an owl who has apparently been lurking in the Yard for "literally hundreds of years," and to this day occasionally disturbs other birds near University Hall. "He survives by eating transformed wrong examination answers," Crooks says. What are they transformed into?

"Pigeons," he says. "Pigeons are ghosts, too." Of course.