The Many Ghosts of UVA
The University of Virginia is a popular college for ghosts and is considered of the most haunted in the US. Otherworldly sightings have been reported in many areas of the educational institution. After you read about the many ghosts of UVA, you may discern this one of the most haunted places in Charlottesville.
Many people pass through colleges and universities – leaving not only ghosts behind but also residual energy. Some strange occurrences in these hallowed hauls could be connected to people who didn’t even die there.
The University’s History
UVA was founded in 1819 by the author of the Declaration of Independence and former president Thomas Jefferson. It is a public research university, where the main focus in the curriculum is to research. It’s known for its secret societies, historical foundations, and ghosts.
If you speak to someone who has worked at the university or attended classes there, there’s a chance they can recite at least one of these ghost stories to you.
A Look at the Many Ghosts of UVA
There are so many ghosts roaming the halls and buildings of UVA that it helps to break the stories down into categories – be it by ghost or by which rooms they’re haunting. From the doctor in the library to the smells at Stiff Hall, here are the spookiest tales connected to UVA.
The Ghosts in the Library
Alderman Library is home to a few ghosts. The sightings that have been reported are from a couple of different areas – from a ghost spotted in the stacks to one spending time in the Garnett Room.
The ghost in the stacks appears as an elderly gentleman who spends his late nights dusting the books in the library. Because the library homes Dr. Bennett Wood Green’s much-loved book collection, some people believed it is he who is seen taking such gentle care to keep the books dust-free.
One reason why people believe Dr. Green is the ghost is that his book collection was originally located in the Rotunda, and the ghost originally was spotted there – a short man with a gray beard. Once the books were moved to the Alderman Stacks, the ghost followed along.
Not only has the ghost of Dr. Green been seen, but he’s often heard as well. After midnight, when the library is closed, there are strange footsteps, odd sounds, and the feeling of a presence within the library. Obviously, these sightings and feelings have been reported by people working in the library.
There’s also reportedly a ghost in the library’s Garnett Room. This ghost also seems to have a connection to a set of donated books – in this case, books from the room’s namesake. The family of Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett donated a collection of books. Some believe that it may be a family member of the Garnett’s, while others think the ghost is that of a physician who once visited the Garnett’s home in Fredericksburg.
The gentleman showed great interest in the book collection when he visited, and it’s said that the man took care of the books after the family abandoned their home after the Civil War. He loved those books so much that it seems he felt a paranormal drive to continue looking after them even after his death.
The Stinky Story of Stiff Hall
The ghosts in the UVA library a quiet, as you’d expect of library ghosts, but some of the hauntings in this collage are far more sinister – and stinky. The Anatomical Laboratory is known as Stiff Hall, and it has some strange smells that have gone unexplained for years. As a laboratory, strange smells are common – but most of those smells can be traced back to where they’re coming from. Some of the smells at stiff haul come from seemingly nowhere.
The strange smells date back to 1924 when someone wrote a letter to a local newspaper complaining about the offensive odors coming from the anatomical library. In the note, the person mentions that the smell was so rotten that it attracted a flock of scavenger birds that were seen circling the building.
Stiff Hall has an even older history of being a spooky place to visit. It’s believed that as part of the initiation process for fraternities at UVA, students were sent into Stiff Hall to perform acts meant to spook them – like pulling a corps from the vat and reciting Poe’s The Raven to it.
The Ghost of About Which Poe Wrote
Speaking of Edgar Allen Poe, there’s a story tied to the gothic author and poet as well. Poe was a student at UVA. Room 13, at 13 West Range, is dedicated to the author, who either stayed in or near that room during his attendance.
Perhaps Poe witnessed a ghost in that room while he stayed there, though there are no recorded events from that particular spot. The reason the room gets a mention is the “ghost” of a poghem reportedly written by Poe. It was etched into a window pain and is no longer there. It read:
O Thou timid one, do not let thy
Form slumber within these
For herein lies
The ghost of an awful crime.
There’s speculation that Poe wrote this about an actual ghost, but perhaps he wrote it about himself. He has to leave the college when he ran out of money. Penniless and distraught, the awful crime may have been his own failure.
The Romance Pavilion Ghosts
Pavilion VI is known as the Romance Pavilion and has some tragically romantic ghosts stories attached to it. There are two main stories, one which is disputed as being made up simply to give the pavilion its romantic nickname.
One of the ghosts reportedly lurking around this pavilion is that of a professor from the mid-1800s. The man died while enjoying the pavilion with his wife, and she didn’t want to leave the spot, so she propped him up in a chair by one of the windows. To anyone looking in, he seemed to be enjoying a res – but, for a month, his wife was changing his clothes and disclosing his death.
While one would think the smell of a rotting corpse would draw attention, apparently it didn’t. As romantic as it was of the professor’s wife to not want to let go of her husband postmortem, the next story is a little more romantic.
A professor’s daughter fell for a student at UVA in the 19th century. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t approve of the union and told her to end things. The young woman was so distraught over losing her love and not having the approval of her parents that she died of a broken heart, leaving her ghost behind to haunt the pavilion.
One historian for the school said that this last story was made up – only a fictional tale to explain the nickname given to the pavilion or a better story for its name than the truth. The thing is, the pavilion got its name because it was the location for a class on romantic languages for multiple decades.
The Cemetery at UVA
There’s a plot of land between Alderman and McCormick roads that has been a burial spot for bodies since the 1700s. The plot of cemetery land was purchased by the university in 1825 and became known as the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium.
In the 19th century, medical schools weren’t allowed to obtain deceased human bodies for teaching purposes legally – you couldn’t be in possession or dissect bodies. Because this was relied upon in medical classes to learn about human anatomy and to learn things like how to perform autopsies, the school had to get bodies in other ways.
Bodies were purchased on the black market – and those bodies came from the act of grave robbing. The UVA cemetery was one of those cemeteries often robbed of the dead. Once it became legal to use cadavers, the grave robbing stopped.
While there are no reports of ghosts roaming the cemetery, there’s a chance that something sinister still lurks there, angry at past grave disturbances. Or, perhaps it’s the graveyard’s location to the school that brings the other ghosts roaming the halls and pavilions to “life.”
UVA is one of Charlottesville’s most haunted places and is also one of America’s most haunted universities. The connection to Edgar Allen Poe, the cemetery on campus, and the strange smells all add to the creepiness.