Ghost stories are floating around about Nelson Hall. Some are rooted in truth, but some cannot be confirmed with hard evidence.
Despite stories of death and hauntings, many have grown fond of Nelson Hall. A lot has happened in 100 years. All of those events are encased in the walls.
Ryan Bottomley, the president of the History Club, gave his Philosophy of Death class a tour of the building on Oct. 28. Before he began speaking, the class, full of enthusiasm, excitement and a little bit of anxiety, crowded into the main room on the first floor.
Students chattered away about paranormal activity and what they had heard about the building. Bottomley began speaking and the crowd listened attentively to his stories.
Bottomley gathered stories from facility services whose main office is in Nelson Hall. Bottomley said a recent story was a facility services employee was cleaning a first floor bathroom and they noticed something peculiar in the window.
“They turned around as soon as they were leaving and noticed a clear imprint of a face and two hands against the window peering inside,”Bottomley said.
The window is significantly higher than the ground. Bottomley said there was no way someone could have climbed up to make the imprint. Students attempted to make an imprint of their hands on the frosted windows, but they were not successful in replicating what they saw in the photograph.
Bottomley said there have been deaths in the hall, but only one was confirmed. According to an old issue of The Pointer, Mary Penno, a student, passed away on Oct. 12, 1967 of natural causes.
Bottomley said there are rumors a girl jumped out of a third floor window after hearing her boyfriend died in World War II and a girl hanged herself in the third floor bathroom.
“It’s difficult because back then a lot of this stuff was not really spoken about,” Bottomley said.
Along with the class, Stevens Point Paranormal was there to conduct a small investigation. Valerie Kedrowski of Stevens Point Paranormal said nothing major came up while they were walking through the building, but it is all situational.
Spirits possess different personalities.
“Some personalities like being around people, but others are more inclined to come out when people are alone,” Kedrowski said.
Recently, asbestos in the stairwells was abated, and the original hardwood floors were exposed underneath the carpeting. Since the hall has housed so many people, custodial supervisor Joe Konopacky had an interesting take on the event.
“I guarantee people will hear the pitter-patter of the students who long ago walked up and down those stairs because it was disturbed,” Konopacky said.
Konopacky said that he has not experienced anything paranormal in Nelson Hall, but it all depends on the person and when they are there.
“Encounters with spirits are just luck of the draw,” Konopacky said.
University photographer Doug Moore has his office in the basement of Nelson Hall and has heard a couple stories.
“If you start buying into it, it becomes a reality, at least in your mind,” Moore said.
Moore said the creepiest place in Nelson Hall is the third floor bathroom. Moore said he knew a clairvoyant who went up to the third floor. The Clairvoyant said there is a spirit of a man who walks back and forth on the third floor 24 hours a day.
Professor Joshua Horn, the Philosophy of Death professor, said in terms of paranormal activity in Nelson Hall there are stories, but there is no empirical evidence to suggest it is haunted. Horn said that does not necessarily mean it is not haunted.
“It’s just like fishing,” Horn said. “We have a small sample of scientific evidence to evaluate. If you sit in a lake for ten minutes and do not catch any fish it does not mean there are no fish. You just have too small of a sample.”
Despite the alleged hauntings and deaths, the building houses a lot of history, and the people who have offices there have grown fond of it. Professor of Interior Architecture Kathe Julin said it was an all-female dormitory that opened in 1916 for Stevens Point Normal School.
Julin said in 1917 students had to move out because the Student Army Training Corps had to be housed there.
“Women who went to school had to knock on local’s doors in order to find a place to live while they were in school,” Julin said.
Two more wars came and forced students out in 1943 for World War II and in 1968 for the Vietnam War. Julin said while the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps occupied the hall, students protested outside of it in opposition to the war.
In 1971, Nelson Hall received an obsolescence report which meant it was going to be torn down.
“Many different students and departments used the building and became fond of it,” Julin said. “It has such character and is an attractive building.”
Julin said they fought to save the building and in 1999 the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation classified it as an endangered building, preventing it form being torn down.
Julin said Nelson Hall is the second oldest dormitory in the state. She said it has prairie design peppered with intricate classical details including dentals, shields and original Doric brass door knobs. Since the building is old, it has its fair share of wear and tear. Konopacky and Julin agreed if a little more effort was put into the building, it would really stand out.
Employees who find their home there are trying to do what they can to improve the hall. Konopacky said facility services employee Patti Bembenek shined all of the brass door knobs in the building because they were tarnished. Bembenek did this on her own time.
The history of Nelson Hall is documented, but many paranormal stories are open to interpretation. Whether documented or not, stories have a powerful impact on people.
“It is the stories that draw you back to the building,” Julin said.