Beacon Vault: Wilkes campus abound with ghostly lore

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the Nov. 1, 2011 issue of The Beacon (Vol. 64, Issue 6). Each week, we’ll take a peek in the archives, looking back at historic points.

From shadowy specters to balls of light, the Wilkes campus of is alive with ghostly activity. From residence halls to academic buildings, there has been a fair share of ghost sightings and other paranormal phenomenon for years on campus.

Although he has never had an experience, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Paul Adams has heard many stories of ghosts on campus.

“I certainly have been with people who thought they have and have heard the lore over the years about different places where haunting have allegedly taken place,” Adams says.

Dr. Bill Lewis ‘80, vice president and wealth management advisor at Merrill Lynch, leads a ghost tour of downtown Wilkes-Barre around Halloween. His tour includes several buildings on campus, which are listed below.

Kirby Hall

Kirby is one of the best-known buildings on campus reported to be haunted. Built around 1875-1876, the building went through several hands before being purchased by Fred Morgan Kirby and his family in 1905. Prior to being purchased by the Kirbys, the second floor was a billiard room, where legend suggests that a player named Poker Pan was killed in the building. Lewis says there have been reports of shadows walking up and down the stairs and a stained glass window fogging up and other phenomenon.

“Doors have also opened and closed in there,” Lewis says.

Weckesser Hall

One of the largest and most grandiose buildings on campus, Weckesser was built by Fredrick J. Weckesser between 1914 and 1916 and has some of the most well-known haunts. According to the Fall 2009 edition of “Wilkes” magazine, a lady in red was spotted by a former employee.

The employee thought the lady was a real person until she turned her back and turned back to find that she had vanished. There have also been reports of lights moving around coming from the first floor, which used to be where the President’s office was located. Lewis says this may have something to do with Wilkes’ first president, Dr. Eugene Farley.

“People have seen a glowing light going up and down the stairs,” Lewis says. “During his later years as Chancellor, Dr. Farley was unable to move around and would have to hoist himself to get up the stairs, so (the light) might be Dr. Farley going up to his meetings.”

Max Roth Center

A shower on the second floor is said to turn itself on. People who hear the sound of the shower running have had to turn it off.

Roth Hall

Formerly known as Chesapeake and Delware Halls, Roth was built in the 1870’s. Lewis says that girls that living there would complain on Sunday morning about someone singing and couldn’t figure out who it was. Lewis also tells a particularly chilling experience one girl had.

“While drying her hair in her room alone, she felt someone repeatedly tap her on the back,” Lewis says. Later research by Lewis indicated a First Baptist Church stood on the site.

Adams says one of the stories he heard over the years has to do with a little girl in a party dress appearing at the ends of beds in Roth.

Sturdevant Hall

The most well-known haunted residence hall, there have been reports of vacuums and computer printers turning on and a cold room. Director of Residence Life Elizabeth Swantek says one RA had the fright of her life in the hall in 2006.

“A female RA was in the building during a low occupancy period. She said she woke up to go to the bathroom and all the doors were ajar,” Swantek says. “She called Public Safety to see if anyone was in there and they said no. It happened a couple of times to her on the third floor.”

Junior accounting and business administration major John Sweeney is one of the current RA’s in Sturdevant who has his fair share of ghostly activity in the building.

“I’ve smelled the strong smell of cigars a couple times this year and there have been times where we’ve heard furniture moving around in rooms that aren’t occupied,” Sweeney said. “Sometimes lights will just turn off for no reason.”

Rifkin Hall

Originally the home of Col. Robert Bruce Ricketts, Lewis says people have heard metal clanking moving through the halls.

“The sound is like metal hitting metal,” Lewis says.

Conyngham Hall

The building that is now Conyngham Hall was built for William H. Conyngham. Lewis says two Public Safety officers were locking up the building. They heard a woman laughing upstairs but when they went to go look for her, they couldn’t find her anywhere. Even now, work-study students still get brushes with the paranormal.

“A couple work-study students in there have gone through on the third floor shutting off lights and they’ll go down to the second floor to shut off lights and get ready to leave and find the lights on the third floor have come back on,” Sweeney says.

Pearsall Hall 

Lewis says some nursing faculty doesn’t like to be in the building after dark because of noises they have heard.

Weiss Hall

The site that is now Weiss Hall was where the Wilkes-Barre sign post stood in the 1700’s. Lights have been reported going on and off and shadows have been seen moving around.

Although the idea of ghosts in academic buildings and residence halls might be frightening, they are popular around Halloween. Ghost tours of campus, some student-led, are common occurrence during Halloween.