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URI Ghost Hunting Team shares campus tales, stories of supernatural encounters

By Lance San Souci
On October 28, 2011

Reports of paranormal activity at the University of Rhode Island seem to be as abundant as Snooki impersonators on Halloween.  This ghost activity, however, is not seasonal.

With its rich history, URI is central to many ghost stories, including that of Sandra who haunts the house Chi Omega  (Chi-O) calls home.   Stories of her presence continue today, explained President of URI's Ghost Hunting Team David Kelvey.

"[Chi Omega sisters] have reported lights going on and off," he said.  "There are definitely ghosts at URI."

According to urban legend, Sandra was a Chi-O sorority sister who died in a tragic car accident in the 1970s.  It is said she haunts the new member room because that room is always cold, regardless of how warm the weather is.

"When girls bring guys back, [Sandra] will appear to them but not the sisters," Kelvey said of Sandra's protective qualities.

Other reported appearances by Sandra include a sighting of her standing near the fire escape at the end of the third floor.  This floor is also rumored to have its windows and doors open and close on their own, Kelvey said.

Other Greek houses appear to be haunted as well.  Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity is reportedly home to a ghost some have said is named Abigail, Kelvey assured.

Abagail is said to be the daughter of a former 19th century Rhode Island governor who rented the house at 29 Old North Road during the summer.  Depending on the version of story, Abigail, for some reason, hanged herself in the narrow stairwell, fell or, worse yet, pushed down the staircase.

In older URI press releases, there are stories of scattered handprint stains on the stairwell and the word "HELP" appearing.   Apparently, the wall has been painted numerous times, but the word "HELP" always bleeds through.

According to a history of the property compiled by URI professor William Turnbaugh, no governor owned the property in the 1800s, but a counterfeiter who was nearly hanged did.  A copy of this history can be found in the URI Library's Special Collections section.

According to Turnbaugh's compilation, Elizabeth LeMoine Miller purchased the property in 1910 and tore down the house to build a summer home.  In 1936 her son sold the house and its land to Lambda Chi Alpha, a fraternity that first occupied the house in 1964.

Though these claims may seem a bit bizarre, Kelvey is sure that ghost activity at URI is more than likely.

For example, he related a story about paranormal activity in East Hall, a former early-20th century residence hall.  Kelvey said while investigating the hall one day last year, the Ghost Hunting Team heard loud thumping noises resonating from the third floor.

"We were talking and heard a bang," he said, adding that there are always suspicious occurrences within that particular hall.  "I tested doors and objects and found that a filing cabinet on the third floor ended up sounding like the bang."

Kelvey is unsure if the banging was caused by natural or supernatural forces.

He added the Will Theater of the Fine Arts Center has continually been recognized as a little shop of horrors as well.  Kelvey said it is reported that years ago, a teacher was setting up for classes late one night when he heard a door close.  This teacher, he said, felt a coldness that night.

"The reason for cold spots is that the spirits and entities take heat from the areas around them, making a cold spot," Kelvey explained.

Kelvey, who uses EMF detectors, digital thermometers, Infra-red cameras and other high-tech items to spot supernatural activity, said there are a number of places in and around campus that have unusual activity.  Despite this equipment picking up false signals at times-- such as the high EMF readings in Ranger Hall which can be attributed to improper wiring of the elevator rather than ghost presences --he said ghost hunting is still an enjoyable experience. 

He said though ghost hunting is "fun," one should be careful because "you never know what you're dealing with."

Just ask some residents of Adams Hall, particularly those who trained as Resident Advisors over the summer.

Kelvey said this past summer he heard of paranormal experiences in the hall in which doors would become blockaded.  He said this is bizarre because blockading a room with sealed windows and no other doors means the perpetrator would have no way of escaping.

Likewise, Kelvey said he has a friend living in Adam's Hall who awake with a girl's face next to hers, despite her roommate being away at that time.  Like others, Kelvey said she may have experienced the "fear cage," or anxiousness and paranoia, often associated with paranormal experiences.

From a spiritual perspective, however, these occurrences may not seem so odd.  Kelvey explained that souls tend to become attached to places they have spent a lot of energy in their physical life.

"When you put energy into something, it causes an attachment since you're there so much," he said, adding that it makes sense that ghosts would attach themselves to Greek houses or dormitories because of the amount of time individuals spend in them.

Kelvey added may be why the older buildings on campus, such as those around the quadrangle or URI's oldest structure, the Oliver Watson House, are generally the center of ghost stories.  No matter how "fun" ghost hunting may be, he said one should still be careful of such encounters, especially at a place with such a colorful history as URI.

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