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Scared to death
IU home to gaggle of ghastly hauntings
By Sam Nissen  | Indiana Daily Student | Monday, July 18, 2005

Danny Jackson entered Phi Kappa Tau on move-in day. He was the first pledge to move in -- no one else was in the house, unbeknownst to him. So, when he heard the sound of footsteps drudging down the stairs, he wasn't surprised.

Jackson approached the source of the sound, calling out "Who's there, who's there?," looking for his fellow house mates. He rounded the corner toward the stairs and the sound stopped. He saw nothing and froze. The touch of a hand rested on Jackson's shoulder sending him into a seizure. His brothers found him soon after and helped him to the Health Center. IU's haunted places

Or so the legend goes.

The Career Center, formerly the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house, is one of the many "haunted" places on campus, including the Indiana Memorial Union and Read dorm. As many as 45 percent of IU students might be inclined to believe the local legends according to a recent Gallup poll. The poll asked a sample of more than 1,000 Americans if they believed that "ghosts/spirits of dead people can come back."

Lynn Taylor, founder of the Association for Aerial Anomaly Research and Cataloging, believes the University possesses key qualities increasing the occurrence of tales of the occult.

" It all boils down to history," she said. "The more history there is, the more fertile the ground is for ghostly legends to take root and grow." She also said younger people possess open minds, but also "are more imaginative and subject to suggestion."

Geography, too, might lend to this paranormal "hot spot." Nearby military bases, bodies of water, sizeable populations and relative seclusion from other large cities add to the occurrences of sightings, Taylor said. Bloomington has all of these in the Crane Naval Surface Warfare base, Lake Monroe (and other lakes) and a population estimated at around 70,000. The nearest city of equal or greater size is Indianapolis whose downtown is approximately 52 miles from Bloomington's 3rd Street and Walnut Avenue.

Local stories range from the typical to the strange.

An all-black-clad forlorn mother is said to haunt the Monroe-Morgan County State Forest's Stepp Cemetery. The mother supposedly can be seen at full moon mourning the loss of her baby, also buried there. Stepp Cemetery is approximately 15 miles north of campus. It remains a popular stop for late-night visitors, though the high traffic has led to the defacing of many grave stones.

" It can also be a dangerous place," Taylor said. "We have found remnants of ritual practices that suggest people don't just visit that cemetery to mourn the dead. Be careful, one of the guys with us brought a gun, just in case."

A fundamentalist religious cult once called the secluded cemetery home. The Crabbites, the legend goes, claimed the ground early in the 20th century. Crabbites gained a reputation for unsavory sexual practices in the community.

" I've been there and it can be spooky in the woods at night," said Maggie Anaya, co-founder of Indiana Paranormal Investigators. But sightings, she said, are the domain of students looking for a thrill -- not ghost hunters like the IPI and others. "All the stories seem to come from teenagers who go there looking for a thrill, and are rarely disappointed."

The Career Center supposedly remains the haunt of children aborted there during a doctor's extended stay early in the building's history, among its other harrowing tales. The builder was supposedly driven to build the house in a fit of insanity and killed himself after completion -- just before the doctor moved in.

Skeptics of such ghost stories are not alone, though, neither are believers. An idsnews.com poll had believers at 47 percent as of time of print -- about equal to the Gallup data for believers 18 to 29.

Groups like the AAARC and the IPI have become shelters for dedicated believers. Anaya believes cultural misconceptions paint ghosts as evil and vindictive. "If ghosts really are the dearly departed, why would they want to scare us?"

IUPD Lt. Jerry L. Minger has heard some strange stories while with the force. But, he said, "weird things reported to IUPD are closer to reality than to the paranormal."

In his 33 years with IUPD, Minger said ghost sightings are prevalent among story tellers, not distressed callers. Students' study habits and demographics prevent students from sharing many ghoulish experiences, Minger said.

" Our officers have gotten some pretty strange stories from persons that have been arrested under the influence of drugs or alcohol," Minger said, "but I wouldn't attribute these sightings to a visit from 'the other side.'"