Paranormal activity on campus

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Photo by Alex DeBuhr

Constructed in 1907, Johnston Hall used to be the only building on campus which housed all the academics and the Jesuit residents. 

Marquette University. Just a normal campus, plain old buildings, nothing strange about it … right? Well, beyond the physical realm of brick and gothic architecture, something lurks in the shadows, something mystical, something bizarre, something paranormal. 

Anna Lardinois, author of “Milwaukee Ghosts and Legends” describes Marquette as, “one of Milwaukee’s most haunted locations.” 

Teeming with the supernatural, Marquette might have more going on than meets the eye. 

Constructed in 1907, Johnston Hall used to be the only building on campus which housed all the academics and the Jesuit residents. 

The rumor has it that there was a Jesuit who took his own life and still haunts Johnston to this day.

Grant Garinger, professor in the College of Communication and liturgical minister at Marquette, said he has heard stories from students about something looming in the halls. 

“What I have heard from students is that if they’re here late at night and they are coming around the corner on the fifth floor, they’ll see someone and they will look again and there is no one there,” Garinger said.

Garinger said he has never experienced anything during his time in Johnston but is not trying to discredit the stories of students.

Valentino Kadile, a junior in the College of Business Administration, has been a ghost hobbyist since the age of 14. He picked up an interest in ghost hunting from his mother but it was his father who told Kadile about the haunted campus. 

The Marquette Wire investigated Johnston Hall with Kadile Oct. 14 to see what we could find. 

The Escapade: 

We started on the fourth floor of Johnston, where we sat at a table in room 439 with an electromagnetic field detector resting between us.

An EMF detector is used for sensing electromagnetic waves that are emitted from electronic devices such as wires and radios, but it is also used by ghost hunters to detect spirits. 

“Obviously electronics give off that, so if you put your phone to it or by the TV, it is going to go off, and as humans, we have it too. But the whole science behind it, in the terms of ghost hunting, is that when ghosts or spirits have to talk they use energy from the earth to communicate,” Kadile said. 

Sitting around the table, we asked a series of questions such as, “Is there someone here with us?” and “Why are you still here?”  to arouse a response through a spike in the EMF detector or a sound response with an object in the room.

Other than a singular spike from the detector and a mysterious click which we deemed as a light switch, it was hard to tell if there was something that could solidify our suspicions. 

Looking for other locations to try in Johnston, we headed to the fifth floor. It is said that this is where the spirit resides, but there was no strong reading there either. So we headed to the basement for one final try, and it was there that something caught our attention.

An ID scanner went off randomly, which we didn’t hear from any point before or after. This was our best case for paranormal activity.

“I had a feeling that nothing crazy was going to happen,” Kadile said, “But for the time and doing just one building, you can get a lot of stuff or nothing. The lightswitch [fourth floor] was cool but the buzzer [basement] was the coolest, because how can you really explain that?” 

The Wire was not able to get access to Varsity Theater or Humphrey Hall after normal work hours.

Before it was a part of Marquette, Humphrey Hall was a children’s hospital. Garinger said students have reported sounds of children laughing and playing late at night. The basement of the building was the morgue for the hospital, which no one is allowed to enter now. 

Kate Gerdes, a first-year in the College of Engineering, lives in Humphrey and said whenever she accidentally hits the down button on the elevator in the lobby, someone will tell her not to go down there.

The Marquette Wire asked a manager for access to the basement of Humphrey Hall, but were turned away.

“Unfortunately, we do not permit tours for this reason at Humphrey Hall. If you have any additional questions, I would be happy to answer them,” Zach Reindel, residence hall director of Humphrey Hall, said. 

When inquiring about a follow-up interview on why we are not permitted, we were met with closed lips that were, “unable to complete an interview at this time.” 

“The morgue is there because when Marquette bought it, the city asked the university, ‘Please don’t take out the morgue in case there is a city-wide emergency, and we need somewhere to put extra bodies’ and the university has. So it’s a functioning morgue apparently, I’ve never seen it but in case of emergency it could be used,” Garinger said.

Gerdes said she doesn’t believe in ghosts but still has had some strange occurrences in her dorm.

“When I moved in, there was a dead rat under the sink. And our drawers never stay shut, but that is about it … I know other girls say that their lights go on and off, and their shower will be miraculously filled with water. I haven’t seen it, but those are the girls next to me,” Gerdes said.  

Johnny Mitra, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said although Milwaukee is a strange place, he does not give into the abnormality of ghosts on campus. 

“I personally don’t believe in ghosts or anything like that. I just think some bad things have happened, but that is just because Milwaukee can get a bit sketchy sometimes … that is just my theory,” Mitra said.

Mitra said seeing is believing and because he has not seen a ghost he does not believe in them. But going off campus he has checked out the Ambassador Hotel and Dahmer’s old apartment complex where he got feelings of uneasiness and discomfort. 

Kadile describes the feeling of being in the presence of a ghost as something like a charge of electricity.

“Your hair goes up, your body just feels different and you have the sense that something is there. It’s like when someone is staring at you, you can’t see it but you know it is happening,” Kadile said. 

Garinger said he spoke with a priest who assisted in an exorcism in Saint Louis, Missouri. Garinger said that one of the feelings the priest experienced during the exorcism was that it was incredibly cold.

“I mean feelings are probably the only thing I think is legitimate. Feeling that someone is in the room, or behind you or hearing is something, but beyond that I am not sure,” Garinger said.

Although these tales of ghosts and spirits may seem otherworldly, it might be going on late at night inside the haunted halls of Marquette’s Campus.

This story was written by Connor Baldwin, he can be contacted at [email protected]