The red brick walls of Laura J. Yeater Hall stand amongst the trees that surround its entrance. A single window pointing from its attic looks toward the center of campus.
Generations of college students at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg have whispered about a woman sometimes seen looking out from that window, a window inaccessible by the students who live there. Yeater Hall, they say, is haunted.
That’s what I was told more than 20 years ago when I was enrolled at the school – and students are still talking about it.
Yeater was built in 1940 and named after the former head of the college’s Latin and Greek department. While Yeater taught there, from 1901 to 1914, she pushed for women’s housing on campus. By 1940 she raised enough money to build the first the school’s first women’s dormitory.
Over the decades since Yeater’s death, many residents of the hall have reported mysterious footsteps, the sounds of moving furniture, blankets ripped off beds and strange lights. Maybe Yeater put so much of herself into the construction of the dormitory she couldn’t bear to leave.
I met director of residence and Greek life Alan Nordyke and custodial worker Carol Mullins at the entrance of Yeater Hall. It was late summer.
“It’s a very old myth that Laura Yeater, her ghost supposedly is here,” Nordyke said. “I’ve never heard any encounter that couldn’t be explained.”
Mullins, however, is more certain of the unexplained.
“Oh, there are ghosts,” she said. “The first three years (I worked here) I hadn’t experienced anything that would convince me that there were ghosts here. But there’ve been enough the past two years to convince me something’s here.”
Hard wood floors run through each room and windows look out on either a tree-lined path or a spacious courtyard. Banquets and dances were once held in the large rooms downstairs, and sororities lived on the upper floors.
But I wasn’t concerned with dances or sororities. I wanted to see the third floor where footsteps, scooting furniture and unexplained lights have been reported. A metal latch and padlock hold tight the entrance to the third floor. No one has lived there since Spring 2001.
“It’s closed because of electrical problems and the decline in occupancy,” Nordyke said as he open the lock with one of a very few keys on campus that open that door. “The only people who’d have access are employees. Students don’t have access.”
Some ceiling lights were on as we walked down a dusty hall lined with doors.
“I thought there were electric problems,” I said, pointing toward the lights.
“Some lights are left on,” Nordyke said.
On an abandoned floor with electrical problems?
Strange lights have been seen coming from the third floor of Yeater, such as lights in rooms 337 and 343 that occasionally come on after 10 p.m.
“The lights have been going on for 20 years,” Mullins said. “Nobody’s going to (play a joke) for 20 years.”
As we walked by room 337, I stopped and noticed the ceiling light was on.
“This shouldn’t be,” Nordyke said.
He switched the light off, blaming the light on maintenance workers, then we walked a few doors down to 343.
“The light comes on when no one is here,” Mullins said about room 343. “I had (another maintenance worker) lock the door and I duct taped the light switch. When I came back up the doors were still closed, but they were unlocked. When I went in, the duct tape was pried open to turn the light on.”
Finished, we turned to leave and, as we walked back by 337, we stopped. The light was on again.
We had been in full view of the only door into room 337, and no one had been in or out. I poked my head into the room – the light switch I had watched Nordyke turn off, was in the “on” position. No electrical problem could have caused that. Maybe Laura Yeater was just telling us she’s still around.
As we turned to leave the third floor, Mullins said, “Thank you, Laura,” as Nordyke padlocked the door shut again.
“There’s too many stories,” Mullins said. “Even though I love this building, sometimes it gives me the heebie jeebies.”
Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or email@example.com. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
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