It seems fitting to be writing this post on Halloween Eve sitting in one of the most haunted places on campus to write about the various hauntings and creepy history that originates and continues to occur at Mary Baldwin University. The university was founded in 1842, originally as the Augusta Female Seminary, and exists in Staunton, Virginia. Staunton is a city with its own dark history with locations like the old Western State Hospital, the Augusta County Courthouse, and Trinity Church. Each place with its own thrilling history and while Mary Baldwin may not be a stop on the ghost tours that kick up during the Halloween season, it has its own fair share of ghost stories and sightings.
The most chilling stories passed around campus come from the McClung residence hall. From 1869-1871, Mary Julia Baldwin, whom the university is named after, lived in The Brick House, a building she took up residence in when she became an administrator of the Augusta Female Seminary during the Civil War. In 1910, architects built around the already existing Brick House to build what is now the McClung Residence Hall. For quite a few years, McClung stood with a brass plate listing Mary Baldwin’s name and the dates of her birth and death, but no one knew why.
Mary Baldwin College Bluestocking 1942.
Until 1998, when a renovation of the building revealed the original walls and flooring of The Brick House within the newer building. It was a solved mystery and revealed that the room was Mary Baldwin’s, and it continues to stand as a room for students to reside in. Now Mary Baldwin herself suffered a fever when she was young that ultimately paralyzed and twisted the left side of her face permanently because of this she did not allow any portraits or photographs to be taken of her, it’s also said that she did not allow mirrors. Students who live or have lived in McClung in these past years have reported quite a bit of ghostly and paranormal activity, especially from within Mary Baldwin’s room that still shares the walls of the original building she resided in. Students have said that they have woken up to broken mirrors, and objects being strewn and moved around. A white figure has also been seen floating above different beds within the building and mysteriously a child’s handprint has appeared in Mary Baldwin’s room.
McClung Residence Hall 2019
The creepy experiences don’t stop in McClung Residence Hall. One ghost haunts several areas including the Administration Building, Wenger Hall, and Grafton Library but recent sightings of this ghost have even been in the Kable Residence Hall on upper campus. A generally playful spirit affectionately called “Richard” is known for hiding items, moving them around, and touching people on the shoulder to cause mischief. He has been reported to appear in a blue uniform with gold buttons and was first seen in the administration building by a staff member. Back in the Civil War, most of the campus was turned into a hospital and those studying at the seminary would treat the soldiers and pray over them, some believe that Richard could have been one of the young men who passed while receiving treatment. Speaking of uniforms, some of the land Mary Baldwin University sits on used to belong to the Staunton Military Academy, a private all-male military school that closed in 1976. Some students have reported seeing a Cadet in uniform waiting at the top of the stairs from the bottom of Hunt Hill and it’s rumored that he waits to escort young women back to their dorms late at night.
Mary Baldwin is also home to a ‘celebrity ghost’. Tallulah Bankhead attended Mary Baldwin in the early 1900s and later became a stage actress with a rather successful career on radio, film, and television. She died in 1968 but it is rumored that her spirit stuck around Collins theater in the Deming building. A few students have mentioned that they have experienced flickering lights and objects being moved around, pining the blame on the ghost of Tallulah Bankhead.
Tallulah Bankhead in 1941
There are many other stories of students with haunted and paranormal experiences. It seems each student, both current and former, can recount some kind of haunting that occurred to them while attending Mary Baldwin. Much can be attributed to the long, and dark, history that can be traced back to the university’s founding. However, most of these stories are passed down to incoming classes and one cannot be sure which story holds the truth or which ghosts they may encounter on a late night.
Armstrong, Derek Micah. “A True Ghost Story .” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 16 Jan. 2013, https://richmond.com/entertainment/a-true-ghost-story/article_5330585f-13e8-5f38-b13e-8cd3b6f03523.html#tncms-source=login.
The Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Tallulah Bankhead.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/biography/Tallulah-Bankhead.
Goodnough, Nicole. “College Uncovers Mary Baldwin’s Lost House.” Mary Baldwin University, 20 May 1998, https://marybaldwin.edu/news/1998/05/20/college-uncovers-mary-baldwins-lost-house/.
HauntedPlaces.org. “Mary Baldwin College.” Haunted Places, 2015, https://www.hauntedplaces.org/item/mary-baldwin-college/.
“Mary Baldwin College Bluestocking 1942 : Mary Baldwin College.” Internet Archive, Mary Baldwin College, 1 Jan. 1942, https://archive.org/details/marybaldwincolle1942mary/page/27/mode/2up.
Menk, Patrick H. “Dictionary of Virginia Biography .” Dictionary of Virginia Biography – Mary Julia Baldwin Biography, 1998, https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Baldwin_Mary_Julia.
Strock, Anna. “Meet 11 Ghosts from Virginia and Hear Their Bone-Chilling Stories.” OnlyInYourState, 5 Oct. 2015, https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/virginia/va-ghosts/.