Haunted Tri-Cities: A look inside the halls of ETSU

Haunted Tri-Cities

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Could there be more than just students walking the halls of ETSU? Some claim to have seen or felt spirits on campus.

“College campuses have always been fertile ground for ghost stories,” said Dr. Ron Roach, the Appalachian Studies Department chair. “One of those at ETSU is the supposedly haunted stained glass window from the Carter Mansion.”

George L. Carter was a railroad tycoon who donated lands and funds to ensure ETSU was located in Johnson City, according to Roach. When he died in 1936, the university acquired his mansion. In 1944, it became a women’s dormitory.

“Soon thereafter, the students began to tell stories of strange noises in the house, centered around a stained glass window,” said Roach. “Over time, the story grew up that this window depicted the long-lost daughter of George L. Carter, who had supposedly killed herself after a tragic love affair.”

That building was torn down in 1984, but the stained glass window stands watch in Nicks Hall.

“He never had a daughter, but that’s a perfect illustration of how folklore works — stories springing up — and they take on a life of their own,” said Roach. “They sort of grow and are handed down over the years.”

Nicks Hall also housed the library from 1931 to 1999.

“The old stacks were located behind the references, which was brightly lit, but when you went in there, it was dark and gloomy and everything was crammed really close together,” said Dr. Delanna Reed, the assistant professor of storytelling.

For one librarian, a close encounter happened on a lonely night over winter break many years ago.

“She felt that feeling of somebody staring at her,” said Reed. “She looked around again. Nobody was there. So finally, she found the book she wanted, tucked it under her arm, and turned to go up the stairwell. When she did, there appeared before her — this ghostly apparition.

“It looked like a woman, but only half of her body was showing — just the upper half of her body — and she was wearing some kind of old-fashioned, high-necked-collar dress, her hair pulled back in a tight bun.”

Reed said that librarian never made that trip to the old stacks again.

Ghost stories float around other buildings as well. Several janitors claimed to have late-night run-ins in Rogers-Stout Hall.

“He came out of the classroom into the hallway, and when he did, he saw something coming down the hall toward him in a very kind of lazy pace,” said Reed. “A person, young man, but only half of his body was showing — it was just the upper half.

“As that ghost grew closer and closer, the custodian froze looking at it. He recognizes who it is; it is a young man who had died — he’d been killed just a few weeks before. Well, again, the apparition disappeared.”

According to Reed, that janitor was so spooked, he demanded to be assigned to another building.

Another one of his coworkers had a different encounter while cleaning late at night.

“She had a portable radio, and she would set it on country western music because she really liked that kind of music,” said Reed. “She started playing it, and then she’d go about her work. Suddenly, it started blaring out rock music. It kept happening and she could never catch the culprit.”

Reed said the janitor wasn’t spooked but decided she couldn’t listen to music anymore while on her shift.

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