Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The true story behind the Mayo Hall haunting

If the stories are to be believed, a ghostly presence stalks Mayo Hall, a dormitory in the West Circle complex on the north side of Michigan State University. For decades, students who lived in the Tudor-style building have reported eerie goings on—strange noises, lights that turn on and off, a piano that plays by itself. Some residents have seen the apparition of a woman, while others report being watched by the piercing eyes of the dorm’s namesake, Mary Mayo, as she stares at them from a portrait on the first floor.

Portrait of Mary Mayo. Okay, I'll admit I'd be a little
freaked out if I thought that she was watching me.

Whether or not Mayo Hall is home to a ghost may be up for debate, but the fact remains that several of the rumors that led to Mayo Hall’s reputation as the most haunted building at Michigan State are simply not true. Believers insist that it’s Mayo’s ghost that haunts the building, and that she either killed herself or was murdered. Some versions of the story hold that she actually died in Mayo Hall itself. The truth is that Mary Mayo died in 1903 after an illness, and did so a full 28 years before the residence hall bearing her name was even built. That’s not to say that her ghost doesn’t haunt the building. However, it does beg the question: Why, if Mary Mayo is the hall’s ghostly resident, would she spend her afterlife scaring students in a building that, when she died, didn’t even exist?
Mayo Hall
Nothing in Mayo’s background indicates that she would become what many believe is Michigan State’s most notorious specter. Born in 1845 in Battle Creek, she married husband Perry in 1865, and raised two children, a son named Nelson and a daughter named Nellie. Mayo was a teacher, and believed that women should have access to a quality college education. As a member of the Grange, a nationwide social and advocacy group that promoted the interests of rural residents, she spoke about the need to create women’s programs in universities, including Michigan State (which at the time was called State Agricultural College). Her wish came true in 1896 when SAC created a women’s curriculum. Mayo died a few years later, in 1903, and is buried in Austin Cemetery in Calhoun County’s Convis Township.

Her earthly remains may rest in southwest Michigan, but apparently many people believe that Mayo’s spirit traveled sixty miles north to spend eternity in a Michigan State dormitory. Reports of hauntings have persisted since Mayo Hall opened as a woman’s residence hall in 1931. The rumors passed from one class to another, and became even creepier when students began talking about a “red room” on the building’s fourth floor, where unknown people were said to have conducted satanic rituals. Spirits are mysterious creatures, so the question of whether or not Mayo Hall is haunted may never be answered. However, we do know that Mary Mayo was a groundbreaking crusader for the rights of women in academia, and it’s this achievement—not the possibility that she wreaks ghostly havoc in Mayo Hall—that should be her real legacy.

1 comment:

  1. EXCELLENT article! While I love learning about the paranormal, I look for factual stories...and APPRECIATE the perspective you give this story....