By Alicia JamesCorvallis is an old railroad and farming town with a rich history of hearty, independent spirits. Many have passed through and passed on in our fair ‘burg. In fact, some are rumored to still be with us. Before you bust out your PKE meter and go trespassing on public property, grok our collection of Corvallis’ coolest haunts.
Too Ghoul for School
The Beach Boys exhorted us to be true to your school, like you’d be true to your girl. Apparently, locals of days past knew this and their school spirit hasn’t died.
Cheldelin Middle School is not only home of the Cougars, but also the current residence of a janitor who died of a heart attack on shift. Sources state that he’s still in the upstairs gym, where the sound of jingling keys often precedes whistling and sweeping after hours. The local chapter of Service Employees International Union is currently seeking overtime for him.
The spirit of Crescent Valley High School is less happy with its lot in the afterlife. Described only as a “cold, unwelcoming presence” in the theater department’s costume room and stage, this spook is known to push chairs around, creak about in scaffolding, and rustle costumes, as well as jimmies. It only wanted to be a star…
If all the legends are true, Oregon State University might just be a hellmouth. However, three hauntings are accepted as general consensus among numerous other tales swirling about like so much ectoplasm. Benton Hall is home to a mischievous posse of spirits whose supply-hiding antics have driven out more than one janitor in the past 10 years. They’ve apparently formed a band, too, as many have reported sounds of a woman singing along to a piano in vacant rooms.
Waldo Hall is home to Ida Kidder. Kidder became a pillar of the university community during her tenure as the first female librarian. She continued to live in the dorm long after her retirement, and was a common sight on her daily walks around campus. Shortly after her death in 1920, reports of her apparition floating between walls on the second floor started, where they persist to this day.
The last and perhaps the creepiest is Sackett Hall. Urban legend has it that Ted Bundy—yes, that Ted Bundy—killed a woman in the basement and stashed her body somewhere in the underground tunnels. The 1974 murder is confirmed, but the body was never found. Sackett Hall residents may also find that they have an unexpected roommate. “Becky” is alleged to be the angry spirit of a 1950s college student who was murdered by a drunk frat boy. She shows up at the end of beds, probably wanting to tell someone, anyone, about how she just had the worst date. On really bad days, Becky likes to start fires.
For those who thought witches were limited to Salem, Massachusetts, our very own Crystal Lake Masonic Cemetery is one eternally randy warlock’s target rich environment. Haters lynched Count Lustula after he was accused of gaming on all the town’s married ladies. Although townsfolk didn’t bother with a trial, they at least gave him a proper burial. If you happen to go to the cemetery and feel a looming presence accompanied by a cool breeze up your leg, it’s just him saying, “Hey, gurl. Hey.”
Hanson Inn is booked all year round, but you can still get a bed since these guests don’t sleep. Reports on this Corvallis bed and breakfast are typically limited to “I heard it was haunted.” However, the Deep Internet coughed up an account written by an autistic woman that would put anyone under the covers. It involves a blind guest whispering, “Can you feel it?” over and over, as well as a spectral coke orgy complete with disco music.
The show will always go on for Lillian McElroy Taylor, one resident spirit of the Whiteside Theatre. Taylor was a famous vaudeville talent known for her organ playing and her beauty. However, film was killing live acts and Taylor was fired in 1931. Her dismissal and subsequent spiral into madness ended in a double murder-suicide when she discovered her husband cheating. She’s still very attached to that organ. When current restoration crews moved it back into the theater, people started hearing footsteps and seeing doors open and close.
Camp Adair is quite literally a ghost town. This abandoned U.S. Army training facility operated during WWII, and housed approximately 40,000 people. It’s rumored that many German and Italian POWs died there between 1942 and 1946. Reported metaphysical phenomena include sounds such as squeaking bed springs and footsteps, as well as a “sense of being menacingly observed by unseen eyes from within the building,” according to one source.
Salt the Earth
If you feel like driving to Ghost Hill Cellars in Carlton, you might be able to share a glass of pinot noir with a 19th century miner. In the early 1860s, Oregon was part of the gold rush, connected by an old military road that ran from southern Oregon to Portland. A miner was traveling to Portland after striking it rich, and decided to camp for the night at the top of what is now known as Ghost Hill. During the night, someone sneaked into his camp, killed the miner and his horse, and stole his gold. To this day, the miner wanders the hill looking for his stolen gold and seeking retribution.
The northbound OR 99W bridge over Mary’s River has historically been fraught with problems. Floodwaters destroyed the bridge in 1861. It collapsed again in 1932. In recent history, a truck ran into it in 2004 and once more in 2006. While Corvallis historians joke about the bridge being cursed, psychic medium Bonnie Vent is convinced that it actually is. According to her theory based on a photo from 1890, Franz Edmund Creffield, noted Holy Roller sex cult leader, is haunting the locale. After Creffield was tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail, he set up camp across Mary’s River, eventually building a house where townswomen would sneak away from wifely duties to worship at his, um, altar. Although he was shot in Seattle, Vent has intuited that his spirit is back for vengeance, preventing people from leaving Corvallis by wrecking the bridge.
Ghosts are not like antiques. There is no specific amount of passed time required for a phenomenon to be scary. However, modern haunts do lack a certain degree of narrative necessary to swing an audience’s disbelief. Two notable ones emerged from the dregs of the Internet: Studio 355 and Lancaster Bridge Apartments.
A bright, man-shaped light has been seen in the Madison Avenue hair salon. Bright Boy is also the annoying bastard who keeps turning up the radio, stomping up the stairs, and knocking stuff over, much to the vexation of salon employees and patrons.
Multiple residents of Lancaster Bridge Apartments have reported meeting the ghost of a little boy. Roughly seven years old, he’s a pain like kids can be—tickling people in the middle of the night, tugging at pant legs while you’re in the kitchen. One source described him as “non-threatening” and dressed in “19th or 20th century clothes.” Other sources confirm his sweet, if not cheeky, presence and also add that a dark-haired woman often accompanies him. He seems to be well-loved by the living, as many residents have asked him to come along when they move out.
Danger! Enter If You Dare!
I love a good ghost story, don’t you? Oral legends bolstered by barely plausible historical evidence, goosebumps, and that lingering sense of “Who knows?” It makes our world more colorful, and helps process the mystery of what happens after we die. While I prefer to tell them over a bottle of wine with friends, some like to go out looking for themselves. They want to believe. To those brave explorers, I say this: The cops are scarier than any apparition you hope to find. Make sure you’re allowed to enter before you start your hunt.