On any given day, the campus of Harding University in Searcy bustles with the quick pace of busy students. Puffs of wind scatter the autumn-painted leaves on crisp fall afternoons. Only occasionally do the students stop dead in their tracks, chills running up and down their spines at the sight of a young woman, dressed in white lace, sweeping by them, following the path of old bricks leading to the music building.
According to Arthur Shearin, Harding University music professor, a campus legend is that the young woman, lovingly nicknamed “Gertie Sue” by former students, wanders the campus.
“Gertie Sue” supposedly was a student attending Galloway Women’s College, which occupied the grounds where Harding University is now. Apparently one night she wandered out of her room, accidentally fell into an elevator shaft in Godden Hall, and died.
Galloway merged with Hendrix College in Conway; Harding College, then in Morrilton, bought the Galloway campus and buildings, and the old Godden Hall was torn down. Bricks from the old building were used in the construction of the new music building, which was built some 300 yards from the old hall’s site. Some of the bricks were also used to make a brick pathway from the old site to the new one.
A former student, whom we’ll call “Thomas,” said that people still see her today. When he was attending Harding, Thomas and some of his audio-engineering friends locked themselves into the recording booth of the music room to “see what would happen.” He said all was quiet until around 1 a.m.
“Then some strange things started happening. We heard footsteps in the room,” he said. “We recorded the sounds. Now I’m not one who believes in ghosts, but I can’t say what that was.” They played the tape for friends, he said; some who heard it said they could’ve made those sounds themselves.
Thomas says the woman can be seen walking on the path back and forth between the new building and the old site and can also be seen inside the buildings.
This is one account of ghostly happenings at Harding. Richard Young, author of the compilation Ghost Stories from the Southwest, tells of another.
The story, “The Ghost on the Third Floor,” tells of a tradition at Harding University in which a “ghostly piano player practices by night.” According to the story, people on the second floor of the music building can hear a piano being played on the floor above them. But there is no third floor…
The music’s source, according to the campus legend, is this. A young woman and man who were in love came from the same town to attend Harding. Both were majoring in music. Soon after school began, the story goes, the young man died in a car accident. The young woman could not be consoled, and many times climbed to the third floor of the old music building to play the piano, sing and grieve.
Apparently, Leigh had made it through her Harding career and never heard this story. I don't know how that is possible. Kristi believes in ghosts. Leigh is extremely logical and claims NOT to believe in ghosts, but she begged us to stop telling the story and to come on. And I..well I can't say I believe in ghosts. but I do believe in a spirit world and I have seen odd, unexplainable things (which I will go into in just a minute). How that manifests itself in the physical world (if it does at all), I just don't know. Looking up at the dark building did start to creep me out. The campus is fairly well lit, but this building seemed particularly dark. Kristi encouraged me to go to the door. Leigh stayed across the street begging us to go, that we were scaring her. I decided I was scared too. Like my mom said, there are demons and you don't want to go chasing them. I was at Harding to confront some "demons" but not quite so literally. Kristi persisted. "This is why you wanted to come! Ghost hunting!" She was right. I did want to explore that side of Harding. Ghosts aren't real..so there was nothing to be afraid of. Right? So hand in hand, we climbed the stairs and looked through the glass into the dark building. With all the "newness" on campus, this REALLY was particularly creepy. Why spend so much money on updating the reasonably well kept buildings, and leave this old decrepit building, which I'm not sure they even USE. There's a totally new music/communications building elsewhere on campus. We tried the door but it was locked. I would have wandered around inside, but was secretly thankful that we couldn't get in. Despite my trepidation, I teased Kristi as I put my ear to the door. "Do you hear that?" I was pretty impressed with her bravery considering how jumpy she was Freshman year. :) Meanwhile Leigh, who won't even stand on the same side of the STREET as us, is hollering for us to go. Once again, I wish I had had my camera with me to capture that building at night. Maybe we could have even picked up a strange orb on it! LOL! I even searched online for a picture, but can't find one. There was nothing more we could do, unless we just planned on camping out there to look for Gertie, so we joined Leigh again.
Thankful to be going, we started to explain to her the "encounter" we had years ago. And that we planned to return to that spot to figure it out once again. I'm pretty sure Leigh thought we were messing with her to scare her, but we really were being honest and sincere! There was one more "ghost" we had to check it out. Here's the back story!
One night, Kristi and I were out late after a campus coffee-shop concert. It must have been around 10pm at the time because we had curfew at ELEVEN! (Sorry, just had to emphasize that again) :) We were trying to get "Queened" into a particular club (fraternity), so we went to the information kiosk where the baseball games and times were listed so we could go support the guys. The kiosk is located in the central main part of campus in between the student center and Benson. That is a VERY well lit area. The kiosk is 4-sided and glassed in - similar to this:
I mean...the kiosk looks nothing like that on campus, but I want you to take from it that there are 4 sides and the information lies behind glass. Not only are there lights surrounding the kiosk, there were lights that shone down on the information from above. Now, you have to go try this little experiment for yourself to fully understand, but if you are looking into through glass you see what's on the inside, but if you adjust your eyes to look at the glass, you will see your reflection. This is important to understand.
While we were reading the information in the kiosk, Kristi grabbed my arm and froze. I was chatting away and asked her what was wrong. She told me to be quiet. Uhh...ok. She had a pretty crazy look in her eyes and next thing I know she whips her head around to look behind us. I turn to look. "Did you see that?" "See what?" Obviously not. "In the glass!" Ummm, no. "There was a shadow!" I look in the glass. There are no shadows. There's Kristi and me and I can see the Benson and the trees and everything behind us. At this point I'm highly amused. I spent the first half of the school year getting a big kick out of how jumpy Kristi was. She was convinced we had a ghost in our room (named Janie!) and she would attribute the "odd happenings" to Janie. I laughed and thoroughly explained EVERY occurrence away. She would crack me up and it was fun to scare her. I tell her I don't see anything in the glass and she tells me to wait. *sigh* So I watch. And within a few seconds, the shadow of a tall man with a hat passes from right to left on the kiosk. We both whip around. There's nobody there. And it makes no sense. I turn back to look at the glass. What could make that shadow? How do you MAKE a shadow in the glass. The shadow was proportionate to our reflections meaning...the shadow maker would HAVE to be right up under the light as we were or at least close enough for us to feel or spot him. I look back at the glass and try to figure it out. As I stare at the glass, the shadow passes again. Only this time it goes from left to right, the opposite direction it "walked" the first time. Kristi explained that she had been watching this shadow do this over and over again. Go from one side to the other. She is freaking out. She wants to go. I want to figure it out. But her rising panic starts to freak me out a bit and she insists that we go. I relent, and decide to go with her even though I am thoroughly intrigued and want to figure it out. We start to walk away, my mind is racing. Several yards away, I change my mind. We are on another side of the kiosk now..the side facing our path back to the dorms..not the Benson. I tell Kristi she can go on, but I want to go look again. I head back towards the kiosk and before I am even able to get up to the glass on the other side of this kiosk, I saw the shadow pass by in the glass again. THAT freaked me out. Somebody would have had to have been IN FRONT of me to cause that. To this day I can't explain what we saw. And more than anything, I wanted to go back and "search" the glass again.
We explained all this to Leigh, but she didn't want to hear anything about it. We found the kiosk. I wanted Leigh with her brilliant scientific mind to explain to me how to make a shadow in the glass. I want ANYBODY that can explain it and recreate it to PLEASE do it! But she was freaked out and didn't want to stay long. We didn't stay long enough to see any shadow men this time, but I will always wonder what we saw that night.
We decided to go to the new places where ghosts hadn't inhabited yet. :) We went across into the new student center. We were really blown away with how gorgeous it all was. Very posh. We were particularly impressed with the Internet cafe, complete with a flat screen television and fireplace. The giant bison head really topped it all off. :) We kept waiting for security to find us and shoo us away, but I guess it's not as tight as it use to be! We figured you would have to have a password to log onto the Internet, as it IS for Harding students, but we were able to get on just fine - no password required. So we hung out and checked all our social networks quickly. Leigh enjoyed pointing out all the ramps on campus now. I was known as "the girl in the wheelchair" freshman year because I broke my ankle just weeks after getting to campus. I couldn't put any weight on my foot and the campus was too big to get around on crutches with books. So wheelchair it was. And the campus was NOT wheelchair accessible. That was a pretty significant change that really opened up that campus to many other students, I'm sure. We decided we had better head home for the night. Only so much cane you can raise after curfew on campus. And ...we were tired. Pulling all-nighters wasn't feeling as easy as it used to. We decided to meet back in the morning. We couldn't agree on a time, because Kristi and I knew we needed sleep!
Although we were both exhausted, sleep didn't come as easy as I would have liked. Too much excitement. We fell asleep sometime after 3am, anxious to start new adventures the next day!