Dielle Ochotorena
Perspectives Editor

Benedictine Hall circa 1901. Photo Credit: Benedictine University Archives

We definitely have a lot of school ‘spirit’ here at Benedictine University. So much so we’re considered one of the most haunted universities in the United States. We have plenty of ghosts and no darling, I’m not talking about ghosting people. I mean real actual ghosts, spirits, apparitions, shadows, demons, Casper; whatever you want to call them; they’re all over campus, and who knows, they might be in your dorm room right now, or chilling next to you as you read this article.

All the ghost stories come from the 130-year-old history of Benedictine University and its neighbors Benet Academy and St. Procopius Abbey across the street. So, let me give you some backstory. History matters and this is how these stories come about. In 1887, St. Procopius College was founded by Benedictine monks from the St. Procopius Parish in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago’s west side. Fr. Procopius Neuzil, O.S.B. (of which Neuzil Hall is named after) became the first instructor at the all-male institution. In 1971 the College changed its name to Illinois Benedictine College, and in 1996 became what we know it today as Benedictine University. The St. Procopius Abbey Cemetery is located in the southwest end of BenU, behind Lake St. Benedict. Rows of stone crosses stand over the graves of Benedictine monks, and founders of the university. In 1898 Fr. Neuzil, along with the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart Monastery, established the St. Joseph’s Bohemian Orphanage for Czech and Polish orphans. They leased the orphanage to the St. Procopius Abbey, to function alongside St. Procopius College Academy and St. Procopius College. The Academy changed its name and combined with the neighboring Sacred Heart Academy to become what is today Benet Academy. Today, on the northwest side of Benet Academy, twenty-three small identical headstones honor the memory of orphans who lived and died at the orphanage until it’s official closing in 1956 when its buildings became part of Benet Academy.

Ok enough talk about history, let’s get into these haunted stories everyone is dying (haha dying because people actually died. Clearly.) to know.

Benet Academy
Now, Benet Academy used to be an orphanage and in its long history young kids have unfortunately died on the grounds, hence the cemetery on school grounds. Many teachers and former students believe that this school is haunted by the students and nuns who used to live in these buildings. On the 4th floor of Joseph Hall, there have been rumors of sightings of a nun dressed in black who can be seen in the windows overlooking the grounds. Many students have reported seeing a little boy looking out of one of the windows on the top floor of the Admin building over the years. Other reports include sightings of a boy near and around the old stables on the campus, and local residents would hear children screaming and playing at all hours of the night.

Benedictine University Grounds
Listen to me very closely, if you see a little boy in a blue shirt and shorts running around campus and in several buildings all over campus, dorm or otherwise, he is not lost. He “lives” here, we must protect the child. Let him be. He’ll be here long after we’ve all graduated. Several other apparitions of children have been reported over the years roaming the grounds and can be heard in the hallways of buildings late at night.

Benedictine Hall (in its place is Goodwin Hall)
Benedictine Hall, many say was demolished because it was so haunted. Eye witness testimonies say that the ghosts of the orphaned children from across the street were seen and heard running in the upper floors. Many professors and students have also heard piano music playing in the music rooms when no one would be in the room. A haunted “barber chair” – no one knows why we had one of those- would spin on its own and people would see a ghost sitting in it and then disappearing.

Lake St. Benedict and St. Procopius Cemetery
Benedictine alumni, Ursula Bielski, a local paranormal investigator was a student at BenU when a fellow classmate was reportedly possessed when he and his friends decided to go into the Cemetery with a Ouija board in hopes of communicating with a young woman who died from strangulation on the grounds. Note to Everyone: DO NOT TRY THIS. The kids reported seeing a ghostly figure with marking on their neck, and the Ouija board spelled out the letters I-W-K-Q which Bielski interpreted as “I was killed quickly.” One of the boys started to act strangely, shaking, convulsing, and shouting in multiple languages, his friends were spooked enough that they called campus police to get him under control. Monks from the Abbey were called over and the boy was brought to the fifth floor of the now-demolished Benedictine Hall to perform an exorcism. He managed to escape from his confines and ran away from campus, only to return several days later with no recollection of the things that happened to him.
Other stories that trace back to the Cemetery talk about a monk named “Zombie” who would chase out students who bring alcohol into the Cemetery. Another story was that a boy was killed when he was lying in the street and got dragged by a car.

Ondrak Hall Dormitory
Many students have said that their lights randomly turn on and off and that volumes on TVs and stereos would turn up and down. One room, in particular, was said to have been put offline because it was so haunted. It was rumored to be because of a girl, back when it was a girl dormitory, was caught doing witchcraft in the dorms during winter break and the hauntings are leftover bad energies from that time. Residents living on the floor would hear thumping, random noises, and footsteps coming from the vacant room at all hours of the day. Several people also reported that their hair was being pulled while they were in the shower.

Neuzil Hall Dormitory
This co-ed dorm is probably the second most haunted place in BenU. Currently, it’s offline due to maintenance issues but back in its heyday, it featured frequent visits and sightings of the dead orphans from across the street. Rumor has it a student took a photograph of the 3rd-floor hallway and when it was developed, an apparition of a boy and a girl were captured standing at the end of the hall smiling into the camera.
Also, according to Bielski, a group of students wanted to use a Ouija board to talk to the dead. When they tried to communicate with them nothing happened, discouraged they went to go to dinner and when they came back their dorm was on fire. Firefighters on the scene stated that the fire originated from the couch where they left the Ouija board resting before leaving for dinner. Several students would hear their doors unlock and relock at all times of the day and tapping on their windows.

Jaeger Hall Dormitory
This dorm’s basement is quite notorious for its hauntings. There are stories of children seen running around in the hallways and an apparition of a young man seen lurking in the middle of the night. Back when it was a male dorm, one student reported that while he was laying in bed, he heard his door open and close and footsteps coming closer to his bed before it stopped. Doors would slam shut, things disappearing from student’s rooms only to reappear months later. The scariest stories would be of people in the shower and a disembodied black hand would reach into the shower stall. Whistling, humming, and voices talking would be heard at all hours.

Scholl Hall
Back when Scholl used to be the Science Center (surprising I know), for several weeks students would see a black sooty handprint on the Anatomy lab door. The significance of a sooty black handprint, according to Bielski was the Hand of Death and is found in several ghost stories. Like in other buildings, people would see ghosts of children running around and whispering at the ends of hallways before disappearing around the corner.

Some Advice in Dealing with the Paranormal:
1) Think twice before playing games with spirits.
2) Do not use an Ouija board for fun, read up on the etiquette on how to use it even if you don’t believe in ghosts. Say “Goodbye” to end the connection!
3) Ghosts and demons can attach themselves to you and you can bring them home.
4) Don’t goad them to throw or move things, don’t invite them to possess you or hurt you.
5) Don’t try to do rituals, seances, witchcraft, or other paranormal activities under the influence. You’re going to get hurt or do something stupid.
6) Not every spirit is nice, keep holy water with you at all times.
7) Don’t try to be like Shane and Ryan from Buzzfeed unsolved. Or the guys from Ghost Adventures.
8) Don’t be an idiot.