Q: Is Mont Alto the only Penn State campus with a resident ghost?

What's Up With That?

Black and white image of students and horses on a lawn

A: Built in 1807, Wiestling Hall—now the Mont Alto Student Center—was once home to Col. George Wiestling, who is said to haunt the building to this day. Matt Swayne ’05, ’20 MA Com, who wrote America’s Haunted Universities and several other books about ghosts, says the stories from Mont Alto are among Penn State’s strongest: “Students as recent as the early 2000s [say] they went to the attic and their flashlights died, or they heard the sound of footsteps.” Donna Rhodes, manager of Student Life at Mont Alto, has worked in Wiestling for 14 years and has heard a lot of unexplained noises. “Nothing really creepy,” she says, “but you do hear things, like door latches opening but nobody’s there.”

Other campuses also boast haunted spaces. Abington sits on what once was the Ogontz School for Young Ladies, a private school whose students included Amelia Earhart. The famed pilot’s footsteps have supposedly been heard on the rooftop of her old dormitory, the Sutherland Building, where she used to go to stargaze. At Wilkes-Barre, the spirit of either coal baron John Conyngham or his wife, Bertha, is said to haunt the Hayfield Farms estate, which the couple’s family donated to the school in the 1960s. John died in the house in 1935.

And staff members working late at Hazleton’s Schiavo Hall claim to hear spooky, unexplained noises. “Some of these other [stories] seem to be more on the line of ghost lore,” Swayne says. “What I’ve found is 90% of stories you hear about university ghosts are really related to folklore and are a way of talking about the history of places to, essentially, a transitory audience.”

At University Park, ghostly sounds and sightings have been reported inside Schwab Auditorium, Old Botany, and the Pattee Library stacks, among other spots on campus. “Penn State has a really rich ghost lore tradition,” Swayne says.


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