Click this link (or the image above) to view our StoryMap about the ghosts of UVM and Burlington, VT.
Oral histories and interviews offer firsthand accounts of unique experiences and perspectives of events. For our project, oral histories from the Oral History/Folklore Collection at Special Collections provided memorates, or “firsthand descriptions of personal experiences with the supernatural,”* from UVM students and staff alike.
One of the interviewers also wrote a short essay regarding his study of the paranormal at UVM, which discusses many of the same points that we have addressed in our own research. He touches on the stress-related trauma that is often present on college campuses, and experienced not only by students:
The intense pressure felt in many of the University’s academic departments can be overwhelming unless the staff members have something fun to take their mind off of their usual work…[legends] can more easily be spread in an environment which thrives on alternative entertaining topics, such as ghosts.*
As well, he argues that when examining (supposedly) haunted places, the physical buildings themselves are important to study. Similarly to the scholarly literature we read, he proposes that the age and history of a place matters to its likelihood of being inhabited by ghosts, or at least to the likelihood of it being perceived as haunted. In the case of the Grasse Mount building, he justifies the staff members’ belief in ghosts:
Grasse Mount has been inhabited by many diverse previous owners, and their past presence makes it seem, to the staff members at Grasse Mount at least, all the more likely that their spirits might not have wanted to leave.*
The renovation or physical changes to a haunted place also have an effect on the behaviors of the ghosts living there. Also referring to the haunting of Grasse Mount, he claims that since the building had been renovated (in the mid-1980’s), much fewer ghost-related incidents had been reported.
*All quotations from FN85 (1990), Oral History/Folklore Collection, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.
~Please note that the Play/Pause button for the audio clips are to the left of the white bar, and the smaller white bar on the right is for volume adjustment~
The following audio clips are both from an interview of a student who lived in Converse Hall in the late 1980’s [FN93 (1989), Oral History/Folklore Collection, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library]. In the first clip, he describes how people tried to prove that the ghost of Henry exists, and in the second clip he discusses the creation of legends in different buildings.
For more information about Henry and Converse, see our Converse Hall Case Study.
The next clip is from an interview of a UVM staff member who encountered a ghost at the Counseling and Testing House (also known as Jacobs House) in the late 1960’s [FN87 (1989), Oral History/Folklore Collection, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library]. He describes the incident in great detail.
The following set of clips is from an interview of a UVM staff member who worked at the Grasse Mount building in the early-mid 1980’s [FN85 (1990), Oral History/Folklore Collection, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library].
The first three clips are her descriptions of the two ghosts that she and other staff members had experiences with.
In the next clip, she describes her personal beliefs and perceptions about ghosts.
Other Archival Sources
Special Collections houses several books* that are collections of Vermont and Burlington specific ghost stories. The books were mostly in agreement about which places and by whom those places were haunted at UVM and in Burlington. As supported by our survey data and other research, Henry’s ghost in Converse Hall was the most commonly mentioned. The ghosts of Grasse Mount (now the Alumni Relations building), the Counseling and Testing Center (Jacobs House), and the Bittersweet were all also discussed in multiple books.
Other locations include:
- The railroad tracks by the Queen City Cotton Mill (later the General Electric plant)
- UVM Admissions Building (Clement House)
- Booth House
- Old Mill
- Lambda Iota
- Wheeler House
- Redstone Hall
- Coolidge Hall
- Simpson Hall
News articles from the Vermont Cynic*, Vermont Quarterly*, and the Burlington Free Press have also demonstrated continued public interest in the hauntings of UVM and Burlington. And again, the most mentioned ghost in our research of these news sources has been Henry of Converse Hall.
In an interesting break from the rest of our findings, a 1954 Burlington Free Press article lamented the lack of ghosts in Vermont; however, a 1963 article in the same publication described a local ghost story that had apparently been around for decades. The story was about a girl who had been killed by a train on the railroad tracks near the Queen City Cotton Mill, later identified by Joseph A. Citro in one of his books (Citro, 2000)* as the ghost of Marie Blais, a factory girl who died in 1900. Both the article and the book mention that Marie’s ghost has not been sighted in a while.
A 1981 Burlington Free Press article discusses a group of UVM students studying parapsychology, who encountered a ghost resembling a sea captain (possibly Captain Jacobs of the Counseling and Testing Center?), as well as Henry in Converse Hall. A Vermont Cynic article*, also published in 1981, gives a more detailed description of the legend of Henry (article pictured below).
Two 1983 Burlington Free Press articles mention both Henry and the ghost of the Counseling and Testing Center; one of the articles includes the same account of the Counseling and Testing Center ghost, by the same interviewee as the 1989 oral history/interview (FN87)*.
Another article from the Burlington Free Press, published in 1990 (pictured below), details an account of an encounter with the Bittersweet ghost, supposedly that of Margaret L.H. Smith who lived in the building in the first half of the 20th century. The article also interviews a local parapsychologist, Bernice Skowyra, who has performed seances and ghost-raising parties at UVM and other places in Vermont. Skowyra was also mentioned by the interviewee in the 1989 Counseling and Testing oral history (FN87)*. As well, Henry’s ghost is briefly discussed.
In the Fall 1997 edition of the Vermont Quarterly*, two ghost-related stories were published, one of which was a collection of UVM ghost stories written by Joseph A. Citro (pictured left).
Most recently, a 2015 Vermont Cynic article, with an interview of Thea Lewis (author and ghost tour guide), continued the conversation regarding Henry and the haunting of Converse Hall.
*Sources from Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.