Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? Have you ever seen something out of the corner of your eye and then look, but nothing is there? Have you ever felt a cold spot and then it quickly goes away? Over the years many people have claimed that the grounds of Lewis and Clark Community College are haunted and that they have seen the unexplainable.
Lewis and Clark Community College was originally built in 1838 by Captain Benjamin Godfrey, a pioneer of the Alton area. When the school was built it was originally called Monticello College and it was a school for women. It was unheard of at the time for women to even attend college let alone having a college only for them.
In 1867, the college would get a principal named Harriet Haskell. She would devote the next 40 years of her life to college making sure it was the most respected female institution in the country. She would even resurrect the school after a tragic fire in 1888 that almost closed it down for good. Nobody was injured in the fire, but it did immense damage to the dormitories and classrooms. She would rebuild the school to its former glory not long after the fire and run it until her death in 1907. Even though Miss Haskell’s reign as head of the college had ended with her death, many people don’t believe that she ever left the school.
The school would go on for another 64 years until 1971 when the school changed to Lewis and Clark Community College. On the day the school officially became Lewis and Clark Community College, one of the oldest and largest trees on campus fell to the ground. There were no storms that day or any reason that tree should’ve fallen over. The story goes that the ghost of Harriet Haskell was upset that her Monticello College was no more and knocked the tree over.
The hauntings of Harriet Haskell have now become a part of the school’s history and description. When talking about famous hauntings in the Alton area many people bring up Lewis and Clark because of the hauntings. According to local paranormal investigator Troy Taylor, stories of Harriet Haskell’s ghost go all the way back to the early 1900s, shortly after her death. The girls of the college would tell stories to the new girls about Miss Haskell wandering the halls at night and seeing apparitions of her in darkened corners of the school. The older students telling the younger students ghost stories hasn’t changed at all, according to L&C radio broadcasting student Samantha Seeley. “When I first started going to Lewis and Clark the older radio students would always tell us that the production room we use was haunted”, said Seeley “Well one night I was working late on a show in the room across from the production room and I saw the lights go on and off. I figured somebody had gone in there, but the lights would continue to go on and off multiple times while I was working. I decided to go see if anybody had been in the room, but when I looked I found out that nobody had been in there.”
There are also stories that the oldest house on campus would have lights and fountains that would periodically turn on and off by themselves with no explanation. One time in the early 1990s an elevator got stuck between two floors and had to be fixed. The strange thing though was the security guards claimed they heard a woman crying in the elevator and that they were talking to her. However, once they freed the elevator and the doors opened there was nobody inside.
The now Reid Memorial Library was once the chapel of Monticello College and it is considered to be the most active area on campus for Harriet Haskell sightings. Assistant Director of Instructional Services Elisabeth Burns has had her fair share of experiences in the library. “ One day I was preparing for an event, a boys club was coming to the school, and I had left a plastic tablecloth on a chair in the library. I left to go grab something from my office, I hadn’t been gone long at all, but when I got back I had found that the tablecloth had been folded up and placed on the chair. I knew I was the only one in the library at the time and nobody had come in while I was gone.” One of the ways people have said to know when Miss Haskell is present is that you will smell some strong lilac perfume. “Another time I had gone downstairs to grab a book and when I came back up the steps I got hit with a strong smell of lilac perfume. I knew that no women had walked through the area that could have been wearing the perfume. I’ve always known that if you smell lilac perfume it means Harriet is around.”
One Halloween night a radio student at the college decided to radio broadcast from the library. They had a speech professor read some writings of Harriet Haskell. Once they had finished the readings and were wrapping up for the night. The radio student was there alone shutting everything down when he felt a hand touch his shoulder. He would turn around and find nobody there. Figuring that his friends were trying to scare him he grabbed a flashlight to search the library for his friends. He would find nothing and would sit back down to continue packing up. Not shortly after sitting down he would once again feel a hand touch his shoulder. This time he left all of his equipment and run out of the library.
Another story is a librarian was working alone one night and claimed that somebody had touched her shoulder, but when she turned around to look there was nobody there. She claims that it happened again and also this time nobody was there. After the second encounter, she would pick up her work and leave for the night. She was a non-believer in ghosts but claims that something was with her in the library that night.
According to Assistant Director of Reference Services Greg Cash, he had a strange experience in the library one day. “I was preparing a classroom in the library so a teacher could come in and show their students how to use library resources. I turned on all the computers, got the projector warmed up, and I locked the door behind me”, said Cash “When I returned to let the class in, I had found out that everything was turned off. There was no reason everything should have turned off, there were no power outages and the power strips were on. I jokingly said, “Okay, Harriet, you’ve had your fun we need to teach now”, but I couldn’t explain what happened that day.”
For many, the stories are true and genuine. It’s hard to not believe in the paranormal and the ghost of Harriet Haskell after hearing or experiencing them. In this world, there are things that we see and feel that we can’t explain. As the living, it is our choice to believe or not to believe. Have a Happy Halloween!
ALEX ST. PETERS