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Legends and myths of Winona State spooks of the past and present

By Sarah Brechtl

 

10/25/06 - Winonan

One week before Halloween in 2003, Jake Klinger, former Lourdes resident assistant, found himself alone in a cemetery.


He didn’t know what he was going to find or from whom he was receiving his directions.
All he knew was that he needed to “go three rows in, five rows over and find David.”


When he came to a sunken tombstone inscribed “David,” marked with the exact name and dates that “Ruth” told him, Klinger knew the evening’s Ouija board conversation was no fluke.


Ruth, the ghost who allegedly haunts the fourth floor of Lourdes Hall, had spoken to him and spoken the truth.


Klinger’s paranormal encounter is just one of dozens of ghost stories circulating around Winona State University.


Andrew Judson, former Lourdes Hall resident assistant and co-founder of the yearly program “Ghost Stories from the Lourdes Attic,” began telling several of Winona State’s ghost stories as a part of the residential college in Lourdes Hall.


Along with residential college advisors, Judson began conducting research in the Winona State archives and within the Winona Historical Society to uncover any factual evidence of the alleged apparitions.


Ruth, the lead character in nearly all Lourdes Hall ghost stories, is suspected to have lived in room 4450 in Lourdes in the early 1800s when the dormitory was apart of St. Theresa’s college, Judson said.


According to legend, Ruth, who was studying to be a nurse, was impregnated by a catholic priest, Father William, and hid in the infirmary of the hall during her term, which is now the hall’s fourth floor.


After the birth of the baby, Father William, fearful of having his indiscretion discovered, threw the child down the hall elevator shaft, forever haunting the south end of the first floor.


Soon after, Ruth hurled herself down what is now the third-north stairwell.


Cloaked in guilt, William hung himself one week later in the church chapel, now the Lourdes pool.


Today, swimmers still claim to see William’s body lofting high above the water and have supposedly felt a mysterious pull at their leg from time to time, Judson said.


Klinger, also a former Lourdes resident assistant, said he asked Ruth to prove herself by revealing the name of the current resident in room 4450.


She answered, “Rachel” and then proceeded to spell out the word “pink” over and over again on the Ouija board, Judson said.


That night, knocking on room 4450’s door, Klinger was greeted by its tenant, a girl named Rachel, who happened to decorate her room with pink holiday lights.


Still not believing, Klinger asked Ruth to prove once more that she was real.


The Ouija board spelled out “ready…now,” Judson said, and as the game piece slid across the “w,” Klinger’s phone rang.


No voice was heard on the other end of the receiver, but the theme song to the exorcist was eerily distinguishable, Judson said.


Lourdes Hall is not the only haunted building on campus, Judson said. Both Phelps Hall and Richards Hall are supposedly occupied by spirits.

 

“In the 1970s there was a fire on the third floor of Phelps, which at the time used to be a day-care center,” Judson said.


In 2003, a custodian was locking up for the evening and heard the screams of three children who were consumed in the fire, according to Judson.


She has since refused to work evenings alone in Phelps Hall.


The residents of the second floor of Richards have claimed to see the outline of a human going to and from the showers in the morning, Judson said.


It is assumed that this is the ghost of a former resident who committed suicide on that floor in the late 1980s, Judson said.


No other events have been reported in Richards.


Winona State’s thespians also have their own phantasmal friend.


The story of this apparition, written and retold by former student Jacque Reidelberger is even included in the Winona State student theater handbook.


According to Reidelberger’s tale, a ghost named Christopher, believed to be the spirit of former student Christopher Robb Neidringhaus, allegedly still haunts the Performing Arts Center.


On Oct. 5, 1973, Christopher was found unconscious on the floor of the main stage after falling from the fly gallery sometime during the evening.


He died from internal bleeding the next day.


The true cause of Christopher’s death was never persued, but friends of Chris claim he was “depressed,”“probably” on drugs and capable of committing suicide.


To this day, the area of the stage where Chris died is the only section that is never disrupted by the leaky roof and that never has any wasps or bees, stated Reidelberger.


Reidelberger also claims that whenever the ghost fiddles with the lighting system, the switchboard is always found in the “C” preset mode.


Unlike Klinger and Reidelberger, many of those who claim to feel an unexplainable sudden cool rush of air or see “something” at the end of a long, dark hallway do not pursue their encounters.


Perhaps the idea of a ghost hunt is too far-fetched for even the most intense Halloween enthusiasts, or maybe the likelihood of appearing foolish keeps people from delving deeper into the mystery.


Chad Lewis, a Paranormal Investigator for Unexplained Research LLC and Research Specialist for the Mutual UFO Network, agrees that most people are afraid to report any paranormal encounters.


“Most people are worried that they won’t be believed or that they’ll look crazy, so they don’t say anything until many years later or until someone else steps forward with a similar occurance,” Lewis said.


Lewis, who holds a masters degree in psychology, makes his career pursuing any tips and ghost stories he hears across the nation and hosts both “The Unexplained” television series and radio talk show.


Lewis and his partner Terry Fisk have conducted some of their searches in Winona, but have not found much evidence regarding the ghost sightings on campus.


“Unfortunately, most colleges can’t produce the background information for most ghost stories, so then it just becomes the same story you hear on every campus in the country,” Lewis said.


Lewis believes the fascination with ghost stories is a natural human curiosity.


“A lot of us ask the question, ‘what happens when we die,’ and most people just like the possibility of something happening,” Lewis said.


Lewis and Fisk wrote The Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations and the Web site www.unexplainedresearch.com highlights some of their trips in search of the truth behind abnormal encounters.


An adventurer at heart, Lewis encourages everyone to pursue the unknown, even if only to experience a thrill and find a little weirdness.


“There’s something to be gained from getting some friends together, hopping in the car and heading out for an adventure,” Lewis said. “No one lies on their death bed wishing their life was duller.”


In his 13 years investigating the paranormal, Lewis admittedly has uncovered more questions than answers, but feels it is his responsibility to investigate every story as objectively as possible.


“I started out skeptical, but the longer I do this I’m thoroughly convinced there’s something out there, I just don’t know what it is,” Lewis said.


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