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Monday, November 5, 2018 by Robyn Passante
Everyone likes a good ghost story, and here in Centre County we have our fair share of them. The haunted places in and around Penn State lend a little mystery and fun for those looking for a story and adventure. If you’d like a little scary fun this season, check out these spooky spots and let your imagination run wild.
The Stacks of Pattee Library
The unsolved murder of coed Betsy Aardsma amid the library’s “stacks” still haunts the university decades after her death. Aardsma was a 22-year-old grad student standing amid the narrow aisles of bookshelves one night in November 1969 when she was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. More than one book has been written about the crime and unveiling theories about who did it, but the investigation remains open and active.
The Pattee Library is one haunted place at Penn State that feels every bit as spooky as it looks. The narrow, dimly lit stacks can seem creepy all on their own, but knowing Aardsma met her untimely death there brings an eerie element to the dusty books that were there that night, and the whispers of students who still talk about it today.
How to Get There: Park in the downtown State College parking garages and walk uphill towards campus.
Bethesda Evangelical Church
This quaint Farmers Mills church, dubbed “Swamp Hill Church” in Gregg Township, is said to have been visited by the spirit of a young single mother whose lover never returned from the Civil War. It is documented that a couple who lived across the road from the church in the 1880s watched late one May night as a dark figure walked into the church and the lights flickered on. Through the windows they supposedly saw the ghostly woman walk up the aisle in what appeared to be her showing the baby in her arms to invisible parishioners seated in the pews.
Legend says that the ghost still appears at this haunted place at midnight on May 3, whispering the name of her long-lost beloved, “Will………Will……..”
How to Get There: This remote location is between Centre Hall and Spring Mills.
Old Botany Building
Finished in 1888, Old Botany Building is the oldest structure on campus whose façade has not been significantly altered since it was built. The botany department moved out in 1929, and over the years the odd-looking building along Pollock Road has been home to several departments and groups, from the ROTC to zoology.
Old Botany’s position across the street from the supposedly haunted Schwab Auditorium and, more specifically, the grave of former university President George W. Atherton, adds interesting lore to a structure already steeped in university history. Legend has it that those walking by can sometimes see the ghost of Frances Atherton, the president’s wife, keeping watch over her husband’s grave from the windows of the building’s top floor.
How to get There: Park in the downtown State College parking garage. This is a small building in the oldest part of campus, so it is easy to miss. It is across Pollock Road from Schwab Auditorium.
Built in 1902-03, Schwab Auditorium was the result of a $150,000 donation by university trustee Charles Schwab, then president of Bethlehem Steel. The 900-seat auditorium is now home to several classes and many performances by visiting lecturers and performers as well as Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts. But supposedly there are otherworldly performances there as well. The Beaux Arts-style building is allegedly haunted by university president George W. Atherton, whose tomb is directly outside the auditorium, as well as Schwab himself, and an unidentified soldier. Over the years lights have flickered, footsteps have been heard and objects have been moved by mischievous – or just bored – theatergoers from ages ago.
How to Get There: This venue is still used for live performances and speakers by the university. Park in downtown State College at the Beaver or Fraser Street parking garages and walk up to campus.
Scotia: The Town That Disappeared
The area that is now called Pennsylvania State Game Lands #176 was long ago much more than biking trails and hunting grounds. In fact an entire small community called Scotia was there, built up around the iron ore mining business in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There was a company store, a one-room schoolhouse and a chapel in addition to modest homes and a boarding house.
Mining there ended around 1913, and the Bellefonte Central abandoned its route to Scotia in 1915. Now known just as “Scotia” or “the Barrens,” the forest is not officially (or unofficially) haunted. But the dense vegetation of the state-owned land has creepily hidden former home foundations, building ruins and old railroad corridors that no doubt have many tales to tell of their former inhabitants and workers.
How to Get There: Access Scotia Range Road which is a short 10 minute drive from State College.