During my junior year of undergrad, I interned in the Rose Archives at the College at Brockport. My project was on the “Ghost of Hartwell Hall”. Cool, right? I can’t imagine a better project than that. I think the coolest part about the project was when I got permission from the college to conduct a paranormal investigation during an overnight stay. I was also allowed to invite the Monroe County Paranormal Investigations (M.C.P.I) team to help me. My boyfriend, Erik, was there as well. The overnight stay happened on March 18th, 2016. This was during Spring Break so there weren’t many other students or faculty there.
Hartwell Hall had eons of supernatural speculation where students and staff reported seeing and feeling paranormal events. Students reported chills in warm parts of the building, objects moving, and seeing a figure of a man. Cleaning crew members also saw the figure of a man, reported objects moving off of their carts and finding them in other rooms, a male voice speaking to them throughout the night and there is the speculation that, “Clyde” a.k.a the nickname for the male spirit, likes to solve math problems. In a transcript another student who worked on the project in 1993 uploaded regarding her interview with some of the housekeeping staff, they reported that a professor would leave math equations on the chalkboard at night and when they opened the building in the morning, it’d be solved. I mean, what ghost can’t resist math equations?
Now I researched the history of the college thoroughly and the man they might believe to be the spirit, Julius Bates, could be true as he died on the land where Hartwell stands. Before Hartwell Hall stood, and before the Normal School stood, there was the Brockport Collegiate Institute in the 1800’s. This was the town of Brockport’s first attempt to make a college for their future. Bates was the first principal of the Institute and he died at the age of forty in his bedchambers. The building housed the students, faculty and staff, the classrooms, cafeteria, and a number of odd rooms like a music studio. There is no known cause as to what Bates died of but they attribute it to a heart attack.
The College at Brockport has had its fair share of deaths on campus which adds to it being known for paranormal activity. Over my four years there, at least a handful of students died on campus. One died in my freshman dorm. Hartwell Hall isn’t the only building said to be haunted. I know from my own experience that it’s not. I couldn’t find an accurate number of deaths that occurred on the land the College resides on but I would say at least a dozen, give or take. Bates wasn’t the only one to die where Hartwell stands. Shortly after Bates died, a student claimed he was sick and stayed behind while others went to church. He tried making popcorn in his dorm room and accidentally burnt the Institute down. Oops. There is no record if the student survived or if there were other people left in the school. There was also the death of a man who was working on a cistern, slipped on a wooden plank, and drowned. Another man died after being hit on the railroad track that runs through the campus.
Anyway, the ghost hunt expedition started at 8PM that night and went until 6AM the following morning. The team and I went into the building and I told them about its history. We walked around and conducted tests and talked to the spirits. We set up cameras in rooms where activity was said to happen, wrote a math equation in one of the rooms, and conducted EVP sessions. We went inside the walls and basement of the building. In the 1970’s, some of the homeless people in town would hide in the tunnels in the basement for warmth and shelter. Could any of them passed away?
There is also a legend that a young female student drowned in the pool that used to be in Hartwell. There was in fact a pool but they took it out after renovations. Now it’s Studio 64 and used for dance practices. I couldn’t find anything to prove a girl drowned. The team had split into two and I stayed with half of them in Studio 64 while Erik followed the other half through the building. But during one of the EVP contact sessions we did in Studio 64, I swear the temperature dropped and something grabbed my foot. They were talking to the ‘ghost’ in the darkness of the room. The only light came from a flashlight and their camera. The room was warm and no vents were turned on. They asked me to lie in the middle of the floor while they asked the spirit to make a sound or to do something. The air right above me dropped while the air on the sides of me stayed warm and then I felt a pull on my right foot. I didn’t move and the pulling didn’t stop. I’m not entirely sure what happened or if a ghost actually touched me. I could’ve just been caught up in the moment but who knows for sure? I wasn’t going to move but the other half of the team opened the studio door and the pulling on my foot stopped.
The other interesting thing that happened that night was that I almost made a believer out of a major skeptic. Erik does not believe in ghosts, or spirits, or anything supernatural. That’s kind of why I brought him along. In Hartwell, a floor up from Studio 64, there is a small auditorium. The room is pretty dark but it does have windows near the ceiling which allows streetlamp light to shine in. When we walked into the room, all of the seats were folded up. Erik said he turned his head and saw the figure of a man in one of the seats. He stopped walking and stared at the figure, who vanished a couple seconds later. He walked over to the spot where he saw the figure and that was the only seat that was down. Needless to say, he was kind of freaked out and stared at the seat the whole time were were in the room. Could that have been Bates??
The rest of the night passed quietly. The paranormal team left around 3AM and Erik and I walked around the building, checking up on the math equation and items we’d left in certain rooms. Around 5AM, we did hear a loud bang a couple hallways away but it didn’t happen again. We heard little noises, like things dropping and scraping outside of Studio 64 but we couldn’t find the cause. I wanted to conduct a seance in Studio 64 but I couldn’t get Erik to go along with it. I think he was a little weirded up from the figure he saw earlier. We decided to stay for another hour but nothing happened so we left. I should mention that we also went up in the bell tower and shocked to find that there was no bell but a large collection of women’s panties hung up on a clothesline. Dozens of pairs and crushed beer cans everywhere. That might’ve been the weirdest thing we found that night.
A few weeks later, the team sent me some audio clips to listen to but they decided it most likely wasn’t paranormal activity. Just odd noises picked up by the cameras. Is Hartwell haunted? Or is it just the effect of campus legends mixed with fear? Especially, during the night when people are tired and alert to anything out of the ordinary. I would say that Hartwell probably has some kind of ghostly activity just because of the amount of tragedy and death that occurred on the land. And that’s just from the deaths recorded. Who knows the entire history of that plot of land?
I’m also intrigued to know how much campus legend and talk affect people’s beliefs of ghosts. I mean, every college campus has some ghostly legend. I doubt many of them have had research and investigations done but how is it that they all have a type of legend? Why is it that so many people are disbelievers but they spread the legend and even act wary of them? Just in case? I heard so many students talk about the ghosts and how it’s a dumb story, ghosts don’t really exist. Yet, they won’t go in Hartwell at night or they exit their night classes like bats outta hell. I wonder how much the fear of the unknown affects them…
I will say that leading a paranormal investigation for my internship was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. If you ever get a chance to lead one, be safe, but go for it. Even if you don’t find anything and you feel like a dork. You never know what you could find…