Monday, October 28, 2019

The Ghosts of UNC Greensboro

To celebrate Halloween, we repeat this blog post, originally posted in October 2012 by Hermann Trojanowski, who retired from Special Collections and University Archives in 2013. We hope you enjoy this extra spooky Spartan Story.

Spencer Residence Hall
Tales have long circulated about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the campus.  In the late 1960s, the Spencer Residence Hall ghost was known simply as "The Blue Ghost" or "The Woman in Blue." In the early 1980s, students gave her the name "Annabelle," possibly alluding to the subject of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem "Annabel Lee."

Legend has it that Annabelle is the spirit of a student who hanged herself many years ago in one of the building’s bell towers; however, no such suicide has ever been documented.  A member of the residence hall staff reported that Annabelle had "appeared as a blue shadow" on two occasions in the Spencer’s main parlor and when the building was closed for the Summer in 1976, the same staff member heard the ghost "dragging something on the floor out in the lobby." There have been other reports of a blue haze passing by a second-floor laundry room and of objects being flung across rooms.

In South Spencer in the early 1980s, an apparition reportedly awakened two different staff member on two separate occasions by walking into their rooms. The building had been closed for vacations both times. It is not known whether this was Annabelle or another ghost or ghosts.

Mary Foust Residence Hall
Build in 1928, Mary Foust Residence Hall was named for Mary Foust Armstrong, daughter of the college’s second president, Julius Isaac Foust.  Mary was a member of the class of 1920 – she died in childbirth in 1925. Some believe that her ghost took up residence in the dormitory that bears her name, because rumors have floated around for years about random "unexpected crying" and "funny noises" on the hall’s second floor.  Mary Foust’s portrait, which had hung above the fireplace, disappeared some time back without a trace.  Another rumor about Mary Foust Hall was that in the 1950s, three nursing students hanged themselves from the rafters in the attic.  Investigations have shown that the structure of the beams would make hanging very difficult but still the rumors persist.

The campus' most well documented ghost reportedly inhabits UNCG (formerly Aycock) Auditorium, which opened in 1927.  An interview with Raymond Taylor who taught drama and play presentation and was the director of dramatic activities on campus from 1921 until his retirement in 1960, reveals that Taylor not only believed in the ghost of UNCG Auditorium, but recounts his personal experiences with the ghost. 

Raymond Taylor
According to Taylor, "at one time a sort of colonial mansion stood on the corner where Aycock is.  There dwelt in this mansion an old lady all-alone.  After a while she became extremely unhappy about her lonely state and went up in the attic and suspended herself from a rope on the rafters.  Having committed suicide there, she determined to stay on as a ghost.  When they tore down the building, she haunted the area for a long time until Aycock was finally built, and then she adopted that for her home.  She seemed, when I knew her to delight in the upper reaches of Aycock foyer where she assumed the guise of lights that flitted from ceiling place to ceiling place and dragging chains and clanking objects over the floor down in the lobby up to my office door."

Taylor goes on to tell the story of an incident that occurred one afternoon when he and the auditorium's janitor were working on the set for a play.  The whole building was locked up, and since it had been an extremely hot afternoon, he and the janitor undressed down to their briefs to work.  Taylor had left his clothes neatly in a pile.  During the afternoon, a storm came up that raged and roared for quite a while and after the storm was over, Taylor went upstairs to dress and found that his clothes had been disarranged.  He had been wearing a vest with a watch chain across it, and his watch chain had been arranged on the table in the form of a cross.  His other clothes were "helter skelter all over the place." Taylor just knew this was the work of the ghost of UNCG Auditorium.
UNCG Auditorium

Many nights, while working in the auditorium, Taylor would hear all sorts of strange noises.  He tried to explain some of them by saying that they were the echoes of passing cars or the reverberations of the passing trains shaking the building, but one night he and a colleague, Jimmy Hogue, were sitting in his officer around midnight talking.  Hogue was sitting with his back to the door.  All of a sudden the door opened, and a cold air came in, and they heard the receding clank of chains.  They got up and turned on the lights in the hallway and looked all over, but could never find an explanation for that occurrence.

Jane Aycock
Students have given the auditorium's spirit a name, Jane Aycock, and say that she is the daughter of the man for whom the auditorium was previously named; but Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, whose two wives bore him nine children, had no daughter by that name.  Supposedly she killed herself in the auditorium, a noose around her neck, her body dangling from the fly-loft over the auditorium stage. But the only deaths the auditorium has witnessed have been those acted out on stage, not over it.

According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal in 1977, written when the auditorium was 50 years old and was getting ready to reopen after renovations, the drama majors were so attached to the specter that it became something of a tradition to introduce her to new students. "An unsuspecting freshman would be handed a lighted candle and shown the stairway leading to the attic, reportedly the ghost’s favorite turf.  Then the drama majors… would solemnly watch as the flickering flame floated away into the gloom.  They knew there was a certain spot in the attic where a draft always blew out the candle.  It would take a few minutes for the novice spook chaser’s eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then, the victim would see a shape – a human shape – shimmering in the inky blackness.  The drama majors always got a kick out of hearing the screams that usually followed.  It’s surprising what a coat of luminescent paint can do for a manikin borrowed from the theater’s prop shop."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Dark Shadows, Deep Closets: A LGBT History Month Special Post

originally published by Stacey Krim in 2015

When reflecting upon events that serve as vehicles for social consciousness, a library book display is unlikely to rate as an impactful medium to facilitate and stimulate dialogue relating to controversial topics. Such displays are passive and frequently overlooked. However, a book exhibit installed in Jackson Library, at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, launched the student body into a critical discussion relating to gender, sex, and ethnicity.

In Jackson Library, PRIDE!, the LGBTQ student organization on campus at the time, constructed a book display, featuring queer African American authors and entertainers in honor of Black History Month in February of 2002. The exhibit, titled “Dark Shadows, Deep Closets,” communicated the conflicts faced and achievements earned by LGBTQ individuals in the Black community. The display consisted of books from the library collection that focused on homosexuality and ethnicity, as well as contained photographs of significant queer figures in African American history. The exhibit counts as among the first public initiatives on the UNCG campus exploring the intersectionalities of race, sex, and gender.

The display immediately attracted attention. The library received over a dozen phone calls objecting to the exhibit within the first day. The officers of the Student Government Association were bombarded with so many complaints that there was fear PRIDE!’s funding was in jeopardy. The student newspaper, The Carolinian, devoted extensive coverage to the student body’s reactions to the exhibit and the evolution of the discussion, beginning with race, transferring to money, and ending with politics.

In the first week of the display, campus opinion very much focused on sexuality and race. Interviews in The Carolinian featured the opposing positions, revealing the struggles encountered by LGBTQ individuals in the African American community. A student protesting the display, stating “This is black history month and that’s something to be proud of… And gays ain’t something to be proud of.” A member of PRIDE! From Greensboro College (who is identified as a gay African American male) maintained, “We’re celebrating Black History month by showing people another side of it. I would never say anything derogatory about black American homosexuals…”

As discussion about the display and the role of PRIDE! as an organization continued throughout the month of February and into March, the subject matter transitioned from race and sexuality to that of money. The argument opposing the funding of PRIDE! with student fees has been debated for decades. Several students viewed the conflict brought about by the exhibit as an opportunity to revisit the issue. One student argued that, “relatively few students are concerned with issues relating to sexual orientation until they are brought up by groups like PRIDE!. So to say that we as students should pay for a group supporting an issue we are unconcerned about – I really don’t agree with this.”        

However, some students saw PRIDE! not as a student organization devoted to creating an inclusive campus environment for students of all sexualities and genders, but as a platform for spreading political ideology hiding behind a civil rights-oriented student organization. In a letter to the editor of The Carolinian, the most vocal opponent against PRIDE!, Jason Crawford, argued that “PRIDE uses the homosexual issue as a shield to insulate themselves from critics that might otherwise have something to say about their increasingly radical left-wing agenda.” Crawford maintained that PRIDE!’s support of “anti-war rallies” and establishment of “forums that question our government were initiatives intended to deliberately provoke politically conservative students. He called for the SGA designation of PRIDE! as a non-budgetary organization in order that student organizations be held to a high “standard of accountability. Therefore student groups that receive money from students should make reasonable effort to not offend significant numbers of students.”

In spite of vocal opposition, the story ends with the exhibit remaining in Jackson Library through the month, PRIDE! keeping its funding, and the launching of a much needed discussion relating to sexuality and gender in the campus community. This entire event took place during a time UNCG was introducing several initiatives to make the campus more inclusive for sex and gender diversity, including Safe Zone Ally training for staff and faculty and the inclusion of a statement of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation in the UNCG policy manual. Perhaps the greatest indication of progress can be viewed in that PRIDE! and University Libraries recreating the display for Black History Month in 2013 without any complaints. Who would think a book display in the library could stir such progress? 

Monday, October 14, 2019

“From a Tuning Fork to the Pearls off of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Coat:” Our College Museum

In 1915, only a few years before the start of World War I, Walter Clinton Jackson, the head of the History Department of the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNC Greensboro), decided to create a campus Historical Museum, which would house important “relics of the state.” These artifacts were meant to reflect the industrial, cultural, and military history of North Carolina, and provide the students with a direct link to their state’s past.

South Carolina Currency, Part of the Museum's Collection
 One of the most important inspirations and supporters of this museum was Colonel Frederick Augustus Olds, who visited the college in December of that year. Colonel Olds was the “Field Collector” for the Hall of History in Raleigh. Olds traveled throughout North Carolina collecting artifacts, and owned a large personal collection of historic material. When the Hall of History was established in 1902, Olds donated his sizable collection and became its first director.*

It was during a visit to Raleigh in the spring of 1914, that the idea for a college museum took root at the State Normal. On the invitation of Colonel Olds, Dr. Jackson’s North Carolina History class visited the Hall of History, and the students’ interest in their state was ignited! Recognizing the young women’s enthusiasm for his collection, Olds donated a large and valuable assortment of Native American artifacts, to help the college start its museum.

Colonel Frederick Augustus Olds
Olds came the State Normal campus in December 1915 to help the students start their campus museum. He proved to be a charming and talented speaker, regaling the young women with interesting and romantic tales from North Carolina’s past. Olds’ visit was a special one for the fledgling museum, as he to become a major patron, donating many items from his personal collection to the college.

Originally, one of the classrooms in the Administration Building (now the Foust Building) was designated for the museum. Exhibit cases were filled with local artifacts and heirlooms, and the walls were lined with maps and historic pictures. Depending primarily on gifts from students, faculty, and local collectors, the little museum displayed Confederate uniforms and period clothing, old guns and other “relics of war,” furniture, land records, diaries, and correspondence. Students described the museum's contents as ranging “from a tuning fork to the pearls off of Sir Walter Raleigh’s coat!”

The collection eventually grew to over 1,000 items, including reproductions of historic documents, which could be handled by the students in the course of their studies. One such document was a copy of a 1713 treatise between the state of North Carolina and the Tuscarora Native Americans, assuring the official recognition of their tribe. Another treasure was a copy of a 1788 “challenge to a duel” signed by President Andrew Jackson, which resulted from a dispute over a court case. Other prized possessions included Babylonian votive tablets, which had decipherable writing dated to 2350 BCE. These tablets were donated by noted archaeologist, Dr. Holt after lecturing at the college. The collection also boasted Continental and Revolutionary currency, as well as a large collection of Confederate notes. Indian arrowheads were also in abundance.

Land Document, Part of the Museum's Collection

The museum was still accumulating material in the 1930s, and it had moved its location to the Carnegie Library (now the Forney Building).Through the decades, the museum was to add to its collection, including the school’s “Service Flag,” with stars representing the students’ family members who had enlisted in World War I, local quilts and textiles, and a small science-based collection. When students from the Science Department traveled to Beaufort, North Carolina, to do research on marine life, the class contributed items that they had collected on the shore to the museum.

Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, 1948
In 1933, a fire at the library where the museum was housed damaged or destroyed many of the artifacts. At that time, it seems that much of the material was packed and stored in the attic of the Administration Building. In 1949, as Dr. Jackson, now the College’s Chancellor, made plans to retire, he decided to disperse the remnants of the College Museum for preservation and safe keeping. A committee was formed and over 100 items were inventoried and divided between the Home Economics Department’s “Costume Collection” and the Library. Other items were given away. From the material that was transferred to the Library, only a small box of documents remains. It is now part the Manuscripts Collection in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. The box includes a few letters, broadsides, pamphlets, currency, stamps, and land records. The rest of the items that were transferred to the Library are lost.

*The Hall of History became the North Carolina History Museum in 1965.