A ghost in the stacks? Probably not.

(Courtesy of hasenconstruction.com)

The eerie silence is creepy enough, but combining it with the rows of dusty old books that play with the imagination can spook even the calmest of people.

Welcome to the West Stacks.

The stacks have captured the imagination of SMU students for generations. Stories of a ghost haunted students from the 1960s to the 1990s. But today, that is more or less a forgotten myth.

Students still think it’s creepy back there, and there is talk on the social media gossip site Yik Yak of students stealing behind the books for furtive make out sessions, but a ghost? Most don’t believe it.

Walk through Hughes-Trigg student center and ask random students if they have heard of the Fondren ghost, and most respond with a blank stare. Some students ask to hear the story but most just look at a reporter like she’s nuts.

Janet Allmon is the Library Specialist at Fondren. She recited a story of the ghost one day recently that every member of the library staff tells those who ask. It goes like this: Umphrey Lee was the first student body president and the third university president at SMU. He retired from the university in 1954 but kept an office on the third floor of Fondren. One late night in 1958, Lee took ill in his office and died. Since then there have been rumors that his ghost haunts the West Stacks.

“Some people have claimed to sense a ‘presence’ on that floor, although I haven’t heard any stories first-hand,” Allmon said.

Just looking through past issues of The Daily Campus it becomes obvious that campus reporters have helped keep the rumor of a ghost alive into the 21st century. The mysterious happenings in the West Stacks are written about almost every other year and published in The Daily Campus.

Joan Gonsell is the University Archivist for SMU with an office on the third floor of Fondren. Gosnell said she has never felt any sort of presence when she is in her office. Even late at night she is not scared to be up there alone. Allmon believes active imaginations and journalism students are the reason this legend has survived as long as it has.

“I don’t believe in ghosts, I believe in active imaginations so either I have no imagination or he likes the stacks,” Allmon said with a laugh.

Every year at least one student asks her to tell them the story of the ghost.

One of Gosnell’s friends and coworkers is Professor Melissa Dowling, the Director of Classical studies in Dedman College at SMU. One of the courses she teaches is titled Gods, Ghosts and Magic in Ancient Rome. Dowling also does not believe in ghosts and despite hanging out in the West Stacks late at night, has never even felt the presence of a spirit.

Jon Paul Temple is a senior who works at the front information desk at Fondren library. He has had some students come to the desk asking about the ghost but that no one has ever told him they have seen it.

Some students have told him that they feel like someone is watching them or messing with them but that could simply be a side effect of being in the West Stacks too long.

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