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Chilling Chatham

Brittany Goncar is a Mt. Lebanon resident and a Chatham University alumna. She chose this topic for Halloween week, hoping to highlight some of the encounters she has heard about over the years.
The red brick Mellon House, surrounded by trees.
The Mellon House

Many might recognize Chatham University and its stately charm from its appearance in the new Netflix series The Chair. But anyone who has spent ample time on campus will tell you with old buildings come old inhabitants.

The Mellon house is the estate of Andrew Mellon himself, and his portrait still hangs in the entrance today. It’s been reported that Mellon trips anyone who forgets to say “hi” as they pass by. His presence is found downstairs as well. Now a boardroom and broadcast studio, the space used to be a bowling alley and indoor pool. Creepily, there’s a tunnel that still leads into the pool under the boardroom floor. Students claim to smell the cigar smoke and conversations of Mellon and his dear friend Henry Clay Frick along with the resetting of bowling pins. In fact, my husband, who worked at Chatham, swears he’s heard these conversations. Talk about something disrupting your work day!

Amongst the old estates that make up Chatham’s campus are the dormitories that all have their own stories.

Fickes Hall, a freshman dorm, is the first building along Woodland Road when entering campus from Fifth Avenue. Customarily, first year students can’t have overnight guests until after Fickes Eggnog, a campus holiday tradition held in December. So you can imagine the students’ surprise when they discovered the dorm’s permanent overnight guests! The main “resident” ghost is thought to be Edwin Fickes himself who can be heard rummaging through desks and drawers looking for something he lost long, long ago. When I was living there, I’d often hear old-timey music playing in the distance if I stayed up too late studying—could it have been Edwin? Or perhaps one of the dorm’s other permanent inhabitants … Others have felt the presence of a woman who supposedly committed suicide by jumping out a window. And residents on the third floor also have their own nightly visitor: sadly, legend has it that a little boy lost his life when his ball bounced out the window and he tried to stop it. To this day, the bouncing ball can still be heard.

Next up the hill are the Rea and Laughlin houses. People claim [1] that there were affairs galore back in the day, one of which unfortunately resulted in the suicide of James Laughlin, whose ghost can be heard opening and slamming doors. It’s enough to make anyone jump!

The most famous ghost of Chatham haunts Woodland Hall. The dorm built in 1909 is rumored to be a former mental hospital, but it’s just that—a rumor. There, students claim to wake up to the presence of a woman in a blue dress floating at the end of their beds. It’s uncertain who the Blue Lady is, but she is the most frequently-witnessed phenomenon on campus.

As more students pass through campus, the stories have evolved and grown in numbers. If you’re curious, you can visit Chatham around Halloween for a creepy campus tour.