FARGO — One would be hard-pressed to find a college or university in America that doesn't claim to have at least one haunted building on campus. It's part of the mystique of higher education — the ivy covered brick buildings housing spirits of students who met their untimely end but remain to haunt today's students. It happens right here in Fargo-Moorhead at Concordia College, North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Perhaps, it's not surprising that many of the "haunted" buildings on the campuses have similar back stories — grumpy old custodians wandering the bowels of the building even after death and young co-eds supposedly ending their lives for failing grades. Part of the problem with the stories, is the difficulty in proving them to be true or false. Most rumors or urban legends are vague on details, like dates and times. One is left with the nearly impossible task of trying to prove or disprove these events happened.

Nonetheless, they make for fun conversation starters each Halloween.

According to some previous residents, Hoyum Hall at Concordia College is home to an "active and disruptive" ghost. Photo courtesy: Concordia College/Special to The Forum
According to some previous residents, Hoyum Hall at Concordia College is home to an "active and disruptive" ghost. Photo courtesy: Concordia College/Special to The Forum

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Concordia College

According to a story posted on its website, Concordia College has had reports of ghostly goings-on in at least three buildings on campus: Hoyum Hall, Brown Hall and the theater.

Hoyum, a co-ed dorm on campus, is supposedly home to an "active and disruptive" ghost who has been known to flood the bathrooms during break and throw papers around empty rooms. Some students describe the ghost as "pale, with a white face, blonde hair and a black cloak."

The most haunting story of the Hoyum ghost is an account from a female resident detailed in a story written by student archivist Annie Weier.

"Asleep in her bed late one night, a presence other than her roommate caused her to stir. Opening her eyes, she saw the ghost climbing into bed with her. The figure lay down next to her for a few minutes and then was gone, leaving no trace," she says.

This same spirit has supposedly been seen in Brown Hall, another residence hall.

Concordia's theater is supposedly home to a friendlier ghost who likes to play tricks.

"In 1976, the theater department ordered programs for their upcoming show to be printed. However, when they received the programs from the print shop, a mysterious name had appeared – Al Gersbach. There was no student or faculty member by that name, and the printers insisted that they had not added it. It was too late to reprint the programs, so the name was left alone," Weier wrote.

Since that time strange incidences have been reported in the theater. Just to be safe, "Al Gersbach" has been printed on every theater program since that time. No sense taking chances.

Shawn O'Donnell of FM Paranormal says one of his favorite places to investigate was Ceres Hall on the campus of NDSU. Forum file photo
Shawn O'Donnell of FM Paranormal says one of his favorite places to investigate was Ceres Hall on the campus of NDSU. Forum file photo

North Dakota State University

Both Minard Hall and Ceres Hall have been at the center of ghost stories on campus for years. Ceres Hall, a one-time women's dormitory and now home to college-related business including registration, admission and career counseling, is probably the more active of the two buildings. At least two paranormal groups were granted access to study the ghostly activity in the building in the early 2000's. Fargo-Moorhead Paranormal says it's among its favorite places to study. They shared their experiences with us.

NDSU seems reluctant to talk about Ceres Hall these days and FM Paranormal says they're no longer allowed to investigate there. But earlier reports indicate that the most activity seems to happen on the third floor with reports of slamming doors and noises even when no one is around. Others who go in the basement say they feel uneasy — like they're being watched. The alleged culprits of the hauntings are the ghosts of a student who died on the third floor after getting bad grades and a custodian who died in the basement during the WWII era. Neither of these deaths have been verified.

Weld Hall is said to be haunted by an old custodian. Forum file photo
Weld Hall is said to be haunted by an old custodian. Forum file photo

Minnesota State University Moorhead

Weld, Dahl and Holmquist Halls are often mentioned as the most haunted on MSUM's campus. Weld Hall, an English building, is at the heart of one of the longest standing rumors on campus. According to a story first printed in the student newspaper, The Advocate, the ghost story has several variations. The most common of which includes a janitor who, after committing suicide in Glasrud Auditorium, haunts the building.

However, urban legends expert John Sherman says stories like this have been used as forms of "industrial hazing." Older employees tell new hires about ghosts that supposedly walk the halls.

Then "at night when the younger officers would check the doors in Weld, the older officers would try to frighten them," he said.

While it's highly likely the older employees are making the stories up, there is evidence of a death at Weld. Archivist Terry Shoptaugh told The Advocate that a worker fell off a ladder and died during construction of the building.

But how do stories like this change over the years? Like a slumber party game of "telephone," does a story evolve and grow to epic, ghostly proportions with each new class of students?

Because many parts of college buildings are old, like this stairway at MSUM's Weld Hall, they're ripe for stories about the existence of spirit. Forum file photo
Because many parts of college buildings are old, like this stairway at MSUM's Weld Hall, they're ripe for stories about the existence of spirit. Forum file photo

Sherman told The Advocate, many ghost stories and urban legends are shared within groups of people who are dealing with new situations, like college. He says it's much easier to share a common bond with others over a creepy ghost story than think about being on their own for the first time.

"The horror stories are displaced ways of dealing with anxiety," he says.

Or is that just what the ghosts want you to believe?