Whether you're reading this around Halloween or not, it's never a bad time to research the rich, ghostly history of James Madison University. That way, when October rolls around, you'll have plenty of spooky places to visit right here on campus.
1. The Tunnels
Most JMU students have heard whisperings of a tunnel system that runs underneath the quad, connecting many of the buildings. Truthfully, this is a topic JMU does not shy away from. According to the website, the tunnels do exist, but most are only big enough to crawl through. Other accounts claim the tunnels are bigger in some areas as well as connected to the heating system as they once provided warm, safe passage to students and teachers.
The sheer existence of these dimly-lit, dirt tunnels is enough to send shivers down your spine; however, the tunnels also come with a tale of murder. According to rumors and stories traveling around the internet and campus, a young girl in the 1920s was asked by through a note to meet her boyfriend in the tunnels below campus. Her friends protested as she had been getting notes from a secret admirer. The next morning her roommates found her body in the tunnels. To this day, students claim they can smell her perfume as well as hear her footsteps as she runs down the tunnel.
This myth is a hotly debated item between the general public and the university. The university claims the event did not occur but was simply a rumor spread by students. Regardless of the truth of the matter, the story behind this tragedy begins with a relationship between a female student and a married professor. According to rumor, the professor ended the relationship, thus driving the student to hang herself in the cupola bell tower. Students claim to see her still hanging in the window of the cupola.
In the 1970s, a rumor spread through both JMU and Mary Baldwin's campuses that there was an administrator who would kill a student in the Shenandoah Valley whose name began with an "M." While committing this act, she would be wearing a red dress. Though nothing ever came of the threat, it is thought to have originated through the predictions of Jeanne Dixon.
4. Wayland's Ghost
One of the less well-known tales on campus is the Wayland ghost. As a past resident of Wayland, I was told this story one of my first nights in the dorm. According to rumors, one evening quite some time ago a male resident of Wayland was rushing a fraternity. As per their request, he was on the train tracks behind Wayland. The story gets a bit fuzzy here as some claim he was tied to the track, managed to escape, but couldn't run fast enough to avoid the oncoming train. Other accounts claim he was simply running down the tracks, and he was unable to run fast enough. In some versions of the story, his girlfriend is tied to the track, and he can't untie her. He's hit by the oncoming train. Students who live in Wayland claim to hear and see a figure moving through the dorms.
Confederate General Turner Ashby's grave lies only a few miles from JMU's campus so it is no surprise students have claimed to see an apparition resembling him wandering through campus. During the battle in which he was killed, he was hit with a mini ball and died instantly. Supposedly, his death, as well as the battle, occurred on the property that is not JMU. Students claim to see Ashby along with his phantom cavalry all over campus, but especially near Ashby on the Quad.
With all the history of Harrisonburg, I'm sure it's easy to find even more haunted and interesting places.