There is lore among students and faculty at the University of Dayton, which goes back since the beginning of the University with one of its oldest buildings on campus, Liberty Hall. It is said that the building was used as an infirmary during a cholera epidemic and the ghost of a Marianist priest was one of the victims of the tragedy. This legend can be seen in articles such as "A Homeless Haunt" in "Haunted Ohio," Dayton.com's "GHOST SIGHTINGS: 7 of Dayton's most haunted spots," and UDQuickly's "Truth or Tale." As a forever wannabe ghost-finder, the building has always attracted my attention and I have spent several nights studying there in hopes of an encounter. In this article, I have provided my experiences and those of UD staff member, Ms. Mary Niebler, not to convince, but to provide evidence for you to decide on your own whether the benevolent ghost of Liberty Hall exists.
Studying late at night, I have experienced several mysterious occurrences in the building. In one study session, when a friend and I were the only ones in the building, we heard many loud thumps on the second floor above us. Right when the clock struck eleven, there was a massive thump above us and we both decided it was best that we left. The motion sensor lights have also been a reason to suspect paranormal activity in the building.
The same night I was studying with the friend, I felt as if something was watching us in the dark hallway. A couple of minutes after I took my eyes off the hallway, the lights flicked on. Granted, the lights are motion sensored, but in an empty building, it makes a person wonder what caused the movement.
This wasn't the only time the lights have been a reminder of the supernatural in the building. When finals week came around, I needed a quiet place to study and the busy library wasn't going to cut it. I decided to walk to Liberty Hall, the secret study space not many students know of. Once situated on the first floor, I started my work and soon got lost in it. Before I knew what was happening, the lights in the hallway switched off.
Embarrassingly enough, I was a little scared the lights shut off, so I started to stand up saying, "no, no, no!" Right after I said that the hallway lights turned back on. Minutes later, the lights in the room I just moved in shut off. Needless to say, I was spooked and rushed out of there.
Out of curiosity to learn more about the topic, I decided to interview UD faculty member, Mary Niebler. Through working as the Coordinator of Cross-Cultural Immersions for Social Concerns and Campus Ministry, she has acquired an office space in Liberty Hall and has been working in the building since August 2000.
In the interview, Mary revealed that she believes she encountered the spirit in her early years of working there.
Q: Do you believe in the supernatural?
A: I do. I believe that there is some sort of, I guess I would call it, energy that we may not be able to fully explain. Where that's coming from, I couldn't tell you the answers. But, I believe that there is an energy amongst us that is supernatural, you could call it spiritual, but I do believe that it does exist.
Q: What was your experience with the ghost of Liberty Hall?
A: So, when I was in grad school, which was from 2000-2002, I was in this office. I didn't have a computer at home. So, I did all of my papers and studying in my office as well. So, I was here writing a paper. It must have been two or three in the morning. I was the only person I thought in the building and my door was open. Just out of the corner of my eye, I very clearly saw just the bottom part of a man's leg and a shoe, like a dress shoe and like a black pant, kind of walk past my office. And then, so that fire door at the stairwell, they used to prop those open before we got in trouble for fire code. So that door never opened, and I could always hear downstairs if someone were to enter the building because it's pretty loud. So you could hear that door open and close if someone came in the building. I never had heard anything and I saw --and there is only one stairwell-- so I saw something walk past heading toward the stairs. I got up, I said something, you know. I never heard any footsteps or anything like that. I never heard a door open or close. I returned to my office, locked and closed my door and continued writing my paper. I never felt threatened or anything like that, but it's also kind of creepy.
Q: So you didn't initially hear about the ghost when you started working here?
A: I can't remember. I can't tell you for sure.
Q: Was that your very first experience then?
A: Yes, and it really has been my only. I have heard from other people, nothing that explicit, but other co-workers who are here late at night said they heard just noises and stuff, which you don't know if its the building or if it's something else. From what I hear though, it mostly happens on the second floor. Because students are here a lot at night, in the basement and I don't think I have heard any stories from down there.
There is a lot of activity in Liberty Hall, but it is up to you to decide whether the legend is true. When asked what she could tell doubtful readers Mary Niebler responded, "I guess I am not here to convince. It was my experience and sure I was in grad school, I was pulling an all-nighter, I was probably exhausted. But, I do think that was a very real experience for me and they can think whatever they want to think. I mean, they may think I'm crazy, I don't know. But, it was that one time and it wasn't scary. I wouldn't tell people to stay away from Liberty Hall. I've spent a lot of time here since."
Liberty Hall will forever attract attention because of its long history and mysterious activity. The best thing we can do is respect it and the possible ghost living there.
*Interview has been edited for clarity*