Student Activities’ annual Family Weekend ghost “tour,” an event typically involving a tour of Drew University’s haunted history, was confined to the Methodist archives this year due to the rain. To accommodate the weather, staff set up chairs for visiting students and families. University Archivist Matthew Beland told the stories of ghost experiences at Drew through a presentation format. The “Local Lore of Ghosts at Drew University” presentation even had to be broken into two separate sessions to accommodate the large groups of families.
The presentation began by covering Mead Hall, which has garnered reports of unwarranted footsteps and slamming doors in the middle of the night. Alongside mysterious shoulder taps, hazy apparitions are also cited to support the possibilities of ghostly entities. Theories for the ghost’s identity range from Roxanna Mead Drew, the wife of Drew Theological Seminary’s founder Daniel Drew, to plantation owner William Gibbons, who had built the mansion as a horse stable decades before it had been given the name “Mead Hall.”
After Mead Hall, visitors “stopped by” Hoyt-Bowne Hall, which has also amassed talk of confrontational spirits.
The stories of Hoyt-Bowne’s ghost are more aggressive than the ones found in Mead Hall. Men in particular have claimed to have been scratched and knocked over. These occurrences have been attributed to a “misandrist ghost” lashing out at men from the afterlife as retribution for an unconfirmed violent experience during her lifetime.
Many believe this violent act was committed by military men in the 1770s. While Revolutionary War soldiers were stationed at Drew at some point, there is no evidence to suggest there is any truth to the widespread rumors associated with the misandrist ghost. Furthermore, Hoyt-Bowne was not constructed until the 1890s.
That being said, the inhabitants of Hoyt-Bowne did once include military men. During WWII, Drew participated in the V-12 Navy College Training Program in which USN personnel were stationed on campus. Hoyt-Bowne is also significant in having been the location of a confirmed death. According to an excerpt from a 1902 issue of Christian Advocate, a Drew Theological Center student was electrocuted in his dorm room in a freak accident caused by a galvanized guy-wire dislodged from a storm that had happened a few days prior.
After the coverage of Hoyt-Bowne, the focus turned to Bowne Gymnasium. This building was funded by Samuel W. Bowne, who made his fortune in the medicine industry, famously co-creating “easy to digest” and “palatable” cod liver oil. The gym itself is said to house a mischievous ghost named “Reggie,” who is reported to have drowned in the pool and allegedly plays with the lights. The gym has since been turned into Drew’s very famous Shakespeare Theatre, and “Reggie” has since taken to hiding stage props.
When asked about who might most enjoy the ghost tours, Beland said, “People who are interested in just ghostly lore in general and some of the more quirky things about Drews history.”
The presentation this year also benefited from incorporating real historical photos. “I think it’s neat to see, especially if you’re a student who walks this place everyday, you walk by these buildings all the time. It’s easy to forget that there’s history behind all these things,” Beland said about the changes to Drew’s campus seen over the past centuries. “Part of the ghost stories bring that to light and make it exciting to remember that you’re part of a past here as well.”
The experience of coming to the Drew Ghost Tour is always a unique experience, designed to effectively teach attendees about the history of Drew in ways they may not have thought about before.
Rosie Sapperstein is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in media and communications.