Miss Havisham haunts Ormsby attic

Chelsea Johnson

Living in close quarters with 100 other students introduces you to all sorts of neighbors like the loud ones, the mysterious ones or the ones with the futon and television. But for Ormsby Hall residents, some neighbors are more than just annoying; some are not from this realm.
Miss Havisham, as past residents have named her, is the ghost who haunts Ormsby. She shares the attic – an area locked to students – with Facility Services storage. She has been around long enough to even have earned a place on the hall directory.
Most believe her to be female, perhaps the spirit of an old house mother or the precursor to current residence hall directors. Her name comes from Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” in which her namesake is an old woman who got stood up on her wedding day and still wears her wedding dress – though it is unknown if a similar fate drove Miss Havisham to haunt Ormsby.
Stories surrounding the Ormsby ghost have been around almost as long as the building itself. The first mention, and possibly the origin of this supernatural story, comes from the February 1899 issue of The Lawrentian, 10 years after construction on the residence hall was completed.
At approximately midnight on Feb. 4, the female residents of Ormsby heard noises, though reports conflicted as to their description. Some heard a deep groan; others claimed someone was walking up stairs, while still others heard a dog barking. Alarmed, the residents armed themselves with hairpins and fruit knives and “went out to conquer or die.” Though their bravery was admirable, it was for naught, as they never found the specter.
Miss Havisham was not scared away by the residents, for ever since making her presence known in 1899, Miss Havisham has not stopped haunting Ormsby. Though there have been no written reports of the ghost since the 1899 article, verbal reports have continued to filter around Ormsby and campus.
“I have had students on the third floor tell me all the time they hear noises above them,” Ormsby Hall Director Rose Wasielewski said. “Someone walking slowly or a voice. And I’ll be honest – during spring break when no one was in the building, I have heard noises.”
Third floor resident Angel Philipello agreed: “Some nights when it’s quiet, I hear lots of creepy noises and creaking coming from the attic.”
Though many report noises, no one has seen any apparitions wandering the halls in recent memory.
“If there actually is a ghost chilling in Ormsby, she hasn’t made a physical appearance that I’ve heard about or seen,” Wasielewski said.
While some hear Miss Havisham in the attic regularly, others living on the third floor have not had any trouble from the ghost.
“I have not heard or seen anything,” said third floor resident Sadie Lancrete. “Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts, but if anywhere was to be haunted, it would be Ormsby.”
While some swear Miss Havisham exists, others believe there are earthly explanations for the phantom noises.
“Ormsby’s no spring chicken,” Wasielewski said. “She’s bound to groan a bit as she settles with all those wood floors contracting and expanding with the weather.”
Others, however, are not so quick to explain away the noises.
“Sure, some of the creaking must be because Ormsby is so old,” Philipello said. “But some of it has to be the ghost.”
It’s a debate that is bound to continue, as it is difficult even for those who have lived here for years to decide.
“I don’t know if I believe in Miss Havisham, but I’m not going to discount the possibility either,” Wasielewski said.
Interested in deciding for yourself if Miss Havisham is real or just folklore? Check out Lawrence’s Haunted Tours, given around Halloween by the Lawrence staff archivist. Tours include Ormsby and other allegedly haunted locations on campus, including Stansbury Theatre and Memorial Chapel.