Rumors of ghostly happenings on NAU's North Campus have abounded for decades: Suicide closets, drowning tunnels, strange bangings in the night, electrical malfunctions, screams from the ground, sightings of women in blue nightgowns and water faucets with a mind of their own.
In the center of this campus vortex of creepiness is North Morton Hall. Built in 1913, the monolithic building glows an eerie white at night and is home to one of NAU's longest-term residents — "Kathy the Ghost."
There are various versions of the Kathy story, told through the years by resident to resident, parent to child, sibling to sibling.
The most common variation is that 19-year-old Kathy committed suicide in room 200A upstairs at the hall in 1953. It was Christmas break and Kathy's parents told her they didn't have money to bring her home for the holidays because of a bankruptcy the family suffered. If that wasn't enough for poor Kathy — being stuck in a gloomy dorm when everyone else went home —
it seems her boyfriend, instead of giving her the expected engagement ring, jilted her for another girl.
Tormented beyond endurance, she used a rope to hang herself on the stairway to the attic. She was wearing a blue nightgown and was found by two cleaning women a few days later.
About a month later, a stillborn baby was found in the basement. Was there a connection between it and the ill-fated Kathy? We'll never know.
Personal encounters with Kathy's ghost have occurred ever since. They include water turning on in the middle of the night, toilets randomly flushing, lights flickering, footsteps outside doors when no one is there, the smell of roses (her favorite flower) on the third floor, walls turning pink (her favorite color), sounds of crying in empty spaces, a mystery woman dressed in a blue nightgown walking the halls at night, banging noises on pipes heard throughout the hall, doors opening by themselves, doors locking by themselves and stereos turning on to music of the '50s.
For residents today in North Morton, Kathy is still very much a presence in their lives.
"There's stories that her favorite color is pink and they've tried to paint over where she was but the paint just peels right off," NAU senior Tisha Laine said. "It's creepy. I don't go to the third floor unless I have to."
Weird things happen in Laine's own room, too.
"Two weeks ago I set the sleep timer for 12 minutes to watch the end of a show on TV," she said. "I woke up in the morning and the Spanish channel was on when I had been watching Channel 3 with the Street Smarts game show. Last semester at about 11:30 at night, I turned my stereo off to watch TV. About 10 minutes later, the TV turned back off and the radio came back on. I ran downstairs to the front desk I was so scared. I'm a big chicken."
The labyrinthine corridors and stairs of North Morton are confusing and freaky at times.
"There's so many mirrors in the building that it kind of freaks you out," said senior accounting major Traci Christiansen. "You walk around a corner and there's a mirror you don't expect to be there. There's a mirror at the end of every hall and one at the top of every stair."
North Morton doors are equally strange.
"There's a lock to the door to the balcony because it's been condemned," Christiansen said. "None of the residents have keys and nobody ever goes out there. Sometimes it's unlocked, just at random."
Investigations into the Kathy story usually lead to a dead end, perhaps because university officials in the 1950s didn't want to publish the incident and give their hall or institution a bad name. Various publications, including an article in The Lumberjack, Oct. 28, 1992, have reported that one of the cleaning woman, a Mary Nunoz who worked at NAU for 33 years, verified the suicide of Kathy.
Despite renovations through the years, the hall still has a certain peculiar aura of sadness. Girls through the years have reported that when they are sad or homesick they feel a cold hand touching theirs with a sense that they are not alone.
Even coming home to the building can be daunting.
"It is a little creepy coming up to the building at night," junior math major Amity France said. "You think, 'Please don't let there be a ghost behind the door when I come in.' The worst part is if you don't have your key ready and you look around and say, 'OK Kathy, where are you?'"
Residents began a tradition last year of hosting a night of North Morton Hall ghost stories. The price of admission was $1 and a can of food. This year's event took place on Oct. 19 and was a big success. It included walking through the basement, climbing upstairs to the third floor, talking about Kathy in the little blue lobby upstairs where she like to sit and telling ghost stories for two hours.
There are other ghosts in and around North Morton such as the two lovers who drowned in an underground tunnel between Taylor Hall and North Morton when the pipes broke. They might account for the giggling and banging on water pipes that people hear in the North Morton basement.
"It's definitely an adventure living in North Morton," Laine said.
— Arizona Daily Sun