Ghost and Graves: An archival dive into the legends of our campus in honor of spooky season.

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains mention of suicide, homicide, and animal death. 

Did you know that Eastern has not one, but two ghosts? And a grave? That’s right — these stories have been around for decades, even one for over a century. 

Firstly, there’s the Walton ghost. Named Suzy Walton, she’s somewhat known around campus, and is by far the more popular ghost story of our two. The decades-old rumor, dating back to about 1961, tells the story of seven-year-old Suzy either committing suicide or being murdered in 1929 (accounts vary). Some say she hanged herself off the railing or threw herself out of her window; others say she was strangled or suffocated.  Multiple staff and students have attested to the ghost’s existence after visiting the fourth floor (locked for storage since the early sixties) of the Walton building, where supposedly Suzy had her bedroom. The fourth floor allegedly has a bloody handprint on one of its walls. There is an account of a student being choked by invisible hands with his necklace after visiting, and of students and staff hearing unidentified wailing and footsteps at night. 

Number two: the Doane ghost. Purportedly, this ghost is either a former servant for the Walton family in the 1910’s (Doane was used for servants’ quarters according to our archived sources), or a student resident of the building decades later in Doane B. Whoever the ghost really was, her name was Reba Yoder. There are accounts of strange happenings in Doane A, B, and C, including unidentified footsteps at night, chairs tipping themselves over in an empty bathroom, feet dangling from beneath bathroom stalls, rope appearing out of nowhere in a bathroom, and lights flickering off in the laundry room. The bathroom stories allegedly occurred mostly in Doane B, where Reba was said to reside. Our source did not report how long this story has existed.

Our campus’ grave is shrouded in an even greater mystery of over a century, however, as its otherwise-identifying engravings have been largely worn away by the elements. Notably small, measuring not more than eighteen inches in height at most, no one quite knows who or what was laid to rest there. It reportedly was on the property before Charles Walton, Sr. ever bought it from the previous owners, the Harrisons, in 1910. An 1875 map of the then-farmland presented by Frederick Boelke, who our archives say was highly knowledgeable about the history of the property, has led many to believe that this grave houses the remains of a horse. Hence its common referral among students as the notorious “horse graveyard”. The grave is located across the parking lot in front of Sparrowk Hall. We have no documented accounts of any strange activity surrounding the horse graveyard as of now, but if anyone has heard stories, do send them in for a potential follow-up.

Although medical records say that Suzy Walton died of lupus and our archives report that she did not live in the Walton home, that the alleged bloody handprint is most likely paint, that her ghost story was likely fabricated by an English professor between 1959 and his retirement in 1995, and that archivist and property historian Boelke reported not having heard the legend before 1961; although none of the stories about Reba Yoder are confirmed to be true, and the question of her true identity attests to likely fabricated stories; although no one can quite be sure of what lies beneath the tiny, eroded grave outside Sparrowk or has yet heard strange stories about it — there is no doubt our small campus has any deficiency in satisfyingly old, creepy legends. What you believe is up to you. 

Sources: Brian Cooper (1979), Kristen Gaiser (2003), Chelsea Zimmerman (2007), unknown writer (2009), Stephanie Weaver (2009), Anthony Pelone (2013), Hannah Day (2013), and Parker Desautell (2015), all writing for the Waltonian; Radnor Historical Society Bulletin “A Tale of Two Estates” by John A. Baird, Jr. (1998) 

Thanks to Chelsea Post (systems librarian) for access to the Waltonian archives.

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