April 29, 2017

The haunted history of Webster University

Places with a long history usually have scary stories to tell, and Webster is no exception. According to some, the oldest residents on Webster’s campus are actually its ghosts, and every once in a while they make their presence known. 

Phantoms of the Theater

Students and faculty frequently experience different ghost encounters at the Loretto-Hilton Center, which has reportedly two ghosts. One is a construction worker who died in an accident during the construction of the Loretto-Hilton Center in 1965 and haunts the lower level.

The other spirit, David Hitzer, guards his territory up on the catwalk consistently. Sitting at the theater late at night, one might see him around making noises or playing with the lights.

Hitzer was on the theater’s staff. At one rehearsal on a Sunday in the early 70s, Hitzer felt tired and went to take a nap but never woke up again.

Peter Sargent, Dean of Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, has been with the Loretto-Hilton Center from the first day in 1966. Sargent worked with Hitzer in the past.

“We think he really never left,” Sargent said.

Sargent said he thinks Hitzer is now a benevolent spirit, and recalled students who said they leaned out on the catwalk and felt a force pull them back.

“There is always something going on and changing. He has been so helpful to students and he is going to be there to help them,” Sargent said.

The Nun Ghost

William Ratz, Director of Parent and Student Programs Advancement, said he had two ghost encounters on the fourth floor of Loretto Hall.

Having heard all the stories when he was a student at Webster, Ratz had his first encounter during Homecoming weekend 2006. He worked at the alumni office in Loretto Hall. At 8 p.m., he was waiting for an alumni volunteer when he  glanced down the hallway saw a black shadow-like form came out of a conference room and stop in the hallway.

“I can tell it turned towards me, and it turned back and walked through the wall,” Ratz said. “I didn’t feel threatened or anything, but it was just spooky.”

Ratz said he did not see it clearly that time, but the second encounter was just a foot from him and in the middle of the day.

Loretto Hall JORDAN PALMER / The Journal

Loretto Hall
JORDAN PALMER / The Journal

Five or six years later, Ratz was talking to a receptionist one day and felt somebody coming out of the elevator even though there was no sound. He turned quickly to greet them, but instead saw the same figure from a few years ago.

Ratz said he believes he saw the ghost nun who haunts the fourth floor of Loretto Hall. Ratz recalled the rumor he heard when he was a student at Webster of a nun who had an affair with a priest and got pregnant. She was thrown (or jumped) out of a fourth floor window.

According to Ratz, from the stories he heard only men can see the nun’s spirit. But sophomore Alyssa Shank is an exception to that theory.

Shank had her encounter on the fourth floor of Maria Hall one night when she was living there her freshman year. In the Spring of 2015, she was fast asleep by herself in her room. She opened her eyes in the dark and saw a woman with long hair and glasses staring blankly at her.

Shank thought she was dreaming at first. She closed her eyes for a while and when she reopened them, the women was gone.

Shank had never heard the building was haunted, but after learning about the ghost nun from her friends, she realized the long hair was probably the habit nuns wear.

“It looked like a real person,” Shank said. “Her face was blank though.”

The very next day, Shank invited a friend over to her room. Just when they were talking about her ghost encounter, her friend suddenly could not move his leg. He felt something grabbing his leg and fought to pull away.

JORDAN PALMER / The Journal

JORDAN PALMER / The Journal

Shank said she thought her friend was messing with her, but her friend was too scared to talk. Then they heard a strange sound from inside the wall behind them.

“I don’t know what it was, but obviously it was a sign.” Shank said.

Shank said she did not feel the nun intended to harm her but just sat there trying to let her know she is real.

“It’s really awesome that I still got a taste of what she does.” Shank said.

Ratz felt the same way. He would not mind seeing her a third time.

“I don’t think she is trying to hurt anybody,” Ratz said. “She is just stuck here. Once in a while, she will let her presence be known.”

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