19 min read

Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall (Haunted Fordham University)

A look at some stories of ghost priests in an old library and classroom building. Plus, something strange that supposedly happened in the cemetery while The Exorcist was being filmed nearby.
Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall (Haunted Fordham University)

Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall: A look at some stories of ghost priests in an old library and classroom building. Plus, something strange that supposedly happened in the cemetery while The Exorcist was being filmed nearby.

Highlights include:
• A 1980s ghost priest who apparently knew computer programming
• A cemetery (and human remains) that was relocated twice
• Phantom voices heard by security guards
• Lightning striking a cemetery

Episode Script for Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

Note: For this version of the script, I tried to censor students’ names. Everyone I mention by name was quoted and named on the record in publicly accessible articles, but many of the articles exist in PDF form in the university’s archives and are not indexed by search engines. I don’t want to screw up the SEO on anyone’s name, so if you want to see full names, check out the sources or listen to the episode. 

  • I’m back, and continuing my look at the history and hauntings of Fordham University, my alma mater. If you haven’t listened to the first couple episodes in this series, that’s fine–feel free to jump in here if these ghost stories are most interesting to you.
  • I realized that I’ve unconsciously structured this series, or at least the first 5 episodes in this series, from light to dark, in a way.
  • As in, I’m starting out with the buildings and stories that I find less frightening, and that I romanticized because of their ghost stories before moving onto campus. And then, starting next episode, I feel like I’m delving deeper into the buildings, stories, and experiences that make me uncomfortable, uneasy, and/or upset.
  • This also mirrors my experience at Fordham, which started out pretty good and, by the end of freshman year, had taken a major nosedive, in terms of how much I liked it there and also my mental health. (Those two things were very connected, of course.) And as I became unhappier there, the paranormal experiences that I encountered became more upsetting to me.
  • But this episode, we’re still in the part of the Fordham hauntings that I find fun and charming and almost . . . Cuddly.
  • We’re still at the friendly ghosts, and this episode has some of my favorite stories of ghostly priests.
  • To take a look at where we’re going next, so you know what to look forward to:
    • Last episode, I talked about Hughes Hall, which I lived in during my first two summers at Fordham. There was always something troubling to me about Hughes, and it wasn’t just that part of The Exorcist was filmed there.
    • Then after Hughes, I’ll be talking about Finlay Hall, a place that in my memory is shrouded in shadow and, like, a film of menacing uneasiness. It used to be the medical school building on campus, and cadavers were dissected there. The scariest stories of hauntings are there, and that’s also where the most upsetting of my paranormal experiences occurred.
    • After Finlay, I have a few more episodes worth of stuff about other hauntings on campus, as well as tales of perhaps not paranormal, but unpleasant stuff that’s happened on Fordham’s campus that I think might contribute to its status as a famously haunted campus.
  • So, with that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this episode: charming ghostly tales of two classroom and/or office buildings on campus.

 

Fordham Cemetery (once called College Garden)

  • I mentioned this I think in the first episode of the series, but Fordham’s cemetery is famous for having been moved once, but in my research, it turns out that it was quietly moved a second time. Very interesting from a paranormal POV, since so many ghost stories tend to collect around stories about bodies being reinterred.
    • There’s also a story about the city wanting to build a road through Fordham’s campus, and Fordham moving the cemetery to block that, but that may be apocryphal.
  • So let’s get into the history of the Fordham cemetery.
  • Today, the cemetery on campus, which at least in the 70s was also known as “College Garden” is a small plot on the western side of campus. It’s 20″ long x 50″ wide, and has a little brown picket gate with marble posts next to it.
    • The cemetery is said to contain the remains of 68 Jesuit priests, 44 Jesuit brothers, 12 Jesuit scholastics, 3 Diocesan seminarians (priests in training), 9 students, and 2 workmen.
  • Fordham used to own the land that’s now the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden, so as people associated with the university died, their bodies would be buried on what’s now the grounds of the botanical gardens, or botans, as Fordham students call it. In the old cemetery, Jesuits’ graves were marked by wooden crosses, painted black.
    • So  the botanical gardens could be built, in 1890, the bodies that had been buried there were moved to a small plot of land right near the University Church. The last burial in that cemetery would be in 1909.
  • There’s a detailed account of what happened in Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003 by Thomas J. Shelley (2016)
    • “Farther east of the farm was the cemetery located on a hilly slope that is now part of the New York Botanical Garden. The first burial took place on July 11, 1847, one day after the death of Joseph Creedan, a twenty-six-year-old Irish-born novice brother who had entered the Society only two months earlier. New York City acquired the cemetery and some twenty-six surrounding acres by eminent domain in 1888 for $9,300. However, the Jesuits did not abandon their dead and were determined to keep them apud nos [which I think means “among us” in Latin], in the words of Father Isidore Daubresse. The following year they rejected the suggestion to establish a Jesuit plot in St. Raymond’s Cemetery and transferred the bodies of sixty-one Jesuits, nine students, three diocesan seminarians, and two workmen to the new cemetery adjacent to the church.”
  • Despite there seeming to be a clear line from the university, which is that the bodies were reinterred, there’s historically been a lot of debate about whether there are really bodies in the cemetery or not. (I remember that from when I was a student)
    • I will say that there are reputable sources that claim that some of the bodies may be there, but not all of them. There’s a 1976 Ram article about the cemetery, where the author goes on a tour of the cemetery with Father James Hennesey, a historian and former professor. To read from the article:
      • “One of the earliest dates of those buried there was that of James Fennel who died in 1850 . . . Father Hennesey didn’t believe Fennel’s grave was actually still there. . . . Some graves were lost or moved in one of the relocations, and other have probably disintegrated by now.”
    • A later article, from 2000, quotes what seems to be another Father Hennesey who was interested in in the cemetery? This time, it’s a father Thomas C. Hennessey (Hennessey’s spelled slightly differently from the other Father Hennesey), who has researched in the Fordham archives and said:
      • It is not a phantom cemetery. No support has been found for the believe that there are no remains of the deceased found there.”
  • Here’s an example, from an article in The Ram, October 31, 1985:
    • Close  by John’s  Hall  is Fordham’s  own cemetery,  which  would be a lot more  realistic  if there  were actually  bodies there. It’s  said  that  this  cemetery,  consisting  chiefly  of young  priests or men  studying  for the priesthood,  was originally  in the Botanical Gardens  near the Bronx  River  (when  Fordham  owned  that  property).  After  the University  allowed  New York  City to use the area  for  the gardens,  the Jesuits reportedly just  moved  the stones onto campus but left the bodies  in their original  location. Other  versions of this story say the bodies  were re-dug and were in such   disarray  that  whatever  could  be  found  of  the  skeletons  was brought  back  to campus,  but  not  many  of  the tombs  are  intact,  It’s also  said that  the cemetery  was not in the Botanical  Gardens at all;  actually  it was under  what  is now the Old Gym.
  • So, my conclusion from all of this is that it sounds like many, though not all, remains of the deceased are in the cemetery.
  • In speaking of, some of the people buried in the cemetery include college presidents like Thebaud, Larkin, and Dealy, all of whom have buildings named after them. That’s interesting to me because Dealy Hall is a very haunted building, and there’s a ghost on campus who’s been nicknamed “Dealy’s friend,” because people believe he may have been a friend of the late college president.
  • An article by Joana C—- in the Fordham Observer, November 20, 2003:
    • “In addition to the myths  that have persisted for so many years, ghoulish rumors lurk around campus about the cemetery, in particular  one that  involves the 1973  horror film “The Exorcist.”
    • “During the filming of  ‘The Exorcist,’ the  headstones  started to crack,  which is why   they   needed   to  be   replaced,” Mohammed Q—– . . .  reported.
    • Holly  C—-  . . .  offered  a similar account of the rumor and said that while the scenes from “The Exorcist’ were being filmed on campus, “lightning struck and smashed the headstones.”
    • However,  Hennessy  states  in his book [How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account] that the marble tombstones, old and illegible, may have been  damaged by vandals, or  deteriorated  because of acid  rain  over the years. They were replaced in 1999 with granite markers . . . The committee’s job was to find a way to secure the sacred  character  of the  cemetery. All but 13 tombstones  were  replaced and can be found  to the immediate right of  the  cemetery.   Most  are  decaying, some  chipped, and all losing  their  original  marble  white  color,  which  makes them stand out from  the rest of the brand new  granite  headstones.  The remaining headstones  were  retained  for historical reasons.”
  • I’m curious where the removed headstones ended up being relocated to?
  • I did want to read a bit from a Ram article from October 21, 1999, about the reinterring of the bodies:
    • “The cemetery, which dates back to 1847, has not been significantly changed since 1959, when bodies were moved due to the construction of Faber Hall.”
  • There’s also a 1976 article that says it was moved in ’59 to make way for Loyola Hall–Loyola and Faber are connected. And I confirmed all of this in an article that I found from 59, which said that the cemetery move was finished in March 1959.
  • Here’s a passage from a 1954 issue of the Ram, describing what the cemetery’s intermediate location looked like:
    • When the cemetery  was reestablished   behind   Collins   Hall,  arrangements  Included  a path  leading  into  it  from  the walk  behind the  building.  More  recently,  plans had   been   made  to  restore  the grounds  and improve  the appearance  of the plot.  They  were  hastened  in the autumn  of  1950 when a   tree  was up ended  in a  storm and   fell   across  several   rows  of headstones,  knocking   them   over. Soon  all the stones  were  realigned and  cleaned, a new lawn  was seeded,  a  new hedge-row   planted, gate  hung,  and a  brick-and-stonewall  erected  at the old opening of the  path.  The new walk   begins from   the  road.  The  stones,  of course,  still   face   Collins  Hall  to the  south.
  • It’s kind of surprising to me that the campus still has a cemetery, since space in NYC is at such a premium. Apparently, at one point in 1970, a USG presidential candidate suggested that the cemetery be used as a lettuce patch.
  • The 1974 article about the cemetery closes with this:
    • Legend has it that the dead never rest till their graves are marked. In this case the markers are there but the graves are lost. Perhaps on Halloween the restless dead will appear to reclaim their tombstones and finally Rest in Peace.”
  • Obviously that’s just a fun signoff for the article, but also it’s a sort of interesting theory. Are some of the campus’s ghostly priests people who were buried in the cemetery? (Maybe some of the ones who weren’t identified as recently deceased Jesuits?)

Dealy Hall (1867)

  • Dealy Hall today is a classroom building, which also includes several floors of departmental offices upstairs. I remember going to office hours up there a number of times.
  • It was built in 1867. It was originally a 5-story building, built of stone in an ashlar pattern. Not 100% sure what type of stone it is, but I’m assuming it’s locally quarried Fordham gneiss, which is the stone that makes up the bedrock in the Bronx.
  • In the 1950s-60s, they added two limestone-clad stories to the top of the building, making it 7 stories tall. It’s not the most aesthetic addition. In old pictures, the building has a pretty mansard roof and a cupola on top, oh well.
  • I dug into the history of the building, and according to Untapped Cities, Dealy is a former armory, one of the last remaining armories in NYC, and it was built in 1838. However, the article has some factual inaccuracies and I haven’t been able to confirm the claim that it’s an armory.
  • The earliest mention of ghosts on Fordham’s campus that I was able to find in The Ram was, I believe, in the 1970s.
  •  Ghosts of Duane, October 7, 1976:
    • https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/13352
    • The writer says that they couldn’t find a firsthand account of this story, but it was oft-repeated.
      • It talks about how “Last May” (either May 75 or 76), a student was at the Computer Center (capitalized, lol) in the basement of Dealy. He left and went upstairs to the faculty offices. No one was around because it was at night, and no one was in the building except for the student, and a security guard by the first floor door. The offices were all dark, and the doors were locked. All, that is, except for one door, which was open. Light from inside the office streamed into the hall.
      • The student went to see who was there, and found an old priest, who was mumbling to himself. The priest saw the student, and told him about his experiences teaching history at Fordham, and he told him his name. After they were done talking, the student left.
      • As he was leaving the building, the guard asked if he was the last one out, and the student said there was just the old priest still upstairs. The guard thought that was weird, because he hadn’t seen a priest come in that evening. So the guard went upstairs, and no one was there.
      • The next day, the student asked around, and found that the priest had died years before.
  • There’s an article from the Ram called The Ghosts of Duane Continue their Haunt, Oct 21, 1976
    • https://fordham.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=11270399
    • https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/13404
    • The article is a response to a recent letter to the editor (a response to their publication of the previous story, from October 7, 1976), about a grad student’s ghostly encounter, or, as he described it, “strange happening,” on the 5th floor of Dealy Hall.
      • Though the grad student, who in 1976 was a 1L at Fordham Law, asked not to be named, the writer interviewed the student, and here’s his story:
      • In January 1975,  the week before exams for the graduate school of arts and sciences, the student was studying in a cubicle that the school had for econ grad students. It was a Thursday night, and there were two other people on the floor aside from him.
      • The two other people went downstairs to the Computer Center in the basement, and then closed the door.
      • Moments later, the student heard the door open again, and heard someone going through papers. He assumed that the others had decided to come back, and decided to take a break and talk to them.  So he left the cubicle and went to the office, but no one was inside. He went back to the cubicle and kept studying.
      • The two people who’d been in the basement came back upstairs and commented on how the door was open now.
      • Ten minutes later, they went back down to the Computer Center and make sure the door closed when they left.
      • The student who was still studying in the cubicle heard the door open again. He looked around the cubicle wall and saw the door swing closed. So then the student opened the door (I think this was the door to the main hallway–at least when I was a student, there was a main hallway with departmental offices along the hall, and then once you went into the main office door, there were small offices within the larger departmental ones which were for 1-2 professors each.)
      • So anyway, the student sees an old priest round the corner down the hallway, toward the elevators. He followed the priest, and, to quote the student: “In the corridor between the two wings in Dealy a physical plant man was washing the floor. I asked him if someone had just walked by, and he said no. I took a quick walk around the floor and there was no one to be found.”
      • The next Sunday, the night before the student’s exam, he was studying in the cubicle again. After 7 pm, he was alone on the floor.
      • He heard footsteps, went out to see who it was, and saw the priest he’d seen 3 days before. The priest turned around suddenly, and the student said hello. The priest asked why he was in the building so late, and the student said he was studying for his econ exam. The priest, who introduced himself as Father John Shea, said he taught in the econ department, but he hadn’t taught a class in three years.
      • They had a whole conversation, with the priest asking what level of econ he was taking, the student said graduate level, the priest asked if he was getting his PhD, and the student said no, he was going to law school. The priest asked where he’d applied, and the student said he’d heard back from Georgetown. The priest said, “Good school, I got my doctorate there.” After talking for about 10 mins, they said goodnight and the student kept studying.
      • The next day, the student told the departmental secretary that he’d met Father Shea the previous evening. The secretary said that wasn’t possible, because–you guessed it–Father Shea had died two or three years before.
      • The student asked around some more, and was shown an old course catalog with Father Shea’s name in it, which also said that he’d gotten his PhD at Georgetown. He was also told by some econ faculty that Father Shea had died very suddenly during exams week, the day before he was due to give an exam. Supposedly, on the day he died, another Jesuit went through his room, found the exam, and administered it to Father Shea’s students.
      • The student was also shown a yearbook with a picture of Father Shea, and sure enough, he was the priest he’d seen.
      • The reporter asked around, and found a faculty member who vouched for the student who told this story, and said he was a “credible person.” The reporter also spoke to the secretary, who said the student seemed “sincere,” though she said that she herself didn’t believe in ghosts. She also confirmed that the student gave Father Shea’s name himself (before he was told about Shea’s death.)
      • The student himself said: “I wouldn’t say I saw a ghost. But I wouldn’t discount it.”
    • For the record, I think this story is very credible and I definitely believe it. I can’t really find anywhere to poke holes in the story.
  • I found this article in The Ram, October 31, 1985:
    • While  you’re  in  Dealy  Hall’s  Computer Center   be  on  the  lookout   for   a  benevolent Jesuit  waiting  to  give  you  a  hand  with  your program. This  reportedly  happened  to  a young  student  who  was  frantically  working  throughout the  night to  finish  a  program.  Although   he was the  only  per son  there  and  was laboring  in complete silence,  he just  couldn’t  concentrate and  was getting nowhere.
    • All  of  a sudden  an  elderly  priest  came  in and  asked  him  if he  needed help. They  conversed  for  a while  (including  exchanging  names),while  the   Jesuit   successfully   completed   the task.  The  two  parted  and  the  student  handed in his project,  later  receiving an  A  for  a grade. Being  a  good  soul,  the  young  man  went   to Loyola-Faber   hall   to   thank   his   after hours friend.  After  giving the Jesuit’s name, and  getting  a  few  funny  looks,  he  was  informed  that his mentor  had died  several years before.
  • The Ram, in an article that was published in 1983 and then republished in 1985 and 88, has a story that I really have no idea what to do with, and which I’d never heard of until doing this research:
    • “Probably the strangest  natural  phenomenon  on campus is the so-called  “Jesus  Tree.”  Situated  near   Dealy   Hall,  opposite  Edwards’ Parade, the tree bears a striking resemblance to the crucified  Christ.
    • The  allusion  was  reportedly   discovered   in  1979  when  a  coed noticed it as she was sitting on the steps of Freeman  Hall.  Rumor  has it that  the young  woman  could  not stop  screaming  when she saw it, and it’s said  that  practically  all of the residents of Walsh  Hall  came  running out to observe the figure.
    • A  few  nights  later,  it’s  said  that  a  freshman   living  in  Robert’s Plaza woke up in the middle of the night  yelling  “they’re  hurting him, they’re  hurting him!” The young  man lept  out of  bed and ran across campus  in his pajamas,  with  his roommates, in various states  of dress ,in close pursuit.  Reportedly, he arrived  at the “Jesus Tree” just  in time to  catch  a group  of  students  painting  the tree  red. This  paint  remains on that  tree to this day.
    • These are just  some  of the eerie  tales  surrounding  the legends of Fordham.  It  should  be made  clear  that  this  story  is fiction,  not  fact. After  all, we all know ghosts don’t  exist in real  life.
    • Or do they?
  • Jesus tree forgotten, pg 7: https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/24344

 

Duane Library (1926)

  • Duane used to be a library, until 1997, when  a new library was built. After that, it was left “locked and obsolete” as the architecture firm that worked on the building later on described it. Then, in 2004, it was converted into the admissions office. It’s a really cool building, which I believe was briefly featured in the film Love Story
  • The story I always heard about Duane Library was that it was haunted by the ghost of a Latin professor, who appeared on the top floor and enjoyed helping classics students out with their homework. However, I almost think that’s just an evolution of the more credible story I found from the 1970s, which had a bunch of details, etc.
  •  an article called Ghosts of Duane, The Ram, October 7, 1976:
    • Talks about how creepy Duane Library is, in particular the third floor north stacks. That’s where a lot of religious texts were held, so it’s very quiet and not many people go there. The article also says, “Another factor in its somewhat chilling mood is that the library keeps most of its few texts on exorcism there.”
    • The article goes on to talk about how security guards have to go there, at night, in the dark, to turn off the two alarm boxes, which have to be turned on and off every two hours throughout the night, using a special key, at 12, 2, and 4 am. There are security boxes at the front entrance, and near the door to the third floor of the stacks (there’s only one door there)
    • This story comes from a student security guard who wanted to stay anonymous, who had a weird experience:
      • This takes place in late April (it says during “last spring,” not sure if that means spring 76 or 75.) At 2 am, the student security guard opened the door to the 3rd floor north stacks. I’ll read from the article a bit:
        • “Some light from the stairwell filtered in. He paused before putting the key into the box which was immediately to the left of the door. The room was pitch dark, with virtually no light from outside lampposts coming through the windows. Then . . . ‘I heard voices. They came from the area of the table near the bay windows. The voices were low, but not distinct. It was as if two people were having a conversation, whispering. Then I heard the pages of a book being turned. The voices continued.’ Frightened, he put the key in the alarm box quickly and tore down the lighted stairwell after the alarm stopped ringing.”
      • So when the student went back next, he brought a friend. They didn’t hear anything. The student didn’t encounter those voices again, though he once heard a voice from “the upper tiers of the central hall” another time, though he was less confident about that. He was VERY confident about hearing voices on the third floor, though. The student started singing to himself whenever he was on guard duty, to feel less creeped out.
        • Just a sidenote, that detail really stuck with me because when I was in college and was walking around late at night, either on or off campus in the Bronx, I always sang because I was kinda creeped out by the silence. (That was back before everyone always had headphones in and was listening to music.)
  • The Ram, October 28, 1983:
    • The wandering  ghost-priest is a prominent  motif at  Rose Hill. The  well-known specter   “Duane’s friend,” who was most likely a companion of Rev. William J. Duane, S.J.,  University  president  from 1924 to  1930,can  be seen  floating  around  the Theology  section on  the third  floor of Duane  Library.  He is known to  have sent late-night    custodial workers screaming from the room.
  • 2002: supposedly people saw figures in the windows while the building was closed for renovation: https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/27048/itemsearch/ghost
    • “It is also rumored that at night you can see ghosts in Duane Library’s windows, though this made much more sense three years ago when Duane Library was completely empty and abandoned and it was strange to walk by and see lights on in the windows.”

 

 

Sources consulted RE: Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

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