Ghostly History at Wilson College

Gettysburg might get all the attention when it comes to ghosts in southcentral Pennsylvania. But they can appear anywhere, even on college campuses.

Twenty-five miles west in Chambersburg, tiny Wilson College has a long history of hauntings. Some of the greatest activity is reputed to occur in the original Wilson College building, Norland Hall, which was built by Col. Alexander McClure and his wife, Matilda, after their first home was burned by Confederate forces in 1864.

Before the ornate Victorian was converted into an office in the late '80s, the college used to put guests up in its large master bedroom. But it wasn't always a good night's sleep.

"A lot of people have been very discomforted in that bedroom," says retired FBI agent Athena Varounis, a 1976 alumna who is writing a book about the ghosts of Franklin County. Those discomforted would include President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, according to local legend, was so unnerved by Norland Hall's paranormal vibes that he refused to spend the night in its guest room. Neither would renowned pianist Lili Kraus, who was interned by the Japanese during WWII, said Ms. Varounis.

PG SEEN editor Marylynn Uricchio is another guest who got up close and personal with the spirit who's said to haunt Norland Hall. When she was in high school, her father gave a lecture at Wilson College, and he and his wife were put up in the bedroom. Ms. Uricchio's cot was in a small adjacent dressing room.

Sometime during the night, she recalls, she heard a creak that snapped her instantly awake. Looking up, she saw a distinguished older gentleman dressed in a long robe and white ascot come out of the closet and walk across the room. He sat down in a chair and nodded politely at her.

"I was fine until I knew he could see me," she recalls. "But when our eyes met, I just knew" -- that she was seeing a ghost, that is.

Ms. Uricchio, who was 18 at the time, was so unnerved by the experience that she crawled in bed with her parents.

In the lobby the next morning, she looked in a display case that held various photos, swords and letters that had belonged to Col. McClure and instantly recognized the kindly white-haired old man who'd given her that ghostly nod.

Was it Col. McClure? Who's to say? But it's one more experience that indicates something otherworldly exists in the Norland Hall guest bedroom.


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