Ghosts on campus: Stanford community reports supernatural sounds and sightings

Oct. 30, 2022, 9:28 p.m.

This year’s Halloweekend at Stanford brought hordes of creepy characters, ranging from Scooby Doo costumes to Playboy-influenced looks and indeed, plenty of ghosts. But these ghosts are not the only ones on campus, or so students say. As reported by some members of the campus community, strange sounds and alarming apparitions have been observed for years, perhaps pointing to supernatural activity.

When the pandemic sent students home in March 2020, Pamela Beltran-Mayen ’23 became the sole resident of Loro in Florence Moore Hall. Initially excited for the newfound privacy, she said she soon began to hear unexpected heavy clunking footsteps above her as she was getting ready for bed. She initially brushed off the incidents. But after multiple occurrences like clockwork, all at 11 p.m., Beltran-Mayen began feeling uneasy. “They sounded like workmen boots,” she said. 

Occasionally paired with the footsteps would be a random toilet flush, she said. Although the toilets were motion-sensing and likely to flush at whim, Beltran-Mayen still found it suspicious that the flushing would take place whenever she closed her bedroom door. 

“Even though I’m not religious, typically, I began praying every night because I was getting nervous,” Beltran-Mayen said. 

At one point, Beltran-Mayen shared her spooky stories with the dorm’s cleaning staff. She said they told her that prior Loro residents had reported seeing the ghost of a young girl in the building. Furthermore, she said she heard from the staff that a student had passed away on the third floor. 

Jeff Fairbairn, a retired preparator from Cantor, said that reports of occult incidents were commonplace in Cantor Art Museum in the late 1980s and 90s. He detailed several stories about visitors who claimed to see ghosts, one of whom was his colleague’s daughter, who said she encountered Jane Stanford’s ghost alone in a basement office telling her that her father would come back soon. 

According to Fairbairn, another colleague exited her office into a hallway where “Mrs. Stanford was walking away from her … in a full, nineteenth-century bustle dress,” eventually “dissipating into nothing.” Fairbairn also said that a security guard observed the ghost of Governor Leland Stanford Sr. walking around the balustrade in a rotunda. 

One night in 1996, Fairbairn brought his daughter to work with him. As they were locking up the doors to leave, he said the father and daughter heard jarring noises. 

“As we approached the elevator to go downstairs, there was this really, really loud, banging and yelling. You could hear multiple people pounding fists on the walls,” Fairbairn said. When the doors opened, he and his daughter were bewildered to see that “there was nothing.” 

According to Jake Warga, a former Stanford lecturer and ghost tour guide on the Stanford campus, such incidents are to be expected. 

“The University is a manifestation of the gilded age — founded in grief, but built on an absence,” he said. According to him, this combination makes Stanford “the most haunted campus of all.” 

“The University is proof of immortality; there are things that beckon the dead to return,” Warga added. 

According to Warga, such features include easily identifiable red roof tiles that he believes allow Leland Jr. to see his home from the heavens and “Book of the Dead”-esque sphinxes flanking the Mausoleum’s entrance and back. 

Although many Stanford community members do not believe in ghosts, some point to the many reported incidents as potential evidence. 

“As a scientist, I’m kind of skeptical,” Fairburn said. “But I’m also intrigued. Maybe it’s real because so many different people have come up with things.”

Contact Sarayu at smpai918 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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