Simpkins: Haunted or Full of Fiction?


Simpkins Hall from across Lake Ruth

For decades, ghost stories have flown from the lips of students that roam what is now Simpkins Hall. From 1939 to 1969, this building housed the WIU Lab School, where Judi Hardin, now a secretary in the Department of English and Journalism, was a student. Simpkins’ ghosts must have come with the name change, however, since she recalls no ghosts or ghost stories from her younger days, but recounts one story from her time in the department. Judi heard what sounded like a crying woman, but upon investigation turned out to be the radiator squealing in the hallway.

One of the ghosts that is rumored to roam the halls is called Harold and while the original story recounts him as a graduate student that passed away while in Simpkins, he is now said to be a janitor. There is no record of this student or his death, only adding to the argument that there really are no ghosts in Simpkins. However, Dr. Chris Morrow, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Journalism, has witnessed a few strange occurrences.

Dr. Morrow went seven years without anything out of the ordinary happening. Then, just last semester, two separate instances caused him to think twice about the possible paranormal inhabitants. While sorting through papers after a night class, he believed he heard a graduate student behind him clear his throat. Dr. Morrow assumed that it was of his students from his night class that had just ended. It was after 8 pm, so the majority of the building was empty. When he turned around to talk to the student, there was no one there. Unsettled, Dr. Morrow left quickly and put the incident in the back of his mind.

A few weeks later, coming in for work around 7:30 am, he entered that same office and heard someone get up off of his vinyl couch. He hadn’t yet rounded the corner and the couch was not in sight, but since it was early in the morning he thought that perhaps a building services worker was in the room and stopped to rest their feet awhile. However, when he came upon the couch there wasn’t anyone in sight. Had it been the same sound that he heard both times, Dr. Morrow feels it might carry an explanation, but as of now he has no ideas as to what caused the noises. He reasons that Simpkins is an old building and calls upon everyone’s favorite old-building-creepy-noise scapegoat: the pipes.

Third year student Robert Hill has had less specific, but more frightening experiences occur in his time in Simpkins. As a theatre major, he is often in the second floor theatre rehearsing for upcoming shows. When asked about anything he had witnessed, he mentioned that when a play or performance that is being rehearsed degrades women or alludes to death, strange things start occurring in the Simpkins Theatre. Lights have randomly fallen during shows, and footsteps have been heard in the hallways and bathrooms even when the entire cast is in one room together. These are just a few examples of the creepy things that have happened at night to the cast and crew that have rehearsed in that theatre.

So is there a verdict as to whether or not Simpkins is haunted? We may never know, but so long as students walk these halls, stories will circulate of its supernatural occupants.

For more Western Illinois University ghost stories, check out this article written by WIU alumn Michael Kleen on his own blog: