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Loyola’s Haunted History

In the early 1900s, before Mundelein College was a part of Loyola, a nun rumored to be named Sister Mary Prudence, belonging to the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, supposedly hanged herself on the 14th floor of the Mundelein building. Apparently distraught and impregnated by one of Loyola’s Jesuit priests, the sister thought there was no other way out of her dilemma than suicide. Since her death, the Mundelein building has been plagued by the ghost of the distressed nun – or so the legend goes.

For years, rumors have permeated Loyola’s Lake Shore campus of the supposed hauntings, and for some, those hauntings have become a reality.

“The 14th floor of Mundelein is very creepy,” campus safety officer Sgt. Kenneth Wiley said. “I’ve never seen anything up on those floors, but it was always kind of spooky. We would hear noises in the elevators that really didn’t fit mechanically and there would be sounds on those floors that just sounded odd.”

What is now known to Loyolans as the Mundelein Center used to be called Skyscraper Building, and prior to 1991 was Mundelein College; an all women’s, private Catholic institution. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary ran the college and lived on the top three floors of the building.

After Mundelein College became a part of Loyola, the dorms on the top three floors were destroyed and made inaccessible to the Loyola community. A few, however, still have the resources and the sense of adventure to explore the eerie domain of the Sisters’ prior living quarters and the alleged site of one nun’s gruesome death.

“About two years ago, my friends and I took the service elevator up to the 10th floor and walked the rest of the way up to the 14th floor,” junior Patrick Reynolds said. “We went into the room where Sr. Mary Prudence apparently hanged herself, and there was a hole in the ceiling above where it had supposedly happened.

“It was really weird because we also heard a humming from the room,” Reynolds said. “We took pictures when we were up there too and when we got them back, there was a glowing orb on the picture. It was grey and blue. And you know how the story goes that the nun was pregnant? Well right above the big orb was a smaller one, like it was her baby or something.”

While substantial evidence of the suicide does not actually exist, the legend is alive in many ways. Despite the eerie noises heard on the top floors of Mundelein and the supposed ghost, there is one oddity of the building that helps shed some light on the mysterious truth of the legendary haunting.

“Every night at the same time, we go around to all the buildings to turn off all the lights and lock all the doors,” Wiley said. “No matter what though, every time we would go into Mundelein and turn off the lights, we’d get back outside and that light on the 14th floor window would be on again. Now when a light is on, that is a sign to us that someone is in the building, but when we’d go back in, no one would be in there. It was all very weird.”

The haunting in Mundelein is the most prominent ghost story heard around campus, but many other legends of ghosts and hauntings also linger in the dark corners and underground tunnels of the Lake Shore campus. Coincidentally, the majority of these rumored ghosts are concentrated in what used to be Mundelein College.

A lesser known tale of spooky nature also transpired in the Mundelein building, but this time on the second floor, in the sacristy room next to the Mundelein Chapel.

“Back in the mid-1990s, every time I would come to lock up the Mundelein building, the phone in the sacristy would start ringing at the same time, every time,” Wiley said. “I would pick up the phone, and no one would be there, just dead air. It went on for like three years. The phone always rang and no one would ever be on the other line. I put in a work-order on the phone, and I was told there were no problems with it or anything.”

Piper Hall, which is now home to the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership, used to be another problem area riddled with odd noises and the presence of the unknown.

Before Piper Hall became a staple in Mundelein College, it was built and owned by Albert Wheeler, the chief engineer of the Chicago Tunnel System, and his wife Cassie. They built the house in 1909 and by 1919 a new owner, Albert Johnson, had bought the house after the death of the Wheelers. After his wife died in 1934, Johnson sold the house to Mundelein College where it remained in the care of the Sisters until it was incorporated into Loyola in 1991 and renovated in the spring of 2005.

Prior to renovations, however, Piper Hall saw its fair share of spookiness.

“There used to be some sort of dance studio or theatrical room on the second floor of Piper Hall,” Wiley said. “And there would be mannequins lined up in the room with different costumes on, and it was always kind of weird to see them. Also, we would always hear a lot of noise and the floor would crack a lot, but no one was ever up there.

“And in the basement of Piper, there used to be a dark room. It was always really hard to find the lights and was really scary down there,” Wiley said. “We always heard a lot of weird noises in the basement that didn’t fit with the atmosphere.”

Aside from the creaks and spooks, Loyola has a few other hidden secrets.

On the southeast side of Dumbach Hall, an inconspicuous spiral staircase winds up the building and into an old costume room that has recently been cleaned up and renovated. Snooping students who have finagled their way up the staircase have littered the surrounding walls with their signatures and signing dates, the oldest dating back to 1954.Other signatures, possibly older ones, have been painted over.

The dome, which sits atop the Cudahy Science building, used to serve the campus as an observatory, but is now closed off with secret hatches, spiral staircases and locked doors, making it only accessible to those with campus skeleton keys.

And as many secret nooks as there are above ground, there are just as many below ground. Beneath Loyola, a series of secret passageways and tunnels connect the different buildings without ever having to set foot above ground. While most of those tunnels have been closed off or have collapsed, a few remain.

A tunnel still connects Dumbach Hall to the steam plant across the road, but it is cluttered with piping, rodents and other debris. Like the Piper-Dumbach tunnel, a passageway also connects Coffey Hall and Piper Hall underground. While the tunnels are rarely used, the cement-covered walkways, the eerie chill of the air and the absence of light all contribute to there aura of mystery.

Despite the lack of evidence and the inability to completely prove the claims made by so many regarding the ghosts and hauntings of Loyola, Sgt. Wiley attests to his belief that some of the myths are true.

“There were a lot of creepy things that have gone on in some of the buildings here.”

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