A Strange Welcome: Marillac Hall, Part 1

I’ve had my share of ghostly encounters and strange experiences.  So, I was understandably nervous about moving into the oldest and most haunted dorm on the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s campus.  What made it even creepier was that I was going to be there a week before all of the other students because I was helping with college orientation that year.  Marillac Hall was built in the late 1800s.  Everyone had a ghost story about that place, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to live in that truly beautiful, historic building.

My room was on the fourth floor of one of Marillac’s two wings.  The room was larger than the other surrounding suites.  It had originally been the floor lounge, but had been converted into another dorm room to maximize space.  This was a smaller floor and had fewer rooms than the other three levels in the building.

Every fall, my mother would spiritually cleanse my dorm room for the start of the school year by mopping the floor with perfumed water.  My then boyfriend, George, and I went down to the kitchen on the second floor.  As I turned on the sink, I sent a mental message to any spirits that might be in the building saying hello and that I was just borrowing a pot for some water.  I don’t know why I did this other than that I was nervous.  Directly after this, George and I both heard a woman calling my name from the stairwell above the kitchen.  She distinctly said, “Tara, where are you?” in a sort of sing-song voice.  Both George and I thought it was my mother and I answered, “I’m here in the kitchen.  Don’t go walking around or you’ll probably get lost. This building is confusing.”  We went up the stairs, but did not see my mother anywhere.

When I got back to the room, I asked her why she didn’t wait for me when I came up from the kitchen.  She insisted that she had never left the room.  That’s when George and I told her what we had heard.  My mother’s eyes went wide.  Our family friend, Artie, who had helped move me in, started giggling, “You’re in for a quite a year if they have already made contact with you, Honey.”

That night as I fell into an uneasy sleep, I could have sworn that I heard the doors upstairs opening and closing.  I was the only one on the floor that night, so I kept telling myself that it was the wind running through a drafty, old building.  Of course, that didn’t explain what I saw the next morning.

 

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Footsteps after Dark

Thanks to my mother, Lady Rhea of Magickal Realms from Bronx, NY for this story.

Lady Rhea is a third degree, Wiccan high priestess.  For over forty years, she has held circles, crafted candle magick, and has performed various types of psychic readings.  She has done Ouija board readings and done other types of oracle-based rituals.  However, in this case, she did not try to make contact.  Her New Age store was located in the Bronx’s City Island at the time of this ghostly encounter.

It was February 2013.  Lady Rhea was alone in the basement glittering candles.  It was 8:30pm and the store was closed.  Rhea was the only one in the store at this time.  She paused in her work as she heard loud, heavy footsteps walking across the floor upstairs.  They went down the aisle, turned the corner to the basement stairs, came down three steps and stopped.  From the angle of her work table, Rhea could not see who was standing on the staircase.  Picking up her Exacto knife and a pan of glitter, she crept up to surprise the intruder.

Only, she didn’t see anyone there.  Cautiously, she went up the steps to investigate the store.  The front door was still secure.  She turned on all the lights, checked the two bathrooms, and any other possible hiding places, but again she found the place empty.  Rhea called one of her friends to come pick her up and take her home early.  After this unnerving incident, she refused to stay in the store by herself at night again.

Later in 2014, a photographer was interested in filming the store for a potential show.  He took two pictures of the basement area to show where Lady Rhea created her candles and manufactured other products.  After the photoshoot was done, Rhea received a call from him saying that she might be interested in seeing what his camera had captured in the basement.  Rhea’s heart thudded when she viewed the photos.  One picture was a normal shot, but the very next shows the shadowy outline of a tall man.

Another time, someone who was doing psychic readings at the store took a picture of the entrance to the basement along with other pictures of the store.  The picture of the basement showed the area shrouded in fathomless, dark, grey smoke.  This was when the lights had been turned on and there was no one smoking nearby.  They had not left any incense burning either.  Between these and other problems, the store was relocated to Westchester Square in the summer of 2014.

The Lady in the Clock Tower

I spent a lot of time in my mother’s shops growing up.  My favorite one was located in a second-story apartment in the city.  It had large front rooms and even a back area with a kitchenette and a bathroom with a shower.  Mom set up one of the back rooms as a space for me to do my homework and play while she took care of customers.  After I had finished my school work, I would set up my toys and play on the desk by the window.  This window looked right into the balcony area of a large building with a clock tower.

One day while I was playing, I saw a woman staring back at me from the clock tower window.  When she saw that I had seen her, she waved and smiled at me, so I waved back.  Later, I told my mother about her, but she said that that was unlikely and that I had probably imagined it.  A few days later when I saw the woman again, I called for my mother.  Once again, she was gone by the time my mother came over.  It was like she kept disappearing in the split second that I turned away from the window.

After a few more times, my mother decided to go look into the matter and took me to visit the building across the street.  We had originally thought the building was a church, but it turned out to be a library.  My mother led me up to the circulation desk, introduced herself, explained why we were there, and said to the librarian, “Please tell my daughter that there is no woman walking around in the clock tower.”

The librarian took one look at us, sighed and said, “We’ll I’d like to, but this is not the first time that someone has told us that.”  My mother’s face fell.  I immediately asked if we could go see the clock tower for ourselves.  The librarian shook her head and showed us that the stone staircase leading up to the tower was clearly roped off.  “We don’t give tours.  Only the maintenance workers go up there to fix the clock.”

“Then how does the lady keep getting up there?” I asked.

“Well, it’s more like she never left,” the librarian said.  “We don’t like to talk about it very often because we don’t want to scare people away from using the library, but since you have already seen her, I might as well tell you.”  She paused, taking a breath.  “It’s a sad story.  This building used to be a women’s prison.  Most of the women hadn’t actually done anything wrong.  Many of them were young, unmarried, working-class girls who didn’t have families to protect them.  One day, one of the prisoners managed to sneak upstairs and jump from the tower.”

“But why does she stay here if she wanted to get out of this place?  That seems like a cruel punishment,” I said.

“She may not be able to move on,” said my mom.  “She lived in a time when society was incredibly strict, especially towards women.  Women didn’t really have rights back then and they often looked down on one another for not living up to what was expected of them.  Perhaps you comforted her by just saying hello.”

Mom and I went back to the store.  I looked a few more times, but I never saw the lady in the clock tower again.  I hope that she finally found her freedom.