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13 Chilling but True YWW at Sweet Briar (non)Ghost Stories

Author’s Note: Sweet Briar College is reportedly one of the most haunted campuses in America. When YWW relocated its summer program there in 2012, I arrived with strong hopes of experiencing and documenting my own supernatural interactions. I tried… and in the following summers, continued to try… as the document that follows will testify. Incidents described here occurred over the past 3 summers. I chose to present this piece in list form, as the fiction writers modeled list stories this past summer and I wanted to give a nonfiction list a whirl (I mean, other than my weekly grocery list, to-do list, etc.).

  1. Suzy drove back to Sweet Briar campus late one night and watched in horror as a bloodstained woman in white walked over the grass towards her…
    (It turned out to be Lady MacBeth from Endstation’s summer production.)

  2. I walked to the Monument Hill graveyard at midnight and waited to see what would happen; after a mysterious rustling in the undergrowth, a large dark figure emerged… (It was a deer.)

  3. I ditto’ed this action at 5:00 a.m. and ditto the mysterious rustling in the undergrowth and dark figure emergence… (Ditto the deer… a buddy? Or the same one?)

  4. I heard a mysterious rustling in the underbrush at twilight outside Prothro Dining Hall—rooted to the spot, I waited for an evil Uncle Fletcher to appear… (But it was an employee in the bushes, feeding the stray cats) (Shhhh, I’m not supposed to tell…)

  5. Henry and Merkel emerged from their suite one morning to find a Death’s-head moth lying prone on their doorjamb—a traditional harbinger of ill fortune…
    (Okay, it was actually a large Pandorus Sphinx moth, which I poked to see if it was living. It was. I poked gently.)

  6. Hiking alone in the woods on the Riparian Loop, I got lost along Williams Creek. (But I was just plain lost—not led astray.)

  7. On another occasion, I hiked the trail marked “Mystery.” Afterwards, I was standing at the trailhead drinking water, when a large tree crashed down directly across the path I had just taken. (I did not take it personally. Sometimes a tree falling in the woods is just a tree falling in the woods.) (Whether anyone hears it or not.)

  8. At twilight, my suitemate Michelle was walking by the old abandoned Dairy Barn, when a mysterious black cat crossed her path. (But it did not bring her bad luck—“Briar” gave her purrs and affection.)

  9. Walking across campus one afternoon, I was horrified to discover the figure of a small child inside a large storm drain. (It’s “Terracotta Baby” and some call it art.)

  10. Spirit Writing from Terracotta Baby materialized around campus. Messages from the Beyond such as, “Why don’t you stop and talk to me?” and “Have you looked in a culvert lately?” appeared on bulletin boards across campus.
    (Turns out, it was really writing from a counselor’s elective on creating pieces from a different perspective.)

  11. While walking to Benedict Hall for Creative Nonfiction, I heard a mysterious crackling noise emanating from the Northern Hemlock which towers menacingly by the entrance doors… (It was a gray squirrel who had scored a Fig Newton box from the trashcan and dragged it jaguar-like up the tree…)

  12. Michelle and I spent a considerable part of our summer evenings wondering where the lightning bugs were. How could a campus of 3,000 isolated wilderness acres have so few fireflies? “They’re disappearing all over,” was one explanation. “Bad juju here,” was another opinion. “Even the bugs sense it.” (We did see a few lightning bugs by summer’s end, but the puzzle of why such a firefly-friendly habitat is so sparsely populated remains unanswered.)

  13. Two of my suitemates were gone for the weekend, so when I entered the suite I anticipated an evening of watching “Seinfeld” with Natalie. I called a “Hey, I’m here” upstairs to her, turned on the TV, and waited… there was lots of thumps and bumps, but she never came down. Finally I grew worried that something had happened, and went upstairs to find—all rooms empty. Nobody but me was home… (True story and I have no explanation for it. I did leave immediately and go to the Fitness and Athletic Center, seeking lights and lots of human beings. And I do appreciate that ductwork / heating and cooling systems can make a lot of thumps and bumps. Just saying… not sure what was happening there…)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!