Mary Hawkins: Ghost of Pemberton Hall Sept 2, 2014 22:00:08 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Sept 2, 2014 22:00:08 GMT -5
Pemberton Hall and the Ghost of Mary Hawkins
The legend of Eastern Illinois University’s Pemberton Hall is, by far, the most famous ghost story in Coles County. A variation of a well-known folktale called “the Roommate’s Death,” it has been passed down by generations of young women at EIU and appeared in dozens of books, newspapers and magazines. One night, it is said, a deranged janitor attacked and killed a student on the fourth floor. Her spirit, or that of the dorm mother who discovered her body, now haunts the Hall. Over the years, Pemberton’s own history contributed to this story, creating a unique tale beloved by students and alumni alike.
In 1907, the Appropriations Committee of the state legislature passed a bill providing $100,000 to build a women’s dormitory at Eastern Illinois State Normal School. The dorm was named for Senator Stanton C. Pemberton, a strong proponent of the bill. The first dorm director of Pemberton was the now infamous Mary Hawkins, who served in that position from 1910 to 1917. She was said to be very strict and would not allow “her girls” to attend social functions without a chaperone. During the first half of the 20th century, women assigned to Pemberton Hall would, in addition to their classes, learn basic housekeeping skills and serve dinner to the college deans on certain occasions. Curfew was 7:30 p.m. week nights and 10 p.m. on weekends. Mary Hawkins personally doled out punishment for breaking curfew and other infractions. Miss Hawkins left EIU in 1917 and died October 29, 1918, at Kankakee State Mental Hospital from complications stemming from syphilis – or so it is said.
Storytellers claim the murder in Pemberton Hall took place during World War I when the college newspaper was published sporadically to conserve materials for the war effort. Consequently, there was no issue for the weeks in question, leading some to suggest a conspiracy to cover up the murder. The current consensus is that this event took place over winter break either in 1916 or 1917, but there is some disagreement. An October 1984 Daily Eastern News article written by Diane Schneidman suggested the murder occurred in May and an article published in 1982 alleged it occurred during Spring Break. Jo-Anne Christensen, in her book Ghosts Stories of Illinois, writes of the crime taking place in the midst of a furious thunderstorm, which also suggests springtime. The National Directory of Haunted Places challenges all these accounts by changing the year of the murder to 1920, long after Mary Hawkins was dead.
One account alleges Mary Hawkins was the name of the unfortunate student and her ghost is similar to a banshee, scratching at doors and leaving behind bloody footprints. In the version told by the staff at Pemberton Hall, Mary was the Dorm Mother at the time of the murder and her spirit stalks Pem Hall, protecting her girls for all eternity.
One of the earliest articles in the Eastern News concerning the haunting of Pemberton Hall was written by Karen Knupp in October 1976. The story, she wrote, had been told for “years and years” and was handed down from veteran Pem Hall residents to incoming freshmen. Some of the eerie encounters she chronicled included a girl who saw a light emanating from one of the windows on the fourth floor, a resident assistant who discovered the lounge furniture had been rearranged without human intervention, and a strange encounter with a girl in a white gown who went around requesting safety pins before vanishing into thin air. Ms. Knupp noted that some residents had celebrated their unique heritage by holding a “Mary Hawkins Day” the previous spring.
In November of that same year, Ms. Krupp wrote a follow-up story after she had been contacted by a 1921 resident of Pem Hall named Estella Craft Temple. Mrs. Temple told the story of Euterpe Sharp, a 30-year-old student who made a habit of scaring the younger girls by jumping out of the janitor’s closet. Mrs. Temple, who, if she had actually lived at Pem Hall in 1921, could not have known Mary Hawkins (who would have already been dead), claimed “no one would tell Miss Hawkins … she was English and very strict.” She suggested Euterpe’s strange behavior was the origin of the legend, not a murder.
According to interviews conducted by Margaret Allen-Kline, who wrote her master’s thesis on the legend in 1998, several students living in Pemberton Hall connected the crazed janitor in the story to a “local insane asylum,” the notorious Ashmore Estates. But as Ms. Allen indicated, the building that became known as Ashmore Estates was originally an almshouse, not an asylum. She believed the legend of Mary had formed a “folk community” at EIU because students always reported the story as if it were true.
Over the years, Pemberton Hall has opened its doors – and notorious fourth floor – around Halloween in an effort to capitalize on the story. According to an October 27, 1978, Eastern News article, the tradition of turning Pem Hall into a haunted house dates to the early 1970s. In 1984, William M. Michael, a reporter for the Decatur Herald, spent the night in the fourth floor piano room. Needless to say, he reported no encounters with the ghost or anything unusual. Pemberton Hall resumed its haunted house in 1997, complete with an actress playing the X-Files theme on the fourth floor piano.
Despite an unsubstantiated claim by Elizabeth Raichle in an October 1993 Daily Eastern News article, there is no evidence a death ever occurred in Pemberton Hall at any time, let alone in 1916 or 1917. However, there is no evidence this fact will have any affect on the story’s continuing to be told, passed on and personalized for generations of Pem-ites to come. From doors that lock themselves, to strange electrical incidents, to unusual noises that emanate from the fourth floor, the ghost of Mary Hawkins will always be with us.
Source: Michael Kleen, MysteriousHeartland.