Temple University has been a strong figure within the city of Philadelphia for well over a century. With thousands of people coming and going throughout this University’s history. As a result, there is no surprise that plenty of stories arose surrounding Temple’s more notable figures sticking. For example, the school’s President likes to wonder and inspect the campus grounds. Ghost Stories of Temple University have grown to be apart of the University’s very history. In conclusion, welcome to the first episode of the Realm of Unknown podcast, with today’s focus, Temple University.
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Temple University is a staple within the city of Philadelphia, for well over a century. With thousands of individuals coming and going throughout the University’s history; there is no surprise that plenty of rumors have arisen surrounding Temple’s more notable figures lingering beyond death. With that, let us look into the University’s history and ghostly stories.
In early 1956, the University purchased the land for a parking lot and athletic fields. By June of that year, Temple broke ground and removed approximately 28,000 bodies from Monument Cemetery. The bodies were re-interred at Lawnview Cemetery at 500 Huntingdon Pike in Montgomery County. About 300 of these 28,000 bodies were buried with their original tombstones. The rest were not, due to finding no family members for verification.
The rest of the headstones and other decorative stonework of Monument Cemetery were simply dumped onto the Delaware River. Trashed near the Philadelphia side of the Betsy Ross Bridge to become riprap; strengthening the shoreline under the bridge against erosion.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Red Cross used rooms of Mitten Hall for simple procedures. Primarily bandaging, as well as producing clothing for soldiers, according to WRTI. The auditorium of Mitten was also a barracks for soldiers doing pre-medical and pre-dental training programs.
Keep in mind, Temple University has been around for a very long time. Being a prominent institution within the City of Philadelphia. The University itself and the area around it has also faced a lot of violence and tragedy. Due to this, many deaths have taken place throughout the years. It would be too long to list all of these occurrences out. Furthermore, out of respect, we shall be keeping those tragedies separate from any Paranormal speculation.
The former Dean of Women, Gertrude Peabody, had Peabody Hall dedicated to her in 1958. Gertrude died at the age of 84 on March 30, 1979. Sightings and rumors come from the elevator and lobby area, as frequent locations. The rumor goes that Gertrude is not fond of male students living in Peabody Hall. The dorm originally was an all-female dorm during her time at the University. As of 2017, Peabody Hall is no more, replaced by a small green space on the corner of Norris and Broad St.
I was fortunate enough to stay in Peabody Hall myself during my Freshman year. However, I can safely say from me, and fellow Peabody resident, that nothing happened. Honestly, these rumors are simply urban legends. Passing down from class to class, growing and evolving over the years.
In 1910, the wife of Russell Conwell, Sarah Conwell, passed away. Sarah was laid to rest in the now non-existent Monument Cemetery, located on Norris Street between Broad and 17th streets. Russell Conwell, recalls seeing the spirit of his wife three years after her death. Conwell was so convinced of this apparition, that he recounted the story in “the Baptist,” a sectarian publication. Despite facing disapproval from his Christian friends.
Russell Conwell writes, “Three years after the death of my wife I began to see a form sitting on the side of my bed, at the foot, every morning when I woke…I attributed it to some effect of overwork on my eyesight. But after many weeks it grew so like my wife that I consulted two physicians; who reasonably said that if I would work less the vision would disappear.”
Russell Conwell continued to recount how his wife helped him find his army discharge papers. Papers supposedly lost 25 years prior. She appeared once more after that instance, Russell never saw her apparition thereafter. Since 1913, there have been no further sightings of Sarah Conwell’s spirit.
Russell Conwell, the founder of Temple University died in 1925. He was buried next to his wife in Monument Cemetery. In 1968, the University moved them to their current resting place in Founder’s Garden on Liacouras Walk and Polett Walk. After the movement of their graves, rumors relating to Russell Conwell began to surface. Nothing too serious, and nothing all too credible. Nonetheless, the Founder supposedly walks and paces around the grounds of Founder’s Garden. Both students and bystanders alike share reports, primarily during the late hours of the night.
At the outbreak of World War II, the Red Cross used rooms of Mitten Hall for simple procedures. Such as bandaging, as well as producing clothing for soldiers, according to WRTI. The auditorium of Mitten was also a barracks for soldiers doing pre-medical and pre-dental training programs. Ben Roth, treasurer of T-Lights, a paranormal society on Main Campus, during a 2011 interview states his group believes they came in contact with a 6-year-old girl named Liz.
“We believe she said she was sick or that her parents had worked there,” Roth said. Roth and his fellow T-Lights members also used an Ouija board to contact Liz elsewhere during a second investigation. This specific group has long since disbanded. Reforming into another Hoot Paranormal. Original members no longer have involvement with this more current group. Sadly whatever happened during that second investigation is not known.
Hoot Paranormal, the University paranormal investigation group, was requested to investigate by a production manager of the building. The group was called after building workers reported strange occurrences after hours. Hoping that Hoot Paranormal may illuminate some answers. The biggest thing that they experienced involved an elevator located back in the left stage area. The production manager who reached out to the group is a pastor and believes he has a good relationship with the presence of Russell Conwell. Conwell was also a pastor during his time. Hosting church services in the basement of what is now the Performing Art Center. The manager detailed that the elevator is haunted and will open and close on its own. They even had mechanics come in and look at it. Determining that there is nothing mechanically wrong with this elevator.
The group asked the elevator doors to open, nothing happens. They then brought the manager to see if the elevator would work for him instead. Sure enough, the elevator swung open and stayed open. Although, from further investigation, if one were to ask the elevator and talk to Russell Conwell himself, “Mr. Conwell, can you help us go upstairs”? Then apparently, the elevator will come down from whatever floor it currently is on and head downstairs. Meeting whoever is asking for assistance. You can find videos of the paranormal group waiting for the elevator to come and meet them after asking. If you wish to view this phenomenon yourself, see the YouTube video here, Elevator door opens by itself at TPAC. Determine for yourself how you feel about this odd phenomenon.
On a final note, Temple University also hosts its own Paranormal Club & Investigative Group, Hoot Paranormal. Hoot was formed back during the 2011-2012 academic year and has continued strong throughout the years. The group covers a variety of topics and discussions, researching and investigating locations up and along the Northeast.
EP 1 – Ghost Stories of Temple University. Produced by Shane Cummings; Audio Editing & Research by Shane Cummings.
Intro & Outro music “Creepy Regrets” by AnMo.