There are many superstitions surrounding the Quad, but one in particular caught the eye of Mary Barile — so much that she dedicated a chapter to it in her book, “The Haunted Boonslick: Ghosts, Ghouls and Monsters of Missouri’s Heartland.”
Listen | Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace describes the grandfather clock that chimes on its own.
Listen | Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace recounts a ghostly incident in the residence that frightened a couple of guests.
The legend of a ghost wandering the chancellor’s Residence on the Quad dates to the 19th century. According to an 1890 Columbia Missouri Herald article, “eerie lights and shadowy figures waltzed” in the house after the 1874 death of the university president’s wife, Alice Read.
Read was popular around campus, and Barile called her death “very upsetting” to the community. Despite Read’s death, legend has it that her ghost has never left the house.
Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace, who had an office in the building, also pointed to several unexplainable circumstances, such as a grandfather clock — without a working mechanism — that began to chime on its own. Another ghostly incident caused a professor to run shrieking through the house, telling Wallace to “brick it (the residence) up!”
In recent years, an elevator added in the most recent renovation has been known to run without occupants. Missing electronics and flashes of light also have spooked visitors and residents.
Despite the spooks, Barile, associate director of the Office of Grant Writing & Publications, believes that if the ghost of Read does indeed haunt the residence, she is a happy ghost. “Apparently, Alice does not want to leave her home. I call it her permanent homecoming,” Barile said, laughing.
Wallace said he was never been petrified by any of the strange happenings. Instead, he gets a good laugh whenever he recalls the scared professor who insisted Wallace not allow anyone into the residence.
“I don’t have an explanation, but for some odd reason I found it very amusing, and it is a story I’ve told many times,” he said.
Despite the “unexplainable” experiences he has encountered, Wallace remains a skeptic about whether the residence is haunted, though he doesn’t rule it out.
“To claim that something doesn’t exist, whether ghosts or something else, presumes a knowledge base that most of us don’t have,” Wallace said. “So I always leave open the possibility. Though I’m not convinced, that doesn’t mean I’m certain that it’s not there.”