With its doors shuttered to students for the last six years, Mynders Hall sits lifelessly in the heart of campus. Or does it? The building that housed students for just over a century is also rumored to house the ghost of Elizabeth Mynders, daughter of the University of Memphis’ inaugural president, Seymour Mynders.
Built in 1912, Mynders Hall was constructed in the shape of an “E” to honor the president’s daughter, who had died only nine months earlier. Elizabeth never attended the UofM, but students who lived in the dorm claimed to see her ghost wandering the halls of the antebellum-styled building.
Superstition about Elizabeth’s ghost mounted over the years, but students believed her to be a benevolent guest, only interested in ensuring the student body was studious. Allegedly, women who called Mynders Hall home would return from partying to find their textbooks open to the exact chapter of that night’s assigned reading.
Although Elizabeth was believed to be a friendly ghost, students invented rituals – such as greeting her portrait in the lobby each morning – to remain in Elizabeth’s good graces.
Residents became familiar with sounds throughout the night, which might be attributed to the sounds any archaic building might have. Mynders, at the time of its closure, had no elevators, no computer labs and no air conditioning. One thing it did have, however, was an ancient heating system.
Beyond things going bump in the night, some residents say they found themselves having restless nights. Some reported having nightmares every night in the building. But outside of those reports, the building lacked the classic tropes that dominate pop culture.
“None of the scary stuff you see on TV – lights going off, pictures falling, stuff like that,” former resident Becky Wilson told The Helmsman in 2015.
Students have also claimed to see apparitions in their own rooms, through the halls and in an elevator shaft that was out of order. One such encounter was recalled by Daniel Armitage, the former associate dean of Residence Life, to a Helmsman reporter in 2003.
“One student said she had a test the next day and couldn't sleep," Armitage said. "She noticed an outline of a person in her chair, so she turned on the light and no one was there. She looked at her desk, and there was the book she was supposed to study, opened to the chapter she was being tested on. She claimed she put the book up before bed."
Elizabeth Mynders is not the only spirit said to walk the halls of campus buildings. Local legend says the old Brister Library is haunted by the ghost of a student who was raped and murdered there. Her killer was never found, but her screams, which went unanswered all those years ago, are said to echo among the stacks.
Although there was never any confirmed murder in the library, rapes and sexual assaults did take place within its walls. At the time, a machine was installed to photograph students’ IDs to keep track of those coming and going with the goal of reducing the likelihood of sexual assault. Nonetheless, faculty, staff, students and even campus police officers have reported hearing screams coming from the library, only to enter and find nobody there.
Laurie Snyder, currently the assistant to the dean for undergraduate studies at the College of Communication and Fine Arts, is among those to have heard the animalistic wailing during her time as a graduate student.
The story starts as any pop culture horror movie would. Snyder was conducting research in the library Halloween night in the late ‘80s, as were a few other students. She was sitting in one of the many study carrels on the second floor of the library when she heard it.
“It sounded like a cross between a screaming human and a wounded animal. That was the strangest sound I had ever heard,” she said. “It would rise and fall. It was almost like a yell, it was like somebody was yelling. And people were sitting up and looking at one another like, ‘What in the world?’ Some people were downstairs, walking around going, ‘What is that?’”
Snyder rationalized the sound as the wind hitting the building at a weird angle, but eventually made her way down to the front desk looking for help tracking down the noise.
“I said, ‘Guys, tell me what you think this is.’ So one of the people working at the library front desk came over with me, walked in there, heard this thing and turned white as a ghost. He said, ‘I don't know what it is.’ Then he just turned and fled.”
Looking back on the anomaly, Snyder does not think she heard wailing – but the fact that it took place on Halloween night is not lost on her. She formerly taught a mythology course, a personal favorite of hers, and she knows the lore that is attached to Halloween.
“Halloween is Samhain, and Samhain is the time when they believe that the veil between the other world and the temporal world is thinnest. That's when otherworldly creatures can walk the night,” Snyder said.
Although she is well-versed in mythology, she would not consider herself a believer in the supernatural. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she said, “but I whistle past graveyards.”
She is also familiar with the legend of Elizabeth Mynders, but believes that the spectre in that building is not actually her.
“Elizabeth Mynders, to my knowledge, never visited this campus,” Snyder said. “The dorm is in the shape of a big ‘E’ and I think that she’s one of those convenient ghosts. She did die young, but I think old buildings need a ghost and she fits. I do think all buildings need a ghost.
Mynders Hall may have seen its last live-in students. The historic "E" shaped dormitory will close at the end of this semester--much to the disappointment to those who live there. Once an all women's living space, Mynders housed its first male students in the 2014 fall semester. Aoife Whiteacre, 20-year-old psychology senior and a resident assistant in Mynders, stands in front of a portrait of Elisabeth Mynders, daughter to The University of Memphis's first president. Some say Mynders' ghost roams the halls. (Photo by Jonathan A Capriel)
Brister Library, circa Nov. 1929. The building, now part of the larger Wilder Tower, still stands on campus. Urban legend states that the ghost of a woman is confined in the walls and sometimes her screaming can be heard from the paths around the structure.