When Professor of Biology Dan York bought what is now the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house, local residents warned him of its history.
“My friends who grew up here in town were like, ‘I can’t believe you bought that house,’” York said. “[One] said when he was growing up, that was the scary house. All the little kids going to Mauck Elementary School would go on the other side of the road, so they wouldn’t go directly by our house.”
As a man of science, York said he does not believe in ghosts or Halloween paranormalities. He acknowledged, though, there definitely seemed to be “unexplained things” at work while he lived there.
“On one hand, I’m a rational scientist,” he said. “On the other, there is some weird stuff that went on. There were a few times it even creeped me out. It was a fun house.”
York, however, is not the only one to have some spooky experiences in one of Hillsdale College’s Greek houses. Collegian archives tell stories of former students in the Chi Omega sorority house who returned late at night to find a bed shaking without a person in it and of mysterious loud crashes in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house when only one person was living there over a break.
Perhaps the oddest account, however, comes from the Sigma Chi fraternity. In 1987, Ed Giles shared his story of meeting a glowing woman one night in the fraternity house while staying there alone over the summer.
On July 1, Giles described seeing a light come from the Jungle room of the house where he saw a woman dressed in a nightcap and gown. The woman waltzed around the room, and Giles described how she created some type of vortex into which all of the furniture and decorations in the room disappeared.
When Giles walked into the room, the woman smiled at him and extended her hands to dance with him.
“I took a hold of her hand, however, I could not feel her hands,” Giles wrote. “It was as though I were holding nothing. She began to dance with me. I had no idea what I was doing though I danced as though I had always known.”
Giles said when he tried to pull her closer, the woman began to vanish. He described her clinging to the banister of the stairs for security. She then returned to the Jungle room and disappeared. Giles said he never saw her again.
“I knew then that the house is nothing less than alive,” he concluded his story.
Alive might be a good way to describe what York said he experienced in what is now the house of the Delts.
The building used to be Hillcrest Resthome from the 1930s to the 1960s. The elderly residents would sit in chairs on the porches swaddled up, moaning at times.
“I guess to little kids, it was just really scary,” York said.
On a couple different occasions while he was living in the house, he said he would sit downstairs while reading or looking through students’ papers, and the hairs on the back of his neck would stand for no reason or he would hear footsteps that sounded like someone walking or a loud BANG would come from the upstairs.
“It wouldn’t be stormy or anything like that outside,” he said. “I’d go upstairs and look around, and every single door would be wide open, nothing disturbed and everything in order.”
He said that would make him question if he heard anything at all.
“That sort of thing, I can handle,” York said. “It’s sort of minor, creepy things. It was kind of fun.”
What the biology professor said leaves him wondering is his dog, Charlie the hound dog-shepherd mix.
“Dogs have special senses that we don’t really sense,” he said.
In Charlie’s more agile days — he is 14 years old now — he was a lively dog, greeting York’s friends and guests with barking. But there were times, York said, when Charlie’s demeanor would change. York said he would hear a loud noise, and the dog would come to him, sit, and cower.
Charlie also refused to enter a room that was between the house’s kitchen and bar.
“Charlie would sit on the landing and just whine, wouldn’t cross it,” York said. “I’d grab him, try to drag him through, and he would be like I was stabbing him.”
Even when York would hold a party on the porch Friday evenings, Charlie wanted to join the group of people, but he would just bark at the threshold of the room, unwilling to walk through it to go outside.
“I basically had to coax him into the kitchen and walk outside the house, and get him through to the porch through the outside door, because he refused to go that one particular way,” he said.
Although York said he does not believe in ghosts, his sister does. She suggested to him an app that allegedly detected electromagnetic radiation for finding paranormalities. York said he tried it, and the room that his dog refused to enter had the highest measurement in the house.
“There was something weird about that room, and I have no idea why,” he said. “Charlie didn’t like it, and it sort of gave me the creeps.”
York lives in a more modern house now, and he said Charlie has not exhibited any of those odd behaviors since they left the former resthome.
“He seems to be happier there,” York said with a chuckle.
Now, however, any phantoms are the Delts’ problem, he said. A student of his told him a minister actually came to the property to bless the building once.
“At least the ghosts seem to be friendly,” York said.